Jul 3 2007
10:12 pm

In today's Metro Pulse, Jack Neely recounts his appearance at some fraternal organization where a "patriotic" gentleman - perhaps a veteran but perhaps not - uttered a fairly well-known poem about all of our freedom coming from soldiers and not from anywhere else.


I've noticed lots of bumper stickers around here saying pretty much the same thing: "Freedom isn't free," or "Love your freedom? Thank a soldier." The overall message of these sayings is that we should venerate the soldier above all other forces for giving us the freedoms we enjoy; it is not the reporter or the demonstrator or voter or anybody else that makes us free. It's the soldier who gives up his or her life.

Like Jack Neely, I find this notion to be a bunch of bologna. Yes, soldiers dedicate their lives to their nation and for that we should be grateful. But believe it or not, there is a difference between "America" and "freedom." As Neely rightly points out, none of our wars since 1812 have involved foreign adversaries with the capability to destroy our freedoms. Nearly all of our freedoms have been lost because of governmental paranoia in response to these various threats from abroad or from within. For example, it wasn't Osama Bin Laden who suspended habeas corpus rights. It was the US Congress and President Bush who passed a law to do so.

So who really did "give" us our freedoms? Who really are the most patriotic people, not for defending "America" per se, but for defending and advancing the cause of American freedom? The greatest threat to freedom in this country has historically come not from external forces but from internal majorities unwilling to recognize the rights of minorities; a major exception to this is the black slave majority in the antebellum Deep South. Overall, however, the story of American freedom is one of marginalized persons asserting the same access to basic rights as those enjoyed by others. Few of these heroes, thus, were "popular" in their day because they threatened the majority's privileged claim on freedom, and the authorities that represent that majority.

I'll list a few that I think contributed more to human freedom in this country than anybody else (and some did so in addition to serving as soldiers):

Frederick Douglass
Clarence Darrow
Margaret Sanger
Daniel Ellsberg
Judge William O. Douglas
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Judge Thurgood Marshall
Ella Baker
Judge William Brennan
Sojourner Truth
John Stuart Mill
Martin Luther King, Jr.
W. E. B. DuBois
Eugene Debs
Robert Wagner
Thomas Paine
Susan B. Anthony
Edward Coles
The American voter

Who else would you add?

cooperhawk's picture

"none of our wars since 1812 have involved foriegn adversaries..

No doubt their is more to gaining freedom then just fighting a war. But I wonder why no foriegn adversaries have had the capability to destroy our freedoms? Hmmm, I know there must be a reason. I'll have to think about that.

Elrod's picture

Umm, geography?

No doubt their is more to gaining freedom then just fighting a war. But I wonder why no foriegn adversaries have had the capability to destroy our freedoms? Hmmm, I know there must be a reason. I'll have to think about that.

You do realize, Cooperhawk, that for most of American history up to WWII the United States had virtually no standing military. We raised a big one during the Civil War - to fight other Americans - a smaller one in 1898, and we drafted up a big one for WWI and WWII. Only after WWII did we keep a sizable army. So your implication that our military has made real threats from foreign adversaries impossible only works for post-WWII. The real reason our nation hasn't been attacked in any sustainable way is because of geography: there are no major adversaries within close distance of the US. That's why the Cuban Missile Crisis was so important, after all.

All of this is besides the point, however. Sure, the US military has been critical in protecting the United States - especially since WWII - but there is big difference between defending national borders and defending and advancing individual freedom. After all, the Soviet Army did a fine job protecting that nation for 70 years, including against the meanest fighting machine ever assembled (Nazi Germany). But it was hardly "freedom" that ordinary Soviet citizens gained through that military protection.

cooperhawk's picture


Again, granted their is more to freedom than fighting a war. But seeing as how I am post WWII, protecting America at that time is pretty significant to me.
All those people you listed above (as well as many many others) played an important part in aquiring our freedoms. But saying you want freedom has to go hand-in-hand with our ability to physically defend our freedoms.

Elrod's picture

Fair enough

Fair enough. We have to be able to defend the freedoms we've gained. And if we are threatened militarily, that means that our armed forces must be able to defend us. There is a lot of truth to the notion that our INDEPENDENCE allows us to be more free on an individual level than if we were under foreign occupation: we don't have onerous sedition laws on the books, for example, because we need not pay fealty to some foreign ruler. We don't live in a state of occupation and so don't feel the threat of arbitrary rule from afar. And our military is a major reason (though geography is important too, even in modern times) that our national integrity and independence remains intact. Soldiers physically defend America, the free country. But that's not the same thing as saying they defend our freedom per se. Our government could assert the powers of virtual dictatorship and US soldiers, taking orders ultimately from the President, could be agents in that usurpation of freedom. It doesn't happen in this country because our political culture will not allow it. And it is to the elements of our political culture that we must look for the defenders of freedom.

In fact, the point of the poem cited by Jack Neely is that it is the soldiers that GAVE us the various freedoms we enjoy, and that is largely untrue. They HELP DEFEND those freedoms from foreign and domestic forces that might seek to undermine them. But today as in earlier years in American history, the loss of freedom in this country is more likely to come from excessive government paranoia or majoritarian persecution than from foreign invasion or domestic insurrection. Soldiers in the post-Posse Commitatus era (1878 law banning US military from influencing domestic life) are effectively neutral in the struggles among Americans over the meaning and contours of freedom.

talidapali's picture

I would add...

Edward R. Murrow and all the other journalists that risked their professional lives and in some cases their real lives to bring the truth, however painful and disillusioning it was at times, to the American public so that WE could make informed decisions about those whom we chose to lead us. Even in the face of widespread disapproval of both the politicians whose foibles were exposed and the public who chose to willfully wallow in ignorance, through those journalists the truth lives.


"You can't fix stupid..." ~ Ron White"

"I never said I wasn't a brat..." ~ Talidapali

edens's picture

Interesting list. Although

Interesting list. Although I'd point out that Frederick Douglass and Tom Paine advocated ideas that were only made reality (more or less) with military effort (in fact, Douglass was outspoken in support of black enlistment)

Darrow, by the way, lost the Scopes trial.

And, while I hate to belabor such a trivial point: I though Wagner's work went seriously downhill with Hart to Hart. Although his Austin Powers spoof was inspired.

Elrod's picture


Darrow may have lost the Scopes trial, but he clearly carried the day and drove fundamentalism underground for a generation. He also played an integral in fighting the death penalty in the Loeb and Leopold case, and on behalf of labor in several cases (anthracite miners in PA, workers in Chicago, etc.)

Re: Douglass, it was actually the work of ordinary slaves who fled to Union lines and forced commanders like Benjamin Butler to declare slaves "contraband," that began the path toward emancipation. Of course, Union victory was essential for black freedom, though some have argued that a Confederate victory after 1864 would have also resulted in emancipation if only because slavery had been effectively destroyed by that point anyway. But black soldier recruitment is exactly the sort of crossover point where soldiers actually fought for and defended individual freedom per se, and not just their country. And nobody advocated black soldier enlistment more than Frederick Douglass.

Terry Troll's picture

Can we leave out Mario Savio

Can we leave out Mario Savio and the rest who started the Free Speech movement in the 60's? I think it is kinda like hitting the refresh button.

SnM's picture

"So, who really did 'give'

"So, who really did 'give' us our freedoms?"

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

Why, we did.

Andy Axel's picture

David Dellinger

David Dellinger
James Lawson
Lady Bird Johnson
Lenny Bruce
John R. Cash
Jack Welch
John Dean
Amy Goodman
Jerry Lee Lewis
Rachel Carson
Hank Williams Sr.
Richard Pryor
William Kunstler
Susan B. Anthony
Dalton Trumbo
Joseph Heller
Andy Warhol
Henry David Thoreau
John Coltrane


I'm a guy in a Reagan mask -- and I'm running for President!

Socialist With A Gold Card's picture

My .02

Crystal Eastman
Roger Nash Baldwin

--Socialist With A Gold Card

"I'm a socialist with a gold card. I firmly believe we need a revolution; I'm just concerned that I won't be able to get good moisturizer afterwards." -- Brett Butler

KC's picture

Is it a case of honor envy?

First of all, I don't necessarily think that poems have to be historically comprehensive to be true. That's quite a burden, I would imagine, for any poet.

Second of all, while I agree that journalists, protestors, and others not serving in the military have nurtured and strengthened the freedoms that we enjoy in this country, I am not aware that any of them voluntarily and officially take an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic....", knowing that doing so may cost them their lives.

Lastly, while I thought Mr. Neely's article was more about his ideas of how to correctly honor our service men and women, I also sensed a hint of the same kind of class elitism that Sen. James Webb has so eloquently addressed in articles that point out that a good deal of the antagoism and hatred directed at returning Vietnam soldiers were simply products of the division of economic classes in our country. (link...)

If you believe that the war in Iraq is wrong, or that it is being incompetently prosecuted, that's one thing.

But I have yet to meet a military service man or woman who does not sincerely believe in the oath that he/she took.

It is an oath that I have never taken, but the men and women who do take it deserve our respect and adoration, and yes, I believe they deserve it more than others who do not serve.

cafkia's picture


The weakness in your argument is subtle but it is there.

In any oath taking, military, political, marriage, or whatever, the ceremonial and public part is just that, ceremonial and public. It is not the moment of committment. I was not a potential traitor prior to my taking the oath of enlistment. My committment had been made quite a bit earlier. By the same token, the mere fact that one has eschewed the public and ceremonial portion of an oath or committment, does not automatically imply that they are any less committed. A journalist who covers stories of extreme import to our democracy is not required to vow much of anything publicly. Would you question the dedication to the Constitution or, the patriotism of those journalists who have died or been injured in war or, covering the civil rights marches in the South? You would be incredibly stupid to do so. That their oath was not public, that they made no ceremony of their faith in their nation, in NO way diminishes their contributions. If you can see that, then surely you must see that a vow or oath is not made more intrinsically valuable by ceremony. There are those who have taken the oath and then ran when times got tough. The only intrinsic value in an oath or vow is when one lives up to it and that simply is not a function of how publicly the oath or vow was made.

If anything, those who go quietly and without fanfare about the work of ensuring our freedom's deserve the greatest respect.

Vietnam Era Veteran (USN '73 - '83)


It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in argument.
  - William G. McAdoo

talidapali's picture

Who took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution?

George W. Bush when he joined the Texas Air National Guard, unfortunately his colors did run...to Alabama to work (if you can call it working) on a campaign committee for a Republican candidate. Never mind the fact that he was supposed to be preparing to serve his country as a combat pilot in Vietnam. Just because you take an oath is NO guarantee that you will uphold it.

Those who do the right thing without an oath or promise or anything other than their own sense of honor and integrity are the ones who give us our freedom, every day, in cities and towns across this nation. They do it quietly, without the accolades of the thundering herd of sheep that have followed the Bushies over the precipice of torture and rendition and wiretapping and wars precipitated on a pack of lies. They write on blogs and in small town papers, they volunteer at homeless shelters every day (not just Thanksgiving and Christmas for the benefit of the hometown papers photographers), they visit the elderly who would have no one else if not for them, they care for women who have been battered and beaten for so long they cannot defend themselves, they care for children abandoned and abused and without hope, they teach those who cannot read, they teach those who cannot speak our language.

They are the invisible hand of the true American patriot and citizen, they embody all that is good and right in this country. They do not see terrorists around every corner, they see a neighbor. They do not live in fear as the Bush administration would have us all do. They live proudly and freely, knowing that one day of the freedom that so many Americans past and present have spilled their own blood to defend and keep is far better than a lifetime of living in the shadow of fear and loathing that seems to be the stock in trade of the Bush administration, even if it means that tomorrow they will be blown to bits by a sad, misguided fool who thinks that murder is the way to make his point.


"You can't fix stupid..." ~ Ron White"

"I never said I wasn't a brat..." ~ Talidapali

Andy Axel's picture

What it means to "serve"

God has a way of even putting nations in their place. (Amen) The God that I worship has a way of saying, "Don't play with me." (Yes) He has a way of saying, as the God of the Old Testament used to say to the Hebrews, "Don’t play with me, Israel. Don't play with me, Babylon. (Yes) Be still and know that I'm God. And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power." (Yes) And that can happen to America. (Yes) Every now and then I go back and read Gibbons' Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. And when I come and look at America, I say to myself, the parallels are frightening. And we have perverted the drum major instinct.

But let me rush on to my conclusion, because I want you to see what Jesus was really saying. What was the answer that Jesus gave these men? It's very interesting. One would have thought that Jesus would have condemned them. One would have thought that Jesus would have said, "You are out of your place. You are selfish. Why would you raise such a question?"

But that isn't what Jesus did; he did something altogether different. He said in substance, "Oh, I see, you want to be first. You want to be great. You want to be important. You want to be significant. Well, you ought to be. If you're going to be my disciple, you must be." But he reordered priorities. And he said, "Yes, don't give up this instinct. It's a good instinct if you use it right. (Yes) It's a good instinct if you don't distort it and pervert it. Don't give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. (Amen) I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do."

And he transformed the situation by giving a new definition of greatness. And you know how he said it? He said, "Now brethren, I can't give you greatness. And really, I can't make you first." This is what Jesus said to James and John. "You must earn it. True greatness comes not by favoritism, but by fitness. And the right hand and the left are not mine to give, they belong to those who are prepared." (Amen)

And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Amen) That's a new definition of greatness.

And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, (Everybody) because everybody can serve. (Amen) You don't have to have a college degree to serve. (All right) You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. (Amen) You only need a heart full of grace, (Yes, sir, Amen) a soul generated by love. (Yes) And you can be that servant.

I know a man—and I just want to talk about him a minute, and maybe you will discover who I'm talking about as I go down the way (Yeah) because he was a great one. And he just went about serving. He was born in an obscure village, (Yes, sir) the child of a poor peasant woman. And then he grew up in still another obscure village, where he worked as a carpenter until he was thirty years old. (Amen) Then for three years, he just got on his feet, and he was an itinerant preacher. And he went about doing some things. He didn't have much. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. (Yes) He never owned a house. He never went to college. He never visited a big city. He never went two hundred miles from where he was born. He did none of the usual things that the world would associate with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. They called him a rabble-rouser. They called him a troublemaker. They said he was an agitator. (Glory to God) He practiced civil disobedience; he broke injunctions. And so he was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. And the irony of it all is that his friends turned him over to them. (Amen) One of his closest friends denied him. Another of his friends turned him over to his enemies. And while he was dying, the people who killed him gambled for his clothing, the only possession that he had in the world. (Lord help him) When he was dead he was buried in a borrowed tomb, through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone and today he stands as the most influential figure that ever entered human history. All of the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned put together (Yes) have not affected the life of man on this earth (Amen) as much as that one solitary life. His name may be a familiar one. (Jesus) But today I can hear them talking about him. Every now and then somebody says, "He's King of Kings." (Yes) And again I can hear somebody saying, "He's Lord of Lords." Somewhere else I can hear somebody saying, "In Christ there is no East nor West." (Yes) And then they go on and talk about, "In Him there's no North and South, but one great Fellowship of Love throughout the whole wide world." He didn't have anything. (Amen) He just went around serving and doing good.

This morning, you can be on his right hand and his left hand if you serve. (Amen) It's the only way in.

Every now and then I guess we all think realistically (Yes, sir) about that day when we will be victimized with what is life's final common denominator—that something that we call death. We all think about it. And every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral. And I don't think of it in a morbid sense. And every now and then I ask myself, "What is it that I would want said?" And I leave the word to you this morning.

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. (Yes) And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. (Yes)

I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. (Yes)

I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. (Amen)

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. (Yes)

And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. (Yes)

I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. (Lord)

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. (Yes)

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. (Amen) Say that I was a drum major for peace. (Yes) I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. (Yes) I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. (Amen) And that's all I want to say.


I'm a guy in a Reagan mask -- and I'm running for President!

KC's picture

I understand your point

I understand your point. I agree that just because an oath is given publicly doesn't mean that it's always given sincerely. Nor am I of the belief that all soldiers join in order to defend and support the Constitution as their first priority. Some join for the career opportunities, and some join because their parents served, and some join for other reasons.

However, I think our main difference of opinion is about the importance of a public vow or oath. If you don't have a public event, a vow, an oath, or in everyday relationships, something as simple as a person's word or a handshake, or some other pblic action, how do you measure their sincerity?

Isn't this why we want accountable government, so that we have something to measure our public servants with?

There are also a great number of people who toil in research labs, class rooms, hospitals, and other places trying to make this a better world. I respect and adore those people too.

But I won't accept that journalists, entertainers, and others are on the same level as those who serve and have served our country by being in the military, just because their fans, supporters, or whatever, think they should be elevated to that status.

cafkia's picture


If I take a "JOB" and I take money for that "JOB", I am then expected to do the things that are in the "JOB" description even if no vow is spoken upon acceptance. Metrics are easy to come by, just read the readily available words.

The proof is always in the puddin'. Vow or no vow, oath or no oath, public ceremony or dark of night decision, whether or not one does the job, completes the mission, or stays true to their morals is ALWAYS of greater import.

I pity you and, I pity our nation for beliefs like yours. If you are trying to make a tasty cake there are several important ingredients none of which may be left out and still leave you with a successful product. Democracy/freedom is the cake. The military is but one ingredient, perhaps an important one but still, on one of several important ingredients. The last 12 or so years have been an object lesson in the importance of the press in a democracy. What we should have learned by now is, if you can corrupt the press, no military is strong enough to protect your Habeus Corpus.



It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in argument.
  - William G. McAdoo

tennesseevaluesauthority's picture

However, I think our main

However, I think our main difference of opinion is about the importance of a public vow or oath. If you don't have a public event, a vow, an oath, or in everyday relationships, something as simple as a person's word or a handshake, or some other pblic action, how do you measure their sincerity?

By their actions, perhaps?

But I won't accept that journalists, entertainers, and others are on the same level as those who serve and have served our country by being in the military, just because their fans, supporters, or whatever, think they should be elevated to that status.

Translation: All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Carole Borges's picture

"If you don't have a public

"If you don't have a public event, a vow, an oath, or in everyday relationships, something as simple as a person's word or a handshake, or some other pblic action, how do you measure their sincerity?"

Shouldn't you measure their sincerity by their actions? Oaths are only words, where commitments come silently from the heart. A president for instance that swears to uphold the constitution one year and the next day begins to dismantle it does not show commitment to our freedom in spite of his many public oaths, the many handshakes, and all too threadbare vows.

We the people brought us freedom. It was a war fought on many fronts, and not all of them were military. Then we the people defended our freedom against all enemies.

We the people is a statement that has profound depth. It's the promise that protects and defends us against tyranny.

The military IS us, so we should always love and respect the military. It's the leaders of the military that have too often proven to be total jerks.

Patriotism has many faces. Tyranny wears many masks.

Elrod's picture

Oath vs. freedom

The soldiers take an oath to defend the Constitution and the United States of America. To a large extent our freedoms are defined and protected by that very Constitution. But it wasn't the Constitution itself that made people free. It was the work of ordinary people doing extraordinary things over the last 220 years that made the supremely idealistic words of the Constitution a living reality.

Also, it's clear that the origins of the "soldiers gave us freedom, nobody else did" argument lay with the Vietnam War generation. Vets felt that their honor was wounded, as Jim Webb points out. I certainly understand the sense that returning soldiers in a war ultimately lost feel extremely sensitive about their honor. Look no further than ex-Confederate soldiers who, with their wives and daughters built an entire Lost Cause cult. The problem is that these cults of soldierly heroism tend to overcompensate and, thus, obfuscate the real honorable nature of their service.

So, it isn't that soldiers didn't play a critical role in defending American freedom. It's that their sacrifices are only part of a larger picture, and we shouldn't trip over ourselves with false patriotism by forgetting the work of regular people who made freedom an everyday reality for millions of Americans.

KC's picture

Elrod I think we both agre


I think we both basically agree. I agree with your take on false patriotism. I think we would also agree that we don't appreciate what everyday men and women do...everyday.

KC's picture

I pity you and, I pity our

I pity you and, I pity our nation for beliefs like yours.

Which is why politicians sprint from the L-word; liberals can't accept that others hold different opinions than they do without belittling them or acting superior.

We have differing opinions, but I don't "pity" you because you hold yours. Just make sure that the Democrats use that line as a campaign slogan. It should win over a lot of votes.

cafkia's picture


Actually, the pity represents a weakness in my liberal bonafides. Without it, the emotion would likely be hate.



It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in argument.
  - William G. McAdoo

bizgrrl's picture

If you don't have a public

If you don't have a public event, a vow, an oath, or in everyday relationships, something as simple as a person's word or a handshake, or some other pblic action, how do you measure their sincerity?

I don't believe there is any reason to believe that a public event, vow, or oath determines sincerity. It is disproven daily, if not just in marriage vows and the current divorce rate. Public events are for show. I would suspect sincerity can only be measured by deeds.

KC's picture


Then I truly pity you.

cafkia's picture


I thought that was a liberal thing. Are you politically confused now?



It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in argument.
  - William G. McAdoo

cooperhawk's picture

...excessive goverment paranoia...

That, along with the persecution, which was spoken out against, & then had to be defended against (militarily) by minutemen is how this country originated in the first place.
While their are many great statesmen, writers, activists, ect... we could name that played an important part in helping us secure our freedoms. To me, the fact that we can't name many minutemen or soldiers of the Battle of Shiloh, WWI, those who stormed Normandy or took back the Phillipines says something to me about their sincerity & committment. I believe few of them were thinking about whether they would got their names in the paper or picture on TV or how much money they could make or if everyone recognize them back home & say what a great guy he was. They did it because (they believed) it was the right thing to do, knowing they might be left unknown, never coming back. That is a deed worthy of honor.
"Do not do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."

cooperhawk's picture


Wow. So we are finnally getting to the truth of the matter.

Elrod's picture

Agree with Cooperhawk

I agree with Cooperhawk that the real heroes of American freedom are unknown to us all. Whether they were soldiers who went over the top in Belgium in WWI, or marchers who suffered billy clubs in Selma they were all heroes of American freedom.

cooperhawk's picture



R. Neal's picture

marchers who suffered billy

marchers who suffered billy clubs in Selma

Get to know some of them here: (link...)

It's not WWI, but get to know some of WWII's unsung heroes here: (link...)

Here's one: (link...)

The rest of the story here: (link...)

And another one here: (link...)

Background here: (link...)

Later in life, regarding his arrest following an anti-war demonstration during President Nixon's visit to Knoxville in 1970 (all charges were subsequently dropped), Dr. Newton wrote:

Unfortunately the political climate of this community is such that even nonviolent dissent results in irrational repression. Unfortunately those who desire peace are considered criminals and those who desire war are considered saviors. Unfortunately those who desire change are considered dangerous and those who support the status quo are considered safe leaders. Unfortunately those who do not want to blindly follow their leaders to total destruction are considered irrational while those who follow unquestionably are considered sane.


Those who seek to maintain "control" through the use of "law and order" have made statements indicating their concern for a communistic plot, sexual orgies, and "pollution of the academic environment." Those who disagree are accused of being unAmerican, disloyal to the University as well as dirty, unkempt, immoral, spoiled, lazy, and are frequently told if you don't love it you should leave it. Yet those who claim to be defenders of the country and of the University utilize tactics which can only destroy both the democratic process of the country and the educational endeavors of the University. Those who continue to believe that an education consists of textbooks and lectures can only be concerned with the building of things rather than the building of a people. The survival of our campus, of our country and indeed of the world demands the building of a people and even, perhaps, the devaluation of things.

Sounds familiar 37 years later, doesn't it?

I'm sure there are about a million more, but these are a couple of True American Heroes of the Greatest Generation that I'm personally familiar with.

Oh, and this one: (link...)

Heroes are all around us. Most of us don't have to look further than our next of kin or the people next door to find them.

Carole Borges's picture

Let's not leave the musicians out...

Bob Dylan was probably the most influential American musician when it came to awakening young people. He sang about injustice and he questioned authority. Musicians have a huge impact on the common person's political beliefs. So do movies and art. The heroes in these fields deserve special mention.

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