Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Poster of the Week

"What is right has always been called radical by those with a stake in things that are wrong."
—Senator George McGovern 
(July 19, 1922 – October 21, 2012)

Come Home America
Corita Kent
Offset, 1972
Boston, MA

South Dakota Senator George McGovern died this week.  He was considered by many to have been one of the most honest and principled men to have run for president on either Democratic or Republican Party ticket. 

McGovern was an American historian, author and U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator.  A decorated World War II bomber pilot, McGovern said he learned to hate war by waging it. In 1970 he attached to a military procurement bill the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment, which would have required, through a cutoff of funding, a withdrawal of all American forces from Indochina. The amendment did not pass, although the majority of Americans supported it. McGovern denounced on the Senate floor the politicians who, by refusing to support the amendment, prolonged the war.

“Every senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave,” he said. “This chamber reeks of blood. Every senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval [hospitals] and all across our land—young men without legs, or arms, or genitals, or faces or hopes. There are not very many of these blasted and broken boys who think this war is a glorious adventure. Do not talk to them about bugging out, or national honor or courage. It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes. And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us.”
McGovern’s moral condemnation was greeted in the chamber with stunned silence. When one senator told McGovern he was personally offended by his remarks, McGovern answered: “That’s what I meant to do.”
McGovern ran against Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election.   He was the only anti-Viet Nam War candidate running, and was strongly supported by the anti-war movement. The Republican party, however, successfully colored McGovern as a radical leftist, crippling his reputation with many voters.

With Nixon garnering almost 61% of the popular vote, the election was the most one-sided in American history. In his disastrous race against Nixon, McGovern had promised to end the conflict in Viet Nam and cut defense spending by billions of dollars. He helped create the Food for Peace program and spent much of his career believing the United States should be more accommodating to the former Soviet Union. And McGovern never shied from the word “liberal,” even as other Democrats blanched at the label and Republicans used it as an epithet.  “I am a liberal and always have been,” McGovern said in 2001. “Just not the wild-eyed character the Republicans made me out to be.”

The Watergate scandal
In June 1972, the Richard M. Nixon Administration was behind a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. to learn about the Democratic Party strategies for the November 1972 election. The Watergate scandal was a result of both the break-in and the subsequent attempt by the Nixon administration to cover-up their involvement. The scandal eventually led to the resignation of President Nixon, on August 9, 1974, the only resignation of a U.S. President. The scandal also resulted in the indictment, trial, conviction and incarceration of 43 people, including dozens of Nixon's top administration officials.

Americans voting for president in 1972 were aware of the Watergate break-in, and McGovern tried to make a campaign issue out of the bungled attempt to wiretap the offices of the Democratic National Committee.  He called Nixon the most corrupt president in history, but the most damaging details of Nixon's involvement wouldn't emerge until after Election Day. Many considered this to be part of the cover-up to ensure Nixon’s election.

In a moving obituary about McGovern, Chris Hedges writes, “Here was a politician who cared more for his country and for human decency than he did for his political ambitions or his career.”  Hedges concludes with excerpts from McGovern’s acceptance speech.  Would that someone would say these words today:

“From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America.
From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.
From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor; from the prejudice based on race and sex; from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of the neglected sick—come home, America.
Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream. Come home to the conviction that we can move our country forward.
Come home to the belief that we can seek a newer world, and let us be joyful in that homecoming, for “this is your land, this land is my land—from California to New York island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters—this land was made for you and me.”
So let us close on this note: May God grant each one of us the wisdom to cherish this good land and to meet the great challenge that beckons us home.
And now is the time to meet that challenge.”

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