Thoughts and Talks Are not Enough, Take Action!

Remarks delivered by Ofelia Cohen at Boston Remembers Hiroshima - Nagasaki - Ferguson - Orlando (August 9, 2016)

On June 12th, a man entered the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in the middle of their Latin Night, an event organized by trans people of color, and opened fire, killing 49 and injuring 53.

As a proud bisexual Latina, this news broke my heart and scared me and made me wonder what would drive a man to do that to other people. And it also made me think of the last line of a song.

Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave…

No. No, it does not. There may be a star spangled banner waving over us, but we are not the land of the free. And some may say “of course we are.” I say, “How can we be?”

How can we be the land of the free, when the police, the people who swore an oath to protect their communities and enforce the law, have no laws of their own, no rules to govern them, and can carry deadly weapons, even though their job is to save lives and not take them?

How can we be the land of the free, when those police use those weapons to create a list of dead black people that is so long that we can’t say all of their names?

How can we be the land of the free, when every time a black person says that black lives matter, someone else has to shut them down and say that all lives matter, as though black people don’t already know that, but for God’s sake can we focus on the black lives that keep getting taken for a couple of seconds?

How can we be the land of the free, when there are people in this country who will use a hundred victims as an excuse to promote their hatred of Muslims and talk about radical Islamic terrorism, while ignoring the fact that every piece of actual evidence regarding the shooter’s motive is that it had nothing to do with Islam?

How can we be the land of the free, when this shooting is far from the only one we’ve had in this country?

How can we be the land of the free, when I remember being twelve years old and hearing about the death of twenty children in Newtown, Connecticut and being so confused when people thought we needed more guns as opposed to fewer?

And how can we be the land of the free, when our government can look at what’s happening on the ground and decide that what our country needs is to spend a trillion dollars over the next thirty years on nuclear weapons, as opposed to putting that money into things the American people actually want and need?

Yeah. Don’t tell me we’re the land of the free. And don’t tell me we’re the home of the brave, either, not when the former host of a reality show resting on his laurels of money to hide from his broken business ventures and scam academy can become the Republican nominee for President with a platform built on cowardice and a fear of change.

That being said, I think that we can be the land of the free and the home of the brave. I see around me that there are thoughtful, committed citizens who want to make this world better, and Margaret Mead said that that’s the only thing that’s ever changed the world, and it all reminds me of this other quote, a haiku by Aberjhani: “In an age of bombs guzzling blood, skylarks merge peace with thought and action.”

That last word, action. That’s important. Talking about change with each other is great, but until you take action, nothing will come of it. Here is what you must do—or rather, must not do. Do not accept things as they are. Do not remain silent. Do not be complacent. Do not stand still. Do not lie in wait. And do not throw away your shot.

I look around this group and I see skylarks who are ready to bring peace. I see the thought. I hear the thought. Now what I need—what we all need—is action.