When I joined the Marines at a little strip mall in Santa Fe, and when I was in boot camp in San Diego, and when I was dodging mortars in Fallujah, I could not have imagined that I would one day share a stage with such renowned speakers. However, to march shoulder to shoulder, and to stand in solidarity with you, is a far greater honor.
It has been said that when in the course of human events, an oppression so revolts its subjects, it becomes necessary to alter or abolish the means of that tyranny. Is it that time when our Bill of Rights is defiled every day? When our adventures abroad threaten our security at home? When the Federal Reserve keeps our free nation enslaved by debt? When the people of the world tremble under the thumb of corporate imperialism? And now our nation is drifting dangerously from freedom to fascism. So I have to ask, is it time? The time is now, the threat is clear, the bands of tyranny are tightening around America, and it is our duty to resist!
As empowered patriots, let us take stock of our commitment to the ideals upon which this country is founded. America without her freedoms is like a body without a soul. The challenge before the Freedom Movement is no less, than to bring about a revolution of values, inspire a renaissance of American politics, and breathe new life into the tortured body of our nation. We will meet that challenge with courage and love, and as always, we the people, will prevail!
To rally the troops of the Revolutionary Army in the winter of 1776, Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot, will in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.”
As Iraq Veterans Against the War, we are resisting an occupation that we once risked our lives for. We swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, but we found out the hard way that the greatest enemies of the Constitution are not to be found in the sands of some far off land, but rather right here at home! We are your new winter soldiers and we are still defending America.
We bring the values, skills, and commitment that make us warriors to the fight before us today. We are working to end the war by strategically withdrawing our material support and inspiring others to do the same. By advocating for veterans, we honor those who served, and empower soldiers to become successful civilians. With Truth In Recruiting, we are inspiring a generation of young Americans to find a better way to serve this country than dying for empire. By supporting those who are actively resisting, we inspire further resistance, and ensure that soldiers still have the right, as is their duty, to disobey illegal orders.
During the siege of Fallujah, a young Lance Corporal was shot through the side of his flak jacket in a firefight to the west of the city. The bullet hit an artery near his spine. My team was called to help get him to the field hospital at Camp Taqadum. He was on a stretcher in the humvee in front of me, and I watched the Corpsman treating the external wound in a frightened, hurried panic, as the dust from the hot road swirled around us. When we got there, I carried him in as he moaned and writhed in pain, barely conscious. He flailed his arm off the stretcher, and as I put it back by his side I told him, “Don’t worry. You made it. You’re gonna be OK.” But he died only minutes later from the internal bleeding.
I have to live with that memory every day, but I have learned from it. I will not tell you that the band-aids applied by Republicans and Democrats will heal us. I will not pretend that everything is just going to be ok while we are bled dry by tyrants. And if it takes the last full measure of devotion, I will not allow the same fate to befall this country!
This young movement, is getting past the external wounds to the greater evils plaguing this nation. We know, that the greatest threat to American security is the current corruption of our government! No politician has ever ended a war. Civil rights were won in this country not by any legislator, but by a movement. I have great hope for America, but not because of an election. No, my hope comes from you!
Our tragic love affair with the state, has led us to put far too much trust in a government that we hoped could improve our lives, but has instead come to run our lives for us. We have become, as a people, like a frightened, battered, beat down victim of an abusive relationship. A servile, unquestioning, obedient people, will always produce tyrants. We must, as a nation, once again, embrace defiance, rebellion, and resistance!
Every day more and more Americans are avoiding unenforceable taxes, leaving government jobs out of disgust, and sending their kids to college instead of combat. But our efforts as a movement must become unified and deliberate to fully withdraw our compliance and support. Be it with your lives, labor, or tax dollars, stop investing in your own oppression! Guard your communities from the police state! Do not waste a single vote, or a single dollar, on the two-party system! Do not be content merely to grumble and to march while they are using fear, force, and violence as weapons of oppression. We must embrace the opportunity to resist civilly while we still can!
We are compelled to be here for many different reasons, and there is strength in our diversity. As within Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace, we do not need to be uniform to be unified. Take a look at the thoughtful, passionate people around you on this field, and throughout this country. Do not leave here without meeting a new brother or sister in the struggle. Take with you the inspiration to share your passion with someone who does not know they are yet part of our movement. Seek out where you can be most effective in the cause of liberty.
Challenge our force fed culture of unquestioning conformity and compliance. Embrace a world that is not defined by the politics of fear, our obedience producing schools, or the false prophets of the corporate media. As we have been awakened, we must stir the sleeping masses. As the forces of oppression are diligent, so must we toil. As they are committed, we must surpass them. As they step up their efforts, we must rise up to defeat them as a unified movement!
We have been labeled rebels, traitors, enemies of the state. All terms King George would have used to vilify our founders. I, for one, will always rebel against oppression, a traitor only to tyranny, and I would be remiss to not be the enemy of a state, that so blatantly tramples our freedoms.
American values have been nearly vanquished by consumerism, militarism, and authoritarianism. Yellow ribbons and lapel pins will not save this country. When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty. The utmost manifestation of love and devotion to America, is today as it always has been, resistance of tyranny! Resist we must, and resist we will! We will not be silent! We will not obey! We will not let our government destroy our humanity! We will not wait another moment in fear to stand up for what we know to be right! It is time the government starts fearing the people again! It is time that we meet oppression with resistance!
They cannot stop us! Humanity marches on. You can fight it, or fight for it. When we say revolution, we say it with love. As we march onward from this place where we have pledged to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor, let us embrace the struggle, cherish the fight, and live in that love. The passion of our hearts will be raised with our fists!
– Adam Kokesh