FRONT ROYAL – Ever since Warren County’s Board of Supervisors voted against the wishes of a majority of the residents last summer to create a Sanitation District in Lake Front Royal—which took effect Jan. 1, 2017– there appears to be contention amongst some residents and some county employees.
The Royal Examiner was recently contacted by Azlee Bates, the president of the property owner’s association, because of an email she had received from Warren County Planning Department Zoning Officer Charlie Morrison.
Morrison said, in the email, in part, “Can you help me convince Betty to just move her shed?
When asked Ms. Bates replied, “There is bad blood between the county and the Lake Front Royal Property Owner’s Association (LFRPOA) over the sanitary district and Betty is very vocal about it. I think it was a punishment-type tactic. I think Charlie is caught in the middle of this. He had really tried to be helpful and didn’t want to pursue the complaints.”
Planning Director Taryn Logan reponds
The Royal Examiner reached out to County Administrator Douglas P. Stanley and Planning Director Taryn Logan, on Sept. 11 regarding the email shared by Ms. Bates.
Ms. Logan responded in an email, “Thank you for reaching out to me. I appreciate it. I read through the e-mails. Our Department has received complaints regarding sheds placed in the front yards of properties in Lake Front Royal. We are working to review the sheds in question as to when they were placed and if they were permitted to determine if they met the zoning ordinance requirements at that time. Some of the sheds may be “grandfathered in” according to the ordinance at that time or they may need to be moved to comply with the current zoning ordinance requirements. Mr. Morrison’s e-mail does not represent the views of the Planning Department. We are working to address the complaints we have received and to help the citizens of Lake Front Royal the best we can to find solutions to meet the zoning ordinance requirements.
“I will speak with Emily and get back to you. Charlie is not in the office today, but I will get with him tomorrow about your FOIA request.”
Mr. Stanley did not respond.
County FOIA Officer, Planning Staff & Attorney: ‘no records exist’
Ms. Mounce replied, on Sept. 12, “After discussions with Zoning Department Staff and the County Attorney, it was determined that in accordance with Section 2.2-3704(B) of the Code of Virginia, no such records exist pursuant to your request. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your time.”
Armed with the information that there were no written complaints regarding sheds, per Ms. Mounce, the zoning department staff and Warren County Attorney Dan Whitten, this reporter spoke with Mr. Morrison on Thursday, Sept. 14 at 4:30 p.m. in the hallway of the Warren County Government Center.
Informed that Ms. Mounce had replied to the FOIA request that there were no written complaints to share, Morrison said, “They were all oral. There were no written complaints.”
Supervisors ignored the will of Lake Front Royal property owners
On Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016, the Warren County Board of Supervisors was presented with evidence that when both sides were involved, a clear majority of Lake Front Royal property owners wanted to abolish the Sanitary District created in January.
The result of a Warren County Survey sent out following the July 19 Public Hearing amidst allegations of foul play by both sides was 60-40 percent in favor of dissolving the Sanitary District.
Despite that result, however, the Warren County Supervisors voted 3-2 to ignore the majority will of subdivision property owners. Only Chairman Linda Glavis and Archie Fox voted to follow the survey result.
“It is obvious and very clear–a majority don’t want it,” Fox said in making a motion the County join the majority in petitioning the Court to dissolve the Lake Front Royal Sanitary District.
However, Tony Carter, Dan Murray and Tom Sayre used various arguments to dismiss the result as ill-informed or irrelevant.
“I understand the will of the people and all of that … but you can look at numbers any way you want,” Carter said in support of maintaining the Sanitary District despite the survey result.
Carter also said some concerns expressed by opponents of the District – such as higher taxes and a centralized water system – were unfounded.
However, the current 2017 Lake Front Royal Sanitary District fee $450. Prior to converting to the sanitary district, the POA per-lot maintenance fee was $300. The increase was due to a needed bridge repair, part of which is being paid for by the Warren County and the state.
Time to ask tough questions of County staff and elected officials
Questions that Warren County residents should pose of their supervisors, Warren County Zoning staff and Administrator Doug Stanley:
- Is selective enforcement of zoning ordinances occurring in the county?
- Why are FOIA-requested documents said not to exist, when there is proof otherwise?
- Why is there a Sanitary District at Lake Front Royal, when a majority of residents opposed it?
As the details of this story come to light, the Royal Examiner is committed to reporting the facts to its readers.
‘Polar Plunge’ launches 2021 Humane Society programs as spay-neuter clinic fundraising progresses
Two major events, one to make money, the other to spend, were launched this month by the Humane Society of Warren County (HSWC) while a look in the rear-view mirror focused on a highly successful 2020 despite the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
Executive Director Meghan Bowers, beginning just her third year on the job, announced the date of the second annual Polar Plunge – February 20 – which already has five sponsors and 35 swimmers lined up for a wintertime dip in the frigid waters of Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center, south of town. Bowers floated the first winter swim last year, an outstanding success financially and for swimmers and onlookers alike that raised more than $10,000.
“We’re setting a target of $12,000 this year,” Bowers said, while at the same time proclaiming a healthy start to a campaign to establish a low-cost spay/neuter clinic in downtown Front Royal. “This will have a huge impact on the lives of animals and their people in our community,” she said.
Within just a couple of weeks of a campaign to raise $125,000 as startup money for the clinic, $109,000 is already promised or in hand and interviewing of potential staff members begins next week. Inquiries about the proposed veterinary clinic have already been received by other rescue groups, Bowers said. Until now, spay/neuter candidates have been shipped to Harrisonburg twice a month in lots of about 80 animals per trip.
Looking back on the year of the pandemic, Bowers provided interesting information and impressive statistics including 678 adoptions of mostly dogs and cats, many new “foster families”, three pet food distributions serving 289 families, and the preservation of the title “no-kill” shelter with a 95.6% live release rate.
For most of the year, visits to the shelter were confined to “appointments only” due to the virus, but plenty of work for the staff which, Bowers said, was fully retained through the pandemic months of 2020.
Of the upcoming “Polar Plunge,” Bowers named the sponsors – City National Bank, Cool Techs Heating and Air, Ellen Aders State Farm, AirPac, MDUB Chauffer Services, and Cavalier Kennels. Aders is the president of HSWC. Of the 35 individuals already committed to the plunge – and seeking personal sponsorship money – there are 15 newcomers to the chilly sport including Bowers (look for the shark among the costumed entrants) and 20 returning plungers. Molly Llewellyn of Front Royal was the top money earner last year with exactly $1,000. So far, Bowers confided, she has $467 in sponsorship money.
The HSWC is a non-profit agency that houses homeless, neglected, abused and unwanted animals, in business since 1947. While primarily dealing with cats and dogs, the shelter has also been home to horses, other livestock, birds, reptiles and more.
For more information, visit https://hswcevents.org
Volunteers turn Day of Service into an effort to cleanup part of Warren County
As part of this year’s National Day of Service, a group of folks from Warren County decided to clean up sections of Route 522 between Robin Lane and Gate 3 of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. It was a perfect day for the cleanup, with temperatures above freezing and into the 40s, and little wind or precipitation. One big advantage of doing a cleanup at this time of year is that you can go into the underbrush and not worry about encountering a snake, or dealing with ticks, spiders, etc. In addition, with the leaves off the trees and bushes, it is easier to spot trash.
Most of the cleanup crew members met at Mountain Home B&B about 10am on January 18th, dressed for the weather and wearing good boots for tromping along the side of the road and into the brush. Mountain Home provided trash bags and gloves, and offered a free Gatorade or Vitamin Water for each volunteer. The B&B owners also assured participants that they would transport all the bags of trash to one of Warren County’s five refuse/recycle collection sites. Several participants also helped with taking pictures to commemorate the event.
The road section that was cleaned up includes the Appalachian Trail road crossing and parking area, but that wasn’t where most of the trash was found. Cigarette butts, glass and plastic bottles, beverage cans, Styrofoam cups and plastic lids and straws, were distributed fairly evenly across the entire stretch of roadway, indicating that some people in vehicles must be tossing these items out their windows as they drive along. One brand of beer kept showing up again and again, leading us to wonder if one person was throwing a beer bottle out the window every day. Other items collected appeared to be construction debris that was not carefully strapped down and then flew out of trucks as they began to accelerate.
Smokers may not realize that tossing their butts out the window or on the ground (unless it is on your own private property) is littering and is against the law. The filters, made up of plasticized cellulose acetate, do not biodegrade and can last for many years.
Besides being gross, and littering being illegal, the trash isn’t good for the local wildlife either. It can be eaten by fish, birds, and insects, cause suffocation, and eventually get into our streams and contribute to pollution in our oceans. Plastics and Styrofoam are particularly troublesome as they do not biodegrade, but just break into smaller and smaller pieces that make them even more likely to be consumed in the ecosystem. Trash on our roadsides will not help bring visitors into our county and town, or help local businesses, or bring tax revenue into our local government.
The only excuse for littering is laziness and disrespect. If we love our country, and love our county, we need to stop trashing it!
Disposing of trash properly (and reducing the Styrofoam and plastic packaging that you buy in the first place) helps keep it out of the environment and helps make Warren County a nicer place to live. The 12 roadside cleanup volunteers did a fantastic job today, collecting roughly a dozen big, contractor bags of trash, and a few larger items like car parts and a cabinet panel. There are several places around Warren County where trash seems to accumulate at an alarming rate, and this stretch of 522 is one of them. Any time you want to get out and make a difference, you can grab a trash bag and just pick up trash. Just be sure to take each bag to a refuse/recycle collection site when you are done.
The National Day of Service is now a tradition each year on the 3rd Monday in January, Martin Luther King Day, to honor the life of Rev. Martin Luther King, who “sought equality and human rights for African Americans, the economically disadvantaged and all victims of injustice through peaceful protest.” (The History Channel website)
Several groups interested in service projects and/or caring for creation were specifically invited to participate, but everyone was welcome. There were representatives from the Warren County Democratic committee (WCDC), the Warren Front Royal Appalachian Trail (WFRAT) Committee, Calvary Episcopal Church and even an Appalachian Trail hiker who stopped by to help. If you or your group are interested in helping with the MLK roadside cleanup next year, or with other roadside cleanups, please contact Lisa Jenkins of Mountain Home B&B at MountainHomeAT@gmail.com.
Sheriff seeks to commit more departmental resources to county’s war on drugs in withdrawal from regional task force
It is a simple matter of trying to more effectively impact the local war on drug abuse, with no animosity or a disconnect from cooperative efforts across county, or even task force, lines implied, Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler told Royal Examiner of the pending February 1 withdrawal of the department from the Northwestern Regional Drug Task Force.
“If you do the same thing over and over and get the same result and keep doing it expecting a different result, you know what they say,” Butler observed with a laugh. That “same result” since taking office two years ago were rising drug overdoses at the point of the county’s expansive hard drug problem.
Butler said his department will devote more personnel directly to interdiction efforts than the five officers previously tied to task force operations. “There is no animosity with the task force. We are just circling our wagons and focusing on giving Warren County our best effort. We have 26 guys and plan to use them in our interdiction effort. And we are still in touch with other agencies,” Butler said, pointing to surrounding county sheriff’s departments. Among those is Fauquier County directly to our east, which the sheriff noted is in a different regional task force, Blue Ridge, than the Northwestern his department and the Town of Front Royal have been in over the years.
Front Royal’s Town Police will continue their efforts within the Northwestern Regional Drug and Gang Task Force. Minus Warren County, in addition to the Town of Front Royal, the Northwestern Regional Drug and Gang Task Force includes law enforcement agencies from Page, Shenandoah, Frederick and Clarke Counties, the City of Winchester, and Towns of Strasburg and Luray.
Sheriff Butler’s belief is that with such a widespread focus, sometimes details of the problem in specific jurisdictions can be lost or perhaps left too long to fester. But were long-term statistics to indicate a reversal of the recent trend toward beneficial results from increased departmental attention over the second half of 2020, the decision can always be revisited.
However, the sheriff said since an altered, more expansive focus began being put into effect within his department, overdoses have decreased and street arrests have increased over the past two quarters. Statistics are still being assembled on the altered impact over the past year, he noted. That effort began in last year’s second quarter with the arrival of Lt. Snyder. The sheriff pointed to Snyder’s 27 years of experience and the consequent formation of a drug enforcement unit within the WCSO.
The decision was not a financial one, Sheriff Butler said. Current jurisdictional contributions amount to just over $10,000 annually. Butler reiterated that the decision reached internally was to expand and refocus his department’s resources on the rising and sometimes fatal drug problem inside our county borders.
However, Sheriff Butler reiterated that the decision did not mean cutting his department off from its neighboring jurisdictions, or even task force efforts. He said he maintains regular contact with several nearby county sheriffs, adding, “And I can assure you if the Task Force calls and says it needs extra bodies, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office will assist.
“We will keep the lines of communications open. The only way to combat this is by working together,” Sheriff Butler said – just not solely within task force parameters he believes.
Sheriff’s Office seeks info on road rage shooting
On Sunday, January 17, 2021, at approximately 7:15 PM, an alleged road rage incident involving two passenger vehicles was reported eastbound on John Marshall Highway in the area of Ashland Court. Witnesses described hearing a single gunshot, and when inspecting the trunk of their car, observed what appeared to be a bullet hole. The suspect vehicle was described as black 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer with dark tinted windows, last seen travelling eastbound onto Interstate 66. Thankfully, no one was injured during the incident.
Anyone who has information regarding this incident is asked to contact WCSO Deputy John Gregory at (540) 635-4128.
COVID-19 updates for County, Health District, State, Nation and Global
As of midday Friday, January 15, County Emergency Management Deputy Director Rick Farrall released the latest COVID-19 novel Coronavirus pandemic statistics for Warren County, the Lord Fairfax Health District of which we are a part, as well as state and national numbers. In the two weeks since our last published report of December 30, Warren County reported 312 new cases (to 1,633 from 1,321) and saw its deaths rise by 3 to 36. Seventy-one county citizens had been hospitalized with the virus over the nearly a year it has been reported on our shore.
As Phase 3 of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic continues post-holiday season the county has seen its cases nearly double over the past six weeks to that 1633 mark from 859 reported on November 30; with 10 reported fatalities attributed to the virus over that six-week period. As previously noted, through the first nine-plus months of the year Warren County had counted 12 deaths attributed to the pandemic, with that number tripling in just over three months.
Our six-jurisdiction Lord Fairfax Health District (LFHD) saw its case count climb to 12,733 from 9,877 reported December 30. LFHD’s cases have more than doubled over the six weeks since 859 cases were recorded on November 30.
Nationally, COVID-19 numbers continue to climb at an alarming rate with cases increasing by over 3.7 million since mid-December, to 22,965,957, with fatalities climbing to 383,351 from the 334,029 reported on December 30, an increase of nearly 50,000 deaths at 49,322. Over 63,000 U.S. deaths were reported in December, the most of any month since the pandemic arrived here early last year.
A check of the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website Monday afternoon, January 18, showed the U.S. death count climbing over 400,000 to 401,256, with an additional 1,151,802 cases (to 24,117,759).
With Monday’s global numbers reported by the CDC at 95.18 million cases and over 2.03 million dead, the U.S. continues to stand between 20% and 25% at about 24% of the world’s cases and 20% of its fatalities, as noted previously with 4% of the world’s population.
Below are the full county, health district, state and national numbers for the January 15 report, with December 30 and the final day of November for comparison; and below that updated mid-January local and state guideline information and LINKS:
- COVID-19 Information (January 15, 2021):
- Lord Fairfax Health District: As of today (per the VDH website), there are 12,733 confirmed COVID-19 cases (Clarke 491, Frederick 4,661, Page 1,289, Shenandoah 2,756, Warren 1,633 (71 are/were hospitalized, 36 deaths attributed to the County; deaths 2.20% total cases), Winchester 1,903); the current status of these patients is unknown (admitted to hospital, discharged to home isolation/quarantine, departed the District/County).
- Commonwealth: 4,730,680 total people tested (PCR only); 422,634 total cases [15.2% positive rate (PCR only)]; 19,741 total hospitalized; 5,656 total deaths (1.34%total cases).
- United States: As of January 14, 2021 at 12:16 PM, there are 22,965,957 total cases and 383,351 total deaths (1.67%total cases) attributed to COVID-19.
- COVID-19 Information (December 30, 2020, at 11:54 a.m.):
- Lord Fairfax Health District: As of today (per the VDH website), there are 9,877 confirmed COVID-19 cases (Clarke 385, Frederick 3,703, Page 1,015, Shenandoah 2,186, Warren 1,321 (69 are/were hospitalized, 33 deaths attributed to the County; deaths 2.50% total cases), Winchester 1,637); the current status of these patients is unknown (admitted to hospital, discharged to home isolation/quarantine, departed the District/County).
- Commonwealth: 4,220,943 total people tested (PCR only); 344,345 total cases [12.7% positive rate (PCR only)]; 17,910 total hospitalized; 4,984 total deaths (1.45%total cases).
- United States: As of December 29, 2020 at 2:25 PM, there are 19,232,843 total cases and 334,029 total deaths (1.74%total cases) attributed to COVID-19.
COVID-19 update as of November 30, 2020:
- Lord Fairfax Health District: As of today (per the VDH website), there are 6,357 confirmed COVID-19 cases (Clarke 208, Frederick 2,228, Page 593, Shenandoah 1,403, Warren 859 (61 are/were hospitalized, 26 deaths attributed to the County; deaths 3.03% total cases), Winchester 1,066); the current status of these patients is unknown (admitted to hospital, discharged to home isolation/quarantine, departed the District/County).
- Commonwealth: 3,326,327 total people tested (PCR only); 237,835 total cases [7.5% positive rate (PCR only)]; 14,619 total hospitalized; 4,062 total deaths (1.71%total cases).
- United States: As of November 29, 2020 at 1:32 PM, there are 13,142,997 total cases and 265,166 total deaths (2.02%total cases) attributed to COVID-19.
- Current (Jan. 15, 2021) CDC Guidance Regarding When to Quarantine/Options to Reduce Quarantine
- New CDC guidance as of December 2, 2020.
- Recommend everyone familiarize themselves with the updated guidance. See attached and website link below for details.
- Congregate Living Conference Call:
- There are currently one (1)COVID-19 outbreak at County congregate living facilities.
- Expect the NEXT Congregate Living (Long Term care facilities, RSW Jail, and WCPS) teleconference call to be Tuesday (15:00-15:30), January 26, 2021; invites and “Zoom” call-in instructions are posted, agenda to follow on the invitation.
- Key Leader Conference Call:
- Expect the NEXT County/Town Key Leader teleconference call to be Thursday morning (10:30-12:00), January 28, 2021; invites and “Zoom” call-in instructions are posted, agenda to follow on the invitation.
- Current Executive Orders and Local Directives (not all inclusive):
- EO-74: Number Seventy-Four (2020) Protecting Businesses From Increasing Cost of Unemployment Insurance; effective December 22, 2020.
- EO-72: Number Seventy Two (2020) and Order of Public Health Emergency Nine Common Sense Surge Restrictions Certain Temporary Restrictions due to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19); effective Monday, December 14, 2020 until January 31, 2021.
- EO-67 (Phase Three): Sixth Amended Number Sixty-Seven (2020) and Order of Public Health Emergency Seven Phase Further Adjusting of Certain Temporary Restrictions Due to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19); effective November 16, 2020
- Changes include new guidance for public and private gatherings, etc.
- Designation of Critical and Essential Employees during an Emergency Memorandum, effective May 7, 2020 until further notice
- CDC Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes:
Martin Luther King Jr.’s enduring legacy: ‘Beyond Vietnam’ and to our collective doorstep
Sometimes words remain appropriate, not only for the era in which they are spoken, but for multiple eras, and perhaps for the length of humanity’s struggle to overcome the worst aspects of our collective nature – greed, avarice, hypocrisy and the bondage of others to forward one’s own self interests – in other words, FOREVER.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s words of March 4, 1967 now known as the “Beyond Vietnam” speech are such words. They illustrate the depth of Dr. King’s comprehension that the Civil Rights Movement was a struggle of more than one race in one nation at one point in time.
These words, spoken exactly one year to the day before his assassination, are why some pause each January to remember and celebrate his life; while others are simply reminded of why he was, and continues to be hated by those attracted to power without compassion.
And this year of 2021, as in each since these words were uttered, we must again ask ourselves one final question – how close to the “too late” moment Dr. King described in 1967 are we as a people and a nation today?
– Due to the speech’s length, some introductory comments and other details on the Vietnam era have been edited out – deletions are indicated by (…) and some points have been emphasized with bold highlights.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
I come to this great magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization that brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” … The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one …
Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world … Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history … For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us …
“Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask?
And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live …
Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such …
My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years, especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, “What about Vietnam?” They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent …
Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read “Vietnam.” It can never be saved so long as it destroys the hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that “America will be” are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964. And I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the brotherhood of man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances.
But even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men – for communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?
… Finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place, I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of son-ship and brotherhood. Because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned, especially for His suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.
And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula … They must see Americans as strange liberators … We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops … Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness … They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of new violence?
… At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved … and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now.
I speak as a child of God … I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote: “Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”
The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit … and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about … Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.
And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God. In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution … It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments.
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin … the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.”
It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.”
The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them, is not just … America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood …
We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice … It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries … A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies … This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind … When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response … I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality … This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is God” …
We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late … Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.”
There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.” We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace … and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight … Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world …
As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:
“Once to every man and nation comes a moment do decide,
“In the strife of truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
“Some great cause, God’s new Messiah offering each the bloom or blight,
“And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.
“Though the cause of evil prosper, yet ‘tis truth alone is strong
“Though her portions be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong
“Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown
“Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.”
And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.