I will start with a poem by Kenneth Rexroth: “I see the unwritten books, the unrecorded experiments,/ the unpainted pictures, the interrupted lives,/ […]/ I see the quick gray brains broken and clotted with blood,/ levered each in its own darkness, useless in earth. Alone on a hilltop in San Francisco suddenly/ I am caught in a nightmare, the death flesh/mounting over half the world […].
For all those whose dreams have been shattered by this absurd war, for all that civilization and human greatness has now lost, and for all the pain this has caused and that we bear, I ask for a minute of silence.
Atlanta and Montgomery are more than two cities; they´re a symbol of the struggle for human rights and democracy. In Mongomery, the dignity of Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat to a white man and was arrested, showed what many years back the Fathers of this nation had promised through the Declaration of Independence and its Constitution: that the civil rights of every single American would be guaranteed. It also illustrated that which the Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln originally inspired in the African-American population. It was also in Montgomery where, after Rosa Park’s action, the African-American people, led by Reverend King, resisted racial segregation for 382 days, with the dignity of passive resistance, and they succeeded. The civil rights and democracy that the Founding Fathers of this nation inherited to Latin America would be nothing without these struggles for the civil rights that took place in Montgomery.
Unfortunately, the war against drugs declared by Richard Nixon 40 years ago and sustained by the administrations that followed him – President Obama’s included – has perpetuated and worsened, leading once again to the crisis of rights and is contributing to the destruction of democracy in the United States and Latin America. This war, which has in no way reduced either the consumption or the traffic of drugs, has not only spread death in Mexico, Colombia and Central America, but has also slaughtered hundreds of thousands of young people who were not and would have never been addicts. It has increased the illegal traffic of extermination guns from the United States into Mexico. It has had a multiplier effect on crime – increasing kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking. It has made money launderers, prisons and gun manufacturers rich. It has corrupted the political institutions and has generated in Mexico a militarizing process and the violation of human rights. It has worked against the great triumphs of civil rights. It has led to the criminalization and segregation of the African-American, Latin and Asian populations of which the American jails are replete. Although the consumption of drugs among the White, African-American and Latin populations are similar, out of the 700 thousand people that are annually arrested in the United States for drug possession, the vast majority are African-American and Latino.
Behind this absurd war that deals with a matter of public health as if it was a national security affair and prosecutes drug consumers while attacking the fundamental rights of privacy and personal autonomy that the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees, a subtle form of racial segregation and criminalization has been engendered. Also, the growth of authoritarianism, militarization, violence, crime and a gradual loss of freedom and those civil rights that this nation forged, defended and bequeathed to all America, is now threatened.
This is why we have gone, to Montgomery, this great symbol of civil rights, this is why we come to Atlanta, to ask you that we all together – African-Americans, Whites, Latinos and Asians – save democracy and its freedoms, which this war is undermining throughout the entire world and which holds in the face of Mexico its most terrible visage. We ask you that together we set forth, out of “the dark and desolate valley”, which no longer is that of segregation as Reverend King said 50 years ago, but out of the barbarity of a war that is worsening segregation; one that Kenneth Rexroth foresaw, one that once again discriminates and piles up the dead, interrupted lives, unwritten books, and quick gray brains broken, so that we all together retake in our way to Washington these verses that the great African-American poetess, Maya Angelou, wrote:
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that our ancestors gave,
We are the dream and the hope [...]