graduation Here are some excerpts from Tony Kushner’s commencement address to Columbia College, courtesy of Alternet , because his choice and stringing-together of words is so wonderful and inspiring to those of us who labour daily with the imprecision and uncooperativeness of language:

Forget going oversees to fight in Bush’s infinite war against terrorism, the really heroic thing in this country is managing against so many odds to get yourself educated.

Life, each individual life and our collective life on the planet is a teleological game, it is not infinite, like Bush’s justice, it has an ending, and so the future you put your faith in is not, in fact, limitless; and given the catastrophic failure here and abroad of the Kyoto global warming accords, given our newfound post 9-11 imperialist exuberance, given the sagging of the world’s economy and the IMF-directed refusal to see any solutions beyond making poor people suffer even more than they always do in the hopes of reviving a market that only ever revives long enough to make the rich even richer, given the eagerness in Washington to explore new and tinier kinds of nuclear bombs, well, it’s sort of optimistic to believe it’s a supernova that’s going to get us, when it’s clear that what’s much more likely to get us, if we are got, is our present condition of living in a world run by miscreants while the people of the world have either no access to power or have access but have forgotten how to get it and why it is important to have it.

And this is what I think you people have gotten your education for.

You have presumably made a study of how important it is for the people – the people and not the oil plutocrats, the people and not the fantasists in right-wing think-tanks, the people and not the virulent lockstep gasbags of Sunday morning talk shows and editorial pages and all-Nazi all-the-time radio ranting marathons, the thinking people and not the crazy people, the rich and multivarious multicultural people and not the pale greyish-white cranky grim greedy people, the secular pluralist people and not the theocrats, the metaphorical imaginative expansive generous sensual rational people and not the sexual hysterics, the misogynists, Muslim and Christian and Jewish fundamentalists, the hard-working people and not the people whose only real exertion ever in their whole parasite lives has been the effort if takes to slash a trillion plus dollars in tax revenue and then stuff it in their already overfull pockets – whatever your degree, you have presumably read history and thought about justice and freedom and the relationship between ideas and action

… and you know how important it is for the sizable community of decent, sane, just, egalitarian people, comprising many minority communities, constituting if not a majority then a plurality, a substantial, smart, let’s-say-40-percent-plurality community, more than large enough in a pluralist democracy – which for the time being the United States still is – if it uses its brains and works together to wield decisive power …

… power for enfranchisement and economic as well as racial justice and gender justice and sexual political justice and environmental sanity and in the name of a real globalism, a real internationalism, a real solidarity with all the peoples of the world, to wield power infused with the knowledge that democracy is created not by military machines, not by MOAB bombs and smart bombs but by smart peaceable people, fed people, educated people; democracy is created by making an aggressive, determined and long-term effort at eradicating the real axis of evil: poverty, homelessness, no health care.

You have read and studied and thought and argued and you all know that it is important for the people to have power and now you must go out into the world and get it, snatch it back from where it lies, tangled in the bushes, and then use it well, for the community, for the common good. That’s the next bit of bravery we demand from you heroic people.

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4 Responses to COMMENCEMENT

  1. Marie Foster says:

    Wow… excellent. Thanks for sharing that.

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Isn’t it amazing writing? I always thought my main writing problem was overly-long sentences, but his are even longer. Mind you, I think writing as you speak makes this easier to pull off.

  3. Tom Morris says:

    Cool. One nitpick. “oversees” is spelt overseas.

  4. Christoher M. Lohse says:

    His words provide courage but only for the radical egalitarian causes advanced by baby boomers those who–unlike the greatest generation–never had the task of fighting true evil.

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