Emma Goldman has long been one of my heroes. The beliefs that she so clearly and beautifully articulated, speak to the best sides of human nature. As I've grown older - my 55th birthday was on Wednesday - I've come to regard some - not all, not even the majority, but some - of her beliefs as naive. That's due, I suppose, to the growing cynicism with which I regard the world around me.
And it's a shame. This would be a far better place if Emma's vision could realistically be fully implemented.
Whether her vision for the world was realistic or not, Emma Goldman's writing and speeches still resonate. June 27th is the 138th anniversary of her birth. As a donor, I received the following quote in an email from The Emma Goldman Papers Project at UC Berkeley. It is from her closing statement at her 1917 trial for speaking out against the World War One draft. She was convicted, imprisoned and then deported. Her words, from 90 years ago, speak very loudly to the issues of today.
“Gentleman of the jury, we respect your patriotism, we would not, if we could, have you change its meaning for yourself. But may there not be different kinds of patriotism as there are different kinds of liberty?
"I for one cannot believe that love of one’s country must... consist in blindness to its social faults, in deafness to its social discords, inarticulation to its social wrongs. Neither can I believe that the mere accident of birth in a certain country or the mere scrap of a citizen’s paper constitutes the love of country.
"I know many people — I am one of them — who were not born here, nor have they applied for citizenship, and who yet love America. Our patriotism is that of the man who loves a woman with open eyes. He is enchanted by her beauty, yet he sees her faults.
"So we, too, who know America, love her beauty, her richness, her great possibilities; we love her mountains, her canyons, her forests, her Niagara, and her deserts — above all do we love the people that have produced her wealth, her artists who have created beauty, her great apostles who dream and work for liberty.
"But with the same passionate emotion we hate her superficiality, her cant, her corruption, her mad, unscrupulous worship at the alter of the Golden Calf...We say that if America has entered the war to make the world safe for democracy, she must first make democracy safe in America."
If you want to know more about the Emma Goldman Papers Project - they are producing a remarkable set of volumes of her writing, speeches and articles about her - you can click here and be taken to their website.