These are dark and hopeful times — dark because the Bush administration is waging an endless war in the face of worldwide opposition, but hopeful because it has brought us together. We are the children of faith and social justice, and history tells us that together we are an unstoppable coalition and a reflection of the very best virtues and values of our country. We will come together to defeat Bush at the polls and compel the next president to pursue social justice and protect ordinary people from the powerful and selfish.

We are part of a significant tradition of activists and advocates, community, faith and labor leaders, students, citizens and public officials who have always worked to hold the powerful accountable, and we are called upon to do so again. We are the descendants of King and Gandhi, Cesar Chavez and Mary McDowell, Eugene Debs and A. Phillip Randolph. We, and people like us, ordinary, conscientious, hard-working, open society loving and community minded people, created unions to fight for and win the workers’ rights struggles of the ’20s and ’30s and the progressive movement that secured the legal existence of civil rights in the ’60s and ’70s. People like us are the souls working to create a world built on human rights and just economics, instead of blood and oil, and we will prevail.

We have the burden and privilege to be the moral voice that ended slavery and apartheid and we will do what we have always done, save this nation from the shortsighted and venal. We have historically had the honor and responsibility of standing up as principled people in defense of liberty and for justice and peace. We are the patriots who have saved this country from zealots and bigots again and again because dissent is democracy and a moral voice is one that speaks truth to power and creates justice by doing so. We are called upon once again to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and sister-to-brother, across lines of faith, race, creed and class, to prevent this fraudulent administration from destroying the very freedoms it purports to defend. We are the place where America’s best values and greatest hopes come together, and we refuse to allow our nation to be reduced to a unilateralist bully whose foreign policy is driven by greed and powered by violence.

I say all of that to say this: We must remember that the Bush administration did not change its positions on civil liberties and foreign policy after Sept. 11; it just took advantage of our shared sorrow to greatly diminish them. We must remember that the Bush administration did not change its ideas on social justice after Sept. 11; it just used it as an excuse to fuel a war machine that enriches its corporate benefactors, assaults the environment and attacks the rights of anyone not fortunate enough to be born into power or privilege. It is important that we remember that the Bush administration was not changed by the tragedy of the 11th and has no intentions of doing anything but expanding the morally bankrupt practices and principles that nurtures them and feeds on us. They have already taken us into a quagmire in Iraq complete with torture and intense incompetence and an endless war in Afghanistan, for profit alone. This is an administration supported by lies and built on greed. We must stop them … it is on us to answer them.

We will answer them with teach-ins, rallies, civil disobedience and the enunciation of a positive set of policies to change the way the world works. We will fight for change by voting and writing and marching and debating these small-minded men at every turn and we will bring their misdeeds to the American people, and our good, great people will cast them out. We will not allow them to hide behind tragedy, or sully the American flag with actions that go against the values it flies for. We will not allow them to use faith to justify aggression and avarice. We will demand an ethical foreign policy grounded in international law, not unilateral force, and we will win. We will win because we are the children of faith and social justice and we shall overcome.

Don Washington is associate director of the Community Renewal Society in Chicago, and the keeper of two large and mischievous cats.