Stand Up and Work Together

Maybe it’s a good thing. For three-quarters of a century, Americans have been taking it easy. Oh, I remember the civil rights struggle and the horrors of the “American War,” as many Vietnamese call it, and the Cold War, but through it all, the Federal Government was, in general, our friend, handing out gifts and trying to make life easier for us, even if only partly out of conviction, partly to bribe us into tolerating the abuses and excesses of the rich.

No more. Now we Americans are going to have to learn self-reliance…not selfish individualism but networked, self-organizing self-reliance, security achieved by cooperating for the common good. Do we want equality? Start by treating each other decently. Do we want clean air to breathe? Start by using less energy. Do we want protection from self-serving corporate greed? Demand that the legal concept of eminent domain, which is being used to allow pipeline corporations to rampage across America, be redefined truly to function for the PUBLIC, not private, good. Do we want government that protects our liberty? Educate ourselves about the meaning of liberty: read Madison on the meaning of democracy, learn what our state district attorneys are doing, and vote for district attorneys and judges who stand up for human rights. Do we want responsive Congressmen? Demand and vote for candidates supporting such reforms as recall—the legal right of the population to fire a bad politician. And always, always demand transparency by our elected officials. Why should Big Oil be permitted to force citizens to sell their land to make space for a pipeline? Why are these decisions made in backrooms? If it is arguably in the national interest, then politicians should be bragging about it…and providing time for citizens to participate in the decision-making process.

Cities addicted to Federal handouts will have to figure out ways to take care of themselves, and we certainly do not want Detroit (or Cochibamba) to be the model. Admit that the neo-liberal policy of protecting the wealth of the rich first that has been favored by both conservative parties over most of the last 50 years is the source of our current mess. Recognize that Trump is absolutely correct in asserting that America needs a better model. America needs a socio-economic vision better than either neo-liberalism or Federal care and feeding. Trump may not have the answer, but he has identified the failure of past leadership. Now it is up to us, on the ground, in our neighborhoods, to transcend the outdated debates so useful to the old, self-serving two-party structure and come up with an answer for the good of the whole society.

Earth Day got it right, but we Americans, we oh so very comfortable Americans, did not commit ourselves. The Occupy Movement got it right, but again mainstream Americans turned their backs. The anti-Vietnam War movement showed us all a thing or two, but anti-war thinking was nowhere to be found at the beginning of the 21st century. Teachers, police, and firemen in Wisconsin demonstrating in frigid cold came very close to taking back their state. Bernie’s attempt to transform the old Democratic Party into a new party of the future only missed by a hair. Then came the Women’s March: a breathtaking sign that now, at last, Americans are waking up.

So, maybe this turning point in the official attitude of the Federal Government is a good thing. Get over reliance on Washington; start relying on each other. Take charge. Stop thinking “Me first.” Stop asking for welfare. Stop expecting Big Government to help you. Big Government we will certainly continue to have…in fact, bigger than you ever dreamed in your worst nightmare, but it will not be the Nanny State; it will be the Corporate State. The U.S.A. is the richest society in history: we do not have to find scapegoats for our own failures or beat down our neighbors so we can stand up; the pie is big enough to give everyone a piece, and together we can make the pie bigger. We—me and the funny-looking guy next door—can talk to each other, give a little, listen a little, and find a positive-sum outcome. We, the citizens, can do this.

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