are the Grownups?
(Liberal Slant) I am proud to be an American, and you should be too.
In the final three decades of the eighteenth century, political thought
and practice in the civilized world was suddenly advanced as never
before in human history. And it happened on our soil and resulted in the
birth of our republic.
Since then, the words of the Declaration of Independence, the
Constitution, and its Bill of Rights have been echoed throughout the
world. These words have catalyzed revolutions and liberations, and have
served as models for constitutions of numerous emerging democracies. The
giants of our founding, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Paine, Franklin,
and others, belong, not only to our history, but also to the common
heritage of free men everywhere.
Until very recently, our free and diverse press has been the envy and
the exemplar of journalists around the world. Our “fourth estate”
has been the effective extra-governmental “check and balance”
against government abuse and corruption – as, for example, when Edward
R. Morrow mobilized public opinion and hastened the downfall of Senator
Joe McCarthy, when Walter Cronkite declared the Viet Nam war “unwinnable,”
and when the once-admirable Bob Woodward and his colleague Carl
Bernstein, exposed the felonies of “all the President’s men.”
The Watergate scandal and the resignation of Richard Nixon exemplified
yet another widely admired foundation of our Republic: The Rule of Law,
to which even the Chief Executive must submit. That rule of law
recognizes the dignity and steadfastly protects the rights of each
citizen, even against the whims of the majority.
The United States has, throughout its history, been known as “the land
of opportunity” where, through a system of public education, open
competition, and authentically “free enterprise,” the talented and
industrious might achieve personal wealth, prestige and power.
Our vaunted liberties, for which we have been justly renowned and
envied, has drawn millions of immigrants to our shores, where they have
enriched our culture and enhanced our prosperity.
And finally, our accomplishments in science and scholarship are second
to none. American scientists (many of them immigrants) have won a
disproportional share of Nobel Prizes. The academic freedom and
scholarly discipline of our graduate schools continue to draw the very
best students from around the world.
Two years of unparalleled corruption of the Congress and the Executive,
and the political capitulation of the Supreme Court, does not undo all
of that. But if present trends continue through another Presidential
term and beyond, all bets are off.
For all the justice and liberty that we cherish in our political
tradition, all that we share with our prosperity, and our well-deserved
international esteem, is about to be swept away, as the United States of
America may be facing its greatest political and economic crisis in its
history. For the United States of America has, through electoral fraud
and judicial malfeasance, been taken over by a gang of radical anarchist
oligarchs (who falsely label themselves “conservatives”), who are
guided by dogma and “instinct,” rather than practical experience,
expertise and science. This regime is undeterred by law, treaties, or
world opinion. They have effective control of the media, while the
“opposition” political party has proven itself incompetent and
The ruinous program of this regime is no secret. Quite the contrary, it
is as clear and explicit as the political program set forth in Mein
Kampf. The Bill of Rights? Read the USA PATRIOT Act, and “Patriot
II” waiting in the wings. The Geneva Accords? Consider the stockades
of Guantanamo. The United Nations, NATO and the international treaties?
Read the “Project for a New American Century” (PNAC). The social
contract and a century of progressive social programs? Consider the Bush
budget and tax legislation, and contemplate a projected future of
ever-increasing national debt and eventual federal bankruptcy, as the
oligarch-anarchists endeavor to “shrink the government until they can
drown it in a bathtub.”
In the words of the normally restrained Financial Times of London,
“the inmates have taken control of the asylum.”
Yet the talent, initiative, intellect, political sophistication, and the
moral insight and dedication which brought the United States to its
pinnacle of prosperity, vitality and international esteem just two years
ago, still resides within our borders.
But where? The voices of protest and dissent are muted, and the
opposition is disorganized and demoralized.
Where are the grownups – now that we all so desperately need them?
If these “grownups” – the scientists, legal scholars, journalists,
economists, educators, union and civic leaders, government workers –
were to rise up with one voice, the malignant folly that is the Bush
Administration would be halted in its tracks, immobilized for the
moment, and decisively thrown out in November, 2004.
So why the inaction? Let’s examine these elites in turn.
The Journalists: Listen-up, Rather, Jennings, Brokaw, Koppel. It’s
payback time! You’ve all grown fabulously wealthy through your use of
the public airwaves. If the gushers of corporate cash flowing into your
respective portfolios were to shut down tomorrow, your acquired wealth
would be secure and ample for several lifetimes. And none of you are
Now it is past time to speak truth to power – even if that includes
the power of your bosses. No need to wallow in the false concoctions and
vituperation of the Limbaughs, O’Reilly’s and Hannitys. Just tell
the truth – the certifiable facts clearly reported in the foreign and
independent press, and conspicuously absent from the corporate media.
Include among those facts the disgraceful delinquency of the American
In Russia, soon after the fall of Communism, several journalists did as
much and paid for their integrity with their lives. But your lives are
not on the line – not yet. Just your jobs.
And just imagine the uproar if the network anchors were all fired on the
grounds of excess candor and integrity! Then they might join the a-borning
liberal network, “AnShell media” and give it a huge sendoff by
bringing along audiences in the millions.
And you folks in the print media, it’s past time for some spinal
transplants. The next time the Shrub sets up a scripted (so-called)
“news conference,” throw away the script and ask an honest and
penetrating question. If that’s too much to ask, follow Tim Robbins’
suggestion and hand off Ari's recognition to the likes of Helen Thomas.
If this costs you access to the White House press room, then so be it.
Maybe you can arrange a boycott. How delicious it would be for Ari
Fleisher to walk into an empty room!
Finally, Bob Woodward: Now that you are a hotshot Washington Post Exec,
be the new Ben Bradlee. Recruit “WoodStein Redux”: find a couple of
energetic young reporters, put them on the White House beat, and see
what they can come up with. You too may lose your job over this. All the
better. You can then retreat to your home office and write an honest
book, after a two decades of hagiography. Now you can open up the
worm-can that is the contemporary "journalism," and expose it
for sellout and the fraud that it is. Who knows, maybe then a grateful
public and history will forgive your post-Watergate lapse of integrity.
Scientists and Scholars have a long-standing reluctance about getting
involved in politics. That reluctance is ordinarily well-advised, for
political activism can compromise the detachment and objectivity that is
the hallmark of scholarship. But these are not ordinary times. For now
the very sustenance of science and scholarship are under direct threat.
Theological and political dogmas now guide and constrain the funding of
biomedical and environmental research. Scientists such as Theodore
Postal of MIT, who dare to disagree with the Administration over Missile
Defense, face, along with their institutions, the loss of federal
research funding. And the long arm of the Bush “science-police”
reaches into the governance of international research institutions such
as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as the former IPCC
Director, Robert Watson, was to discover.
Groups such as Campus Watch, the Heritage Foundation, and Lynn
Cheney’s American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), are
vehemently displeased at how frequently independent scholarship at our
universities seems to come up with unacceptably “left-liberal”
conclusions. So they are demanding the imposition of “balance”
(i.e., “conservative” viewpoints) in higher education.
These are ominous trends, which must be steadfastly resisted if the
reputation and integrity of higher education in the United States is to
be protected and maintained. It is one thing to remain aloof from
politics when political activity is “out there,” away from the
academy. It is quite another matter when a band of well-funded political
activists and dogmatists attack the very foundations of free and
independent (dare we say “liberal”?) science and scholarship.
Lawyers and Historians, by the hundreds, signed petitions protesting the
Supreme Court’s “appointment” of George Bush, in Bush v. Gore. And
in February, ten Nobel Laureate economists, along with several hundred
professors of economics, signed a statement warning of dire consequences
of the Bush tax policies. Terrific! But after petitions, what? Is that
to be the end of their protests, or will they persist? Where are the
public lectures, and the appearances on public TV and radio? Where are
the “teach-ins?” Must Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, and a very few
others, carry the entire burden?
Educators have a crucial stake in the ongoing political struggles. It is
no secret that the public schools, indeed even the concept of public
education, are under attack by the Right Wing. Yet public education –
the “common schools” – have served our country well as “the
great assimilators,” leading immigrant children into the mainstream of
American culture and society, and putting children of diverse religious
and ethnic backgrounds into direct, face-to-face contact. Public support
of higher-education provides the “ladder” of advancement for young
people without financial means but with talent, energy and
determination. But for these opportunities, millions of writers,
doctors, engineers, lawyers, professors and other professionals would
have been condemned to menial labor, and our society would have been
much the poorer for this. The social value of subsidized higher
education was most dramatically exemplified by the post World War II GI
Bill, which moved millions of returning veterans into the middle class.
But the Far Right, understandably, has no stake in a public that is
informed and which has acquired critical intelligence through a liberal
education. Such individuals make very poor serfs. Neither is the Far
Right much interested in an integrated public. "Divide and
conquer!" So instead of continuing our traditional support of
public education, they offer us privatization (“vouchers”) and home
schooling, which can only lead to social disintegration and blind
obedience to authority.
Educators throughout the realm are quite aware of these ominous trends.
So why are they not speaking out, loudly, eloquently, and persistently?
Government workers and elected officials – municipal, state and
federal: you have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. Not the
President, not your party, but the Constitution of the United States. So
where are you now, when that Constitution is under severe attack? You
have sworn to obey the laws. So why are you silent, as the Bush
Administration violates, at whim, such laws and the Presidential Records
Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and international treaties too
numerous to mention? Presidents and their administrations come and go,
but the Constitution and the rule of law persist – but only so long as
we cherish and defend them. It is our founding political and moral
principles that deserve our loyalty, not mere mortals who happen to
occupy political offices – ill-gotten offices, as it happens. So stand
firm on principle, and never forget that you work for us. Refuse illegal
orders, blow your whistles. Follow the example of Daniel Ellsberg, John
Dean, Colleen Rowley, and that courageous but still anonymous Justice
Department employee who leaked “Patriot Act II.”
Persons of wealth and privilege: Do you really want to follow where
George Bush and the right wing ideologues are leading you, along with
the rest of us? Yes, it is true that a robust economy requires the
initiative and the investments of the wealthy. Wealth does in fact
“trickle down,” and “the rising tide lifts all boats.” But these
are partial truths. It is equally true that your wealth and privilege
have “percolated up” from an educated work force, from a foundation
of social harmony, economic justice, and a shared allegiance to our
founding political principles of fair play, equal opportunity, personal
liberty and autonomy, all secured by the rule of law.
The Bush gang and their supporters do not see things this way. They
embrace the attitude that Lincoln so despised: “you bake the bread,
and I’ll eat it.” They fail to appreciate that the falling tide
grounds all boats. They freely pick the fruit of the tree, while they
poison and hack at the roots.
The American public, lulled today by the soothing blather of the captive
media, will soon awake to find their public services gone, their economy
in ruins, their civil liberties violated, and their country isolated
from a community of nations that will, at last, unite to resist our
Not all privileged individuals see themselves as somehow “entitled”
to their advantages. Many fully appreciated their debt to those
multitudes that produce the wealth, and their dependence upon a
well-ordered and just society. Such enlightened individuals as George
Soros, Ted Turner, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates Sr., and, let us hope, an
ever-growing number of the enlightened wealthy, may at last lend their
support to the counter-revolution which must throw the usurpers out of
their ill-gotten offices, and restore our republic to the people.
We eagerly await their enlistment into our common cause.
In two short years, the social contract enunciated in the Preamble of
our Constitution has been violated, much of our Bill of Rights
rescinded, and our economy looted. Only we the people can undo this
damage. In addition, America’s honor has been besmirched before the
world and before history. Only Americans can restore it.
The journalists know this. The scientists and scholars know this. The
lawyers know this. So too the educators, government workers, civic and
religious leaders, and even some politicians. And given access to the
compelling facts, free of spin and propaganda, the American people can
know this too.
When will the voices of reason and experience, schooled in the lessons
of history and loyal to the founding principles of our republic speak up
and be heard? What are they waiting for?
Where are the grownups?
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