My fear is that (effectively) democracy is already over in America, and all we have now are the remnants which we stubbornly refuse to see for what they really are, mere vestiges of yesterday’s dreams. I have come to this conclusion reluctantly, I must admit. For I too wished to be comforted by the view that our democracy, though wounded, could be saved before real harm is suffered. But the suffering has been among us for some time now, as I, like many others, had refused to look into the face of this ugly reality… as I, like many others, chose to cling to the false reassurances of the (American) dream, the facade that had been propped up before us.

Now, facing reality, I see the impact of gerrymandering in which the controlling party stacks the deck against the voice of the populace. The 2012 election for the U.S. House of Representatives is but one example of the current state of this illusion of democracy. Although nationwide the Democratic candidates received the most votes, by a margin of more than 1.4 million votes, Republicans received a 33-seat majority in the House. This is something other than democracy in action.

Still, facing reality, I see the impact of voter suppression laws which were spearheaded and introduced in many states by ALEC. In a real democracy, we would want more people to participate, everyone would have a voice and those voices would be equally valued. Rather, we find that the same forces who are benefiting from the gerrymandering are now imposing suppression tactics which range from photo id laws (which makes it more difficult for the elderly, the poor, the minority and students to vote), to purging voter rolls, felon disenfranchisement, reducing the period for voter registration and early voting, and disseminating false and confusing information about when and where to vote. This is something other than democracy in action.

Again, facing reality, I see how the U.S. Supreme Court has become, as Senator Elizabeth Warren asserts, “a wholly-owned subsidiary of big business.” If we had any doubts of suspicions of its alliance with the radical, plutocratic right following its complicity in the George Bush coup, its finding that “corporations are people” in its Citizens United decision should have completely annihilated them all. Big business and the plutocrats were given carte blanche to buy elections and politicians, and are doing so with reckless abandon. Corporate domination of the political system cuts across party lines, for even the “centrist” democrats dance to this piper’s tunes, as these centrists often offer nothing more than token resistance to the will of the plutocrats. The latest budget deal is an example of this, as many of the most vulnerable have been sacrificed this Christmas season as the austerity beat is played. This is something other than democracy in action!

We have been deceived by the facade of democracy that puts to shame the back lots of Hollywood and their most convincing movie sets. But I have wandered around the lots, seen behind the fronts and peered beyond the raised curtains, and then in coming to grips with the realization that democracy is not real, I will not (and urge others do not) despair; rather, we must be resolved and committed to organize and gain the power we will need to reinstate democracy. Marginal, incremental tweaking will not do, that would only give these forces of plutocracy the opportunity to become even more entrenched. We must organize for progressive change. Now!! That is the task.

“Let us honour this soldier for peace in a fitting manner. Let us rededicate ourselves to bringing about the democracy he fought for all his life; democracy that will bring real, tangible changes in the lives of the working people, the poor, the jobless, the landless.” – Nelson Mandela

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Cornel West calls Al Sharpton ‘the bonafide house negro of the Obama plantation’ (via Raw Story )

Dr. Cornel West ripped Wednesday’s 50th anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington in his radio show with Tavis Smiley on Friday, lamenting that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself would have been rolling in his grave seeing how his “I…

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There are times when the forces of a situation can compel even the most reluctant among us to act.  These forces of change reach within us and connect with that part of us that is capable of shaking off the fog of complacency and the stupor of indifference, releasing us from the dispositions that have made us blind and numb to the harsh ugliness of our political, economic and social realities, releasing us from the propensity to cling to the pleasing façade.  There are times when situational forces can awake us from the rosy illusion of the American dream (to which our cultural indoctrination had so convincingly attached us) to the almost surreal American nightmare.

Now is such a time.  For it is at this moment, as we begin to reflect upon the revelation before us, that we shall find ourselves at a crucial crossroad, clearly conscious of where we stand.  What we choose at this moment, the path taken from this point, will certainly determine the hopes and dreams of the people for generations to come.  For we must choose whether we will rescue the American dream that has been held hostage and is now withering away, or remain idle allowing our society, economy and institutions to become irretrievably encased in an increasingly exclusive servitude to the wealthy elite, the 1%.  Either we will establish for ourselves (and the generations that follow) a solid foundation and the real basis of achievable dreams and real hope, or we succumb to the deceptive nightmare of delusions that mask the unbearable reality of the dream — abandoned to captivity and destined to die.

Reflecting on this moment of decision, the story Candide by Voltaire comes to mind.  In an abbreviated summary, Candide is a story about optimism and the grotesque foolishness of being passively optimistic, the hideousness of an idle optimist.  The story illustrates the nonsense of remaining hopeful yet inactive; it is inane to declare that “Whatever happens is for the best” for “…this is the best of all possible worlds.”  When one is given the ability and reason to act, one earns hope by acting and one justifies optimism by expending effort; one does not throw seeds onto the ground and then sit back hopeful for a bountiful harvest or idle yet optimistically resolved that whatever happens will happen for the best.  “We must tend our garden.”

So, look about you and examine this expected harvest called the American dream.  A dream rooted in democracy, equality and justice.  Wake up and look!

You will see that we are at the crossroad and all about us are the weeds of plutocracy and oligarchy – rule by the wealthy few that has crowded out democracy.  See the weeds of the Powell Memo, the playbook of American corporatism which has taken control of our government; see the weeds of ALEC corrupting every statehouse of this nation with its voter suppression, workers’ rights suppression, and deregulation which jettisons the public good for private greed; see the weeds of Citizens United that displaces the will of the people with that of the corporations; see the weeds of Trans-Pacific Partnership which attempts to enthrone the reign of global corporate government.

At the crossroad, we can see clearly the weeds of inequality that now characterizes this country.  We see the weeds of income inequality in which inequality is worse in the United States than in any other developed country; the median income of the American working male today is less than it was in 1968.  The weeds of wealth inequality have choked the middle class, transferring its wealth to the 1%. Today’s dreams and hopes are void of real opportunity.

Easily visible from the crossroad, the weeds of injustice continue to grow to great heights.  They are evident as policies, laws and tax codes that extract greater wealth for the already wealthy at the expense of those who have least.  These weeds extract from programs for the poor, the elderly and children so that tax breaks for the wealthy are shamelessly preserved; they blossom with austerity measures that takes from the needy while sheltering the largesse of the elite.  They suppress the votes of the poor, the elderly, the students and people of color while they gerrymander power to the minions of the plutocrats; they erect barriers to collective bargaining, insisting that power held is not balanced but unilateral in the hands of their benefactors; they promote deregulation and privatization because protecting the public and concerns for public good diminishes the profits which feed the greed.

There must be change.  We must eradicate these weeds.  Ultimately, we will collectively determine whether or not the American dream survives, for it will require a population of active contributors if the dream is to erupt from its present state of delusion.  Indeed, the transformation of a delusion to a dream is a call to revolutionize, for it is a change of great substance.   Yes… revolution is required and can be (MUST be) achieved through the nonviolent expression of the people’s collective voice.

The voice of the people must be massive to be effectively constructive, but it must also be nonviolent if it is to become massive.  So, as we gather ourselves at the crossroad recognizing the need for change, radical change, we must respond with the resolve and the courage to commit to prolonged direct action, determined to effect real change.  This real change, this revolution, will almost certainly require civil disobedience as the powers we struggle against have the power of law, but the revolution we seek will never ask for violence.  In fact, violence is the enemy of constructive revolution as it merely leads to actions that substitute violent destruction with what would have been the quiet destruction of idleness.  Our goal is to eradicate the weeds while protecting the harvest.

If we are to effect real change, if the revolution is to succeed, we must begin now.  The weeds are threatening to take over, and they are much like the concrete we wish to shape and form… it must be done before it sets and hardens.  We must act now; we must unite our voices now!  We must rescue the dream and regain true hope.  We must tend our garden, dutifully and responsibly.

On the eve of the great election of 2012, I pose this question noting that the response one makes is not critically dependent on the outcome of the elections, for our resolve and commitment to realize the vision of a greater society must be constant, lest we falsely lull ourselves into believing that we can entrust others to achieve what we lack a determination to exert the effort to accomplish… lest we allow ourselves to assume that we are not that “somebody (who) needs to do something.”   Although the specifics of the vision will certainly vary among us according to the values we each hold and the purposes we inject into our intentions and aspirations, we share a common ground and it is this common ground we share that gives support for the foundation of our vision, and it is this foundation that we now find in a state of decay, crumbling from a tyranny that denies justice and distorts liberty; for the vision (the dream, the promise) is rooted in the spirit of justice (fairness), equality, and liberty… the values that honor and preserve the common good while recognizing the freedom of the individual.

Given the proposition that justice is fairness, a look at the distribution of wealth and income in this society reveals the now real and increasingly stark denial of justice.  On Bertelsmann’s Social Justice Index which ranked 31 developed nations (this index measures the creation of equal opportunities for every individual), the U.S. ranked 28th.  The CIA tracks income inequality metrics because the greater the inequality, the greater the threat to democracy.  According to the CIA’s World Factbook, of 136 countries, the U.S. ranks 42nd from the bottom; 94 other countries surpass the U.S. in equality of income distribution and the resultant stability of democracy.  So, by these relatively objective measures, we see that justice and equality have been severely diminished, and with this diminishment, U.S. democracy is eroding.

Increasingly, the plutocratic society that is displacing democracy is rearing its ugly head as it seeks to make supreme the corporate will and corporate voice while it limits the voice and will of the people; one way of doing this is by curtailing the right to vote.  Through its legislative tool, ALEC, the plutocracy has enacted laws in various states to suppress the right to vote – making good on the declaration of ALEC’s founder, Paul Weyrich, that “…I don’t want everybody to vote.”  In a democratic and just society, one should seek ways to increase participation in the right to vote, the right to have one’s voice heard, because the greater the participation, the greater the democracy; in an increasingly undemocratic and unjust society, one instead seeks ways to limit opportunities to vote, and in so doing, to muffle the voice of democracy.  In a true democracy, everyone has a voice and every voice is equally respected.  The truth is that there was a diabolical plan to restrict the vote, and this in combination with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling which found that corporations are people (and their political expenditures are expressions of free speech) assured the plutocrats that by spending unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns in which votes are shaved, they could complete the coup and gain ultimate control of the political process and government.  Of course, a Romney victory hastens this development, but this (plutocratic rule) is the goal, the destination of the path on which this society is now embarked.

What is even more insidious is that the scheme by which much of this is done was hatched in the name of liberty and “free enterprise.”  The Powell Memo is the master plan which provided the impetus and justification for the plutocratic takeover of our democracy, and it was cloaked in a distorted desire for liberty.  The adherents were (and are) led to think that they were the preservers of free enterprise; they came to view regulations as encumbrances to corporate profits rather than safeguards and preservers of the public good.  They came to see the public good as nuisance that is secondary (at best) to profit; therefore their goal became to control government and its policies and regulations so that they were not burdened as they journeyed to profits and wealth.  They lost sight of the fact that freedom does not mean free to ignore the adverse effects their business practices may have on others; it doesn’t mean freedom from restraints and regulations that protect society.

Just as regulations are viewed with contempt, the labor movement and collective bargaining are viewed and now targeted for elimination; but again, free enterprise doesn’t mean freedom to exploit those who have least for the sake of those awashed in abundance.  Just as individual liberty is never to be taken at the cost or detriment to the rights and liberties of others, the fruits of freedom of free enterprise are never to be extracted from the sufferings of others or from the diminishment of the common good.

So, where do we go from here?  I would say that certainly, we must shore up the common ground of our vision.  We must awaken our collective memory of the spirit of justice as fairness; of equality – not of outcome, but surely of opportunities; and of the reciprocity of liberty which is ever mindful of its responsibilities to the liberties and well-being of others.  Upon awaking, we must then make concerted, sustained and determined efforts to rebuild the foundation of our democracy.  This would be a start.

I strongly believe that real justice exists when there’s a total transformation of “the deprived”; when privilege is eliminated and there’s equality.   It has been my hope that the Occupy Movement would be the catalyst of the long-awaited coalition of “the deprived” – and I still say that the spirit of Occupy should be (will be) the nucleus of this coalition.  However, we must recognize that any specific Occupy identification (e.g., Occupy Nashville) is not the coalition, but is a potential facilitation of the coalition.  This coalition springs forth from the yearning for justice and those deprived of justice consist of a vastly diverse population with diverse concerns, causes, aspirations and hopes; yet,  the glue that binds us is the realization that (in the words of Dr. King):

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…”

Then, it is here in our interrelatedness, in our mutuality, that we recognize the natural order and wisdom of our alliances; it is here, in our hope for justice, that we find the courage, resolve and faith to persevere…to Occupy – Together.

If, from the grassroots, we reach out for justice and basic fairness and from these roots (which are anchored in the hearts of individuals) respond to, interact and stand with others reaching out, then our commitment to occupy (our commitment to hold true to our vision of justice) will sprout to break through the differences that have separated us, and then grow to be the mighty tree that bears the fruit of fairness and equality… the fruit of justice.

 

UAW Local 737 will proudly participate in the reenactment of the March from Selma to Montgomery, a march that marked a turning point in the struggle for Civil Rights.  Today, as we witness assaults on voting rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights, it’s apparent that the struggle is ongoing, and the preservation of our rights requires a constant vigilance, therefore, we march.

As a demonstration for justice, equality and democracy, we march.  Make no mistake; the march protests the plutocracy of the corporations whose tentacles have corrupted our political process and have defrauded the American citizens of their promised democracy; this plutocracy is seen in the nearly invisible Trojan horse, ALEC (the super secretive organization through which corporations enlist legislators to enact laws the corporation co-authors).  The march is by an amalgamation of the many aggrieved by ALEC’s shanghai of democracy.  The march is a declaration that we shall confront and overcome this ALEC, who had besieged us with voter suppression laws, anti-labor laws, the privatization of education, and draconian immigration laws…besieged for the sake of profits and far right ideology which serves the privileged few at the expense of the many.

To shine light on the corruption in which the greed of Wall Street festers, we march.  The Sirens’ song of deregulation, the favored song of the plutocrats, lured the ships of titans to the reefs of insolvency and collapse; this song is recklessness whose consequences include homelessness and joblessness for the powerless throughout the earth.  This march is a message to the many that their pain, we recognize, and their cause, we prioritize.  The march is a commitment to rescue the institutions of government from the seduction of Wall St.’s greed, so that government is representative of the many, so that its institutions are managed for the public’s interest without unjust privilege for the titans of wealth.

Upon awaking to discover our entanglement in the web of illusion we called democracy, we march.  Now, it is seen; it is revealed that ALEC is effectively the control and corruption of government, and Wall St. deregulated is the exploitation of the many to feed the insatiable greed of the ruling few.   The two appeared like the beasts, Leviathan and Behemoth, and wreaked their havoc upon the earth.  Job loss, foreclosures, educational quagmire, vote suppression, repeal of workers rights, corporate personhood, immigrant oppression, bailouts…we now see their source, and so we march to awake others as we serve notice to the beasts.  Now awake, we march so that we may transform the unjust to justice and basic fairness – a fairness in how we share the benefits of this bountiful country; we march so that we may transform inequality to equality of opportunity and voice; we march so that we may transform plutocracy to real democracy, and in doing so, transform the illusion to the dream realized.  Yes, the transformational moment is near, even upon us, and we march to assure those who plaintively ask, “How long?”  We march to attest, “Not long.”

This country’s founding fathers never intended a direct democracy for us.  They instead chose a representative democracy in the form of a constitutional republic with limited elements of direct democracy.  This was done to provide protection from the “tyranny of the majority” – so that the liberties of dissenting individuals and those in minority would not be a risk.  The founding fathers envisioned a representative democracy that would endure, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, as “the government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

However, the tyranny we face today is not from the majority, but from the wealthy and powerful few – the oligarchy and plutocracy of the corporations, the 1%.  It was the reality and power of this oligarchy that led to the decision of Citizens United.  The democracy envisioned by our founding fathers became the dream of democracy we yearned and believed we held, but is now revealed as the illusion which masks the plutocracy of the 1%.

Within our constitutional republic, we have avenues of direct democracy that must be used if we’re to reclaim the vision and truly realize the democracy of our dreams.  Theodore Roosevelt urged, “I believe in the Initiative and the Referendum, which should be used not to destroy representative government, but to correct it whenever it becomes misrepresentative.”  Representative democracy is now misrepresentative.  Democracy has been corrupted; the growing injustice of inequality, income disparity, poverty, foreclosures, outsourcing and exportation of jobs – these are symptoms of the corruption of democracy that occurs when corporate interest is placed above public interest…above the interest of the people.

Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being… It is not man.”

Theodore Roosevelt asserted, “…now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit.  We must drive the special interests out of politics… For every special interest is entitled to justice, but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office.  The Constitution guarantees protection to property, and we must make that promise good.  But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation.  The true friend of property… is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth; who insists that the creature of man’s making shall be the servant and not the master of the man who made it.  The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being.”

UAW Local 737 stands in solidarity with the Occupy Movement in protest to the decision of Citizens United.  We declare our commitment to use the power provided us to correct our governance and to make representative what is now a misrepresentative democracy.

In Solidarity!