July 2011, Week 1


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Mon, 4 Jul 2011 20:29:43 -0400
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The New War of Independence - Against Corporate

Monday 4 July 2011 

by: Richard (RJ) Eskow,

Campaign for America's Future | Op-Ed


(Photo: factoids)

This is the age of corporatized politics. That means we
may admire our leaders, but we can't depend on them.
We're paying the price for Thomas Jefferson's
unfulfilled desire to "crush in its birth the
aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare
already to challenge our government to a trial by
strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

This July 4th, politics is too important to be left to
the politicians. The stakes are too high and the system
is too broken. Citizen action is everyone's job now,
and it will be as long as our political debate focuses
on misplaced austerity and ignores the majority's
yearning for jobs, growth, and those things that
government does best.

But the problem isn't just with politicians, or even
the system. The problem is dependence itself.

We call it "Independence Day." But the British didn't
leave on July 4, 1776. The war lasted until September
3, 1783, when the Treaty of Paris was signed. July 4th
is the day we declared ourselves independent. Victory
came with the recognition that freedom is our natural
condition. Our country wasn't born with violence, but
with the realization that freedom is discovered and
claimed, not granted by others. That's why we celebrate
July 4, not September 3, as our Day of Independence.

That will disappoint the history-challenged
right-wingers whose patriotic posturing is limited to
speaking in their odd pseudo-military lingo, that
echolalic Esperanto for fantasy revolutionaries. They
don't realize that war is a tactic, not a system of
values. And "independence"? Today's "Tea Party" wasn't
named for the tea-dumping patriots of Boston, but for
some self-entitled commodities traders shrieking
"losers!" on cable television. They were sneering at
struggling homeowners, mocking middle-class people like
the Tea Partiers themselves. And they were enraged at
the idea that ordinary families might be rescued the
same way their own financier class had been rescued.

They won. Nobody's rescued the middle class yet. Unlike
them, the Founders believed in common purpose. They
shared George Washington's goal of "protecting the
rights of humane nature and establishing an Asylum for
the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions."
They understood what conservatives don't: There's a
difference between declaring independence and telling
people they're on their own.

When Sarah Palin tells her followers to "RELOAD!" she
has no idea where to aim. When Michele Bachmann says
she wants people to be "armed and dangerous," she
doesn't understand who or what would be endangered.
When John Stossel "jokes" about hanging Barney Frank in
effigy, he's putting reason (and the tattered shreds of
his own reputation) in the noose generals once used for
hanging enemies - and patriots like Nathan Hale.

At least their mangling of Revolutionary War history
gave us a great chuckle, when Keith Olbermann said
Sarah Palin thought Paul Revere was "warning the
British Invasion that kicks keep getting harder to
find." Conservatives adopt the Revolution's pose and
forget its principles. They're dress-up generals in a
make-believe war, corporate servants who use the
rhetoric of yesterday's revolution to serve today's

We fought for the principles of self-representation and
economic freedom. Those principles are under attack
again today. But there's no place for rhetorical
violence (or any other kind) in today's debate. When
corporations intimidate us with economic pressure and
distorted information, the best responses are
communication and mobilization.

We resisted Britain's state-sanctioned monopolies in
1776. Today's government-sanctioned corporations hang
out on Wall Street, not by the chartered Thames. The
spirit of the East India Company lives in the five
banks which now control nearly 96% of the derivatives
market in this country. Our financial oligarchs receive
Treasury Department money, Federal Reserve giveaways,
and get-out-of-jail-free cards for a corporate crime
wave that would make Al Capone blush.

Some of our ancestors came to this country as slaves or
indentured servants. The slaves were freed in body but
their descendants' economic freedom is not yet fully
won. Unemployment's much worse for African Americans.
Infant mortality rates are 2.5 times higher than they
are for whites and life expectancy is years shorter.
Indentured servitude's making a comeback, too. In
colonial days people signed away years of freedom for
the "loan" of ship's passage to America, where they
were sold to bidders for a period of bondage. If only
Wall Street had existed then! Imagine the money Goldman
Sachs could have made on selling "IBS's" -
"indenture-backed securities." And then shorting them,
of course.

Today's borrowers aren't exactly indentured servants,
but their contract terms can be unilaterally changed
and their debts sold and resold without notice. Their
homes may be foreclosed by unknown lenders for
violating terms they didn't know existed. If they
resist paying unfair penalties the full weight of the
law will be brought down on them (but not the banks.)
Bad credit may leave them unable to borrow money, rent
a home, or even find a job.

These economic injustices and others will continue as
long as wealthy contributors corrupt our political
process. Many of us feel the President can and should
do much more to rein in Wall Street, create jobs, and
defend Medicare and Social Security. But any likely
opponent would probably be far worse. Politicians in
this post-Citizens United world are either limited by
corporate power or prostituted to it.. So we must work
around, as well as within, the electoral system. That
means getting the truth out, speaking for the
majority's viewpoint, and outlining the real choices we
face. That's especially hard when almost everyone in
Washington is pushing austerity over jobs and growth
(no matter how many Nobel Prize-winning economists tell
them they're wrong), and when media empires mislead us
about our situation and its causes. So we must wage a
war for the mind - a war against corporate think tanks
and TV talking heads who tell us our problems arise
from self-indulgence and those in need, not corporate
malfeasance and runaway greed.

Politicians can help this war against media monopolies
and for publicly-financed elections. But they can't
lead it. This week some conservatives claimed John
Lennon was a secret Ronald Reagan fan. Jon Weiner, the
writer and historian who's authored two books on
Lennon, effectively refuted them. Weiner points out
that Lennon's last political statement was in support
of union workers. But to truly dismiss their claim, all
you need (besides love, of course) is this Lennon

"You make your own dream ... If you want to save Peru,
go save Peru ... Don't expect Jimmy Carter or Ronald
Reagan or John Lennon or Yoko Ono or Bob Dylan or Jesus
Christ to come and do it for you. You have to do it

Lennon was right, and if he were still around I suspect
he'd add another Presidential name or two to that list.
We can vote for the best (or least objectionable)
choices in the next election, but we can't surrender
our fate to them. We'll need to keep pressuring them
with calls, petitions, and other initiatives. In this
corporatized system, we can't expect many leaders to
heed Revolutionary pamphleteer (and ur-blogger) Thomas
Paine, who said "Attempting to debate with a person who
has abandoned reason is like giving medicine to the
dead." Paine also made this timely observation:
"Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but
moderation in principle is always a vice."

Some of us have surrendered to despair. Chris Hedges,
one of our most brilliant political writers, wrote
recently: " When did our democracy die? When did it
irrevocably transform itself into a lifeless farce
...?" But he's wrong. Democracy hasn't died here, not
yet. Despite a half-century of corporate manipulation
and misinformation the country elected a President with
an unlikely name and biography, one who promised real

What we've learned since then is that the system itself
must change. That begins with the vision of something
better. "Revolution is not the uprising against
preexisting order," said the Spanish philosopher Ortega
y Gasset, "but the setting up of a new order
contradictory to the traditional one." We have to
imagine what our leaders can't or won't imagine, then
work to bring it into being.

Hard? Sure. But democracy? Dead? Tell it to the
Egyptians. They won't be completely free or democratic
until we're completely free and democratic. But they've
accomplished what seemed impossible, and so can we. It
will take action - independent action, action that
doesn't depend on a leader or a spokesperson or party,
action that rejects even the most informed pessimism or
the deepest despair. That kind of action needs an
independence that comes from within.

Happy Independence Day.


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