Dont Call Bush, Ashcroft & Co. Conservative
Here is how the takeover of corporations became the corporate takeover of American democracy: To get along and move up in one of these right wing business organizations, you have to be like the boss. The people working under you will then want to be like you to get along themselves. In Fox News, even reporters in local regions are told how to slant each story hard to the right. There is no pretense of journalism within the organization. And many people stuck in those jobs, who got into journalism with the idea of doing legitimate journalism, are sick to their stomachs every working day. In this way, the right-wing leanings of a few people have distorted entire industries, including television news.
Political leaders are quickly infected in this trickle down reptilism—trickling down from the people who write the checks for political campaigns and who control political news. And the reptilism trickles down further, to the weaker minds listening to talk radio or silly enough to spend too much time watching cable television news—people who buy the lies, who are simply suckered into forking over their own political best interests to the con artists who attempt to pick their pockets at the same moment they are pointing out others who, they say, are the real troublemakers.
About twenty-five percent of our people are susceptible to this kind of con, and they then give us problems by standing against any reasonable reforms. They have been spiritually twisted by the cheap poison of a hundred Rush Limbaughs into the angry, unthinking agents of the superrich. On my long walk across America, a man driving a garbage truck told me that the biggest problem facing America today was the inheritance tax. I didn't have to ask him if he had a radio in his truck.
Among the last was Barry Goldwater. He believed that the government had no business in our bedrooms. He believed that a woman and her doctor didn't need the government's help in deciding her important issues. He would have laughed and then, I think, become very, very angry at Ashcroft's attacks on the Bill of Rights and his citizen-against-citizen snitching system. Goldwater believed that the only issue of importance regarding gays in the military was whether or not they could shoot straight.
What we are seeing now from the far right is not conservatism at all. It is fascism: the imposition of a national and worldwide police state to enforce a narrow world view that enriches and empowers the few at the expense of the many, and that gives no respect or honor to other cultures, ways of living, or opinions. To call that conservatism is a crime against the memory of America's great and true conservatives, who might think that government ought to be less involved in life than we old liberals would concur with, but who nevertheless stood for the core American values that today's right wing leaders undermine at every opportunity.
We Americans are not split into liberals and conservatives. In fact, if you are running for office from the center, or from left of center, just do a better job of demonstrating how far right-wing your opponent is, and you will win more and more votes. You will win them from the vast number of people, most especially urban women and professional men, who identify themselves as Republicans for old time's sake, but who are very uncomfortable when forced to look squarely at the far right positions of many candidates running under the flag of the Grand Old Party. Given moderate alternatives, they will vote for them.
That was exactly the truth that Clinton understood and exploited so brilliantly. He understood that Republicans are conservatives but the Republican Party is not. If you want to reflect upon how well he exploited this insight, remember that Hillary was a Republican when he met her.
If we Americans are split into two meaningful camps, it is not conservative versus liberal. The two camps are these: the politically awake and the hypnotized—hypnotized by television and other mass media, whose overpaid Svengalis dangle the swinging medallions of packaged candidates and oft-told lies.
It is all done to politically prolong the open season on us—open season indeed, as the billionaire takeover artists bag their catch for the day. And in their bags are our freedoms, our leisure, our health care futures, our old age security, our family time, our village life, our family-owned businesses on Main Street, the middle class itself, and our position of honor and peaceful leadership in the world.
Once we understand what we are up against, and where the meaningful dividing lines truly run, our lives as reformers can be easier because we shall know how to proceed. How to break the hypnosis is then the question. It is easy. Pull any contractor out of his white pickup truck, turn down the talk radio blaring from it, and ask him, "Government good, or government bad?" His glazed eyes will widen. "Government bad!" he will say. Ok, good. You found one to play with. Now, ask him what the town might do to make it safer for kids to get to and from school, and around town when they're not in school, without getting killed by traffic or getting in trouble. He will have a million ideas. Good ideas. He has no clue that he is being government—if government is what happens when we get together to solve our common problems and to make life better for our communities. You have broken his trance.
Government agencies, of course, have been the communitarian's worst enemies. Anything that smacks of bureaucratic rudeness or pushiness or counterproductive stubbornness does nothing but damage the idea that government is us—we the people acting together to solve our problems as fellow citizens.
We should begin in our high schools. During the years from 13 to 19, life-long civic values are formed. We should start with our younger people. As community leaders, we should work with the popular history and civics teachers in our high schools to bring the issues of the day and the issues of the town into the classroom—not to propagandize but to openly invite students to learn, research, and offer advice to the community on a wide range of issues. This is where the hypnosis falls apart. This is where democracy finds its feet again.
This summer I asked America's independent community radio stations to get involved with those same teachers in our high schools, to make students into community reporters and commentators. I reminded these indy news stations that they have the technology and the dramatic missions young people crave. I said young people will never become robots if they are enlisted in the cause of truth at an early age. What we do in schools, we must also do in colleges and then in the general community. But if we only have the means to focus on the high schools, that is enough. These young people will be voting in only a few years. If we support their increased civic engagement as they move through college and into the community, we will have raised an army of citizens immunized against corporate hypnosis.
Our victories for needed reforms will come naturally. With an engaged and informed citizenry, who knows what good we might do, and what great civilization we might yet again move toward?
True conservatives and liberals unite! Bring your issues and your opinions to our young people, and create a new expectation that they will get involved, get informed, and form a view of themselves as problem-solving citizens of a democracy. Our differences from the left or right are nothing compared to the differences between the politically awake and the hypnotized drones of the new colonialism that now stalks and shreds our civilization.
Doris Haddock walked 3,200 miles across America in 1999-2000 to raise awareness and support for the successful McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act. She has been arrested and jailed twice: most recently for reading the Bill of Rights in a calm voice in the Capitol Rotunda. Other speeches by Granny D are on her website.
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This story was published on October 2, 2002.