How Do We Implement Real Change?

This morning, as I was making lunches for my two boys to take to school, I turned on the radio to NPR’s Morning Edition, just in time to hear the host proclaim that with her win in Puerto Rico, Hillary was within thirty pledged delegates of winning the nomination.  I switched the radio off again and made a mental note to never donate to Public Radio or Television again.  Of course, the report is absolutely incorrect and reflects the same stance that the main stream media has taken since the outset of the primary process, where Super Delegates who have not yet voted have been counted in Clinton’s favor and added to her delegate totals.

Like many of us, I used to have a much higher opinion of NPR.  But, after their federal funding was cut, they had to look elsewhere for their operating capital and wound up in bed with the likes of the Koch Brothers and other big money interests.  NPR has joined the establishment, has become main stream media and must now be tossed into the same bucket as CNN, MSNBC and FOX.  When what we think is conditioned by what we have learned, it stands to reason that if what we have learned is wrong, what we will think will be wrong, too.  The report on Clinton’s delegate count was wrong, and has been wrong on every main stream media source.  For those of us who follow the political process closely, it is easy to see the error.  But what other reports, on other issues, have been equally wrong, equally biased?  And how are those reports shaping the way we think about our world?

Yesterday, I had a long conversation with my neighbor on a wide range of topics, one of which was our current political madness.  She is a senior citizen and a Democrat (Clinton’s demographic), and asked me if I knew of anyone who was supporting Clinton.  I do not.  Neither does she.  But she also had no knowledge of the extent of election rigging that has plagued this primary season.  She was unaware of the exit polling which has accurately reflected each and every Republican primary, while being wildly off in the Democratic elections.  She was equally unaware of the lack of ballots, closing of polling places, purging of voter polls and mysterious changes in registration status which have become a hallmark of every Democratic contest, while being unheard of among the Republicans. 

As someone who is not a consumer of the social media powered world of internet journalism, my neighbor remains reliant on the main stream media as the dominant source of her information.  She can change channels, but if they are all pushing the same lie, and it is not something she can verify on her own, what real option does she have but to accept it as the truth?

What this should make us realize is that if we want real change, it is going to be a much harder climb than just electing an anti-establishment candidate.  If any one thing has been made abundantly clear in this election cycle, it is that the overwhelming majority of Americans are fed up with politics as usual.  We do want change.  We want a change in our leadership because it is the only way that we will ever realize a change in our individual lives, our individual chances to make our own world better.  We want a government that comes together to do the bidding of the people who put them there. 

Contrary to the caricatures emanating from the far right, the only Americans who are looking for handouts continue to be the rich, who want to hold on to more of their soft earned money.  Real Americans want to work.  Give us the chance and we are the hardest working people on the planet.  And the reason for that is that philosophically, we still believe that through our own labors, we can make our lives better and make a better life for our children.  But we have witnessed our government sell our jobs overseas through decades of miserable trade agreements.  We have witnessed our status as industrial giant collapse into a service economy where once highly skilled workers now compete for minimum wage jobs stocking shelves.  This was not our doing.  The blame lies squarely with the government and their handlers, and there is equal blame to taint both parties.

So here we are, early in June and with three significant contenders for the presidency, each of whom wants to be perceived as the anti-establishment instrument of change.  Trump shouts, “Look at me!  I have no political baggage, am fabulously wealthy and make great deals because everything I touch, turns to gold.”  Ironically enough, that did not work out too well for King Midas, either.  In Trump, we have someone who is fabulously wealthy, though seemingly in spite of himself.  His record of failed businesses, bankruptcies, shady “deals,” and now lawsuits against Trump U. show him to be far less accomplished than he would have us believe. 

Clinton hangs her anti-establishment banner on her status as a woman and somehow equates becoming the first female president of the country with representing an anti-establishment posture.  Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.  As a hawkish neo-con, her voting record, actions as Secretary of State, and the very positions on foreign policy that she espouses in her stump speeches and interviews, show her to be the poster child for establishment politics.  The reality that she is heavily funded by Wall Street, Big Pharma, and the Health Insurance industry, and does not want anyone to know what she has to say to any of those concerns, should tell us all that we need to know about her establishment allegiances.

The historically high unfavorable ratings for Clinton and Trump demonstrate that while Americans want change, Americans do not want either of those options.  The third candidate is, of course, Bernie Sanders, the only truly anti-establishment figure among the three.  His message of combatting the effects of income inequality, guaranteeing health care for all Americans and of making education attainable for all of our young people, has struck a chord with voters across this country.  And his anti-establishment stance has been well vetted; as the popular meme circulating on social media states, you can name any mistake our government has made in the past thirty years and there is a video on YouTube of Bernie Sanders, trying to stop it.  Sometimes lost in the discourse is his insistence on more and more Americans becoming involved in the political process.  Indeed, that may be the single most effective tool in bringing about meaningful change in this country.

On the one hand, there you have it.  If you want a candidate whose focus will be on bringing about a meaningful change in the direction of this country, Bernie Sanders is the one.  But do not think for a moment that that alone will solve our problems.  Whatever Sanders will accomplish, he will do so by going up against big monied interests.  His foes will be found within the ranks of a government corrupted by lobbyists and the favors big money can buy.  But they will also be found without, in the form of the main stream media and the bias through which it will inform America.

If we want real change in this country, in the end, we will have to be the instruments of that change.  The Revolution will not just be a political one; rather it will necessitate social changes and a rethinking of how we go about the day to day business of being Americans.  It is goingt o push each of us out of our comfort zones.  Just as in the French Revolution, we will have to at least metaphorically separate the snakes in our government and wealthy, ruling class from their heads.  As the saying goes, kill the head and the body dies.  In this case, the head is money.

Once we recognize just who our real enemies are, the course of action becomes clearer.  As Sanders has repeatedly said, we need to get the influence of big money out of politics.  We also need to take the influence of the main stream media, big money’s mouthpiece, out of our lives.  We need to stop the spread of disinformation, so that it does not become what we have learned and thus the basis for all of our future decision making.   In short, we have to develop a deeper understanding and cultivate a greater participation in our political process.  We have work to take money out of the pockets of those institutions that use money to manipulate us, our voices and our votes.  And, we have to make ourselves smarter, so that it is that much harder to fool us.

Want to make a start?  Here are a number of things each of us can do, right now, to start the ball rolling.

Cancel Your Cable – Cable packages, even at their most basic level, come with bundles of stations, and your monthly premium goes in large part toward paying their fees.  If people would cancel their cable subscriptions, it would hit the main stream media where it hurts, right in their wallet.  Today, most of your favorite programming can be had by a significantly lower subscription rate through NetFlix, Hulu, and other providers.

Donate a Portion of Your Cable Savings – Once you have cut the cord with cable, seek out the news and information services which earn your trust through fair, honest, unbiased reporting and support them with a donation.  I have become a big fan of The Young Turks and would invite you to look them up.  But do your own legwork, find your own sources and share what you find with the rest of us.

Stay Connected Through Social Media – When you find a group of like minded souls on your social media pages, stay connected with them, and get to know them well enough that any one from the group can respectfully question another’s assertions.  Before we can hold the establishment’s feet to the fire, we have to be able to take the heat ourselves.

Get Involved With Your PTA – The disconnect from the political process begins early, when young people are not taught about government and its workings.  Just as being fed the wrong information leads you to think in the wrong terms, being fed no information leads you to not think for yourself at all.  It is long overdue for young people to once again  take courses in Civics and Ethics.  Our government should not be unassailable because it is not understandable.  Additionally, Critical Thinking is infinitely more important than Common Core Math.  Insist that your children’s schools focus on Critical Thinking skills.  If we teach our kids how to think, and to think critically, we won’t have to worry so much about others telling them what to think.

Reading Comprehension – There is no more important skill that anyone learns in school or in life than reading comprehension.  If you can read and understand the subtlety of what is written, what lies between the lines, you can teach yourself anything.  Everything that humanity has ever learned is written down.  It is there for all of us.  Remember Trump’s comment on how much he “loves the uneducated?”  Call it a Freudian slip, but what he said in that moment is exactly the basis for how politicians (and other snake oil salesmen) have always worked.  The more we know, the more complex and nuanced our understanding of what they are saying to us is, the more transparent they become.  And while you are at it, read to and with your kids.  Engage them in discussion of what they have heard or read to sharpen their own skills and to introduce them to the world of adult thought.

Buy American – This is easier said than done at a time when a visit to a Home Depot, Wall Mart or Lowe’s will not turn up more than a small handful of items made in this country.  But if we want to put the hurt on those corporations that have sent American jobs overseas, we need to stop buying their products.  One solution, particularly in terms of household goods and furnishings, is to buy second hand.  Thrift shops are everywhere and often present you with the chance to buy a gently used item which was made in America, to higher standards.  Though it is used, it will most likely outlive the new item made somewhere in the third world, and at a fraction of the cost.

Buy Local – A portion of every purchase you make is a cost to offset shipping that item from somewhere else in the world.  Transportation costs ultimately put money in the pocket of big oil, one of the largest lobbyists to Washington.  Buying local means less use of oil, less carbon emissions into the atmosphere and most importantly, it builds community.  In an earlier article, http://johnqsviews.com/universal-health-care-and-renewable-energy-will-save-our-economy, we looked at the personal economy, your individual economy, and viewed it as a pie of assets, against which slices are cut to pay for your expenses.  Here, in the abridged version, as your costs for essential expenses (housing, energy, health care, food and education) rise, those wedges of the pie get larger and of necessity, the wedges of your non-essential expenses must get smaller.  If the balance shifts too far, you no longer have the money for non-essential expenses.  But it is those non-essentials that are often the source of income for someone else’s pie.  This is why the recession moves like a wave through a community.  Make a concerted effort to buy locally sourced goods and you will move your assets into the pie of someone else in the community, who in turn will move it along and to some degree, back to you.  Strengthen the economy of your community from the ground up and your community will have less need of DC politics.

These are just a few examples of things we can do to strengthen our communities, our numbers and our effectiveness as we work to take back our country from our own government and the ruling class.  Have other ideas?  Drop a line with a comment and we will keep this ball rolling.

America, you’ve overslept.  It is time to wake up and get on with your education.  It is time for all of us to open our eyes to what is going on around us, to how we are being manipulated, how we are being taught what to think, so we fall right into line.  As the saying goes, there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers.  It is always right for us to question authority, and any time an individual or an institution which would set itself up as an authority is unwilling or unable to answer our questions, we must consider them to be either deceitful or incompetent.  Neither is fit to lead us. 

For now, I would leave you with the most important question, the one you must ask of any authority figure: Whom does it serve?  If you are presented with information or a rationale on which someone wants you to make a decision or entrust them with doing so, you must ask, “Who benefits from me believing this and acting upon that belief?”  It is akin to following the money and will usually lead you to the truth they would rather you not consider.  Sanders was asking that question when our country was deciding to go to war in Iraq.  Think for a moment where we would be if the rest of us had been doing the same.

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Shall We Live What We Learn?

Today, it is time to take a step back, time to take a broader view.  The election cycle demands of us that we continually focus our attention on the nitty gritty of campaigns, sorting through the rhetoric, filtering out the lies and half truths.  But today, today it is time to look more broadly at what we have learned and ask how we shall choose to live in light of it.

We have learned that while there are quite a few bad apples out there, there are a hell of a lot of good and decent people, who want to be involved and want to make a difference.  This time, it seems as though the demarcation line between the two sides is somehow clearer; we have been encouraged to define it as establishment against outsider, but in the end, it has nothing to do with our politics.  This is about our priorities. 

One the one hand, we have the institutions that value money and power.  On the other, people and the planet.  It could not be more clear.  This is not about Democrats and Republicans; each side has its good and its bad people.  Equally, this is not just about the candidates; this is about the people whom they attract as supporters and the actions taken by those supporters to advance the cause.

On one hand, we could express this as the year that pitted hope against hate.  It troubles me, as it troubles so many that the level of vitriol expressed against immigrants, muslims and people of different political persuasions, owes nothing to reality and everything to fear.  It is sorrowful for the country to acknowledge that some candidates made the conscious decision to garner support by catering to that hate and fear.  The good news is that they are losing ground.  In the end, it is much harder to hold onto your hate than it is to hold onto your hope.  Hate burns you up and burns you out.  Hope is sustaining.  I believe that in November, the country will choose hope.

We have also witnessed a pitting of two dimensional vs. three dimensional characters.  A novelist could not create a work of fiction with Donald Trump as the main character and hope to win the Booker Prize.  He has no depth.  There is no there there. 

And it is those same characters, the ones drawn expressly for the six second sound bite on the main stream media, that have allowed the rest of us to see just how much the media has become complicit in the problem.  Calling elections with 1% of the vote in is just the most recent and egregious example.  Not giving equal time to all candidates, creating pundits out of campaign flunkies, and above all else, refusing to report on the real issues facing the country, have shown us the degradation of the Fifth Estate.  The news media was supposed to stand up for us, to speak truth to power, to use our freedom of speech to represent us against the wrongdoings of our own government.  Instead, they have become self-appointed kingmakers.

When the real story is one of voter suppression and election fraud on not just a grand, but growing scale, they choose to present tabloid reports regarding candidates’ wives, purportedly insurmountable delegate leads and Super Delegates who have pledged votes but not actually voted.  Similarly, it is somehow not newsworthy that voters arrive to polling stations after standing in line for five and six hours, only to be handed a provisional ballot which will likely not be counted, because their party affiliation has mysteriously changed since they last voted.  We also seem to not need to know that the votes have actually come in from two caucus states, because the media chooses not to announce the winner until it is late enough that most folks have gone to bed.  But, we have to thank them, because now we see them for what they are.  In showing their true colors, they have done all of us a favor.  We can now consign them to their rightful place as background chatter, the white noise of society.

We have learned that to many, the governance of our country is just a game.  Winner take all, to be sure, but just a game.  For the Mitch McConnell’s of the world, doing the job they have been elected and sworn in to perform takes a back seat to the gamesmanship of obstructing the process, grinding everything to a halt lest it be perceived that the other side has actually achieved something.  And Mr. Mitch is not the only one.  The gamesmanship extends to the campaign trail, where Bill Clinton defined the Obama presidency as “the awful legacy of the last eight years,” but only after the African American vote was secured in the primaries of the southern states.  We have witnessed the efforts of Debbie Wasserman Schultz to rig the election process, from denying Bernie Sanders access to the voting lists, to scheduling debates for times when no one is watching, and making sure that there are never enough ballots for the voters who show up to exercise their civic duty. 

But I find something interesting here, too.  All of these people are looking mighty old.  There is a Picture of Dorian Gray component to this.  The corruption, degeneracy and wickedness of these thieves who would steal the country from its own people, has crept upon their faces like lines on Gray’s portrait.  And all of the spray tan in China can not varnish it away.

Largely, that distinction is now visible because we have learned that there are so many good people, standing up and standing together in opposition to the establishment, the forces of darkness, the forces of same as it ever was.  From Elizabeth Warren to Nina Turner, Bill Moyers to Cornel West, Robert Reich to Spike Lee, Asher Edelman to Danny Glover, there is a vitality among the forces of change and hope that grows stronger by the day. 

The pairing though, that shines most clearly is that of Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.  Two distinctly different generations, two distinctly different experiences of life.  But between them, fire and focus, wisdom and compassion, and most of all, continuity.  What we have learned is that there is a movement, a revolution, that has been going on in this country since the early 1960’s.  It comes back to that mindset of hope.  It hinges on the priority of doing what is right for the planet and for our fellow human beings. 

It has been suppressed, to be sure, for many years.  So much so, that many of us thought we were alone.  We are not.  When the enthusiasm in one county’s voter turnout from 2012 to 2016 rises by half a million voters, we are not alone.  When those people stand in line for five and six hours because they will not be denied their right to participate in the process, we are not alone.  When a candidate takes in over five million separate donations averaging less than thirty dollars a piece, from real working men and women, not the $27,000 a plate crowd, we are not alone.

The single most exciting piece of news during this cycle has to do with the involvement in the process of so many people, young and old, who thought previously that they did not have a voice.  It was not that they had no voice; it’s just that no one was listening.  Now, we have learned that those combined voices can change the world.  The same as it ever was crowd is frightened, as well they should be.  They are circling the wagons and sending out volleys through their super pacs and media cronies, in a last ditch effort to stem the tide of change, to convince us that we need to be pragmatic, that we need not expect too much, that we can not win against that which is inevitable. 

They are trying to negotiate a truce for fear that hope will sweep them from the field. 

In the end, we have learned that you will fail to galvanize a nation around hatred, but succeed when you do so around hope.  You can send out dinner invites with a $27,000 a plate RSVP or you can throw open the doors to the entire neighborhood.  You can deny people their voices in the process with rigged elections, or you can trust the goodness in their hearts to make the right call.  You can believe what you hear or you can shine light on the lie.  As we used to say, you can be part of the problem, or part of the solution.  It is for each of us to choose how we shall live from what we have learned.

Increasingly, we are learning that it is the solution that is becoming inevitable.

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