Remarks at the Lincoln Memorial, October 20, 2010
It’s an honor for me to help welcome Robin Monahan and Laird Monahan to this city, not because I can take any pride in this place, but because we can all take pride in what they’ve done and encourage others to do it. Walking across the country, talking to people directly and through local media outlets and through the internet, and walking here to the seat of our misrepresentative government, is a model for us all.
Phoning in our concerns and expressing them in voting booths, or taking part in Rorschach Test rallies where the demands are so vague that no champions of corruption are in the least bit threatened — those are all good things, but not sufficient. Walking and talking, educating and organizing are needed too, and everybody can do a little bit of it even if they can’t walk the full length of the country.
But what if they did? What if we helped each other do it? World War I veterans tried walking here and refusing to leave. The military attacked its own veterans, but the result included free college educations following the next global fit of militaristic insanity. In many nations around the world people have walked to the capitals and refused to leave when the corruption had not yet reached our current level. Unjust governments and laws have been overturned without violence, but never without resistance.
It’s an honor also for me to be supporting MoveToAmend and the Backbone Campaign. We have to build a massive movement from the ground up, and we have to enjoy doing it — lessons these organizations can teach.
Truckloads of money are being dumped into the upcoming elections, and people seem to be especially concerned that we don’t know this time around where it’s coming from. The hell we don’t. It’s coming from the same pluto-pentagon-corporatocracy it came from in lesser amounts last time, and being able to identify specific culprits last time didn’t do us a damn bit of good. People are also horrified because some of the groups funneling and laundering the money take in foreign money as well as American. I hate to break it to my fellow Americans, I know what fun xenophobia can be, but the problem isn’t the nationality of the money, the problem is quite simply the money which — there can be very little doubt — tends to come from people and businesses that have money to spare. This marginalizes and even cancels out the interests of those who do not have any money to spare. That’s most people in this country and even more people outside of it.
There are people in this country who want jobs and who have noticed that, rather than hiring new employees, corporations are funding truly stupid and debasing political advertisements that make us all meaner and more ignorant. And we, the owners of the airwaves, don’t see a dime of the money spent, which all goes to other corporations to whom we have generously given our airwaves. In an international study released last weak that ranked our nation near the bottom among wealthy nations in terms of enforcing the rule of law, we did score fairly well in the subcategory of not allowing the bribery of elected officials. Why? Because we don’t call it bribery. We call it human rights. We call it the human right of corporate humans to freedom of speech for financial speech.
And the human right to bribery produces the same thing that produces it, in a vicious cycle: ever increasing wealth for the very wealthiest, and ever increasing unemployment, debt, foreclosures, and poverty for others. Sure, our government still offers minimal assistance to those out of work. But it does not put them to work in education, infrastructure, or green energy, as a majority of us want. Our so-called representatives oppose the will of the majority on every issue. We want Social Security left alone, though we wouldn’t mind seeing those with large incomes pay in at the same rate as those with small. They want to start dismantling the program. We want the wars and the military defunded. They want to fight wars without end, using the excuse of exporting by force our type of government, despite 86 percent of Americans believing our government is broken. If the democracy we pretend to be spreading is broken, is there really a humanitarian side to our wars or are they sadistic through and through?
Most of us could never run for office if we wanted to, unless we knelt before the moneyed interests. Most of us, when we look at the choices in the polling booth, have to vote the evil of two lessers. And of course we should do so, but we also need to follow the Monahan example. Not only is their healthcare plan — walking — far more effective than any considered in this town, but they have pointed us in the direction of what is most needed: education and organizing around fundamental principles of the rule of law, which is rapidly being supplanted by the law of rulers.
We can’t vote most congress members out no matter how unpopular their actions. We can’t compel them to subpoena or impeach when called for, or to refrain when not called for. We can’t enforce or even know what laws have been created through Office of Legal Counsel memos or presidential decrees. We can’t know who has been pardoned for what when the president provides immunity or the Congress provides bailouts. We’ve lost habeas corpus and due process. We’ve handed the legislature over to the filibuster rule. Should we be surprised when Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito declares that,
“ordinary people stubbornly hold on to some old-fashioned beliefs and one of these is the idea that the Constitution means something, statutes mean something, and the role of the judge is to interpret and apply the law as written.”
We ordinary people will apparently have to amend the Constitution to say that it means what it says, to say that only people are people, to say that only speech is speech, and even to say that “habeas corpus shall not be suspended” means “habeas corpus shall not be suspended.” This could be endless. Because of that task and because of what we’re up against in Washington, we may have to do this purely through the states and a new convention.
But whether we amend the Constitution in one way or the other, or rewrite it from scratch, or just bring some honesty to how it is read as currently written, in any case we will need an activist movement across the country to force this change.
Television comedians, good ones but still comedians, are planning to hold a rally here soon to restore sanity, by which they seem to mean quiet down anybody with a raised voice or an insistence on significant and urgent change. The Monahan brothers’ website has a post invoking their predecessor, Paul Revere. Imagine if he’d done his job quietly. I want to restore sanity by restoring some fundamental ideas, the ideas the Monahan brothers have crossed the country for. We all need to climb up on rooftops and shout: Corporations are not people! Money is not speech! Plutocracy is not a government of, by, and for the people!