My friends, we’ve been through a tough time. We’ve lost loved ones and treasured icons. We’ve watched the numbers of COVID fatalities climb with no end in sight, seen millions lose jobs, health care, homes, and businesses or experienced those things ourselves. More than 200,000 of our fellows are dead just in this country from a virus that could have been contained but wasn’t. Americans have witnessed the most shocking scandals among public servants in our 245-year history, including countless illegalities perpetrated by a president who shows utter contempt for the rule of law and our sacred institutions. Most of us will be happy to see 2020 in the rearview mirror.
But there is good news: This is a potential moon-shot moment. One week from tomorrow, 11/3/2020, we have an opportunity to begin rebuilding our country in a way that will make our kids and grandkids proud, changes that will create an America that works for all, and that benefits everyone. The steps I’m about to propose truly are achievable, if we work toward them together, and if we vote for candidates that share our progressive values. We Americans did put men on the moon once, after all.
First an apology: Anyone who’s read my blog is aware of my disdain for a certain individual who I hope will be defeated at the ballot box very soon. I’ve made no secret of my belief that he’s a danger to us all. After 30 years in uniform defending America I feel I had a right to speak harshly and with vigor against someone I see as one of those ‘enemies foreign and domestic’ I swore a solemn oath to fight against. Nevertheless, I apologize for my often acidic commentary about him. It was not about you my friends, family, or acquaintances; it was about him, our modern ‘Master of the House’ from Les Miserables:
‘Master of the house, doling out the charm
Ready with a handshake and an open palm…’
No, my contempt for this carnival barker comes from my emotional and heartfelt despair at witnessing the depths of negativity and prejudice the last four years has revealed, depravity elicited by the man I mention, but refuse to name. His tan is fake, and his tie is longer than his attention span, if that helps.
But I’m grateful to him as well. Why? For all his faults and shortcomings, and they are manifold, he mirrors what needs to be fixed in our society: The corrosive greed that lies just under the surface; our impulse to disparage one another, made simpler by social media; the ease with which we massage the truth, or simply lie to one another; our national tendency to bully other countries that disagree with us; our worship of profit over humanity, ignorance over scholarship, monetary gain over the sacred earth; our misguided view that compassion equals weakness, that military might equals greatness and right; that science and fact are not to be trusted; that those aspiring to inform us are instead the enemy. Our deeply embedded and socially corrosive assumption that caucasian equals correct.
Perhaps our biggest debt of gratitude to this fake tanned man is for his revelations that our electoral and governing institutions are much weaker and more malleable than we once thought, that those sacred governing posts are indeed vulnerable to the whims and wiles of a would be dictator. These revelations are cause for alarm, but also gratitude, I believe. These times must be seized for the chance they offer to mend those systemic weaknesses, and to make our system stronger and better. And ironclad.
Thus my vision of an America we can once again be proud of. In no particular order, here’s an incomplete list of items to get us to the moon, and possibly back again.
- A new economic model that demands sustainability over depletion, preservation over extraction; that values loyalty to employees over slavish devotion to shareholders; that provides a dignified living wage to all; that rewards innovation and wealth creation over hoarding and wealth accumulation; that sees current ratios of executive compensation Vs worker pay as obscene.
- A society in which corporations pay for the externalities of their products, instead of passing those costs along to consumers, and damaging the environment in the process.
- A society that uses renewable energy, leaves fossil fuels in the ground, and realizes many more jobs and a healthier, cleaner earth because of it.
- A society that strives toward equitable financial treatment for all; that sees current wealth disparity as a recipe for national crisis; that dismantles longstanding zero sum practices in favor of those that recognize and valorize abundance.
- A true health care system instead of a disease-care, medicine for profit model; the collective understanding that health care is a right for all, not a privilege for those who can afford it; that focuses on disease prevention instead of acute, immediate, expensive care and treatment; a system that abandons the reductionist model of medical care to embrace the holistic, humanitarian model.
- A society in which homelessness, especially among children and veterans, is abhorrent; a society that sees hunger among its citizens as shameful; that shares its abundance, and knows the value of ‘enough’; a community that cares for the most vulnerable, and takes civic pride in doing so. A society in which the wealthy embrace the responsibility that accompanies their elevated position.
- A society where men show their sons what compassion and affection mean by kissing them, hugging them, telling them they love them, and advocating for them fiercely, especially when those sons practice affections and courtesies themselves. A society in which boys learn that girls are equally precious human beings, and deserve every respect. A society where men teach their sons these things by their open, caring, gentle, considerate treatment of women. A society free of bullies.
- A society that rewards its teachers lavishly, understanding that education is a crucial undertaking; that provides venues, materials, resources, time and training so everyone may achieve their aspired level in life.
- A society in which women are heard and heeded, and in which they’re free to exercise full agency in their lives and with their bodies; in which all mechanisms used to silence women are forever discredited. A society that finally passes the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
- A society in which citizens are free to live, and worship, and shop, and teach, and learn, and play without fear of gun violence.
- A society that provides whatever measures are needed for mental health care and suicide prevention.
- A society where ‘pro-life’ means what it says: that we feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the lonely & imprisoned, avoid wars, stop killing animals for food; that finally understands there is no ‘planet B’, that unless we focus on climate change, and reverse greenhouse gas emissions, there’ll be no more life to be pro about. A society that realizes it’s not the earth in danger; it is human life and future generations that are in peril.
- A society in which differences are celebrated, not punished; where ‘gay marriage’ is simply ‘marriage;’ where trans and other non-binary citizens live openly and safely.
- A society that supports our troops fully and without question by sending them into harm’s way only as a last resort, and only when a direct threat to our country exists. A society that all of us support by serving, either in the military or in another role, and in which no one is exempt because of background, bone spurs, or bank account. A society in which taxes benefit schools, social programs, infrastructure, and soft power more than the military industrial complex and its endless fetish for new and more destructive weaponry.
- A community that ends the need for abortion by providing birth control, sex education, accurate reproductive information, and access to health care and family planning for all; that underscores this commitment by recognizing every woman’s agency over her own body.
- A society that refuses to accept one fatality from gun violence, much less 30,000 per year; that relegates assault weapons only to the military and peace officers where they rightly belong; that agrees on sensible, sane, enforceable gun legislation, registration, background checks, and adequate training for gun purchasers. A society that demands as much oversight for gun acquisition as for a driver’s permit.
- A society in which candidates for office are elected by the number of citizen votes they receive, not on an electoral system that’s a relic of the 18th century, an obsolete system that’s hobbled our national elections ever since. A society that demands full disclosure of financial and tax records of every candidate as a condition of selection.
- A society that doesn’t tolerate the influence of money in our legislative process; where corporate campaign contributions are limited and transparent; with publicly funded elections, and time-limited campaigning; where voting is mandatory, easy, transparent, fair, and efficient. A society that considers voter suppression criminal, with harsh legal penalties.
- A society in which black families can send their children away each morning, fully expecting them to return safely each night; in which the police act as servants to all, not oppressors to any; in which Black Lives Matter becomes an unneeded, sad, and tragic marker of a distant past; in which taking a knee becomes, once again, a sign of reverence and devotion, instead of a cry for recognition that some of us cannot breathe.
- A society in which the police are revered for the difficult job they do, in which these forces police their own ranks to weed out bigotry, corruption, and malfeasance.
- A society in which public protest is understood as the right and the obligation it is, not portrayed as an inconvenience to those comfortably ensconced.
- A society that worships at the altar of truth.
- A society that adheres to the principles and tenets we claim*.
The best way to facilitate the above is, of course, through our votes. Here’s hoping the upcoming election sees a historic, monumental turnout at the polls, enough votes that the outcome cannot be doubted, or dismissed. I believe there are no non-voters; that we vote at the polls, or we vote by staying home. In either case, we make a choice. Thank you for reading, and please vote. The stakes are very high.
*The asterisk above refers to my personal belief that those ‘tenets’ we claim, the collective agreement that drives American society, namely our rugged and often damaging individualism, while an important descriptor of our national character, is at the same time part of the problem that’s brought us to this painful nexus in our history. Put simply, we consider ourselves a bunch of rugged, individualistic cowboys/cowgirls. The harsh limitations this national creed produces are manifest now in our response to the coronavirus, arguably the biggest crisis we’ve faced in our history.
An example: Recently I read a quote in response to requests for aid for the virus: “It’s not a job for government,” North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum said. Whaaa? Yes, he really did say that. My question is, who’s job is it? The you’re on your own mentality explains a lot about why the U.S. has 230,000 (and counting) of citizens dead, many of whom should not be. In my next post I’ll scribble a bit about why I disagree so strongly with Governor Burgum, why I believe an alteration to our cowboy perspective is necessary, and another bullet list of solutions. Thank you again. Now VOTE!