Fanning the flames of rebellion

Greg Schwartz

“We defend and we build a way of life not for America alone, but for all mankind.” — President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1940.

These words are among numerous quotes inscribed around the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., which I happened to visit last month during a conference on political journalism.

These words stood out to me because they clearly represent the idealistic foundation Americans are raised to believe: Our country is the greatest in the world. Yet they also illustrate how far we’ve strayed from such ideals.

We’re supposed to nobly use our position of global power to help the rest of the planet, but from the rise of the industrial robber-barons in the 19th century to the power grab by Big Oil and the military-industrial complex in the 20th, this ideal has slowly but surely been subjugated by greed.

Our democracy is supposed to be “by the people, for the people.” But it takes around $7 million to run a winning campaign for the U.S. Senate. Such a system inherently creates a government owned by the corporations. The corporate-owned Bush regime epitomizes this movement.

After the November election, journalist Hunter S. Thompson lamented, “Today, the Panzer-like Bush machine controls all three branches of our federal government, the first time that has happened since Calvin Coolidge was in the White House. And that makes it just about impossible to mount any kind of Congressional investigation of a firmly-entrenched president like George Bush.”

It’s easy for progressives to get depressed about this — it’s a speculated factor in Thompson’s recent suicide. But Thompson seems to have unfortunately forgotten a key quote from one of our greatest patriotic journalists, Samuel Adams, who once wrote, “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.”

Enlightened progressives who recognize this concept know that the early 21st century actually represents the darkness before the dawn. This is where it becomes vital for not just independent journalists, but every independent thinker — calling all bloggers — to shout their truth from the rooftops and start fanning those flames of rebellion.

This paradigm which values profits over people is an unsustainable house of cards, and it is teetering. It won’t be pretty when it comes crashing down, but the seeds for picking up the pieces to create the idealistic vision that progressives dream of are already in place thanks to the groundbreaking socio-cultural revolution of the 1960s.

In his 1972 classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Thompson wrote, “We had all the momentum; We were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes, you can almost see the high-water mark — the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

The wave did break, largely due to the repressive tactics of the Nixon/Hoover regime. But a new wave has been rising — from Mexico’s Zapatista rebellion, to the WTO protests in Seattle, to the massive global anti-war protests in 2002-03, progressive idealists have been rising up in unprecedented numbers against the greed of the powers-that-be. To think otherwise is to be deceived by corporate lapdogs of the mainstream media.

The many victories of the ’60s — civil rights, environmentalism, greater watchdog laws such as the Freedom of Information Act — are now embedded in society’s foundation. The things that activists fought so hard for back then are things that the modern generation gets to start with. This gives us a leg up and puts us in a unique historical position to ride this next wave over the top, for we are the destined flower blooming from that ’60s seed.

But to seize the day, we all have to get involved — the powers-that-be are attempting every trick in the book to lull us into fear and apathy. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “Every generation needs a new revolution.” Considering what the Bush regime has in store, it’s time to get busy or get run over.

Greg Schwartz is a graduate student in journalism and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].