Overthrow the Status Quo

Still purging…not only hard copy files but electronic files as well. I stumbled onto this email to a high school friend in response, I believe, to either her Facebook post or to an email regarding the Women’s March in Washington on January 21, 2017, that included my wife and hundreds of thousands of other Americans as I watched, often in tears, on the TV…Wikipedia claims the marches across America constituted “the largest single-day protest in U.S. history.” I share the email here as a reminder that we must not lose the sense of urgency that many of us felt then, as well as a resurrected warning that a movement without leadership is as effective as a rudderless ship.

Dear Kate…Here’s hoping that you had a wonderful day Saturday. Paula certainly did, and there were multiple times when I was overcome with emotion watching the March from home. I was especially touched by the support of hundreds of thousands of folks around the world. Now, we all have the obligation to keep it going, and we need new leadership to arise to guide it.

Of great concern to me is that I have never heard one unified statement of progressive philosophy (since Kennedy’s inauguration) around which we can rally. Until we are as like-minded as conservatives regarding our foundational beliefs, we will be moving forward like scatter shot, which will not work to overthrow the status quo of the self-indulgent power of the privileged. This is not a war between political parties; it is the war that has appeared repeatedly throughout human history: The War between the Privileged and the Less Privileged.

This is not a pendulum swinging. It is a firmly planted rubber wall that represents this reality: it is the privileged who hold the power; NOT We the People. From time to time, The People rush against the rubber wall with such force that it stretches to a place where the world appears different (e.g. French Revolution), but the people stretching apparent reality become complacent, or simply tire of the effort and stop pushing, and when the force in the elasticity of privilege, which has never diminished, begins to reassert itself, the wall of reality snaps back to where it was in the first place.

It is time to move the foundation of the wall, which is much harder work than simply stretching it out of shape, but doing so would change the world for everyone because it would become the new status quo.

One example of how we can begin to chip away at the foundation of the status quo is this week’s letter campaign in support of Obamacare: Paula and I each sent separate notes via USPS to the White House today, as have millions of others, saying: “Don’t make America sick again. Improve the Affordable Care Act. Don’t repeal it.” This is a gesture, albeit a massive one, but our gestures need to become actions that threaten or support the personal futures of our elected officials based upon their actions in relation to our common beliefs. We must be relentless in this, but what are our common beliefs? Until there is a unified message from an as yet unidentified progressive leadership, I’m finding that the following has been helping me with my focus:

Conservatives seek political power to help themselves;

Progressives seek political power to help others.

Conservatives seek political power to impose their beliefs upon everyone;

Progressives seek political power to protect the right of everyone to believe as they choose.

The above is my filter. If a politician uses her/his power to help others (less fortunate) or supports an action that protects others’ rights (e.g. a woman’s right to choose), I will contact her/him with a message of support, regardless of their political affiliation, but if a politician uses her/his power to (e.g.) enhance the wealth of the 1% at the expense of those less fortunate, or if s/he takes a stand that impinges upon anyone’s rights and freedoms (e.g. a woman’s right to choose), s/he will receive from me messages–or my words in person at constituent meetings–of disdain and a promise to work against their re-election.

This is not a time for compromise. This is war. The battles begun in the Sixties should never have ended, but we got lazy in our relative comfort—progressives of our generation are as much to blame as anyone because of our decades-long collective complacency—we let the rubber wall snap back. I think we need to own our complicity in unwittingly supporting the status quo and use the energy of that acknowledgement to motivate us to step up.

It is time to fight. This is not about Trump; this is about using our collective power to help those less fortunate and to protect all of our personal freedoms from the intentions of conservatives (and from intolerant religious fundamentalists who want to use the power of government to impose their beliefs on us all as they did with Prohibition).

I alluded to JFK’s Inauguration. These are words I have never forgotten but for which I have not fought hard enough: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the many who are rich,” and “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” And right now, what I can do for my country is to add my single voice to the collective voice of millions to defeat conservative and fundamentalist self-interested aspirations, to ensure that every American can enjoy the truths we hold to be self-evident: that all (persons) are created equal; that (we) are endowed by (our) Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Overthrow the status quo.

[Featured Image by Robert Jones via Pixabay]

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