It is time for an urgent clarion call.
Given the retrograde pits inhabited by our ruling politicians and the avaricious over-reach of myopic big-business bosses, the self-described pillars of our society must step up to reverse the decline of our country. Here is my advice to each pillar:
- Step up, lawyers and judges of America. You have no less to lose than our Constitutional observances and equal justice under law. A few years ago, brave Pakistani lawyers marched in the streets in open protest against dictatorial strictures. As you witness affronts to justice such as entrenched secrecy, legal procedures used to obstruct judicial justice, repeal of health and safety protections and the curtailment of civil liberties and access to legal aid, you must become vigorous first responders and exclaim: Stop! A just society must be defended by the courts and the officers of the court – the attorneys.
- Step up, religious leaders, who see yourselves as custodians of spiritual and compassionate values. Recall your heroic forebears who led non-violent civil disobedience during the repression of civil rights in the Nineteen Sixties – as with the leadership of the late greats Martin Luther King Jr. and William Sloane Coffin. Champion the Golden Rule for those who don’t believe that ‘he who has the gold, rules.’
- Step up, business people – large and small. Some of you are enlightened and motivated enough to stand tall against the cruel, monetized minds that are harming low-paid workers, cheating consumers, denying insurance to patients, avoiding or evading taxes, swindling investors and undermining communities across the country.
You have good examples from history, including those business leaders who recently quit the US Chamber of Commerce over the necessity to confront climate change or the 150 business leaders who issued strong support for the successful Legal Services Corporation for low-income Americans that Trump’s budget would eliminate entirely.
- Step up, academic professors and teachers, and protect your students from politicians intent on undermining the public school system and turning its budgets into cash cows for commercial vendors. You can help the cause by demanding that practical civic skills and experience become part of the curriculum. You can demand that Trump’s increasingly bloated war budget not be funded at the expense of our children’s education and deteriorating physical facilities. You can point out waste and administrative bureaucracy to strengthen this already compelling University professors can establish active brain trusts to educate the public and rebut the avalanche of fake news and political insults.
- Step up, doctors and nurses, in whose trust is placed the lives of millions of people. Polls show over half of you want full Medicare for all with free choice of physician and hospital. This should come as no surprise since it is much more efficient, eliminating much of the bookkeeping and lengthy billings that drain your time away from practicing healthcare. Above all, Medicare for all saves lives and prevents trauma and disease when people can afford early diagnoses and treatment.
Already prominent economists, business magnates like Warren Buffett and over 60 percent of Americans want single payer. Your strong voices together can sober up those politicians in Congress hell-bent on coarse pullbacks that will make the present situation even worse and more perilous. Imagine our elected, well-insured, representatives pushing a huge tax cut for the rich, at the expense of hospitals and clinics and big time reductions in Medicaid.
- Step up, public relations professionals, who can take an active role in facilitating a public conversation on the need for important social services and reforms that improve their implementation.
- Step up, veterans, including high-ranking military, national security and diplomatic retirees, who can advocate for waging peace instead of reckless wars of aggression and other armed force violations of US and international law. Some people incorrectly think that veterans monolithically support all military interventions. But no one knows the horror of war better than those soldiers who have fought them (A large majority of soldiers in Iraq wanted us to get out of that disastrous quagmire in a January 2005 poll).
Over 300 retired generals, admirals and national security officials openly opposed Bush/Cheney’s criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Veterans For Peace makes eloquent arguments for waging peace. Now is the time to learn from their experience, stand for smart diplomacy and avoid succumbing to provocations and the boomeranging impacts of Empire.
- Step up, members of the media, both corporate and public. Give voice to the vast civil society and citizen groups that are vital to our democracy. They have long been practicing and strengthening democratic practices. Allow their voice of reason, sanity and evidence-based proposals to reach millions of Americans.
- Step up, scientists and technologists. You must strongly organize against the corrosive effect of medieval myths about the natural world and habitat-destroying toxins pouring from unaccountable industry. Champion the necessity of science for the people, not for militarism and a global arms race.
Urge the restoration of the acclaimed, non-partisan Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) in Congress that Newt Gingrich and his Republicans terminated in 1995, plunging Congress into ignorant darkness and costly, wrongful budgeting.
- Step up, students. Show the country your earnest idealism, supported by knowledge and your hope for a brighter future. Fight for tuition-free education, reform of student debt gouging and for an ecologically-benign economy that will work for you and the planet. Really get out the vote for next year!
- Step up, leaders of the vast number of charity and service clubs. Without a sense of justice, there will be less charitable resources for ever-increasing needs.
Many of you have the moral authority to speak truth to the power of the one percent, and resist attempts to diminish support to those vulnerable members of our society who most need it.
In times of crisis, routines must be replaced with urgent awakenings, bringing out the better angels and wisdom from these underachieving pillars of the American community. A few leaders can take the first steps and many more will follow your example. Stand tall in support of justice in these trying times.
from the archives: