You cannot help but feel amused/perplexed/incredulous/angered/frustrated/ready-to-pack-your-bags-and-move-to-another-country by events the past week in America.
After the "stunning upset" Republican Scott Brown (I like to remind him he is a Republican; he seems not to want to tell anyone) pulled off on Tuesday, taking a Senate seat that has been a stronghold of the Democratic Party for fifty-six years, we kind of thought that would be "it." Alas, we were wrong. But don't feel bad - even the New York Times didn't see Brown coming, when, just a week earlier, it asked if Florida's Marco Rubio would be "The first senator from the Tea Party." But the Times shouldn't feel bad either. Robert Menendez, the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee didn't see Brown coming either. Which is a complete failure of leadership.
Speaking of failures of leadership, millions -- and I mean millions upon millions of Americans -- are out of work, poor, and impoverished. Six million Americans receiving food stamps report they have no other income. And yet Jay Leno decides he doesn't want his job, he wants someone else's - and takes it, forcing a $40 million dollar severance package into Conan O'Brien's hands. Now, I like Conan O'Brien and have never cared for Leno, I'm just saying, only Wall Street's bankers have golden parachutes that large.
Speaking of Wall Street, it turns out we were all wrong. Soylent Green isn't people. Corporations are.
The Supreme Court Thursday announced their decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the now-landmark ruling that overturns decades of campaign spending limits on corporations. Because, you see, SCOTUS ruled that corporations are essentially people, and money is speech. So the question becomes, if corporations are people, can they marry? And if they can marry, and they're gay (10% of people are!) then will they have enough money to buy their way into obtaining marriage equality for the rest of us? And how big a wedding will they throw?
The real losers here are of course the American citizen and democracy. The real winners here are corporations, especially media companies, who will gain big time from all the cash poured into ads. In a perverse way, the SCOTUS ruling might actually even save journalism -- all the money being spent on ads ("free speech") by corporations will actually help the newspaper industry. Will this be the beginning of a new-found romance with the dead tree newspaper? Or will 20% of Americans stick with the Apple tablet? And why couldn't Air America hold on a little longer? Surely they would have survived with all that ad revenue on its way.
The questions don't stop there. If corporations are people, can they vote? Do they have to be 18 to do so? And, if health care reform ever passes, will they want to scrap their own policies and help us put back the public option? If the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and soon to be Yemen (assuming Joe Lieberman gets his wish - or until the "counterterrorism and development aid money" Secretary of State Clinton announced Thursday runs out) continue to grow, and we need more soldiers and re-instate the draft, will we see Citigroup on the front lines? Or just Blackwater? Maybe threat of a draft is what it will take to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and quell talk of "kicking that can down the road," and "separate but equal showers."
Of course, the greatest question -- and anyone with an imagination can answer this -- is, if money is speech, does he who hath the most money speak loudest? Do actions still speak louder than words? And does he who speaks last have the last laugh?
It is always amusing to think of Charlton Heston, the man who played Moses, and the man who was an active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement -- before he flip-flopped and became a conservative and president of the NRA -- screaming, "Soylent Green is people!" Regardless of which way his political affiliations blew, Heston surely stirred public anger.
And public anger feels truly broader this week than any time I can remember. This is not the one-shot-deal public anger, but a wide-spread segment of fed-up Americans from the left and the right who all thought they were getting one thing and got another -- and that other thing generally has been the shaft.
What I'm seeing is a total upheaval from where America was just a few years ago, to now.
The lunatic fringe that is now referred to as "Tea Party Americans," by the man who lost the RNC Chairmanship, Saul Anuzis, may have been the most vocal in their frustration with America (although, it's with an America that never existed - nor was meant to, but I digress), but, fast and furiously, there are others.
Progressives on the left are abandoning their president with as much vehemence as Conservatives on the right refused to accept him -- or his birth certificate.
Pam Spaulding said it well: "We told you so, Dems - so can the Netroots play ball now that the smart folks fouled out?"
Speaking of the Netroots against the machine, "Activist Americans" (I made that up, feel free to use it, Saul) are pulling their money out of everywhere. HRC seems to be losing members and cash so quickly it had to pretend it was Macy's and have a One Day Sale Thursday -- "true story." (I put "true story" in quotes because I just can't let go of Pat Robertson's disgusting, 'Haiti made a "pact with the devil" - "true story"' statement from last week.)
It's not only HRC that's seeing its money go elsewhere, Arianna Huffington & Co. is urging Americans -- activist or not -- to show Wall Street banks the door, and to put their money into smaller, neighborhood banks. (Not a bad idea.)
HRC's and Big Banks' plight is really yet more evidence of the turning away from the establishment by Americans. I'm seeing more and more grassroots organizations forming than you can imagine. Which is great, and I truly believe -- be it the "Tea Party Americans" or the thousands of activist Facebook groups or LGBTQ activist groups forming all across the country -- America is in an upheaval it has not seen since the 1960s.
But forget about Wall Street being too big to fail. America has gotten too big to manage. If only our predecessors could have foreseen the unintended consequences of Manifest Destiny. In fact, we wouldn't have "Tea Party Americans," because we never would have had Sarah Palin seeing Russia from her house - she would have been in Russia. Cries from Texas to secede would have been in Spanish - and from Mexico.
Of course, those nine candidates running for everything from governor to state senator in the Vermont Independence Day Party, calling for their state to secede, probably are speaking English.
So, where's all this unbridaled populism going?
In, "Is It Time for Civil Disobedience?," David Mixner reminds us that it is. He writes,
Let us take charge of our own struggle and stop letting our oppressors decide where we do battle. Now is the time for principled leaders in the LGBT community with great values who are committed to non-violence to step to the fore. Those leaders must be able to articulate to America the great gifts we bring to this nation if it can just lay down its fear and anger. We can only make America a better country.
In "Soylent Green," Heston's character learns the evil, ugly truth, that "Soylent Green is people." In the past week, we've all been faced with an evil, ugly truth: our leaders and our institutions have failed us. The very direction our county is about to turn to is in play, and we need to jump in and move it left. If the Supreme Court believes that corporations are essentially people, and money is speech, once the Boies/Olson Prop 8 trial ends and ultimately (regardless of who wins) gets to the Supreme Court, do we really believe they will rule in our favor?
Who knows. With the upsets and absurdities we've seen recently, everything is in play. We need to push even harder. When Scott Brown won, I wrote,
How much time and money has every politician, strategist, and blogger on the left spent licking a finger and putting it up in the air to see which way the Republican wind machine is blowing?
I say it's time to blow back.
It is time to blow back. Too much is at stake to not -- or to move to another country.