New Civilization News: Grassroots Democracy    
 Grassroots Democracy27 comments
picture15 Jul 2004 @ 12:29, by Richard Carlson

In the photo Dana, Ilona and other guests at a houseparty "interact" via computer with Michael Moore.

The universe is like a safe to which there is a combination, but the combination is locked up in the safe.

---Peter De Vries

June gone, now, July's moon.
I age: how many more to meet?
Won't let mind linger on the endless things beyond me.
I'll try to finish this one small cup.

---Tu Fu

Nothing is often a good thing to do and always a good thing to say.

---Will Durant

It's hard to follow Professor Durant's witty truism with a Log entry, but I'll promise at least to be brief. Whitman wrote the great American poem and called it Leaves of Grass. In this political season we are reminded the leaves turn brown and die without healthy, well-nourished roots. This is the election of the grassroots in America!

The organization and involvement going on in this country on all sides is spectacular. People want to volunteer and get involved, and they are doing it. Both major parties are tumultuous in their outreach this year, and maybe Nader's people are too, as well as all the other guys who are running. Some say Ohio is THE state to win, and so perhaps things are more intense here.

What does grassroots involvement mean...and where do you go, how do you start? Usually the major parties rent a storefront in nearly every town, so you look for Bush or Kerry signs and go on in. With the Internet it's easier than ever to locate where to go, or who to call...or you just supply your email. People contact you and phone you up. That's the biggest need as we approach the 100-day mark until election: the phone banks...and that's where Dana and I went last evening.

At present, headquarters for the Democratic campaign in Southeast Ohio is an hour's drive east to the River at Marietta. We had volunteered for an evening of phonework, and our new friend Carolyn went with us. We had been emailing for some weeks before we finally met at her house, where a party had been held to interact with Michael Moore on the Internet. She's a terrific downhome lady, who runs a horsefarm with her husband, and lives in an old farmhouse they've been fixing up for a bunch of years. Tremendous energy, she's an inspiration. We easily ate up the drivetime with lively conversation, both ways.

When we got to the Democratic office, we each got an individual cubicle, and a list of registered Democrats to call. The plan was to invite them to the office next Monday afternoon for an Open House. Cookies and chatter and chances to get more involved, and meet some local political organizers and candidates. I liked making these calls...and the people who answered were surprisingly vigorous and encouraging. These Ohioians are chomping at the bit for something to do, and so most said they would be there. One couple told me they were leaving for a camping vacation, but could they get a Kerry sign for their camper so they could debate issues at the campground? I don't recall an election season with such conviction.

The last hour of phoning was more complicated for me, but Dana said she liked it more. We had a list of registered independent voters. The strategy here was to call them, without identifying ourselves as representing the Democratic Party, and ask them whom they'd vote for if the election were tomorrow. If they named Bush or Nader, we just marked them down and thanked them. If they said Kerry, we moved in with identification of ourselves and an effort to get them more involved with the Democrats. I don't think I'm betraying any secrets about doing this, since the voter registration list is available to everybody and all parties are doing this.

I ran into a lot of Bush support during this part of the volunteering---and I got to hear what they sound like. This is Appalachia here, and the folks are country people. They're set in their ways and the outlying areas from the cities are staunch Republicans. They did not respond to the questioning with the positive good humor of Kerry supporters or "leaners" (leaning toward Kerry). They sounded angry and mean, and maybe that's my imagination or they hated being interrupted by a survey...but there was more of a tendency to shout their answer and hang up on us. Not sure what that means, I didn't like it.

So that's what volunteering is at the grassroots, and it's how to get started if you're interested in helping out. Hopefully you'll get called too, if you live in the States. It looks like the goal is personal contact with everyone of voting age. It's an incredible job, and we're just getting started. Dana's upstairs right now fixing a dish to pass at a potluck tonight out at Stroud's Run State Park, where a bunch of us grassrooters are getting together to unify ourselves and exchange information. Liberals always splinter ourselves off into a dozen different groups that serve our specific preferences...but now is the time to come together. We are meeting neighbors we've never introduced ourselves to before, people who have written letters to newspapers that we liked but didn't know the people, and making lots of new friends. This is what the democratic process is about...and it's the best part. It's fun to be taking our country back!


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27 comments

15 Jul 2004 @ 13:00 by vaxen : Taking what back?
Nice little illusion jazzolog. You're still calling your country a 'Democracy.' That 'says' a whole lot! Good luck when, and if, Kerry and 'Company' swing this thing...same 'old' thing.

There is another 'party' going on, jazzolog, not in Appalachia, not in Kalamazoo, and certainly one which does'nt give a damn about Katchpillionaires and their nuovo shmootzies, one which is silent and runs deep...it is called 'The Constitutional Republic of the United States of America,' and the people for which it once stood...

Remember it?

In the years to come, following the fascist 'Dictatorships' encumbency, I think you'll 'be' hearing a lot about it...

Happy disillusionment...  



15 Jul 2004 @ 13:30 by celestial : Hi Jazz....
I'm doing all I can under my present circumstances and trying to find ways to be even more effective.
I'm niether Democrat nor Republican; I tend to vote for the individual, which seems always to end up being a choice between the lesser of two evils; both seem always to be a mistake!

So, I am presently negotiating as a volunteer in the judicial system and in a large medical center. I don't waste any time whatsoever, I'm constantly working on about 100 projects (irons in the fire...in blacksmithing terms).

Your report here is extremely encouraging to me. Thanks!!!  



16 Jul 2004 @ 03:29 by jazzolog : Vaxen Vista
And thanks Celestial for your support too. Others have written privately to say they're looking for volunteer opportunities.

Vax, you have a lot of the emergency information America needs to know about. I hope, if you're not on the phone banks or downtown with leaflets, you're at least sharing your news with other sites and message boards besides this one.

PS The picnic last evening was a sensational success. The parking lot was full and cars had to be stashed along the road. (No cameras were spotted taking our pictures from across the lake.) While there was not a legion of old-time Democrats there (too comfortable? disillusioned? forgotten the '60s? we need to find out!) the place was loaded with students. What diverse activities they're into...and they're coming on board!  



16 Jul 2004 @ 12:15 by vaxen : ala PS:
Yes, jazzolog, I do network, thanks. As for the poor students? They'll be lucky if they do'nt get shot and gassed and sent to Guantanamo for voicing their opinions...if they, indeed, have any. Ah yes, the 60's, getting tear gassed and shot at with rubber bullets. Beat over the head with police batons just for standing on the corner...the lovely 60's of COINTELPRO and being awakened in the middle of the night, carted away, never to return again...some how there is a parallel there...yup. The lovely fascist 60's when America really became bitter and disillusioned and dead.

Consider this jazzolog:

[link]  



16 Jul 2004 @ 13:36 by jazzolog : Some Of Those Students Were There
November 2003. They are not so naive as perhaps were we. [link]  


16 Jul 2004 @ 14:51 by Quinty @68.9.129.35 : Cameras? And the FBI
No cameras at your event? Just a small anecdote. During one of our previous wars - it seems like many now - I was walking by San Francisco's City Hall after a demonstration. I hadn't participated and the streets were empty. Now, if you are familiar with SF's City Hall you will know it is this huge beaux arts pile with an enormous dome. And there is a long flight of stone steps leading from the street up to its entrance. As I was walking along on the sidewalk this FBI man, in a gray suit and black shiny shoes, stepped out of the building and walked about halfway down the steps. As I said, I was the only person on the street. He lifted his camera, took a shot of me, smiled, and turned around to go back into the building. I have at times wondered what the FBI analyst who saw that photo made of it.

As Richard knows, I was once investigated by the FBI when he was in grad school at Harvard. He knows because the FBI came to interview him about me. I didn't list his name as a recomendation. From the three names I gave just about everybody I had ever known was questioned, including kids (adults by then) I had gone to grade school with. I would walk along the street and would run into someone I hadn't seen in years who, first thing after saying hello, would ask me about the FBI. What caused the fuss? At my physical for the army at the Whitehall Induction Center in New York City I had been herded into a small room where a group of us were given a questionnaire and a copy of the Attorney General's list. This, if you are too young to remember, was an extremely lengthy list of subversive organizations operating in the United States. Some had names you would never have thought indicative of Communist sympathies, such as the Peace and Liberty League. A sergeant stood before us at a blackboard. There was a sample question on it and a sample answer. The answer was "No." The sergeant told us to answer all the questions on the questionnaire in this manner. There must have been at least a hundred questions.

It was late in the afternoon by the time we went into this small room with its classroom desks, a sergeant, and a questionnaire. And I was tired. And I felt I had seen as much of the army as I wanted to see. What's more, I couldn't understand why attending a meeting of one of these organizations was such a crime? So, on that question, if I had ever attended a meeting, I answered "Yes." The sergeatn groaned when he saw this and I offerred to change my response. But no, it had to stay, and because of it a long investigation began, lasting nearly a year, involving Army Intelligence and the FBI.

I met my two FBI men once, toward the end of the investigation. They were nice guys and were extremely curious about me. God knows what they had heard from the various people they interviewed. Apparently, they told everyone they were considering me for an important job in the army. But everyone, it appears, they spoke to said what they thought I would have liked them to say. So they heard all kinds of things. At any rate, this kept me out of the army. And Richard, by the way, you had it right.  



16 Jul 2004 @ 15:21 by vaxen : Oh...
I was'nt in the least naive, jazzolog...Kent State showed me the unity in the discord. We fought back. On that lovely eve, before the National Guard festivities of the next day, a group of Frosh girls (they expected violence) smuggled me out of their dorm, they were well known agitators, and got me off campus-where I picked up a ride to the West Coast and more hell.

What changed? A lot of men did'nt and a lot of men died. That girls picture brings a deep, knowing, sadness to me cause I've been there and so have my friends though few of them remain amongst the living.

Wish I could say that I have a brand new hope for this country but I ca'nt. I have'nt given up on people but this Government has got to go. It is a travesty and that's a fact. I do'nt care who you think you are voting for...the die has already been cast.

My vote is to get rid of them all or die trying. By ALL I do mean every last man jack of them. I want to remove the Capitol and elect a whole new Government, of the people, by the people and for the people. That liberty and freedom may not perish from this earth.

I have no illusions whatsoever about Kerry or his running 'mate.' Nor who put them 'in there,' either, nor even as to why they are there...I wo'nt vote for them for my vote is cast in a hidden ballot box that only the Sons and Daughters of this in-visible "REPUBLIC" will see...that vote will go down in history and will be counted. It will not be in vane.  



16 Jul 2004 @ 16:53 by Quinty @68.9.129.35 : Hey, look
Vaxen: if you say things are going to hell you will certainly be right. Things are always going to hell. But why live if not try to make things better? I have my doubts about Kerry, too, but, frankly, I think we are at present in a state of national emergency what with Bush and his gang in the White House. And if some folks want to have some fun trying to kick him out why not? What's so bad about feeling good as you make an attempt to make things better? Even though we know things will go to hell. But, as I said, without a certain basic spark why live otherwise? Without that spark there is nothing but a broad canopy of darkness.

As one of my leftist friends back in the Bay Area used to say: "Two steps forward, one step back." There may or may not be progress. We may destroy ourselves before we can fix our foolish and greedy mistakes: we are all familiar with the numerous ways this is possible. One step forward would be to have a decent instant run-off system at the polls. That way folks like me, who generally abhor the corporate aspects of our culture, could vote for Nader (though at the present moment I am plenty P.O'd at him) so that we can vote our beliefs. And a vote for Nader wouldn't metamorphose (that's reality folks!) into a vote for Bush. A small step forward which would help.

Vaxen, you sound as if you have dropped out. There is certainly plenty of injustice and misery in the world. But you sneer at those who would attempt to make things better, as if they are not bright enough to comprehend the problems. You may be right. Perhaps we should all just go and jump off a cliff? Admit the problems have defeated us and pray to the invisible kingdom. But if someone wants to improve things, even if only slightly, please grant him the intelligence to see and comprehend what the situation is and the respect his modest efforts merit. Even if these efforts won't result in the overturning of the world order you desire.

Do we have the "best government money can buy?" Sure we do. And many of us who will vote for Kerry are fully aware of that.  



16 Jul 2004 @ 17:13 by vaxen : You mistakenly...
assume that I am labelling you a nincompoop, an imbecile, an idiot! I am not doing that at all! I am sure that you are very intelligent as are the many who think they will be exercising their 'right' to vote.

I agree that there must be a paper trail. I agree that the Florida system must be totally revamped as must others in this nation. That the 'vote' is a scam I have no doubt whatsoever! Corporate Democracy is just that!

Corporate Democracy is about money and 'power' politicking. Corporate Democracy is marching all in step to whatever lobby gets the job done through blackmail and black PR. That is'nt America! A Corporation 'IS NOT' an individual! A Republic is all about protecting the 'rights' of 'the individual!'

Kerry and Edwards are not bringing any real issues to the fore! After all, they cannot! Same old pablum for it, in truth, matters not one iota whether or not Bush or Kerry win. They are two sides of the same coin. Nader is the edge around the coin.

The War in Iraq was started, as per plan (The New American Century), and it will go on. Next target Iran. And so forth and so on. Is'nt genocide pretty? Gotta meet our 'New World Order' stats do'nt ya know?

Paper is'nt 'money' nor is credit. Your Government is'nt 'yours' it is owned by private investors who suck your blood and the blood of your young. That's a fact. You have been enslaved and taught to love it. Love it or leave it.

Over half the 'voting public' will not vote this year. Why? I wish it were 100% then that would mean that the 'public' is awake! Then we could grassroots them into full scale revolution which is what is needed not sap succoring the traitors in the White House and the various 'States Capitols.'

Of course you have a right to vote and I am glad you will exercise that right. I will exercise my right in my own way as will many others just like me. Do'nt think that we are sleeping, however, for that would be a big mistake. Do'nt think that we are not aware of the enemy and are not studying the ways of the enemy.

Do'nt think that our agents have not infiltrated their ranks to the max and do'nt think that the day is not coming when we will rise again and take our country back by 'force,' we make the arms and pay for them too, if necessary.

I do appreciate your comments and hope you appreciate where I am coming from as well. And thankyou jazzolog for your insight, jurisprudence, wisdom and soul. America, that timeless giant, is not dead but merely dreaming...watch out Washington!  



17 Jul 2004 @ 02:11 by jazzolog : Two Old Gents Work On The Upstart
I hope I've had enough sips of java to wake me up this morning and that Jim Wilke's Jazz After Hours streams in here OK to keep me awake so's I can jot down a few thoughts on this dialogue. It sounds as if Vaxen is 10 years or so our junior, Paul, if Kent State was a moment of confrontation for him and he was hanging around dorms. Of course there are other possibilities, but if so then of course you did not share the naivete that we did coming out of the '50s. And Paul was massively more clued in than I was. However, our generation was shattered by the Assassinations which series demanded an entirely new reality for us. We had been "taught a lesson" about our upstart ways which was rather different from yours...although we weren't precisely being shot at yet. Therefore the naive thing was more about us than you.

When I got called for my physical I was in Cambridge, and had to bus up to Portland, Maine for it for some reason. The Cuban Missile Crisis was just on the horizon. I got the same list of "subversive" organizations that Paul did I'm sure, and I must say I was looking forward to it. I was sure at least Fair Play For Cuba would keep me out of the Army, but the groups were so obscure I found I couldn't come close to qualifying as too unAmerican for service. So I was one of the few out of hundreds of Maine guys to get classified 1-A and ready for shipment to the Caribbean. Many of those fellows up there, as always among the poor, had been hoping to get selected as an economic step up out of the potato fields. Our generation had to sweat it out, but my sympathies went to the young men who had to face the horror of the Viet Nam lottery!

At this point what I'm hearing out in the field of grassroots---and this is the most cross-generational and -ideological gathering in which I've ever had the chance to involve myself---this may be the last chance at least to make a popular stand about the pirate takeover of the planet. We may be too late and weak to stop it, but we sure as hell don't have to cooperate with it---either through embrace or cynical surrender. I hear many say if we fail at least to unseat Bush, they will leave the country. To hear that from an 80-year-old professor of history, who remembers the concentration camps, is startling and sobering.

My son may share a view more prevalent at NCN. At 21, he tends not to want to go with us or get involved in phone banks and demonstrations. He wants to change all this from within, by modeling a positive new way of being and spreading sunshine and enlightenment. I wish him well, but warn if the draft is reinstated he's cannon fodder. We would hate to grieve from the distance of Nova Scotia, and so we work hard here while we can. I hope you join us, Vax. It wouldn't hurt you to get out and meet some new good people.

By the way Paul, that retired professor blew me away with the news he went to Bates from Jamaica, Long Island in the late '40s. Like many of the school's distinguished alumni he graduated from somewhere else.  



17 Jul 2004 @ 10:07 by Quinty @68.9.129.35 : Ah, the left
at each others throats as usual. That' s what comes of thinking for yourself. And of a variety of political philosophies to choose from out there. Some of which, frankly, are somewhat crazy. Like the SWP guys who used to hang out in a small office in Berkeley, just off the campus. Whenever I peeked into their office they would sullenly stare back at me as the hopelessly unanointed. Crazy.

Bush, I will say, has done at least one good thing. He has splintered the right. Here we have a variety of competing ideologies which once were united. The saner rightwingers, old time conservatives and liberal Republicans, are appalled by Bush's war and foreign policy. And by his giant deficits. Nor do they buy into the fundamentalist proscriptions on stem cell research, on what women can do with their bodies, birth control, or in the invasion into bedrooms. Imagine Papa George Bush at Yale knocking up a New Haven chorus girl and settling down for life over this mistake? But George Junior has scared some of these folks who may actually, when push comes to shove, not vote for him. or they will at least have to hold their nose. Thank you George for doing one good thing. (I think his record is that abysmal.)

Vax - I happen to agree with you. And I have been horrified by the grip corporate America has on our society since I was a teen. I grew up in New York City where I could see the corporate spirit up close. And it has only gotten worse: corporations dominate every aspect of our lives, unless you own a plot of land and can go out and commune with the birds. Or escape into a good book of poetry, that is if anyone still reads. I agree with you Vax: Bush is only one head on the hydra. But it has to be lopped off. And, I think, we should encourage anyone attempting to do so.

Take care, Paul  



17 Jul 2004 @ 10:49 by spiritseek : the head grows back
then what? the world mindset is the change I would like to see!  


17 Jul 2004 @ 11:10 by Quinty @68.9.129.35 : Well
then that would be the "radical" solution. But whose mindset would we adopt? Can we all agree? Should we? I keep thinking of the Bible as I write this. The Tower of Babel. Waiting for a Messiah, someone who would show the way. Since there are folks out there sitting around actually waiting for a Messiah that adds another element to the equation. We had one pretty good Messiah who has been consistently ignored even though his teachings influenced the course of history. Other messiahs, such as Stalin, let's say, didn't turn out all that well. Though they had fervent followers. I don't know. Let's hope the mindset changes enough, at least, for this upcoming election so that a Neocon messiah doesn't take us over the brink.

Whatever your mind set I hope you have a good day....  



17 Jul 2004 @ 11:38 by jazzolog : Re: Ah, The Left
Thank you for this brilliant comment. I sent it out beyond NCN all over the world. [This is a public Log. (and there is a world beyond)]  


17 Jul 2004 @ 12:05 by spiritseek : mindset
connecting with the wHoly mindset from whince we came but forgotten the connection. HELLO...OPERA-TOR,OPERA-TOR,I'VE BEEN DIS-CONNECTED? Interesting,Is there an opera-tor someone or something operating this opera we're all in?  


17 Jul 2004 @ 12:13 by Quinty @68.9.129.35 : Yeah,
it's quite an opera. Should we laugh or cry? Why not submit to the spirit which moves us? Everything in its own time. Che comedia! (please forgive my inability to write Italian.)

Jazz - It happened again. I wrote a long closely thought out reply to your piece and when I went to save it, poof! Another save somehow took its place. It disappeared! Hey, is the OPERA TOR in control or not?  



17 Jul 2004 @ 12:27 by spiritseek : we are the opera tors
of our own operas,just change your mindset! lol  


17 Jul 2004 @ 13:35 by vaxen : Sure...
"The system is so rigged that voting is a quaint irrelevance."--Fahren-hype 911

[link]  



17 Jul 2004 @ 13:58 by vaxen : And...
From General System Theory
by Ludwig von Bertalanffy

"We are dealing with emergent realities;
no longer with isolated groups of men, but with a
systematically interdependent global community .
It is this level of [reality]which we must keep
before our eyes if we are able to inspire large-scale
action designed to assure our collective
and hence our individual survival"

"Compared to the analytical procedure of
classical science with resolution into component elements
and one-way or linear causality as basic category,
the investigation of organized wholes of many variables
requires new categories
of interaction, transaction, organization, teleology..."


"These considerations lead to the postulate of a new
scientific discipline which we call general system theory.
It's subject matter is formulation of principles
that are valid for "systems" in general,
whatever the nature of the component elements
and the relations or "forces" between them...


"General system theory, therefore, is
a general science of wholeness"...


The meaning of the somewhat mystical expression,
"The whole is more that the sum of its parts"
is simply that constitutive characteristics are not explanable
from the characteristics of the isolated parts. "


(L. v. Bertalanffy)  



17 Jul 2004 @ 19:46 by celestial : Let U.S.a. Remember
That this election is like unto a puzzle.
Let each bring His/Her peace 2 thee table.
On Novemver 02, 2004, the puzzle will be complete.
IT WILL NOT BE RIDDLED with holes in the PICTURE!

mY CHOICE FOR GOVERNOR OV THE U.S.A. IS

jOHN aSHCROFT, PRESIDENT pro tem; George Bush, vice president pro tem.
(John gets a promotion, George gets a demotion!)
WITHOUT THIS COMBINATION (on the ballot) I AM NOT VOTING AND ALL OV YOU SHALL GET BURNED!

What OUI (yes we) are trying to create is a more perfect UNION.
Please keep this in mind.  



17 Jul 2004 @ 20:19 by vaxen : I...
am a Confederate thankyou very much!  


17 Jul 2004 @ 20:53 by celestial : Suit yerself
 


17 Jul 2004 @ 22:27 by vaxen : Indeed...
I will...else Thou wilt?  


17 Jul 2004 @ 23:53 by celestial : Indeed...

I sHILT.  



19 Jul 2004 @ 00:59 by ov : Grassroots
Republic or Confederacy, this or that, where does the 95% of the world that isn't within the US borders fit into the picture?  


1 Sep 2004 @ 07:06 by jazzolog : Garrison Keillor About Republicans
We're Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore
By Garrison Keillor
In These Times

Thursday 26 August 2004

How did the Party of Lincoln and Liberty transmogrify into the party of Newt Gingrich's evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk?

Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned - and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today's. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.

In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. 'Bipartisanship is another term of date rape,' says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. 'I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.' The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong's moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt's evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we're deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Rich ironies abound! Lies pop up like toadstools in the forest! Wild swine crowd round the public trough! Outrageous gerrymandering! Pocket lining on a massive scale! Paid lobbyists sit in committee rooms and write legislation to alleviate the suffering of billionaires! Hypocrisies shine like cat turds in the moonlight! O Mark Twain, where art thou at this hour? Arise and behold the Gilded Age reincarnated gaudier than ever, upholding great wealth as the sure sign of Divine Grace.

Here in 2004, George W. Bush is running for reelection on a platform of tragedy - the single greatest failure of national defense in our history, the attacks of 9/11 in which 19 men with box cutters put this nation into a tailspin, a failure the details of which the White House fought to keep secret even as it ran the country into hock up to the hubcaps, thanks to generous tax cuts for the well-fixed, hoping to lead us into a box canyon of debt that will render government impotent, even as we engage in a war against a small country that was undertaken for the president's personal satisfaction but sold to the American public on the basis of brazen misinformation, a war whose purpose is to distract us from an enormous transfer of wealth taking place in this country, flowing upward, and the deception is working beautifully.

The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is the death knell of democracy. No republic in the history of humanity has survived this. The election of 2004 will say something about what happens to ours. The omens are not good.

Our beloved land has been fogged with fear - fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition. And in a time of vague fear, you can appoint bullet-brained judges, strip the bark off the Constitution, eviscerate federal regulatory agencies, bring public education to a standstill, stupefy the press, lavish gorgeous tax breaks on the rich.

There is a stink drifting through this election year. It isn't the Florida recount or the Supreme Court decision. No, it's 9/11 that we keep coming back to. It wasn't the 'end of innocence,' or a turning point in our history, or a cosmic occurrence, it was an event, a lapse of security. And patriotism shouldn't prevent people from asking hard questions of the man who was purportedly in charge of national security at the time.

Whenever I think of those New Yorkers hurrying along Park Place or getting off the No.1 Broadway local, hustling toward their office on the 90th floor, the morning paper under their arms, I think of that non-reader George W. Bush and how he hopes to exploit those people with a little economic uptick, maybe the capture of Osama, cruise to victory in November and proceed to get some serious nation-changing done in his second term.

This year, as in the past, Republicans will portray us Democrats as embittered academics, desiccated Unitarians, whacked-out hippies and communards, people who talk to telephone poles, the party of the Deadheads. They will wave enormous flags and wow over and over the footage of firemen in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and bodies being carried out and they will lie about their economic policies with astonishing enthusiasm.

The Union is what needs defending this year. Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the Southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from the town and clear-cut the forests and gut the IRS and mark up the constitution on behalf of intolerance and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them.

This is a great country, and it wasn't made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we're not getting any younger.

Dante said that the hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader. It's a beautiful world, rain or shine, and there is more to life than winning.

-------

Garrison Keillor is the host and writer of A Prairie Home Companion, now in its 25th year on the air. This adapted excerpted from Keillor's new book, Homegrown Democrat (© 2004) is reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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