And then I both woke and grew the fuck up.
Any change must come from within the system and it won't be over night. As much as I admire many of the protesters camping out in NYC, Wall Street isn't going to decide "Hey, these kids are serious, let's put liberals in power!" What those protesters are doing is important, but change is going to have to come over years if not decades.
We have the opinion of the public on our side. The right has the media, the money, and the sound bytes. Our views take thought. They do not fit in a short attention span society that feeds on TV news. It's easy to say somebody hates God, or is un-American, or blames America, or is a socialist. It is hard to explain the other side, it takes time, the views are more nuanced. Education and information are both vital in our fight, yet so many I know who once cared live for nothing but day to day comfort and entertainment. And how can I blame them? While the wheels of power turn, the under class struggles to eat. The very people who should care the most have more important things to worry about; their survival.
Yeah, I'm ranting. But it's stopping my legs from crawling, so oh well. I make no claims to be anything more than I am. A 36 year old citizen of the United States who has nightmares of what change I could have caused, if I wouldn't have chosen the needle instead.
When I read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, other than not seeing all the references to God conservatives claim are there, what I see is a document that makes me proud of where I live. I see a result of the Enlightenment, written by imperfect men with the idea of a secular society where every citizen is not equal, yet has equal opportunity. Yes, there is racism and sexism as well, but it is a document from the 18th century and yet it holds up remarkably well today. Yet when I look at the current state of the United States, well, that is when I start researching other countries immigration requirements. I see a nation that is unequaled in the west in the separation between the haves and the have-nots. I see a nation that sends the youth of the middle and under classes off to die without any sacrifice asked from those with money and power. I see a nation that cuts services to the poorest while cutting taxes on the richest. And I see a nation of middle and under class citizens who have been duped by the rich. The term liberal, although almost every liberal political goal enjoys majority support, is a one way ticket out of the national conversation. One party, using tactics of division, breaks those with common economic interests apart with religion, with race, with sex, with homophobia, with fear. The other party is center right. Probably pretty close to where Republicans would be if opinions were based on nothing but issues that matter. There is no credible voice of the left in American politics. Liberals themselves fear the label. And although barriers of race, sex and sexuality will fall with time, no matter how hard people fight against it, progress will not solve all our problems.
The time to take action was years ago. I am late. So are many others. What can we do now?
To be honest, I do not know. I have ideas, and I am willing to work, but I do not know if it is too late already. But I will never give up.
1. The left must either reclaim the word "liberal," or just toss the damn thing away. The conservative controlled media has demonized the word. Watch as Democrats cower from the label. I love the label, as I love the Enlightenment that created it, but the word may have been lost. Reclaiming it will be difficult, and I am not sure if it is worth it.
2. No matter what your political beliefs, we must all tell our elected officials of either party, to put an end to the political gerrymandering of congressional districts. It is not right when the left does it, it is not right when the right does it. Changing district boundaries for political gain should be criminal.
3. We must stop allowing our government to disenfranchise citizens of their right to vote. From *sigh* Wikipedia....
the Voting Rights Act and three constitutional amendments that prevent discrimination in granting the franchise have established in United States Supreme Court jurisprudence that there is a "fundamental right" in the franchise, even though voting remains a state-granted privilege. However, states are given considerable leeway when it comes to this "fundamental right".
What is the considerable leeway given? Disenfranchising ex-felons who have paid their debt to society? Yep. Requiring a government issued photo ID card? Even though large numbers of citizens in some states do not have them, yep, perfectly legal. The leeway also includes restrictions on election day Voter Registration, as well as limited early voting periods, amongst other strategies.
Want to know a secret? There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Yet that is what the (normally) republican controlled state governments use as an excuse to limit registration, require id cards, and cut down on early voting. (In case you were wondering, yes, those who do not have id cards primarily vote democrat. Same with early voters, ex-felons, and those who register on election day. What a coincidence!)
4. End the failed War on American Citizens. Prohibition did not work in the 20's, why would anyone think it would work now? How many lives are we going to ruin? How much money are we going to lose to the cartels? How much are we going to spend on law enforcement that does nothing to slow the abuse? Could it be it is time for an education and treatment based approach, while taxing the proceeds of the sale of something the consumers want.
I have read articles by those who favor marijuana legalization that are as coocoo-for-cocao-puffs as anything Sarah Palin could come up with. No, it is not going to solve all of our economic problems. It won't erase the deficit. And I will scream the next time I hear a stoner claim he wants it legalized "for the people that need it as medicine, man."
But the war on drugs is an endless money pit. And yet, no matter how much money we throw down that hole, drug gang related violence increases, corruption runs rampant(forfeiture laws, anyone?), an entire generation of African American men rot in jail in spite of less involvement in drugs than whites, crimes related to drugs soar, and the numbers of users stays just about the same over time.
Yeah, I know. Just what you'd expect an ex-junkie to say, right? Then get it from Law Enforcement. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
We believe that drug prohibition is the true cause of much of the social and personal damage that has historically been attributed to drug use. It is prohibition that makes marijuana worth more than gold, and heroin worth more than uranium – while giving criminals a monopoly over their supply. Driven by the huge profits from this monopoly, criminal gangs bribe and kill each other, law enforcers, and children. Their trade is unregulated and they are, therefore, beyond our control.
History has shown that drug prohibition reduces neither use nor abuse. After a rapist is arrested, there are fewer rapes. After a drug dealer is arrested, however, neither the supply nor the demand for drugs is seriously changed. The arrest merely creates a job opening for an endless stream of drug entrepreneurs who will take huge risks for the sake of the enormous profits created by prohibition. Prohibition costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year, yet 40 years and some 40 million arrests later, drugs are cheaper, more potent and far more widely used than at the beginning of this futile crusade.
We believe that by eliminating prohibition of all drugs for adults and establishing appropriate regulation and standards for distribution and use, law enforcement could focus more on crimes of violence, such as rape, aggravated assault, child abuse and murder, making our communities much safer. We believe that sending parents to prison for non-violent personal drug use destroys families. We believe that in a regulated and controlled environment, drugs will be safer for adult use and less accessible to our children. And we believe that by placing drug abuse in the hands of medical professionals instead of the criminal justice system, we will reduce rates of addiction and overdose deaths.
There. Happy now? That is from a cop, not an ex-junkie.
5. We must understand that some compromises must be made. There is a lesson to be learned from the crawling, blind outer god the Republicans have conjured and named the Tea Party. As the Republicans move farther to the right and commit to the Tea Party's insanity driven politics, they move farther away from electability. The average American, no matter what they want you to believe, agrees with us in a large part. Look at the polling data if you don't believe me. If you are feeling lazy, ask and I'll dig it up. That being said, they don't agree with us on everything. We must be prepared to not win every battle. As surprising as this may sound, with the media filled with the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, there are conservatives with well reasoned, rational, logic based stances on the issues. I'm not looking for a leftist utopia. Hell, to start, I'd be happy with the return of the two party democracy. Neither side is going to win the hearts and votes of everyone. I am not suggesting that we sell out our principles, only that we accept reality. That leftist utopia in your dreams is not a possibility in the United States. That leftist utopia probably isn't a possibility anywhere but fantasyland. But equal rights, health care, more equal opportunity for all, and less economic stratification are all possible.
6. We must stop destroying ourselves. I am the last person who has any right to tell someone not to use drugs, but believe me. Be smart. Get educated. In school, they lied to me about the dangers of every single drug until they got to heroin, and then they decided to mix in some truth. I know the allure of the needle, of the escape, of the rush that takes all of your problems away until the demon needs the next fix. I have also watched too many great minds waste away, strung out, and too many kindred souls turn blue and stop breathing. I've seen myself turn a career and a 3.9gpa into 14 wasted years and the mess I now call my life. I know what that felony means on your record, and I've seen hundreds of peers saddled with one just in my small city. I'm not going to tell anyone to draw an "x" on their hand. I have no right. But educate yourself. Know what you are putting in your body, and for fucks sakes, do not let the system have you.
Point six is more than just drugs. Our society makes it too easy to turn on and drop out without intoxicants. Television, pop music, movies, video games, the internet; each can be a force for good, and each can also be an opiate of the masses. We must stay involved and we must stay educated. We must not let race, sex, creed, or sexuality fragment us. We must forget whatever naive ideas look good on a t-shirt, and embrace rationality.
7. Perhaps the most important point in this rambling 7 point list. We must get involved, and we must educate our peers. The Right has money, desire, belief, and simple talking points that can fit on a bumper sticker. We have a discouraged base, a lack of funds, politicians that run to the right away from our beliefs, and intelligent, rational stands on the issues that do not fit into the sound byte culture of modern media. Insert your favorite overwhelming underdog sports analogy here. We have at least two things on our side. We are right, and the majority of the nation, once the issues are removed from the sound byte culture, agree with us. We will never get a fair hearing in the major media until we start changing things. But we have blogs, we have facebook, we have youtube, we have the letters to the editor, and we have brilliant minds who need to get involved. When confronted with the negative stereotypes forced on us, we need to speak up, we need to educate. We're soft on terror? 90% of liberals supported military action against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. We're not soft on terror, we just don't agree with war under false pretenses, and we're not too fond of torture. We hate God? No, we believe in the Wall of Separation as Jefferson and Madison intended. The majority of our citizens may be some denomination of Christian, but we are specifically not a Christian Nation. The Constitution and Bill of Rights protects the minority from oppression by the majority. We blame America? No, we understand that our foreign policy has consequences, and jingoistic belief that whatever we do is right is counterproductive to relations with other nations. When we torture enemy combatants, that gives other nations implicit consent to torture our soldiers. When we engage in Realpolitik overthrows of other nations governments, it does not endear us to that nations citizens. When we start wars under false pretenses, that leads to increased threats to our national security, and increased recruitment of terrorists. There is no longer a Cold War. The threat facing the west is no longer Mutually Assured Destruction with the USSR. We must understand the threats of today, join with our allies to face them, and stop thinking that whatever choice our leaders make is right just because we are the USA.
We can not get away with just shouting out a slogan. We must know the issues, and be prepared to defend and explain our stances at the grass roots level. Those of us who can must vote, not just in presidential years, but every year. Those of us who can must run for local office. Conservatives have taken over school board after school board, we must be represented also. The mainstream media has little use for liberal views. We must get our voices heard. Write letters, call your congressperson, work on a campaign, volunteer, drag the "moderate" position back to the center, as the conservatives have pushed it to the right in the last 30 years.
Education means more than just learning the political issues. We must also learn to confront pseudoscience, conspiracy thinking, dogmatic superstition and the like no matter which side of the political spectrum it comes from. It pains me as much to see those on the left embrace the anti-vaccination movement as it does when the right embraces creationism. 9/11 was not an inside job, the Illuminati is not controlling all governments, the Bilderbergers do not control the world economy, vaccines do not cause autism, and the world is not six thousand fucking years old. We live in the 21st century, with laptop computers, smart phones that keep us constantly connected, and easy travel to any spot on the planet. No matter your views on religion or spirituality, we live in a world best explained through the lens of material naturalism. Science works. It doesn't matter if you like it or not, this magic box I am currently typing this on says it does, as does the MRI machine at the local hospital, the eradication of small pox and almost of polio from the Earth, the Apollo Program, your cell phone and countless other examples. (Yes, the Apollo Program. Don't be the creepy moon landing denier guy. Seriously. Don't be that guy.) If a method comes along that explains the evidence better in the future, then we can talk again on the issue. Until then, get a grip. Base your opinions on evidence, and not evidence from only biased sources. Just because the HuffPo or Faux News says something is true does not make it so. Remember the old line: Keep an open mind, but not so open that it falls out. Question everything I say. Follow the evidence yourself.
And with that last bit, gentle reader, I have hit 70 hours with no sleep. My bed, and hopefully the dreaming are calling. If you have made it to the end, then you get a gold star and my gratitude. This manifesto has no bombs attached. It is a program of education and action, change from with in the system that exists with our consent. Violence and hate are not the tools we choose. Unity, knowledge, evidence, desire and love are much stronger.
Will anything change? Is it already too late? There is no such thing as psychics, so I am sorry, but I do not know. What I do know is that I am no longer willing to do nothing.
Change requires action. Never forget that.
And never forget these words. "We the People...."
Note: My desire for this blog is not to have any more rambling manifestos. Posts like this one will not be common here, although the ideas represented within will be. I have seen too many self-destruct, fall victim to conspiracy-driven or pseudo-scientific thinking, or just tune out and fade away. That is a vital part of why I am writing this blog, so much needed to be said. If you just care about the atheism and skepticism, you'll get your fix in the morning. Over the next week I will also delve deeper into the war on drugs, and its effect on both my life and the lives of others. The beginning stages of a blog, before an audience is secured, gives much room for exploration and experimentation. Methadone has slowed my mind for too long. As it drains, my mind sharpens. It has been years since I have felt the demon driving me to write. I almost forgot what it felt like to be honest. So far, I am happy with nothing I have posted here except for a line or two here and there, yet every word written is vital to my growth. I have no idea if blogging is the format for my message. I only know that I have wasted far too much of my life already to waste another day.