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The Storm is Upon Us; Let’s Face it Together and Build a Society Worthy of our Goodness


Inspired by all the irrelevant and corrosive blather in the media, I wrote this speech to give myself - and others - hope.









My friends:

It is no surprise that we are angry and worried - all of us, grandmothers and Generation Xers, long haul truckers and Uber drivers, warehouse workers and pre-school teachers. An awful storm is gathering in our country; we can all feel it coming - the signs are everywhere. We must protect ourselves, our friends and our families. The time for hope without action, for patience without a plan is over - we must come together - feed off each other’s courage and kindness - and weather this storm together. On the other side of this storm is a country which makes sure no one has to live with the anxiety of being evicted, a country where no one worries about how to pay their grocery and medical bills, a country where decency and common sense - not divisive rhetoric, greed and misinformation dominate our culture.

Let us not underestimate the damage which has been done. Billions and billions of dollars have been swindled from us - sucked from our paychecks through outrageously high prices for everything from a gallon of gas to car insurance, from baseball tickets to cable tv, from the electric bill to a grocery cart full of the basics. Why does a short stay at the hospital cost tens of thousands of dollars? Why do credit cards companies get to charge 20% interest - and higher? Why do drug companies charge diabetics thousands of dollars a year for life-saving insulin which costs only pennies? Why are all gas prices virtually steady at the same high levels?

You know why. All the systems designed to make things fair - to restrain the greed - are busted, rotted out through indifference, negligence, and corruption. The Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission, which used to prevent corporations from gouging their customers, have done almost nothing important for decades. The Federal Communication Commission and the state utility commissions, which used to ensure that poison couldn’t dominate the airwaves and that communications companies treat their ratepayers fairly, no longer even pretend to regulate the price of mobile, cable or internet services.

Beneath this massive failure to protect you lies a truth hidden in plain sight: our system of government - every political body in this country - from the Senate to the local planning commission - has been corrupted, either partially or completely. Corporations, millionaires, and their so-called lobbyists direct the fire hoses of cash at every target that stands between them and making more money. Our fellow Americans in the pharmaceutical industry sprayed $90 million around Washington, DC in the first 90 days of last year. By the end of the year, they had doled out 1/3rd of a billion dollars - or about $650,000 for each Congressman and Senator. And that is only one industry among hundreds pouring money into the pockets of our so-called representatives.

All federal, state and local agencies face a daily tsunami of lobbying from the corporations they are supposed to regulate; these agencies are belittled and misrepresented by the politicians who live off corporate contributions, and these agencies are badly under-resourced.

As disgusting as this system of legalized bribery has become, there is an even more dangerous and powerful force that bombards us every second of every day: poisonous, compelling messaging, a broad spectrum of sophisticated brainwashing that misleads us, saps our souls and leaves us feeling powerless. This propaganda - whether it’s the food industry urging us to consume debilitating amounts of sugar and fat, the fashion industry making us feel ashamed of our very bodies or the defense industry, with its bought and paid for politicians convincing us we need to remain constantly fearful and to lavish money on so-called defense spending and to engage in endless wars.

There is nothing new in this dynamic. The few who sit atop a system that rewards them so spectacularly have always used mind control and manipulation to keep themselves in power and in luxury. The difference now is their weaponry is powerful beyond anything we could have imagined - and because it is wielded with such expertise, it’s very difficult even to perceive its impact, much less resist it and forge a different path.

Conscious manipulation, for example, is the force which pushes us to buy food that makes us unhealthy. Ivy League trained scientists know precisely which chemicals to expose to which receptors in your mouth to provide the biggest - and most satisfying - hit. They don’t care if it leads to diabetes and heart attacks. Ambitious programmers and marketers now track your every purchase, analyze vast amounts of your personal data, and can figure out, with stunning accuracy, what they can sell you next. They don’t care if you’re buying things you can’t afford or that corrode your soul.

The worst, however, is not that we’re being relentlessly manipulated to take on more debt, eat unhealthy food or buy more things, it’s that our very sense of who we are, what we believe and how we live our lives is being corrupted.

What, for example, is the message beneath the hundreds of thousands of references to Blue States and Red States? The message is that you are either part of the good tribe or the bad tribe. The message is that you must vilify the Other, their beliefs, and their very essence. The message is that you have the Truth and must fight against the Other, rather than seeking common ground in pursuit of common interests.

What, for example, is the message underneath the hundreds of thousands of stories about Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and all the others who have seemingly achieved an incredibly wonderful, fulfilled, and exciting existence? The message is that you don’t measure up, you are less than, you should be ashamed - or - at the very least - you should redouble your efforts to make more money.

What, for example, is the message beneath the trillions of dollars spent on the machinery of war? The message is that the world is a fundamentally and irrevocably hostile, that the billions of people across the earth - with their bizarre customs and unenlightened world views - all hate us and want to see us suffer or disappear. The message is that only through creating ever-efficient means of killing others will we remain “free” and “safe”.

This is a dangerous time, windstorms of hatred, mistrust and greed swirl through our land, addictions - to painkillers, to tv’s and cell phones, booze and junk food - sap our energy and waste our time, and too many of us are crushed under the weight of financial and food insecurity. And yet, none - absolutely none - of this pain and suffering is necessary; this state of affairs is not pre-ordained nor is it destined to continue. No, my friends, we can bury this inequitable system, relegate it to the garbage heap where it belongs and usher in a society that places fairness above competition, compassion above greed and understanding above self-interest. Yes, my friends, it is possible to create systems that work in the best interests of all of us, not just the few.

It is time, my friends, to stop, to take a deep breath and look deeply into the mirror. Now is the to get clear on all the ways in which you are being relentlessly pushed, prodded, and enticed to remain ignorant, to resist self-reflection, to think and behave in ways that are terrible for you.
This is not a time for self-loathing or for self-criticizing; no, my friends this is the time to draw deeply on the well of understanding and tolerance and love for yourself. This is the time to recall that you were born with a deep capacity for empathy, for generosity and for kindness.

Most importantly, this is the time to overcome the deep-seated sense of “there’s nothing I can do”, the widespread, energy-draining passivity in the face of this obvious storm. It is this toxic passivity, this enormously powerful force, which is the single biggest factor permitting the ongoing continuation of our horribly unfair system. It is this passivity we must destroy, and instead unleash the creativity and the brotherly and sisterly joy of working together in furtherance of the common good.

Just as there are many signs of the gathering storm, so too are there signs of resistance, coalition building and peace-making - all elements of a purposeful struggle to elevate compassion, to promote common sense and to heal ourselves and others. Every single day millions of people across all 50 states - in their own ways - are trying to put an end to childhood poverty, to raise the wages and benefits for blue collar and service industry workers, and to feed the more than 25 million needy, food insecure Americans. These committed men, women and young people work largely in obscurity, but we are well-served to keep them in our minds, as all transformational, positive shifts our culture - such as the advent of child labor laws, legal protections barring discrimination based on race and sexual orientation, and voting rights for women and Black Americans - happen only when people of good will - one at a time - make a personal decision to expend time and energy in the furtherance the greater good.

My friends, the time is now to awaken to the darkness at our doorstep, to reject the notion that we are powerless and instead embrace our strengths and our passion. Now is the time, literally, to call your friends and tell them of your desire to fight the darkness that is descending. Tell them of your worries about where we are headed - and share your dreams of where we could go, if we all pull together and put in the work needed. Support each other emotionally, give and receive encouragement, and promise each other to make a daily or weekly contribution of time and energy in the furtherance of whatever righteous cause inspires you. Trust that the very act of reaching out, of joining together and of committing explicitly to a common goal - together with the satisfaction that will come from getting up and working every day or every week on something that truly matters - will be deeply rewarding.

Remember that Rosa Parks was no different from the thousands of other Americans who toiled in obscurity, day in and day out for years. One day her small, personal contribution, like a tiny ember placed upon a bed of straw, exploded into our consciousness, and she became the symbol of the Civil Rights struggle. We all can be Rosa Parks; we cannot know what small, personal act, what set of circumstances will light the fire that burns away the fog of despair and inactivity and ushers in an America reborn, full of joy, justice and soulfulness.

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