Hacking at the branches

  • [Post from Dick Creamer]

As a veteran of the Vietnam era peace marches, door-to-door canvassing (for Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, etc.), it warms the cockles of my heart to see the protests that are going on in NY and around the country and the world.

I’ve been convinced for nearly 30 years that an open and peaceful rebellion would be all that would turn this country around and aim it in the direction of justice and peace. For a change.

But, there are two things — very important things — which concern me about the protestors. First, they did not remain in the streets in such numbers ten years ago in protest of the wars. The anti-war movement fizzled. My guess is that it was primarily because there was no military draft. The current wars, every bit as criminal as the Vietnam War, didn’t affect the millions that were caught up in the Vietnam debacle; and so there was no substantial movement against it. Sadly, it would appear that the primary motivating factor for most of the current rebels was simply their own financial woes. Certainly justifiable, but somewhat lacking in genuine community feelings.

What happened to our sense of community? Perhaps it’s coming back.

Second, as near as I can gather from the news, the protestors are fighting symptoms rather than concentrating on the single massive root problem which is central to all the myriad problems this American empire is cursed with. That single massive problem is, of course, the way campaigns are financed. Every individual problem we have can be traced directly back to…
exactly that condition! And if that problem is not solved, the children and grandchildren of the protestors, and others, will be back in the streets 20 or 30 years from now fighting another battle and losing the war. One Marc Lacey, writing in the NY Times, quotes protestor Lucy Horowitz, 79: “What brings me out here? Outrage — outrage with what’s going on in this country. Right now the first issue on my mind is that corporations can buy congressmen.” Lucy is the only protestor I’ve heard of who has hit the nail on the head.

I know campaign finance reform is not a “sexy” issue, but it is the rotten core that is troubling us all now. And nearly everyone knows it! I have heard many people whom I respect discussing various problems and at some point in every discussion, campaign financing is brought in, but usually quickly abandoned. But it is the problem.

In Walden, Henry Thoreau wrote, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root….” In this country especially, the thousands now in the streets are “hacking at the branches.” Well perhaps it’s a beginning.

The best that could come of this movement would be that the many disparate groups now demonstrating in the streets will come together, realize the “root” problem, and make campaign finance reform their mutual top priority. Reform would probably take a Constitutional amendment, because those five crypto-fascist, money equals free speech Supreme Court judges would no doubt find it unconstitutional, but even they can’t overturn an amendment. Only the congress can and that has happened only once; correcting the amendment on Prohibition.

There’s no telling at this stage of the battle exactly how all of this action will turn out. We can only hope. But if we don’t solve the problem, we’ll be back in the streets in a few years. Speaking as a veteran of the Vietnam protests, it’s truly getting tiresome.

Richard Creamer, Ph.D.

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