In declaring independence from England in the year 1776, Jefferson, writing for the revolutionaries, said “we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
In the same spirit of declaring self-evident truths, there appear to be four realities facing the United States in March 2020.
Losing our moral rudder
The United States is in danger of losing its moral rudder. Human equality and religious freedom have been the moral forces driving national policy. The declaration of human equality forced the end to slavery. The quest for equality inspired women, Native Americans, people of color, different sexual orientation, immigrants, those with disabilities, and those with different religious beliefs in their fight for equality. Can everyday people beat back racism and religious favoritism and reclaim the moral rudder of human equality and religious freedom?
Military, economic imperialism
The United States is imperialistic and has been for a long time. The United States interferes in the political affairs of other nations, overthrowing and assassinating elected leaders. Hiding behind the false patriotism of support for the military, Congress and the president waste billions on weapons systems designed to win global conflicts with “shock and awe.” This military strategy is the United States as Goliath taunting oppressed people as David. Can everyday citizens rise above cowardly politicians and stop this military madness?
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Economic system failure
The economic system is threatening to rupture the domestic tranquility Jefferson hoped for. People working for an hourly wage or a salary struggle for affordable health care and child care while hearing wealthy people scoff at them for making poor decisions. Is the tax system fair to working people, and is there a better way to provide health care?
The earth is in peril because of human activity that is causing the planet to get warmer. The projected climate changes are catastrophic to humans and other species. The denials of the danger all countries face is tantamount to a betrayal by the leaders of those countries. Can everyday people force change to protect Mother Earth and themselves?
Is help coming?
These four realities seem beyond the reach of the two political parties, yet, at the moment, they are all we have. Few will argue against the need for reforming government. Many scholars and theologians are writing about the need to reform religious organizations. The economic system is now a matter of public debate, and environmentally conscious people are rising as a voting block.
In their book “The Irony of Democracy,” Louis Schubert, Thomas R. Dye and Harmon Zeigler argue that it is the elite that defend democracy for the common folks. Often the reform starts with the intellectual elites who have time to read history and debate the current system. The wealthy elites begin to find ways to reform that avoid a more dictatorial approach by government. Wealthy elites -- Kennedys, Rockefellers, Roosevelt, Trump and others -- are not new to political change. Can intellectual, religious, and financial elite groups reach around or through political parties and engage everyday citizens in the work of rebuilding the moral rudder of this country? With the help of the elites, can everyday people reform foreign policy, reduce income inequality, restore fairness to the tax system and save the earth? That just may be how it will happen.
Bill Patrie has been recognized for his work as a cooperative developer by the National Farmers Union, the Association of Cooperative Educators and the National Cooperative Business Association.
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