Published in InCity Times 6 weeks ago:
Are We Stupid?
The American people weren’t born stupid. How could we be? For three centuries the best and brightest made their way here looking for a fresh start, to escape from the tyrannies and rigid class systems of Old Europe (and Old Asia,) from the legacy of the Conquistadores, from wars and dictatorships and the bondage of poverty.
It was said that if you worked hard, you could always make it here, and the people who came were the ones who were willing to. And work hard we did. It’s said we are the hardest-working people on Earth – working longer hours, longer weeks, working faster, with less vacation time and later retirement than anyone. Our children could always go farther than we did – with the best schools and colleges in the world, with nothing stopping them from moving up in the world and giving their own kids an even better start. So how could we be stupid?
We’re the “land of the free and the home of the brave”, who threw off the chains of empire and serfdom in a great revolution and the chains of slavery in a bloody civil war. We put a man on the moon, built the Interstate System in ten years, split the atom and raised a great citizen’s army that in four short years finished off the fascist hordes of Hitler and Tojo.
How could such a people be stupid?
But, you ask, how could we have let things come to the state they’re in now if we weren’t stupid?
With our living standard’s collapsing, our jobs exported, our cities and states, schools, roads and bridges collapsing, and the banks taking our homes and leaving them boarded up to rot. Aren’t we stupid?
We’re taxed to the limit by a government we don’t trust that gives the billionaires a pass, and we’re not getting much back for it. Our treasure’s being squandered in wars we don’t support, led by a President and politicians who promised to end them ,who lie with every breath, who gave away TRILLIONS to the very bankers that are ruining us. And yet, we elected them! So aren’t we stupid?
Are we? Lots of folks say so – about each other. But most people I talk to are still pretty smart, about the things they know about.
And there’s the rub.
We’re not stupid, we’re just ignorant. Given good information most of us will do the right thing, but we aren’t mostly getting it. Sad to say, the American people, who were long among the cleverest and best educated on Earth, are now among the most ignorant – about what’s really going on around the world, in Greece, in France or Iceland, in Libya or Pakistan - or in Wisconsin or Sacramento or on Beacon Hill and City Hall!
This is not entirely our fault. With a “corporate media” – television, radio, dailies, cable providers – that’s almost entirely owned by a few incredibly rich families; with a public broadcasting system beholden to its corporate sponsors, whose news director was a propaganda chief for the CIA; with endless corporate PR messages and with Rupert Murdoch’s empire deliberately spreading lies and confusion, it’s hard to know what to believe.
So what to do?
First, we need to turn off our TV and radio, and really talk, really listen to each other – about what’s going on and what we’re seeing in our lives, what we’re hearing from other people and what we’re learning.
But then somehow we need to put our truths into a bigger picture, a shared truth, free from the lies of the media barons. To share our stories across the city, the state, the land. Stories that will give us the courage and knowledge to get together, to act, to defend our homes and take our country back.
For that we need independent media: local radio stations, community cable, blogs and reader-supported Internet news services. And locally owned independent newspapers, like InCity Times, in whose pages we can tell our truth to our neighbors across town.
Remember the “Underground Newspapers” of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s? If you’re my age you do. They helped break the media silence about Vietnam and Jim Crow, and gave us courage, knowledge, news of each other. Labor papers like New Unity in Springfield, movement and party papers, independent student newspapers and free entertainment weeklies broke through the silence and empowered us to turn the country around.
InCity Times is one of the few independent papers from that tradition. We need it now, and we need it to be joined by tens or hundreds more around the state. Because we need each other, and we need to be able to share our truth without the by-your-leave of the editors of the T&G.
So Happy Birthday, ICT, and many more!