Are The Grownups?
By Ernest Partridge, The
am proud to be an American, and you should be too.
In the final three decades of the eighteenth century, political
thought and practice in the civilized world was suddenly advanced
as never before in human history. And it happened on our soil
and resulted in the birth of our Republic.
Since then, the words of the Declaration of Independence,
the Constitution, and its Bill of Rights have echoed throughout
the world. These words have catalyzed revolutions and liberations,
and have served as models for constitutions of numerous emerging
democracies. The giants of our founding, Washington, Jefferson,
Madison, Paine, Franklin, and others, belong, not only to
our history, but also to the common heritage of free men everywhere.
Until very recently, our free and diverse press has been
the envy and the exemplar of journalists around the world.
Our fourth estate has been the effective extra-governmental
check and balance against government abuse and corruption
– as, for example, when Edward R. Morrow mobilized public
opinion and hastened the downfall of Senator Joe McCarthy,
when Walter Cronkite declared the Viet Nam war "unwinnable,"
and when the once-admirable Bob Woodward and his colleague
Carl Bernstein exposed the felonies of all the President's
The Watergate scandal and the resignation of Richard Nixon
exemplified yet another widely admired foundation of our Republic:
the Rule of Law, to which even the Chief Executive must submit.
That rule of law recognizes the dignity and steadfastly protects
the rights of each citizen, even against the whims of the
The United States has, throughout its history, been known
as the land of opportunity where, through a system of public
education, open competition, and authentically free enterprise,
the talented and industrious might achieve personal wealth,
prestige and power.
Our vaunted liberties, for which we have been justly renowned
and envied, has drawn millions of immigrants to our shores,
where they have enriched our culture and enhanced our prosperity.
And finally, our accomplishments in science and scholarship
are second to none. American scientists (many of them immigrants)
have won a disproportional share of Nobel Prizes. The academic
freedom and scholarly discipline of our graduate schools continue
to draw the very best students from around the world.
Two years of unparalleled corruption of the Congress and
the Executive, and the political capitulation of the Supreme
Court, does not undo all of that. But if present trends continue
through another Presidential term and beyond, all bets are
For all the justice and liberty that we cherish in our political
tradition, all that we share with our prosperity, and our
well-deserved international esteem, is about to be swept away,
as the United States of America may be facing its greatest
political and economic crisis in its history. For the United
States of America has, through electoral fraud and judicial
malfeasance, been taken over by a gang of radical anarchist
oligarchs (who falsely label themselves "conservatives"),
who are guided by dogma and instinct, rather than practical
experience, expertise and science. This regime is undeterred
by law, treaties, or world opinion. They have effective control
of the media, while the opposition political party has proven
itself incompetent and impotent.
The ruinous program of this regime is no secret. Quite the
contrary, it is as clear and explicit as the political program
set forth in Mein Kampf. The Bill of Rights? Read the USA
PATRIOT Act, and "Patriot II" waiting in the wings. The Geneva
Accords? Consider the stockades of Guantanamo. The United
Nations, NATO and the international treaties? Read the "Project
for a New American Century" (PNAC). The social contract and
a century of progressive social programs? Consider the Bush
budget and tax legislation, and contemplate a projected future
of ever-increasing national debt and eventual federal bankruptcy,
as the oligarch-anarchists endeavor to shrink the government
until they can drown it in a bathtub.
In the words of the normally restrained Financial Times
of London, "the inmates have taken control of the asylum."
Yet the talent, initiative, intellect, political sophistication,
and the moral insight and dedication which brought the United
States to its pinnacle of prosperity, vitality and international
esteem just two years ago, still resides within our borders.
But where? The voices of protest and dissent are muted,
and the opposition is disorganized and demoralized.
Where are the grownups – now that we all so desperately
If these grownups – the scientists, legal scholars, journalists,
economists, educators, union and civic leaders, government
workers – were to rise up with one voice, the malignant folly
that is the Bush Administration would be halted in its tracks,
immobilized for the moment, and decisively thrown out in November,
So why the inaction? Let's examine these elites in turn.
The Journalists. Listen-up, Rather, Jennings, Brokaw,
Koppel. It's payback time! You've all grown fabulously wealthy
through your use of the public airwaves. If the gushers of
corporate cash flowing into your respective portfolios were
to shut down tomorrow, your acquired wealth would be secure
and ample for several lifetimes. And none of you are young
Now it is past time to speak truth to power – even if that
includes the power of your bosses. No need to wallow in the
false concoctions and vituperation of the Limbaughs, O'Reillys
and Hannitys. Just tell the truth – the certifiable facts
clearly reported in the foreign and independent press, and
conspicuously absent from the corporate media. Include among
those facts the disgraceful delinquency of the American mainstream
In Russia, soon after the fall of Communism, several journalists
did as much and paid for their integrity with their lives.
But your lives are not on the line – not yet. Just your jobs.
And just imagine the uproar if the network anchors were
all fired on the grounds of excess candor and integrity! Then
they might join the a-borning liberal network, "AnShell media"
and give it a huge sendoff by bringing along audiences in
And you folks in the print media, it's past time for some
spinal transplants. The next time the Shrub sets up a scripted
"news conference," throw away the script and ask an honest
and penetrating question. If that's too much to ask, follow
Tim Robbins' suggestion and hand off Ari's recognition to
the likes of Helen Thomas. If this costs you access to the
White House press room, then so be it. Maybe you can arrange
a boycott. How delicious it would be for Ari Fleischer to
walk into an empty room!
Finally, Bob Woodward: now that you are a hotshot Washington
Post exec, be the new Ben Bradlee. Recruit "WoodStein Redux":
find a couple of energetic young reporters, put them on the
White House beat, and see what they can come up with. You
too may lose your job over this. All the better. You can then
retreat to your home office and write an honest book, after
two decades of hagiography. Now you can open up the worm-can
that is contemporary journalism, and expose it for sellout
and the fraud that it is. Who knows, maybe then a grateful
public and history will forgive your post-Watergate lapse
Scientists and Scholars have a long-standing reluctance
about getting involved in politics. That reluctance is ordinarily
well-advised, for political activism can compromise the detachment
and objectivity that is the hallmark of scholarship. But these
are not ordinary times. For now the very sustenance of science
and scholarship are under direct threat. Theological and political
dogmas now guide and constrain the funding of biomedical and
environmental research. Scientists such as Theodore Postal
of MIT, who dare to disagree with the Administration over
Missile Defense, face, along with their institutions, the
loss of federal research funding. And the long arm of the
Bush "science-police" reaches into the governance of international
research institutions such as the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change, as the former IPCC Director, Robert Watson,
was to discover.
Groups such as Campus Watch, the Heritage Foundation, and
Lynn Cheney's American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA),
are vehemently displeased at how frequently independent scholarships
at our universities seems to come up with unacceptably "left-liberal"
conclusions. So they are demanding the imposition of balance
(i.e., conservative viewpoints) in higher education.
These are ominous trends, which must be steadfastly resisted
if the reputation and integrity of higher education in the
United States is to be protected and maintained. It is one
thing to remain aloof from politics when political activity
is "out there," away from the academy. It is quite another
matter when a band of well-funded political activists and
dogmatists attack the very foundations of free and independent
(dare we say "liberal"?) science and scholarship.
Lawyers and Historians, by the hundreds, signed petitions
protesting the Supreme Court's appointment of George Bush,
in Bush vs. Gore. And in February, ten Nobel Laureate economists,
along with several hundred professors of economics, signed
a statement warning of dire consequences of the Bush tax policies.
Terrific! But after petitions, what? Is that to be the end
of their protests, or will they persist? Where are the public
lectures, and the appearances on public TV and radio? Where
are the "teach-ins?" Must Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, and
a very few others, carry the entire burden?
Educators have a crucial stake in the ongoing political
struggles. It is no secret that public schools, indeed even
the concept of public education, are under attack by the Right
Wing. Yet public education – the "common schools" – have served
our country well as "the great assimilators," leading immigrant
children into the mainstream of American culture and society,
and putting children of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds
into direct, face-to-face contact. Public support of higher-education
provides the ladder of advancement for young people without
financial means but with talent, energy and determination.
But for these opportunities, millions of writers, doctors,
engineers, lawyers, professors and other professionals would
have been condemned to menial labor, and our society would
have been much the poorer for this. The social value of subsidized
higher education was most dramatically exemplified by the
post World War II GI Bill, which moved millions of returning
veterans into the middle class.
But the Far Right, understandably, has no stake in a public
that is informed and which has acquired critical intelligence
through a liberal education. Such individuals make very poor
serfs. Neither is the Far Right much interested in an integrated
public. Divide and conquer! So instead of continuing our traditional
support of public education, they offer us privatization (vouchers)
and home schooling, which can only lead to social disintegration
and blind obedience to authority.
Educators throughout the realm are quite aware of these
ominous trends. So why are they not speaking out, loudly,
eloquently, and persistently?
Government workers and elected officials – municipal,
state and federal: you have sworn to uphold and defend the
Constitution. Not the President, not your party, but the Constitution
of the United States. So where are you now, when that Constitution
is under severe attack? You have sworn to obey the laws. So
why are you silent, as the Bush Administration violates such
laws at whim, not to mention the Presidential Records Act,
the Freedom of Information Act, and international treaties
too numerous to mention? Presidents and their administrations
come and go, but the Constitution and the rule of law persist
– but only so long as we cherish and defend them. It is our
founding political and moral principles that deserve our loyalty,
not mere mortals who happen to occupy political offices –
ill-gotten offices, as it happens. So stand firm on principle,
and never forget that you work for us. Refuse illegal orders,
blow your whistles. Follow the example of Daniel Ellsberg,
John Dean, Colleen Rowley, and that courageous but still anonymous
Justice Department employee who leaked "Patriot Act II."
Persons of wealth and privilege - do you really want
to follow where George Bush and the right-wing ideologues
are leading you, along with the rest of us? Yes, it is true
that a robust economy requires the initiative and the investments
of the wealthy. Wealth does in fact "trickle down," and "the
rising tide lifts all boats." But these are partial truths.
It is equally true that your wealth and privilege have "percolated
up" from an educated work force, from a foundation of social
harmony, economic justice, and a shared allegiance to our
founding political principles of fair play, equal opportunity,
personal liberty and autonomy, all secured by the rule of
The Bush gang and their supporters do not see things this
way. They embrace the attitude that Lincoln so despised: "you
bake the bread, and I'll eat it." They fail to appreciate
that the falling tide grounds all boats. They freely pick
the fruit of the tree, while they poison and hack at the roots.
The American public, lulled today by the soothing blather
of the captive media, will soon awake to find their public
services gone, their economy in ruins, their civil liberties
violated, and their country isolated from a community of nations
that will, at last, unite to resist our imperial ambitions.
Not all privileged individuals see themselves as somehow
entitled to their advantages. Many fully appreciated their
debt to those multitudes that produce the wealth, and their
dependence upon a well-ordered and just society. Such enlightened
individuals as George Soros, Ted Turner, Warren Buffett, Bill
Gates Sr., and, let us hope, an ever-growing number of the
enlightened wealthy, may at last lend their support to the
counter-revolution which must throw the usurpers out of their
ill-gotten offices, and restore our republic to the people.
We eagerly await their enlistment into our common cause.
In two short years, the social contract enunciated in the
Preamble of our Constitution has been violated, much of our
Bill of Rights rescinded, and our economy looted. Only we
the people can undo this damage. In addition, America's honor
has been besmirched before the world and before history. Only
Americans can restore it.
The journalists know this. The scientists and scholars know
this. The lawyers know this. So too the educators, government
workers, civic and religious leaders, and even some politicians.
And given access to the compelling facts, free of spin and
propaganda, the American people can know this too.
When will the voices of reason and experience, schooled
in the lessons of history and loyal to the founding principles
of our republic speak up and be heard? What are they waiting
for? Where are the grownups?
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer
in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He
publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly)
and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers"