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The American Take

December 8, 2004
By Jason Bradfield

Who owns America?

This is the question I asked myself as I watched the amazing new documentary, "The Take," by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein. The film describes the inspirational struggle by a group of Argentinean workers to gain control of their workplace after their fat-cat boss shut it down.

This documentary forces the viewer to think seriously about who really owns the factory; the shady super-rich boss who happened to have lawyers and judges on his side or the skilled people who actually made the place work.

Thanks to the vicious ultra-right policies of former Argentinean president Carlos Menem, this was a question the Argentinean workers were forced to address. The absurd demands of Menem's right-wing regime created a breathtakingly perverse economic paradox where the mercenary boss could profit more by ceasing production and selling off the factory's machines for scrap. Consequently, the plant's workers were thrown out of work through no fault of their own.

Faced with a hostile, anti-working-family regime (similar to the one now in power in Washington) the workers literally took matters into their own hands. Despite fierce opposition from the conservative establishment the workers re-opened the plant and began production. Their motto was simple: "Occupy. Resist. Produce."

Ultra-right economic policies made possible the financial and legal shenanigans that the vicious "owner" used to justify throwing working people out onto the streets with no jobs and no hope. It is a staple of radical conservative thought that whoever happens to have convinced politicians and judges of their ownership rights, is in fact the owner.

Of course, such simplistic reasoning avoids the moral and economic question of whose ownership rights should be recognized. As long as that question is never brought up the status quo remains intact and the super-rich can continue to reap the ill-gotten gains of their political power.

And that is why I pondered the question of "Who owns America?" as I watched this amazing story unfold. I realized that the ordinary American citizen is in a similar situation to those brave Argentinean workers.

Instead of having our workplaces taken away from us we have had our entire federal government and many state and local governments taken away from us by a radical conservative movement that is selling out America to corporate interests.

Both major parties are guilty of selling out America. However, there is a key difference. The activists of the Democratic Party are opposed to this selling-out of America, whereas the GOP's grassroots are dominated by an intractable pro-corporate ideology that will never oppose the influence of unbridled wealth. It is only the failed, entrenched Democratic elite inside the Beltway that is keeping the spirited heart of the Democratic Party from breaking through. Efforts are underway to change this.

Once the type of people who read Democratic Underground, subscribe to the Nation, and are proud of their liberal vision take control of the entire Democratic Party, America's decline will stop. Prudence dictates that this will not happen overnight. So what are we to do in the meantime?

I have been getting that question a lot lately from disheartened Democrats. Finally, I have an answer.

We should follow the lead of the bold workers in Argentina who refused to allow their families to starve as corrupt right-wingers looted their factory. Locked out of their own factory and rejected by the legal and political establishment they took to the streets. They marched, they protested, most importantly they made damn sure they were not going to take this abuse with their mouths shut and their heads down.

This is what concerned citizens have a moral obligation to do on January 20. Come to Washington, DC and protest. Many Democrats are hanging their heads low when they should be busy planning to hold their heads high and make their voices heard at the inauguration.

What will the American swing-voter think of Democrats who claim to oppose Bush's brutal assault on working people, civil rights, innocent foreigners and others, but are invisible at the inauguration? What will they think of diehard Democrats who shout "Election Fraud!" but sit at home as the wrong president is sworn in?

More importantly than what swing-voters will think of us, what will we think of ourselves?

There is dignity in going directly to the streets and showing your opposition to the Bush regime for the entire world to see. There is a thrill in being part of a mass of people who have a positive vision of America opposed to Bush's unrepentant fear mongering. There is hope in knowing that our voices have been heard and must be reckoned with.

Only the sick will have an excuse not to make their voices heard on January 20. There is a huge amount of organizing aimed at getting people like YOU to Washington, DC on Inauguration Day. You can take your pick from the following groups:

http://www.turnyourbackonbush.org
http://www.counter-inaugural.org
http://www.counterinaugural.org

There are many people in the Washington area who are working with these groups to help YOU and others get to Washington. The Democratic Party does not consist of a bunch of namby-pamby crybabies but is made up of passionate grassroots activists who will find a way to make their voices heard on January 20. The stakes are too high for us to fail.

On January 20 all eyes will be on Washington, DC and the inaugural ceremonies. If we can stage the most visible, loudest, and most dynamic protest ever conducted against an inauguration it will help to hinder Bush. Even if we do not slow down the right's legislative advance we can at least show the country and the world that these policies will not be enacted without active opposition.

Thanks to GOP control of the House and Senate we have nowhere to make the progressive case in Washington.

That is, nowhere except for the streets of DC on January 20. This is where we will make the first stand in the battle for future of America. Where will you be on that historic date when we show Bush who really owns America?

Jason Bradfield is a 27-year-old former conservative activist who is seeking to work with other progressives in the Washington, DC area to build a progressive governing majority. His blog is at jaybradfield.blogspot.com. Comments, critcisms, and suggestions are highly encouraged and may be addressed to jasonbradfield@gmail.com.

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