A lonely road.
On the lamp which is lit
On the lamp which isn't
On my reunited thoughts
I write your name
Some voices are heard. Some are not. Millions heard Thomas Paine, and the world was transformed:
"Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and to repulse it."
Do we have the tenacity, the vision, the courage to do what Paine's generation did? Eric Schneiderman talks about "transformative" versus "transactional" politics. Will we reach beyond the bookkeeper's vision of politics and reclaim our political soul? Will we transform the world as Paine's generation did?
Here's a warning to liberals who want us to lower our sights: If you don't inspire, your supporters won't aspire. They'll give up. That means they'll stay home in November.
Lately I've talked to a lot of Democratic politicians and activists who are angry at their disaffected base for not remaining active and excited in the face of disappointments and reversals. They want to scold their own base for this justifiable disappointment, to say "suck it up and start canvassing those precincts again anyway." They'd do well to remember the words of Antione de Saint-Exupery:
"If you want to build a ship, don't ... assign people tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."
On the harmony of the flesh
On the faces of my friends
On each outstretched hand
I write your name
And to our leaders: Emancipate yourselves from the temptation to settle too quickly for the possible, which is another way of saying "the convenient." Put up a fight before you do. Make a resolution not to use that quote about "the perfect being the enemy of the good" for at least a month and see what happens.
The perfect may get in the way sometimes, but "the good" has an much deadlier enemy: the mediocre.
Today's politicians love to reminisce about the after-hours deal-making sessions between liberal House Speaker Tip O'Neill and Republican President Ronald Reagan. But both of them stayed true to their values. There's a time to compromise -- but not until you've fought for your principles with all your might, both in public and in private, and won everything you could possibly win along the way.
What are those principles? Paine again:
"When it shall be said in any country in the world my poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want; the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of its happiness: When these things can be said, there may that country boast its Constitution and its Government."
That's a pretty good platform, don't you think?
On my ravaged refuges
On my fallen lighthouses
On the walls of my boredom
I write your name
Enslavement is the use of political, physical, or economic force to prevent human beings from making their own choices and fulfilling their highest potential. It will exist until we find the spiritual strength to resist the political and economic forces that perpetuate it.
George III is gone. But there are other tyrants, and it's time to re-declare independence from them: from the cynical cheaters on Wall Street and the politicians in both parties who serve them; from the austerity advocates who would have the many pay the price for the greed of the few; from the mind-numbing consumerism that keeps us economically and emotionally enslaved; from sexual stereotypes and repression, from the racism and bigotry which divide us and make us easier to conquer.
By all means vote against the rapacious right, which would destroy what the Founders and their successors have built up over centuries. Get others to do the same. But your work doesn't end with the the pull of a lever in a voting booth. It begins there.
They work for us, not the other way around. That means it's our job to supervise their work. No elected official can relieve us of our moral and spiritual responsibilities as citizens.