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It's the Sanity, Stupid!

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So the seas are rising irreversibly, say the newest studies. In the year 2100, your grandchildren, should anybody 's grandchildren survive, will witness oceans higher than they 've been for 129,000 years, swallowing the islands and coastal cities you love. And did we mention the oceans may be dying too? Tsunamis, tornadoes, bird flu pandemics, name your holocaust. We 're not in Kansas anymore. Kansas-by-the-sea, perhaps.

And so maybe it 's fitting that we Americans have apocalyptic leaders for these apocalyptic times. Just when life on Earth appears more gravely threatened than ever, our most powerful leaders act like madmen: aggressive war without end, lawless surveillance at home, jealously defending the right to torture, gluttonously plundering the planet 's remaining energy deposits, and carefully coding their rhetoric to appeal to the most apocalyptic of constituencies, the Revelations vote. It 's poetic justice for a species cursed with such hubris.

Some karmic blowback is homing in on us. As astrologer Rob Brezsny sings, "The spirits of the earth are so hungry for justice, they cry. " Who you gonna call? Will we put a stop to this psychotic leadership? Will we rise to restore sanity to our society, justice to our grotesquely unequal, staggeringly indebted economy? Will we redirect our focus away from courting Armageddon with military misadventures, and towards rescuing the planet 's life-support systems?

You might think that an appeal of this type, in favor of sanity and against apocalypse, could be a potent political formula in upcoming U.S. elections -- a winning frame, to use the current lingo. If only we had a party that could run on such a platform, or even make a pretense of reaching out to that part of the electorate actually opposed to apocalypse. There is, in fact, a visible and growing anti-apocalypse movement -- usually referred to in corporate media as the "anti-globalization " movement.

But alas, we seem to have two apocalyptic parties in this country. Those who follow world affairs understand that the estrangement of the United States from the mainstream of world opinion vastly predates the current administration. We know that the Iraq invasion (I 'll call it Gulf War II) was planned in the 1990s by former officials of Republican administrations going back to Gerald Ford. Recall, though, that during the presidency of Bill Clinton (I 'll call it Clinton I) the U.S. refused to pay its United Nations membership dues and led the way in blocking global agreements on issues such as arms control and non-proliferation, land mines and the International Criminal Court while passing NAFTA and aggressively advancing the "free trade " agenda of global corporate dominion, or neoliberal apocalypse. Now, for the second time, we see an immediate family member of a former president moving to "lock in " a major party 's fundraising machinery and pre-empt the nominating process for the nation 's highest office. This emulation of Bush 's dynastic strategy should set off alarms regarding the prospects for a meaningful 2008 election.

It 's no wonder that the Democrats remain lost in the wilderness with muted voices, garbled syntax and an incoherent message. Historically, the party has been strongest when its leaders have made alliances of convenience with movements for social justice, as FDR did with labor and rural activists in the 1930s, and JFK did with civil rights leaders in the 1960s. Many Americans cherish the myth of the two-party system: that one party represents the interests of the corporate class while the other endeavors to represent the interests of ordinary citizens, or at least appears to accommodate or co-opt people 's movements. Today 's Democrats, running scared from the clearest voices and sanest ideas in our public debate, need to realize that this myth provides their winning frame, their only hope.
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And as for us, there 's the old cliche that if the people lead, the leaders will follow. With the odor of apocalypse hanging heavy in the zeitgeist, we Americans have an overwhelming responsibility, and privilege. Only those registered to vote in the USA have any chance to pull the levers that can slow down this bullet train to the end of the world. We can 't afford to tune out in apathy or despair, for we are representing the clear and urgent demands of this whole sanity-starved world, as well as two other great world powers -- the plant and animal kingdoms.

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Roger K. Smith (rajakiml@yahoo.com) is a journalism teacher, a disarmament organizer, a media critic, and a full-time father. He lives in Ithaca, New York.

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