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Is Grassroots Activism Relevant? Review of "Understanding America's Terrorist Crisis"

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The website InformationClearinghouse.Info recently posted the full-length video of The Independent Institute’s 2002 program, “Understanding America’s Terrorist Crisis: What Should Be Done?” 

Gore Vidal is the featured speaker among a distinguished list of expert panelists, before a live audience of 3500 people.  Stolen elections, the un-Patriot Act, theft in office, war without end, and media collusion are all discussed.   

Had I listened to these speakers back in 2002, their ideas would have seemed too radical to my sensibilities.  Today, their clarion call is well received, especially given Bush’s May 9, 2007 Directive granting him absolute power in case of catastrophic disaster. 

(One suggestion as to how we should handle this – a simple beheading – is articulated in an article that argues for direct democracy rather than proportional representation, at However, the film, “Death of a President,” warns us that we would then be left with Cheney – no paragon of democratic ideals.)  

The entire video is well worth watching, especially given Vidal’s wit and charm – the issues have not changed in five years.  Instead, they have become more relevant. 

But I was most interested at the end when questions of the usefulness of activists arose. It took several long moments before any of the distinguished panel finally responded directly to the question, “Is grassroots activism relevant?  If so, what can the grassroots do?”  The moderator, Lewis Lapham – editor of Harper’s Magazine – rephrased the question several times.  “What are some of the other ways of getting back at a tyrannical government without going to the extreme that Timothy McVeigh did?  Other than blowing up a building, what are some other ways?” 

Gore Vidal could not think of a single effective act that citizens could take.  He also declined, with charm, to respond when asked, Where would we be today had your cousin won Florida?   

Economist and historian, Robert Higgs, did respond, although he never clarified specific acts.   “I think many people have already discovered how to act individually, to withdraw their assistance from a government they regard as fundamentally illegitimate.  They do that by simply taking every opportunity they find, and looking for new ones to withdraw their support, to not obey the laws they regard as unjust.  And little by little, those individual acts of dis-allegiance add up.  David Kim observed way back in the 18th century that every government rests on public opinion.  So long as public opinion supports the legitimacy of the government even when it acts tyrannically, that government will persist. 

"But when people finally take it upon themselves to act, at least individually, that by doing what they can to throw out every ounce of hell from an illegitimate government, then that government will eventually fall.” 

I sense that other Americans are more able to hear these words today, and put into action what great thinkers have been urging for five years.  And that must be why my durable ally, Dave Berman, has called for withdrawing our consent.  

In the same email announcing this video, IFC quotes Thomas Jefferson: 

“A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest.  The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation.  To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to written law would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property, and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the end to the means.” 

For more on true patriotism - what citizens can do, a modern day politico recently lectured the House of Representatives:

"The true patriot is motivated by a sense of responsibility and out of self-interest for himself, his family, and the future of his country to resist government abuse of power. He rejects the notion that patriotism means obedience to the state. Resistance need not be violent, but the civil disobedience that might be required involves confrontation with the state and invites possible imprisonment."

Ron Paul's speech in the House of Representatives on 5/22/07.

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In 2004, Rady Ananda joined the growing community of citizen journalists. Initially focused on elections, she investigated the 2004 Ohio election, organizing, training and leading several forays into counties to photograph the 2004 ballots. She officially served at three recounts, including the 2004 recount. She also organized and led the team that audited Franklin County Ohio's 2006 election, proving the number of voter signatures did not match official results. Her work appears in three books.

Her blogs also address religious, gender, sexual and racial equality, as well as environmental issues; and are sprinkled with book and film reviews on various topics. She spent most of her working life as a researcher or investigator for private lawyers, and five years as an editor.

She graduated from The Ohio State University's School of Agriculture in December 2003 with a B.S. in Natural Resources.

All material offered here is the property of Rady Ananda, copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009. Permission is granted to repost, with proper attribution including the original link.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." Tell the truth anyway.

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