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What America Needs Now--A Prophetic Social Movement That Speaks Moral Truth to Amoral Power

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There's good reason why, a year after our presidential elections, millions of Americans still refuse to "get over it."

It's not because these ruling forces are so "conservative" in their values. Although these rulers persuaded half of America that they are righteous champions of such values, many of the rest of us can see through their pretense.

We can see that, beneath that sheep's clothing of false righteousness, they are satisfying the wolf of their unbridled appetite for self-aggrandizement.

We can see it in their persistent effort to undermine any rules that, in the name of a greater good, would restrain their freedom of action""whether in their tearing down the rules of international order, or in their disrespect for constitutional limits on their power, or in their dismantling of environmental restraints on their pursuit of wealth.

We see it, too, in their use of bullying tactics and character assassination in dealing with political opponents. For all their pious talk, there is no sign whatever of the Golden Rule in how they conduct their politics.

We see it in the way they sow enmity""whether between Americans, whom pollsters have found more intensely polarized than ever, or between America and other nations, among whom trust in American power has reached an all-time low.

And we see it in their disdain for the truth""whether in how they "spin" virtually everything they say to us, or how they disregard or distort science, or in how they arrange to be told only what they want to hear.

America would be fine in the hands of people devoted to real conservative values. But this is something different, something dangerous. For America is now ruled by forces apparently not guided by any genuine values at all. One can look in vain for any juncture where they've made a decision that sacrificed any of their power or wealth in favor of some larger good.

And this is not just about this particular presidency, which should be understood as the creature of bigger forces. These forces - an alliance of the greediest part of American capitalism with the most power-hungry and imperialist of American politicians and with the most divisive and hypocritical of America's religious leaders""have been gathering power for a generation and will doubtless seek to maintain their grip when its current public faces leave office.

Never in American history has so much power been in such ruthless hands.

The very soul of America is endangered. Yet not only did the presidential campaign of 2004 fail utterly to speak about this profound moral danger, but the political opposition remains virtually mute and effectively impotent in the face of these forces. (This silence and this impotence are signs of another part of America's moral crisis, of that also-dangerous moral flaccidity into which too much of American liberalism has lapsed.)

It is essential, therefore, that those of us who do see this frightening reality stand up to take the struggle for America's soul to a new stage""a "prophetic" stage of speaking moral truth to amoral power. Moral truth is our great weapon, for the power of these rulers rests on moral lies. Only by selling their false image of righteousness to good, conservative Americans could these forces gain power.

But that which depends on moral lies can be defeated with moral truth""for, if these good people can be helped to see that these emperors have no moral clothes, they will withdraw their support.

Most of those who have supported these rulers should be regarded not as our opponents but as our potential allies. For the struggle that now must urgently be waged is not that of liberal values against conservative values, but of those who really care about goodness against those in power who only pretend to.

To accomplish these worthy goals, unmasking the false righteousness of our rulers must be framed in terms of Americans' shared values""of justice and compassion and truth and fair play""and supported by evidence drawn from our common knowledge. Framed in that way, the stories of what we've all seen can be told in ways that strip away the political coverings and show the dark moral reality that lies beneath the mask these rulers wear.

America is in need of an "Emperor's New Clothes" moment. "This emperor," we must loudly declare, "has no moral clothes."

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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