In a week where Congress voted for a supplemental Iraq funding bill and a FISA capitulation, a top aide to a Republican presidential candidate mused about potential political advantage from a hypothetical terrorist attack, gas prices kept going through the roof along with groceries while cities nationwide face budget cutbacks on mass transit and essential services, governmental indifference to the needs of the poor and especially the displaced from the Gulf Coast wreckage of Katrina and Rita continued…you name a problem and we seem to be facing it these days.
So what is a concerned citizen to do? According to Standing Up To The Madness — a whole helluva lot.
Authors Amy Goodman, award-winning host of Democracy Now!, and her independent journalist brother, David Goodman, who writes for Mother Jones among other great investigative work, have put together an inspiring book about the individual choices we can all make — and what those choices can mean for our communities, our nation, and our world.
At a time when far too many Americans simply put their heads down and ignore injustice or choose inaction, the Goodmans endeavor to inspire activism. Standing Up To The Madness highlights the moment when individual citizens stand up and say "enough."
And it is in that moment that real change begins.
From Rosa Parks and the NAACP’s efforts with the Birmingham bus boycott to a community organization formed to help residents of New Orleans’ lower ninth ward. From Raed Jarrar, who was prevented from boarding a Jet Blue flight because he wore a t-shirt with Arabic script, to librarians who fought back against a sweeping National Security Letter and the Patriot Act in Connecticut. From high school students forbidden to put on a play using the words of American soldiers to family and friends of the Jena 6.
All of these folks have one thing in common: they saw something they felt was unjust, and they began to speak up about it, organized others, and then found a way to act. Each solution began with a decision to refuse to be silent.
Amy and David take time in the book to discuss the White Rose Society, a group of six ordinary citizens who saw the problems within Nazi Germany and vowed not to be silent about them. What they highlight in Standing Up To The Madness is people who, in the past and today, saw the same examples of injustice, discrimination, and intimidation, and said "enough!" A great example is NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen, whose work on climate change has been on the forefront of global warming and threats to the environment. To say the Bush Administration did not appreciate his conclusions is an understatement:
…Hansen knew why he was being put on a short leash: Because the ultimate threat to the Bush administration is to bypass the vaunted spin machine. "Communicating with the public seems to be essential," said Hansen, "because public concern is probably the only thing capable of overcoming the special interests that have obfuscated the topic."
These "special interests" were no longer government outsiders and industry hacks trying to influence policy. These hacks were now running the White House. The wall between private and public interest had simply vanished.
Take the case of Phillip Cooney. For fifteen years, he was a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, the trade association for the oil industry, and an aggressive opponent of limiting carbon emissions. Cooney, a lawyer, was a "climate team leader" at API — a euphemism for being a ringleader of the global warming denial movement. This is why the Bush Administration felt he was perfectly qualified to oversee federal research and policy on climate change. From 2001 to 2005, Cooney served as chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. One of his key tasks was to review and edit major government scientific reports about climate change.
Conflict of interest? Not to the Bush White House, where it was business as usual….
Cozy. But as we have seen repeatedly the last seven years and counting, politicization of science, of the rule of law, of career civil service positions is par for the course in the Bush/Cheney White House. Dr. Hansen refused to knuckle under and toe the spin line. By doing so, he called attention to the entire spin machine through public speeches and testimony before Congress.
Amy and David talk about the Bush administration’s efforts to create a sort of Potemkin presidency:
…where reality is defined and managed by those in power.
Beat poet Alan Ginsberg explained the rationale best: "Whoever controls the media, controls the culture."
We address these problems all the time, but in Standing Up To The Madness, Amy and David present some potential ways to act in order to solve them: (1) challenge the corporate media and support independent media and discussion — and support net neutrality; (2) think for yourself; (3) question authority; (4) speak up and defend your civil liberties by supporting the ACLU and public libraries; (5) stand together; (6) and take your voice on the road with others to be heard.
This morning, Amy had Russ Feingold on Democracy Now! to discuss FISA. The interview was an in-depth discussion of the inherent problems we’ve been reviewing for months, including the need to balance government by respecting the rule of law and the constitutional separation of powers. What journalists like Amy and David do, every day, and what all of us can do as well, is to ask the questions that need to be asked.
Citizenship is something that you do. And Amy and David bring us some of the best of that activism in Standing Up To The Madness. With that, I welcome Amy Goodman and David Goodman, and open the floor to questions and comments…