We Dont Need the White House

Surviving the Bush years, part I

If Gore had thought us worthy of candor, if instead of dodging the issue of his tainted campaign financing, he'd said, "Look, as the laws are now, the Republicans are better at whoring to corporations than we are, so we've got to peddle our ass wherever we can," he might be president today.

And how do we, the wee folk, overcome money and power? By realizing, as the bank ads say, that you have more power than you think. True Barry Goldwater conservatives will argue that they oppose government controls because they lull the populace into thinking that government is taking care of things for them, and it isn't.

Even under a Democratic administration, there's a case for that. The government didn't discover that genetically altered corn had found its way into our food; it was a lab hired by environmentalists. Nor was the government the first to raise a red flag over Firestone tires.

The government is supposed to require that broadcasters sometimes act in the public interest if they expect to get rich making free use of the public airwaves. As you've no doubt noticed, the Federal Communications Commission has all but abandoned making broadcasters do squat.

That was under Clinton, and it won't get better under Bush. I still believe that, with a vigilant populace, government is the best instrument of our will. It is our government, if we ever get it back from the rich.

In the meantime, though, take a tip from the conservatives: don't trust government to take care of you. With that stupendous tax cut we're all going to get under Bush, use that $1.20 and then some to support organizations that pursue environmental and social justice. Be a citizen. Do more to help people. Support local charities that take on some of the social services government is abandoning.

Realize that you vote every day with your pocketbook: buy organic; support food co-ops and farmers' markets; support small, morally run businesses; start your own business; tell your local anti-mall that you don't buy sweatshop-produced goods, no matter how hip; use a bike or a bus; refuse to ride in your friend's Panzer-sized SUV and let her know why. We could use a little more shame around here.

And take a Republican to lunch. They aren't going to go away; you may as well learn to reason with them. There are plenty of areas of common ground you can get involved in.

For example, chances are they're no happier with local TV news than you are, with its dearth of real news, focus on street crime and celebrity, and manipulative presentation. For example, a few weeks ago, NBC News headed into a commercial break with a tease about "a dangerous murder suspect at loose in a local neighborhood." The guy could be lurking outside your window, but NBC doesn't care; they just want you to hang through the commercial break.

And you probably feel it's useless to complain. But some 210,000 people read the Weekly. If only one in five reads this article, that's 42,000 people. And if you—don't look around, I mean you—got four friends—Republicans, Rosicrucians, whatever—to write in, that's 168,000 complaints demanding serious news coverage. NBC and their advertisers are not going to ignore that, particularly since deep down, they probably dislike serving up shit as much as you dislike receiving it.

That's the power you have, if you use it. You don't need the White House.

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