Good Morning, 2005, So long Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers has recently retired from his PBS "Now, with Bill Moyers", after more than 30 years in journalism.
I have just listened, for the second time, to a speech made by Bill Moyers. A keynote address to the founding National Conference on Media Reform. I find it both moving and informing. And more than a little bit discomforting. What follows is not about Moyers but a personal response to some of the ideas he expressed.
When I was young, I was very taken by the words and the stories of people like Tom Paine, Ben Harris, Daniel Webster, etc. I had a strong belief in the ideas and ideals of the American revolution. The country that I learned to love and its revolutionary ideas and ideals, simply does not exist and hasn't for a very long time. Certainly not since the 40's.
That great revolutionary era is the America and Americans that Moyers represents. I feel like the American revolution is being fought again and the forces arrayed against liberty are bigger, richer, and stronger than ever before.
I think about that little bunch of merchants and farmers and printers, who stood together at Lexington bridge and at Concorde, with squirrel guns and fowling pieces, against what at the time was one of the worlds most fearsome military machines.
Every one of those men must have been conflicted as hell. They didn't know what would happen. They had every reason to believe they would all be killed for their defiant gesture. They had wives, kids, parents who counted on them, businesses, etc. None of them could see the future anymore than any of us can. They were, to a man, scared shitless when they walked out of their houses to stand on that bridge to say "Thou shall not pass!", to those heavily armed, trained and experienced Redcoats.
Much of Tom Paine's most celebrated writings were dispatches written while he was fighting with Washington's army. He was, by all accounts, a brave soldier. What ever courage he had on the field of battle, it was with his pen that he recruited an army and a nation to support it. His little paper, Common Sense, and his dispatches from the front, did more damage to the Imperial cause than he ever did with sword or musket.
Not only him but that other dozen or so of the independent weekly papers that supported the cause of independence from the Empire.
Moyers talks about a courageous American spirit, held it would appear, by only a small minority of Americans. A lot of Americans disagree with what is happening. Patriotic Americans were once obsessed with genuine liberty. Now they are fat, submissive, and want someone else to defend their American freedom to buy anything they can afford and to not really give a shit about anything else. To paraphrase Tom Paine: Things too easily attained are too lightly valued.
Moyers makes me want to buck up, do more, be more productive and strive to do it honestly. Makes me want to drag out my squirrel gun to stand at the fucking bridge. My squirrel gun being this bloody computer and internet connection.
It is a slightly sad and ironic thing. After all this time and all I hate about what America has become, in my heart, I'm still an American. A variety that has gone way out of fashion. Somehow, taking Canadian citizenship feels like a final turning away from what ever good the place once represented in the world. Something I must do to get a passport. I won't be giving up my American citizenship but it still represents a shift in my perception of myself.
I have no reason to believe I will live there, ever again. Yet, I still feel like a patriot, by my own definition. It has been a long time since America was worthy of that sort of patriotism. The worlds first successful colonial democratic revolution. Created against terrible odds. A small nation whose writers, thinkers, leaders, and citizens inspired their ilk, all over the world.
Now, that little country has become an imperial giant that thrives on the exploitation of and out right control of an economic colonial empire, the likes of which has never been seen before. An empire built more by corruption, greed, and financial and legal slight of hand, than with raw military power. Although the threat and use of force is always present.
By every standard, American democracy is in crises. Those of us who still believe in human liberty and justice and equality, in the right to freely express opinion contrary to that of either the State or the 'majority', those virtues that inspired and drove our revolution, are now labeled as unpatriotic, disloyal, terrorist sympatizers and worse.
By a jingoistic corporate media that marches in lock step to the drum of the corporate business agenda.
I strongly urge you to watch and or listen to the speech Moyers made at the founding conference of Journalists for Media Reform. He presents a view of patriotism that does not include blind allegiance to one man or one Party ideology