I think the year was likely around 1975. I was working my way through
college, that year, as a bartender. Depending on my school schedule, I
sometimes worked a lunch shift, and sometimes a night shift. The bar was in
one of the nicer theme restaurants, right across from the airport, decorated
and costumed according to the writings of Jonathan Swift. They were different
times, when alcohol consumption during the noon hour was not only accepted,
but encouraged by corporate "working lunch" practice, commonly referred to,
in those days, as "the three martini lunch." At the time, such lunches were
fully tax deductible by the corporation.
Our most popular lunch drink was what we called a "Nooner." It was
triple shot martini on the rocks, served in a glass we called the "bucket"
- four and one half ounces of 80 proof gin over ice. Every lunch hour the
airline corporations' executives would arrive on the scene, usually including
an off duty pilot or two, along with import/export executives and others
working for whatever businesses required airport proximity. Some would
have meetings while eating and drinking at the tables, others would line the
bar and forego the "lunch" for the three martinis - somehow managing to
negotiate their cars back to the office an hour or so later.
One memory from this experience has always stood out in my mind.
During an afternoon shift a gentleman (for lack of a better term) at the bar
was getting a little loud with his guests, somewhere in the middle of his second
Nooner. The subject was politics. Being that it was a busy afternoon, I'd had
little opportunity to follow the conversation until he beckoned me over to
order his third Nooner, and to ask me a question directly.
"Don't you agree that only management should be allowed to vote?"
"I'm not sure what you're asking," I asked him to be more clear.
"In a national election - for congressmen and presidents. The world
divided according to two types of people - leaders and followers. It
doesn't make any sense for the followers to be able to vote. They're
followers for a reason. Only people who are employed as managers
ought to be able to vote."
I have to say that I was a little stunned, and I know that I didn't
give him the answer that he wanted. I told him that certainly wasn't the
case according to the Constitution of the United States, an answer that
angered the executive enough to make a complaint to the bar manager. I
was later reprimanded, and told to never get in political arguments
with the customers. My protest that it wasn't an argument, that I merely
gave a direct answer to a direct question, fell on deaf ears. I was
also told that he was a Vice President of an airline and a regular
customer, and that I should never so offend him again. Such was my early
lesson that there is no such thing as free speech - at least for labor -
in the realm of corporate management.
I tend to think of this incident whenever someone mentions that the
United States government should be run like a corporation, and by
experienced corporate managers. I know I also thought of it in 2000 when Jeb
Bush and Katherine Harris disenfranchised over 90,000 voters in order to
steal the election for George W. Bush. While corporatism preaches that
the idea is merely pragmatic, history teaches that the notion is
encompassed by Benito Mussolini's definition of fascism. In fact, at one
point in his political life, Mussolini said that the better name for
fascism would be corporatism. It is a prospect completely counter-intuitive
to American conservatism, but it is fully supported by American
neo-conservatism. America did not defeat fascism in WWII, we merely beat it
back - temporarily - and it is now rising again on Main Street, USA.
We are told repeatedly by the neo-conservatives that a "culture war"
exists against evil "libruls," who wish to destroy "American values."
But have neocons ever once expressed exactly what these values are?
Historically, American conservatism preached the notion of approaching all
policy changes with extreme caution, in order to protect the ideals of
our own revolution. Great conservative presidents from our past have
fought against a marriage of corporations and government as vigorously
as for the separation of church and state. The fact is that most
corporate regulation has historically been instituted by conservative
presidents, both Democrat and Republican. Yet over the last three years we
have witnessed a radical agenda to maximize the power of the corporation
at the expense of the individual.
In the current battle for the "soul" of America, the traditional
American conservative is nowhere to be found. At least not independently.
The battle now is between fascism and everyone else who are now
identified, in corporate-speak, as "liberals." The formerly proud Republican
Party has been annexed in full in a war against democracy, not by the
useful idiocy of George W. Bush, but by Sugarland's own toxic
exterminator, Tom Delay, who has publicly stated, "I am the government."
It is not that I would encourage conservatives to abandon their chosen
party, and to become Democrats. I do encourage conservatives to
attempt to take their party back. The Republican Party is not the only lost
party, it is merely the first to fall. For those traditional
Democrats, who wonder why their party has lost the ability to fight, understand
that the Democratic Party is within a hare's breath of falling as well.
It is not beyond saving, as it seems Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich
are attempting to prove, but redemption requires casting off every ounce
of apathy. As Burke once said, "All that is necessary for the triumph
of evil is for some good men to do nothing."
It is also incumbent that downed soldiers must rise to fight again.
And here, if I may, I'd like to direct my comments directly to Al Gore.
The most insidious attack on democracy, in my lifetime, is what
occurred in Florida in the year 2000. And yet it is that moment in time that
finally turned apathy into action. At a time when America had become
bored with American politics, that event ignited a new generation of
activists. Such is logical, for it is said that one never appreciates
what one has until it is lost. I have never seen a generation of
activists more determined to right a wrong, and so unwilling to "get over it."
They can only be encouraged if you, Sir, allow them to take that
chance. It is only by taking your proper place in the White House that that
wrong can truly be rectified.
If it had appeared to me that you had learned nothing from the
experience, I would not now be asking you, imploring you, to reconsider your
decision not to run in 2004. Indeed, it is apparent to me that the
experience has changed you in a profound way. I have seen you turn your
back on the DLC, and I have seen your realization of the dangerous
inequities of our "Fourth Estate," caused in no small part by the presidential
administration in which you served.
I know that you feel great pain at the tragic loss of our soldiers in
Iraq, sworn to protect America and Americans, and the Constitution under
which we live; relegated instead to keeping their thumb on foreign
civilians, and too often to kill them for the profit of oil companies and
the enrichment of the military industrial complex. I have heard you
speak out against the destruction of the Bill of Rights through the USA
PATRIOT Act. The shredding of worker safety nets, as well as those
promised to the disabled, to veterans, and to families, (of the many bills
for which you labored) must eat at you as well. I ask that you let us
help you to restore them.
When explaining your decision not to run in 2004 you offered that a
return to the arena would place an improper focus on what happened in
Florida almost three years ago. I respectfully disagree. I cannot think
of a more dynamic influence to raise the stakes on what will be the most
vital election in this nation's history. There is simply nothing that
could possibly influence public interest more. Those who work for your
campaign will show more ferocity than you have ever known in your
support. I ask that you let us begin that work.
In 1993 and again in 1997 you gave this oath, "I do solemnly swear that
I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against
all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and
allegiance to the same..." While the oath regards the office, you will
bear the title of "Mr. Vice President" until the day you die, until you
renounce the title, or until you achieve a higher office. That oath
follows you still. Please consider, once again, how best to be true to
that oath. Is it as a leader, or as a private citizen? A new generation
of good activists ask that you lead them to do something.
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