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Ralph Nader Is Tired of Running for President
Posted on Jul 4, 2011
By Chris Hedges
The most important moral and intellectual voices within a disintegrating society are slowly discredited when their nonviolent protests and calls for justice cannot alter intransigent and corrupt systems of power. The repeated acts of peaceful civil disobedience, efforts at electoral and political reform and the fight to protect the rule of law are dismissed as useless by an embittered, dispossessed and betrayed public. The demagogues and hatemongers, the purveyors of violence, easily seduce enraged and bewildered masses in the final stages of collapse with false promises of vengeance, new glory and moral renewal. And in the spiral downward the good among us are reviled as naive and ineffectual fools.
There is no shortage of courageous dissidents in America. They seek to thwart the imperial disasters, looming financial insolvency and suicidal addiction to fossil fuel. They have stood in small knots on street corners week after week, month after month, year after year, to denounce the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have occupied banks, shut down coal-fired power plants, attempted to halt mountaintop removal, interfered with whaling ships and walked in blustery weather to the White House, where they were arrested. They are struggling to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza on a ship called the Audacity of Hope. But because the corporate state and the two major political parties are indifferent to principled calls for reform, and because the mass of the public still buys into the myths of globalization and the American dream, the plundering and destruction continue unimpeded.
When most Americans face the nightmare before us, when they realize the irreversible devastation unleashed on the ecosystem and the economic misery from which they cannot escape, violence will have a broad and terrifying appeal. Those of us who demand a return to the rule of law and remain steadfast to nonviolence will find ourselves cast aside—the useful idiots Lenin so despised. I watched this happen in the social and political implosions in El Salvador, Guatemala, the Palestinian territories, Algeria, Bosnia and Kosovo. I watched the same cocktail of despair, economic collapse and callousness from a corrupt power elite mix itself into potent brews of civil strife. I watched the same untiring efforts by those who detested the violence and cruelty of the state, and the nascent violence and intolerance of the radical opposition. I covered as a reporter the disintegration that tore these societies apart. Those who held fast to moral imperatives, including Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador and Ibrahim Rugova in Kosovo, were thrust aside and replaced with killers on both sides of the divide who embraced violence.
“Wait until October,” Ralph Nader said when we spoke this weekend. “That’s when the budget cuts will hit home. It is one thing to have the governors of Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida and the legislators saying we will cut this and that. We don’t know what will actually happen when the guillotines are put in place. You may have a different kind of surge of public resistance and protest.
“There will be more and more people in the streets, homeless and hungry,” he said of the looming cuts. “Babies will be sick. Everything will be overloaded from the free food to the clinics. You never know where the spark will come from. Look at the guy who robbed the bank for a dollar. That was not quite the spark, but that is what I am talking about. This is what you have to do to get health care. Let’s say 50 people did that. There are a lot of dry tinder piles like that.”
The death of liberal institutions that once made incremental and piecemeal reform possible, which once could respond to the suffering of the poor, the unemployed and working men and women, which once sought to protect the Earth on which we depend for life, means the last thin hope for reform is embodied in acts of civil disobedience. There are no established institutions that will help us. The press ignores the cries of the underclass and the poor. The labor movement is atrophied and dying. Public education is degraded and being rapidly dismantled. Our religious institutions no longer engage in the core issues of justice. And the Democratic Party is on its knees before Wall Street. The most basic government services designed to ameliorate the pain, including Head Start and Social Security, are targeted by our corporate overlords for destruction. The Kyoto Protocol, which was not nearly ambitious enough to prevent environmental collapse, has been gutted so companies like Exxon Mobil can continue to amass the largest profits in history.
Radical reform, including a breaking of our dependence on fossil fuel, must happen soon to thwart the effects of dramatic climate change and economic disintegration. And this radical reform will come only through us. I will join, for this reason, those planning the prolonged occupation of Washington on Oct. 6. Acts of civil disobedience are our last, thin line of defense against chaos. Make a resolution this Independence Day to join us. You owe it to your children and to the generations who come after us. I am not naive enough to promise you we can reverse these trends. I know the monolith we challenge. But I do know that if we do not begin to take part in these nonviolent protests then we have, in effect, given up all realistic hope of change and succumbed meekly to corporate enslavement, environmental catastrophe and severe social unrest.
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