We stand at the beginning of a new year, not knowing what it will bring. It is as if we are at a corner and we must make go around the corner if we are to go anywhere. But it seems quite comfy where we are and there is no need to go anywhere at the present time. So why find out what is around the corner?
I had the opportunity the other day to hear part of a conversation and read the transcrip of the conversation between Amy Goodman and Daniel Ellsberg a few years back that related to the publication of the Pentagon Papers. It was interesting to review this story because of one point that Ellsberg made about the difficulty in getting this information out into the public (something that we need to consider in light of the Edward Snowden revelations).
Ellsberg pointed out that he spoke to a number of high ranking Senators, all of whom were publically opposed to the Viet Nam war, about helping him and to a person they all were willing to do it, provided Ellsberg could get someone else to do it as well. In other words, despited what they were already doing, they were unwilling to do more by themselves, choosing to “follow the herd” rather than lead. It was quite clear that disturbing the status quo was not part of being a United States Senator, especially if you wanted to keep your leadership roles. Ultimately, of course, the Pentago Papers were released and it was one of the Senators for Alaska, Mike Gravel, who would help in the process.
This came at a time when I was trying to fix in my own mind an explanation for what is happening in American politics. Here it is, the first day of 2015, and some of the news is going to fix on the presidential election of 2016, something just under two years away. It is most likely that 1) it will be a nasty campaign by both sides, 2) fear of what the other candidate might do will be the dominant theme, and 3) it will seem that the status quo will again be chosen, even when such a choice is not in the best interests of so many individuals in this country.
I got to thinking about something written in one of the books in my collection. The book focuses on the speeches of President John Kennedy when he was a candidate for President and then while he was President. In the book, the authors make the comment that President Kennedy was the last President to speak in complete sentences and expect his listeners and readers to know or understand what it was that he was saying.
I am not saying that those who occupied the office after Kennedy were not smart or literate but it sometimes seems that way. I also know that efforts begun when Eisenhower was President and continued under Kennedy (exploration of space and the development of new science and mathematics curricula) began to be phased under when the cost of the Viet Nam war became to great. Our problems today are as much or more a result of the change in focus of this country as they are anything else. Ir really does not help things when the means and motivation for thinking are systematically eliminated. And when you begin to eliminate thinking skills, it become much easier to maintain the status quo because one is no longer questioning things.
In his memorable good bye address to the country and the American people, President Eisenhower warned us against the growing danger of the military-industrial complex. It is clear today that this relationship has grown beyond reason and we have failed to heed the warning. And while we may feel that it is needed, why is it that we created weapons systems that cost in the trillions of dollars to produce and may or may not work, we cast aside as damaged equipment those who fight the wars the politicians create, and we refuse to cut the spending on the programs that sustain the complex? It goes back to something I said earlier, we seem to have a desire to maintain the status quo, even when it works against us.
I cannot help but think that those we elect are more interested in preserving the status quo and the power they have than they are in preserving or maintaining this country.
We have arrived at a point in the history of this country where we are unwillingly to venture into the unknown, to peak around the corner and see what is there. We have forgotten that this nation was created on the basis of an untried political idea known as democracy and, while there have been times where we didn’t think it will work, it has provided a basis for doing things that have never been done before. We have become a nation unwilling to take risks and we are incapable of peeking around the corner so that we can venture into the unknown.
As 2015 starts, let us hope and pray that we can regain that ability to take risks and venture into the unknown. Let us begin to peak around the corner and boldly go into areas we have been afraid to go before. Let us move from the safety of the status quo and into the uncertainity of tomorrow. If we do not, then I am afraid that there will be no future and civilization will come to an end.
We can stay here, where we are, perhaps safe and secure in the status quo or we can venture into the unknown of tomorrow and begin a new adventure. The choice is ours.