What To Do, What To Do ...
From around 5 p.m. until after 11 p.m., I was as much riveted as saddened by what I was watching unfold. It's a surreal sensation, living through a moment in history, especially as the minutes that make up that moment happen so quickly, each one bringing a new piece of information and the sense that life will never be the same again.
I follow a lot of news organizations and journalists on Twitter. All day, every day, I'm plugged in to the goings on in Wisconsin, in Libya, whatever theater brings the news of the day. Everything breaks on Twitter. E-mail news alerts? I heard about that 15 minutes ago on Twitter, people. Everything is instant.
Friends tell me that they turn to my Facebook feed for a roundup of what's relevant. My family turns to me for the latest, knowing that I'll probably know.
I have a lot of information. The erstwhile newspaper employee in me feeds on it. The question is, what's to be done? What should I do with all the information I consume?
A lot of what I know these days makes me sad. Can the schism in this country be healed? When the richest 400 people in the country have more wealth than the bottom 155 million, is there any way to avoid a revolution? Things didn't work out so well for Marie Antoinette.
And every day, I see more and more evidence of the widening of the gap. The GOP insisted on the extension of the Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent even as Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in America, was saying, “If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further. But I think that people at the high end – people like myself – should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we’ve ever had it.”
Of course, the tax cuts were extended. But now – now – the GOP exclaims, apparently we can't afford to fund, well, anything that's not a tax cut for the wealthy or an illegal war.
Allow me to illustrate.
This morning, among the stories I read were these opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum stunners:
Exxon, one of the wealthiest corporations in the world, which posts record profits quarter over quarter while you're paying $4 for a gallon of gas, and which, by the way, didn't pay any Federal income tax in 2009, needs our taxpayer dollars to keep from going out of business but our country can't afford to fund the Special Olympics.
Nor can it afford to fund Reading Is Fundamental.
Nor can it afford to fund NPR.
Nor can it afford to fund PBS.
Nor can it afford to fund research at the National Institutes of Health.
Nor can it afford to fund the housing voucher program that prevents many veterans – veterans – from becoming homeless.
Nor can it afford to fund financial aid for kids going to college.
Nor can it afford to fund community health centers.
Nor can it afford to fund education so that class sizes don't swell to the point of uselessness.
Meanwhile, Wall Street received $700 billion of our tax dollars in order to prevent an economic collapse because the financial sector had been deregulated and Wall Streeters were gambling with our money and lost and no one has been prosecuted, no one has gone to jail, and guess what? They just gave themselves their largest bonuses ever.
Some days, I wonder what I'm supposed to do with all this information. Some days, it feels hopeless and overwhelming.
But I continue to stay informed.
And I urge everyone to do the same.
As obsessively as me? No.
But please, I implore everyone, pick up a newspaper from time to time. Stay in touch with what's going on in your city, state, and nation. Turn off "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" and "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" and "The Real Housewives of Orange County" and all the other utter crap that is rotting our collective brain and be involved.
It was heartbreaking to watch the overreach of power last night, to watch Peter Barca saying, repeatedly, that the actions of Scott Fitzgerald on behalf of Republicans were illegal under the open-meetings law in Wisconsin. And even as Barca continued to speak, Fitzgerald called the vote and those assembled voted their Ayes and stood up and left the table with Barca still speaking as the rest of those assembled in the room began chanting, "Shame!"
But it was also thrilling to see so many people rushing to the Capitol, so many people beating on the doors, demanding to be let into their statehouse, and later, so many people refusing to leave.
All people want it to be treated fairly. All people want is to have a voice.
Last night, the collective-bargaining voice of the public workers of Wisconsin was silenced. But our political system allows for those who do not serve in our best interests to be recalled. They are not entitled to their elected offices. They must answer to their constituents.
And each of us have a vote. One person, one vote. Money may buy political influence, but on election day, there will always be more of us than there are of them.
We cannot afford to sit idly by. None of us. Ever.