The New Moderate Witnesses the 99% Declaration (Part 2 of 2)
Philadelphia, July 4, 2012. I found a prime parking spot near the National Constitution Center, grabbed a bottle of cold water from a street vendor and hurried toward the meeting place. According to my trusty cell phone, it was exactly 3 p.m. and 97 degrees Fahrenheit.
I arrived at grassy, shade-deprived Independence Mall just in time to watch the 99% Declaration delegation parading toward the designated patch of turf for the reading of the grievances. If their numbers were slim, the audience waiting for them was even slimmer.
Yes, the heat and the July sun were brutal and unrelenting, but you’d have expected a more abundant gathering of Philadelphians to greet the group that promised to reboot American democracy. Instead, we were looking at a dozen or so diehard patriots and roughly the same number of National Park employees clustering in the few shadows produced by the miniature trees and taller shrubs at the edge of the mall. This couldn’t have been an auspicious sign.
The 99 Percenters began to stream onto the mall. Some of them meandered toward Independence Hall while others stood their ground on the official meeting spot at the corner of Fifth and Market Streets — prime Philadelphia real estate for a revolutionary gathering. One of the leaders urged a few colleagues to round up the meanderers and herd them back to the fold. This operation took several minutes while the organizers organized themselves and set up a podium.
I scanned the gathering and made a few rough estimates. The delegates appeared to number about forty. (There had been approximately forty more at Continental Congress 2.0, but some had walked out over ideological differences and others simply skipped the festivities.) About two-thirds were men. The group spanned the age spectrum from about 20 to 70-plus, visibly weighted at both ends… lots of grad students and retirees, I presumed. Predominantly but not entirely white. Informal and a little shaggy but also alert and well-behaved.
Some of the 99 Percenters carried anti-corporate placards, chanted about the “banksters” or wore t-shirts with messages like “Practice Truth, Fear Nothing.” I noticed a spirited middle-aged woman with luxuriant hippie hair who had run for Congress… an extraverted young man in a wheelchair… a charismatic African American student with waist-long dreadlocks. And apparently a few representatives of the rival Occupy Wall Street crowd had tagged along to hear the message. (One of them insisted that 9/11 was an inside job and that the FBI had declared war on all of us.)
A young reporter from the Philadelphia Daily News (Philly’s tabloid equivalent of the more famous New York Daily News) interviewed one of the delegates. She appeared to be the only member of the press in attendance, unless you count The New Moderate… no TV cameras, no sense that the whole world was watching.
It was time for the reading of the Grievances. Bullhorn in hand, the first speaker conducted a “mic check” that sounded like a church responsorial. The delegates repeated each phrase verbatim, in eerie unison, sounding more like programmed androids than free-thinking radical patriots. I grew a little uneasy. But it was only a mic check, after all — to ensure that the speaker could be heard over the bustle of Market Street.
Now the assembled delegates took turns reading the final draft of their Petition for a Redress of Grievances. Brimming with righteous enthusiasm, they managed to rouse the overheated listeners (including this one) with their soaring, patriotic and appropriately accusatory message. In fact, the petition struck me as noteworthy enough to reproduce here in its entirety, and I urge you to read it from start to finish:
Continental Congress 2.0
Petition for a Redress of Grievances
A New Declaration
WHEREAS THE FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION PROVIDES THAT:
The people have the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
BE IT RESOLVED THAT WE, THE PEOPLE of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in order to form a more perfect Union, by, for and of the People, have convened a NEW CONTINENTAL CONGRESS this week of July 4, 2012 in the City of Philadelphia. We, the people, have deliberated, drafted and ratified a PETITION FOR A REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES to be served upon the United States Congress, Supreme Court, and President, prior to November 6, 2012.
Our country is beset by problems too large to fit comfortably under rubrics like liberal, independent, or conservative.
No single label fits, and no single ideology suits, but what we all have in common is that we are all (left, right, and center) being marginalized and defeated by the moneyed interests of the 1% as we struggle for life, liberty, happiness, comfort, and health. The 1% have enjoyed inordinate power and influence over our lives as they spread propaganda through the corporate media, and extract our nation’s wealth, only to deposit it out of the country. All the while, the 1% are delighted by our inability to recognize and address our common plight in any meaningful way.
We are the truckers, the teachers, the first-responders, the engineers, the self-employed and unemployed, the off-grid and organic farmers as well as the cutting-edge, fully-wired, 4G digital entrepreneurs. We are the butchers, the bakers, the builders and the makers. We are the foundation of our country!
We gather in Philadelphia for a cause larger than ourselves. If we are to succeed in taking back our country we must put aside the petty partisan differences that might divide us. We must recognize that many of those differences have been created and demonstrated by the 1% in their efforts to maintain control and profits at our expense.
We will not agree on everything and that is to be expected. We only need to agree on ONE THING:
American Government cannot continue to be sold to the highest bidder.
Another group of Americans joined together in Philadelphia over the days leading up to what we now proudly call Independence Day. Those Georgia planters, New York bankers, Massachusetts lawyers and Virginia scholars had radical differences and little in common when they began, but they finished by signing a Declaration that gave birth to our great nation and changed the world. We, too, can change the world by renewing their vision and our democracy.
We petition the government for redress of the following grievances:
Our government has allowed organizations to have undue influence and control over policy decisions affecting the people. The rights of organizations, including corporations, nation states, labor unions, and other collected bodies, are not the same as living human beings. No single organization shall have more influence over our government than that of an individual citizen. Corporations are not people.
Our government has allowed freedom of speech to be corrupted by the influence of money. Money is property, not speech.
Our electoral system has been unjustly weighted in favor of two major political parties. This, in combination with enormous campaign expenditures has subverted our democracy and discouraged citizens from participating in the electoral process.
Our current political system allows for the legal bribery of our government officials. They have been part of a “revolving door” with the private lobbying sector and have engaged in insider trading with the very companies they are charged with regulating.
Mainstream media, with no regard for the public they are meant to serve, have misled and misinformed the people, suppressing informed debate and crippling democracy in their single-minded pursuit of profit.
Our privately-controlled and exploitative monetary system, unjust trade policies, and regressive tax system, which greatly favor the 1%, are increasing inequality and eroding the American dream.
Our Congress has aided and abetted a massive fraud by predatory lenders, bankers, speculators, and financiers which has deprived millions of Americans of their homes, property, and livelihoods.
Our government has not recognized our right to clean air, clean water, untainted soil, and safe food. It has failed or refused to enact and enforce laws preventing the destruction of our natural ecosystem, willfully ignoring empirical evidence of significant harm caused by human interaction with the environment.
Our government has failed to protect essential civil liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. American citizens should not be indefinitely detained without due process of law. Their rights to privacy and freedom of speech on the internet should be ensured, and the choices of romantic partners must not be restricted by the government.
Our country imprisons more people per capita than any other country in the world to feed the profits of the growing private prison-industrial complex. Many people are imprisoned for non-violent drug crimes causing harm only to themselves while white collar criminals, who have defrauded the American people, walk free.
Our Congress has abdicated its responsibility for the declaration of war, allowing the United States military to engage in unconstitutional military actions and occupations abroad. There is an unacceptable lack of transparency in negotiations between the military and multi-national industrial contractors who profit from perpetual war.
After Congress has allowed or required our men and women to be sent into military action, it is has failed to uphold its promises of benefits and medical care to those who have served unless they have been physically injured. This is not right.
Our government has failed to prevent healthcare, insurance, and pharmaceutical companies from profiteering off of the illnesses and injuries of the American people. The for-profit healthcare system is immoral and economically unsustainable.
The current state of our education system is abysmal and under-funded. Without a well-educated populace, a democracy cannot adequately provide for its own common defense or promote the general welfare.
Our government has been derelict in its duty to substantially and equitably invest in the productivity of its people by supporting job training initiatives that will create more domestic employment opportunities and enable our workforce to transition to an independent renewable energy economy.
Our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico and the United States territories’ have been disenfranchised as voters. This is incompatible with American representative democracy. We recognize the right of Puerto Rico to become a state of the Union.
Citizens of the District of Columbia have been unjustly deprived of their right to determine their own governance. They have been denied congressional voting rights and control over their own local affairs. We recognize the right of the District of Columbia to self-determinative government.
We will be delivering the forgoing (sic) list of grievances, along with suggestions for their redress, to all branches of the federal government in the coming weeks. The American people expect a timely response. If our grievances are insufficiently addressed, we will take legal action in federal court seeking injunctive relief.
The sovereignty of the United States derives from WE, THE PEOPLE.
We will be heard.
And…in time — pushing through obstacles, overcoming set-backs, and basking in hard-won victories — we WILL restore our democracy.
There you have it: the first focused, trans-partisan attempt by the people of the United States to combat the spreading tentacles of the established interests and restore something like genuine representative democracy to our shores. Angry, yes… but admirably rational as well as impassioned. No camping in the plazas or blocking traffic for these 99 Percenters. They meant business, and they delivered.
These were no raving collegiate Marxists or ill-tempered Tea Partiers — just a small but valiant group of concerned Americans who span the political spectrum from left to right… who challenge the unsavory power of unions and corporations alike… who demand genuine representative government… who articulated their grievances in fiery prose and seek redress as outlined in the First Amendment.
They came to Philadelphia with a purpose: to sound a clarion call for justice — for a purified, responsive and ethical system that would honor the founders of our republic and those of us who inhabit it today.
And virtually nobody turned out to hear them. Not the corporate media whose motives they question… not the legions of poor and middle-class Americans with their outsourced jobs and dwindling prospects. Blame it on the summer heat… blame it on poor publicity, dismissive media or general apathy. But I have to tell you that this ragtag assembly on Independence Mall, here in Philadelphia on the Fourth of July, was something noble and potentially historic.
I can also tell you that I’ll be awaiting the government’s response to these grievances with immoderate interest. I hope you will, too.