you are poor, your chances of living next to Mr. Toxic are quite good. If you’re wealthy, they’re zero. I’ve often thought we could solve the pollution problem in this country quite easily. Doesn’t take all that room full of legislation that the E.P.A. has. I think one little law would do it. It would say, “Any corporation can create any polluting facility, any toxic dump that it cares to create, as long as the chief executive and board of directors live within a hundred yards of that facility.” Don’t you believe they’d clean it up? In a hurry. If it was their families. You want class war? I saw an example of it about three years ago when Bill Clinton stood up with George Bush the elder, the former president, along with Colin Powell at the Presidential Volunteers Summit in Philadelphia. And they announced as how the era of big government is over no need to look in for government by the people, for any needs of the people. Rather, it would be better if you chose philanthropy. Reach out to charity, won’t you?… It’s not charity that we want. It’s economic fairness, social justice, equal opportunity that we are seeking. And that’s what this party represents; that’s what Ralph Nader represents. The economists, of course, have a technical term for what Washington and Wall Street are doing to us. It’s called stealing. Might remember that old tune that Woody Guthrie had, “It’s through this world I travel / I see lots of funny men / Some will rob you will a six-gun / and some with a fountain pen.” It’s the fountain pens who are doing the serious stealing in our society today. So let’s stop the stealing. Let’s dare what the founders of this nation did in 1776, and as every people’s movement in the intervening two hundred and twenty-five odd years have had to do. And that is to take the dangerous route. To go with the people. To trust the people of this great nation. The people are ready…. People say, “Young people don’t give a damn about what’s going on anymore. They don’t care about politics, they just care about money and music and self-aggrandizement.” Well, they haven’t met the United Students Against Sweatshops, have they? What a great proof that is. Actually doing something. Or the Student Environmental Coalition, or the Student Coalition Against Hunger and Homelessness. The campuses are alive and well again, and they’re agitating and achieving goals. And they’re doing it the old-fashioned way: they’re taking over the president’s office. While Washington fusses with the minimum wage, people all across this country are gettin’ organized at a local level. Greens teaming up with new party members, teaming up with the S.E.I.U., teaming up with ACORN, teaming up with the religious leaders, teaming up with the Labor Party, teaming up across the board to pass, not a minimum wage, but a living wage. More than forty cities in this country already passed a living-wage law. Environmentalists and farmers coming together all across . this country against these hog conglomerates that are moving in to drive out the family farmers and stink up the place for everybody else. A revolution is happening. Meanwhile, here we are with the political year as I referred to it in my book, “Election Year 2000: the Space Odyssey.” The “Space Odyssey,” because with Gore and Bush it’s nowhere near shopping distance of the reality that most people are experiencing. Are we gonna keep going along with that, or are we gonna do something different? Are we gonna take the risk as a people, as a SEPTEMBER 8, 2000 free people, as the suffragists and abolitionists, as the populists and Wobblies, as the founders, as the labor movement, as the civil rights movement have all had to do throughout our history, and say, “We’re gonna take some risk.” There’s an old Texas saying, “If you find that you’ve dug yourself into a hole, the very first thing to do is quit digging.” There are friends of mine good friends of mine, and I have great respect for them, and I understand what they’re saying but I disagree with them. They say, “Well, Gore is safe, we gotta stick with the status quo, because it could get worse.” Well, a farmer came up to me when I was Ag Commissioner, and people were talking about sticking with the status quo ag policy of the time. He said, ‘Status quo’ is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.'” We oughta do something different, and if we just stick with the status quo, then in the year 2004 we’re still gonna be there. And in the year 2008, we’re still gonna be there. And in the year 2012, we’re still gonna be there. When are we gonna get loose from the status quo? We’re gonna get deeper and deeper into that hole. I think it’s time for a politics with passion again. A politics that matters…. But yet, they say that you and I are the “spoilers.” We’re the spoilers. We’re in the way of Al Gore. But, hey, did we spoil the democratic process with billions in corrupt money? Did that come from us? Did we spoil the air, the water, and the food with compromises of convenience? Did we spoil the sovereignty of we the people with global trade scams that undermine our right to selfgovernment? We’re not the spoilers. William Jennings Bryan, about a hundred years ago, said, “Destiny is not a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice.” It’s not something to be awaited, it’s something to be achieved. Are we going to achieve America’s destiny of economic fairness, social justice, and equal opportunity for all people? Well, if you think Al Gore can get you there, then go that way. It’s your choice. But if you’re tired of the status quo, tired of business as usual, tired of being shut out by the exclusiveness and elitism of the economic and political walls that have arisen to separate the few from the many, then you need to be thinking about something different. Something that must be felt here, in Denver, Colorado, and by people just like you all across America. I can’t tell you how many people I meet as I travel for my book, and just generally making talks and talkin’ to ’em on the radio and everything. They say: “Well, you know, I’ve been a life-long Democrat, but I’m thinkin’ now. I’m thinkin’ ….” And I want you to think of Woody Guthrie. Woody Guthrie. Now by the way, I re-read this [my book] last night, and it’s a dynamite book. In my last chapter, there’s a section called “This Land is Your Land.” And that’s what Woody Guthrie meant by that song. It wasn’t a little polite sing-along about America’s natural beauty, the “diamond highways,” etc. It was about We the People taking power, and rejecting the exclusion of ordinary folks that he traveled with in that Dust Bowl. The working families and the dirt farmers and just ordinary folks who were being hard hit. And when he wrote “This Land is Your Land,” he had another verse in there that doesn’t get in the published versions … a verse in this about political exclusion. He wrote, “Well it’s a big, high wall / that tried to stop me. / A sign said / “Private property.” / But on the other side / it didn’t say nothin’. / That side was made for you and me.” THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15
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