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AFTERWORD Living in a Kleptocrat Nation BY JIM HIGHTOWER kleptocrat nation \(klep to krat na thieves. 2. a government characterized by the practice of transferring money and power from the many to the few. 3. a ruling class of moneyed elites that usurps liberty, justice, sovereignty, and other democratic rights from the people. 4. the USA in 2003. The Kleptocrats have taken over. Look at America’s leadership todaynot just political, but corporate, too. Tell me you wouldn’t trade the whole mess of them for one good kindergarten teacher. Forget George W. for a moment and sneak a peek at practically any big-deal CEO, congressional heavy, media baron, talk-show yakker, pompadoured TV preacher, and the other pushers of America’s new ethic of grab-it-and-go greed. In a crunch, would you want to be tied at the waist to any of them? Yet, they’re in charge! Here we are, living in the wealthiest country in history, a country of boundless possibilities, a country made up of a people deeply committed to democratic ideals, a country with the potential for spectacular human achievementbut we find ourselves ruled \(politically, ecoconfederacy of Kleptocrats. When did you first realize or at least begin to suspect that America was lost? Not physically, of coursewe’re right here. Lost its way, is what I mean, having wandered from the brave and true path first pointed out by Tom Paine, T.J., Jimmy Madison, and several other good thinkers back around 1776a path toward a society focused not on empire, but on enlightenment and egalitarianism. We’ve never reached that glorious place, of course, but the important thing is that in our two-century sojourn we’ve been steadily striving to get there…and making progress. If any one thing really characterizes this big boiling pot of diversity dubbed “America,” it is that we’re a nation of strivers. Unfortunately, the cultural elites want to minimize this powerful virtue by reducing it to nothing more than individuals striving for material gain “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?” “How to Get Rich in the Next Half Hour!” “You Might Already Be a Winner.” Then they wonder why there’s such a gaping hole in America, an emptiness that can’t be filled by nonstop shopping, prepaid elections, more bunting, and reality TV. When the Powers That Be started defining a person’s value by the value of their stock portfolio, they lost America, for that’s not who we are. Don’t go calling us names like “Consumer” or “Stakeholder” when who we are is full-fledged, dyed-in-thewool, unbridled, rambunctious citizensindeed, we’re the ultimate sovereigns of this great land. We don’t merely strive for material gain, but also for the spiritual satisfaction of building community and reaping the deeper richness of the common good. The idea of belonging to something larger than our own egos and bank accounts, the idea of caring, sharing, and participating as a public is the BIG IDEA of America itself. As a boy growing up in Denison, I was taught this unifying, moral concept by hard-working, Depression-era parents who ran a small business in our town. They knew from experience and from their hearts what America is all about: “Everybody does better when everybody does better,” is how my old Daddy used to put it. The unforgivable transgression of today’s leaders is that they’ve abandoned this common wisdom of the common good and quit striving for that world of enlightenment and egalitarianism that the founders envisioned and that so many throughout our history have struggled to build. Instead, whether from the top executive suites or from the White House, the people in charge today are aggressively pushing a soulless ethic that shouts: “Everyone on your own, grab all you can, and if you’ve got enough money, secure yourself in a gated compound.” Not only are the Kleptocrats stealing our country from us, they’re stealing our democratic idealsthe very idea of America.And it’s time to take them back. How far have the elites moved from us? So far that even the moderates have lost their way. Take Sherwood Boehlert. 44 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 8/1/03