In this age of political disillusionment, the greatest threat to the republic is not rampant corruption itself, but rather the widespread feelings of powerlessness in the face of that corruption.
You hear it time and again from citizens of every stripe. In one manner of speaking or another, they are saying the same thing. What can one person possibly do considering what we're up against? How can people overcome the power of all that money?
You can exercise all five rights granted to all of us by the First Amendment. Those rights aren't worth a thimble full of spit unless they are used. So you can speak up. Enemies of democracy are seeking to commercialize speech and make political participation prohibitively expensive for all but a few, making it more important than ever for us to be creative and find ways to make our voices heard. OK, you can’t afford to buy television air time, but you can text and you can tweet and you can blog.
At the same time, it’s important to remember the First Amendment doesn’t only guarantee the right to free speech. It guarantees freedom of the press. With newspapers dying and other traditional media increasingly falling under the control of a handful of plutocratic masters, it is essential that we create our own means of spreading the word and engaging each other in the conversation of democracy. The right to assemble and petition your government is guaranteed. You can do those things. We’ve seen a lot of that lately here in Wisconsin. Freedom of religion is guaranteed. You can worship as you see fit, or you can reject worship altogether. As the forces of theocracy assert themselves in our government, it is all the more important that we exercise freedom of religion, which includes fighting against any state establishment of religion.
More than anything, you can do what Cesar Chavez advised us all to do: Talk to one person. We’re all taught at a young age not to discuss two things in polite company – religion and politics. We need to talk politics with one another. It is often uncomfortable. So it takes courage. But it is where real change begins.