The New American Story – March 8, 2018

The New American Story - March 8, 2018

The New American Story – March 8, 2018
March 08, 2018— Berkeley, California
Print friendly

WILLIAMSON: We’ve heard so much today, merciless attitudes towards refugees, lack of compassion towards the undocumented, by the way I have a problem with that phrase, just as no child as illegitimate, no one is undocumented in God's eyes. We heard about we heard about the sale of atrazine where the profit-making capacity of a chemical company, not just in the case of atrazine, but in so many chemicals, is placed above the health and well-being of our citizens and of our planet.

There are so many things that we know about like this now and it is very tempting to become reactive, and it's very important that we not just be reactive that we be responsive. Martin Luther King said we need a change in our circumstances that is quantitative, but we need a qualitative change in our souls. So what I want to talk to you about today is the change in our souls, is the fundamental shift in the sense of our own personhood that will allow us to deal with these issues. If we deal with all of them separately, we're just dealing with symptoms, whether it's atrazine or mass incarceration, criminal injustice, our attitudes towards refugees, our attitudes towards the undocumented, or any other symptoms such as that. If we want to deal this country heal this country we must heal it with an integrative approach and get down to the cause and when we get down to the cause we get down to the deeper story of America.

America is like a novel you can't just open it in the middle and know what this chapter means, who these characters are, where it fits into the larger narrative, unless you had read the earlier chapters. So let's talk about the beginnings of America. The beginning of this country was an extraordinary burst of light. It was an extraordinary burst of light not only in terms of the political movement forward that it represented, but in terms of the moral movement forward, the spiritual movement forward, because until the founding of this country, Western civilization was dominated by a monarchical and aristocratic paradigm. And within that paradigm the established social order deems a few people entitled.

When we were kids we were taught about the Sun King, that God had given power to the Sun King of France and then that power was to be shared, the king and the queen and their cronies you know the aristocracy, and those few people were entitled to land, those few people were entitled to education, those few people were entitled to wealth, those few people were entitled to wealth creation, those few people were entitled to self-actualization, those few people were entitled to dream, those few people were entitled to make their dreams come true and to have a sense that their children would be able to do that too. And everyone else, the majority of the people of those societies were basically little more than serfs.

With the founding of this country that entire paradigm was repudiated. In this country, the idea was not that God gave power to the king and the queen to be shared only with their friends in the aristocracy, but that all men were created equal. All men, all men were endowed by God with inalienable rights of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And it wouldn't just be a small group that would run things, but rather there would be e pluribus unum, that there would be many and out of that many there would be one and that the government would be on behalf of those people. And then later when Abraham Lincoln said that the government itself would broker her individual liberty rights with a concern for the common good for everyone and that the government would be of the people and by the people and for the people.

But before that, with the founders having established those incredibly enlightened principles for the first time in the founding of a nation, in the founding documents of a nation, and risking their lives, signing that Declaration of Independence was at risk of your life. If the war for independence had been won by the British, those people who signed that document would have been executed as traitors.

But the irony, the historical irony we all know well, we know that the same people that risk their lives to imbue those documents in the founding of this country with really not only were radically enlightened views 200 years ago, but which are still today radically enlightened views, we're aware how many of them were themselves slave owners. So it is built into our DNA. It was there from the beginning that we represent both the highest enlightened ideals and sometimes the basic basest human instincts.

So that dichotomy has always been with us, every single generation has had to deal with it. We have been both slave owner and we have been abolitionists. We had women not only not allowed to- to- to vote, not allowed to own anything any kind of property or any kind of money, yes we had that, but then we also had the women's suffrage movement and waves of feminism. We had institutionalized white supremacy and segregation, but then we also had the civil rights movement. We had gay people not having any particular rights and certainly not the right to marry, and then we had the gay rights and marriage equality movement. In other words ladies and gentlemen, we have been both as generation after generation the entire story of America- the entire political journey of America has been one in which there have been people whose hearts were on fire with the possibility with the gorgeousness of this dream of self-actualization being a possibility for everyone, and there have been people who have struggled, there have been people who've sacrificed, and there have been people who have died so that this could be true, and yet there have been in every generation just like in ours those who have said let's not.

And it's important that we identify that we had slavery, it's important that we identify that we gave women no rights, it's important that we identify that we had segregation and white supremacy, of course it's important that we identify the shadows of this country, of course it's important that we identify the dark side, of course it's important that we identify the problems, but let us identify with the problem solvers. That is what is important right now. We are not the first generation of Americans who have had to deal with the fact that America has gone off the rails because what has happened is we have subconsciously once again recreated the condition of aristocracy.

You can call it a corporatocracy, you can call it a plutocracy, you can call it an oligarchy, I don't care what you call it we have once again manifest the social system in which for all intents and purposes apparently just a few people are deemed entitled somehow to health care, entitled somehow to safety, entitled somehow to justice, entitled somehow to the goods of this country. Ladies and gentlemen, we're not the first generation to have to deal with this stuff, but let us not be the first generation to wimp out on doing the job it takes to get this country back on track.

What are those personal qualities? One is conviction. You know there aren't more people in this country in this world who hate than who love. Hardly, vastly more people who love than hate. The problem those in our country today and in the world is that those who hate hate with conviction. People who hate are serious about effectuating the changes that they want to see, and too often, those of us who love are kind of casual about it, really into it when it's convenient or we’ll show up every two years or every four years. The problem is not that we have more people who hate than love, the problem is not that we have more as FDR called them “economic Royalists” and then Bernie picked up that line as well, the problem is not that they're more of them then of those who love and those who are in love with the idea of mercy and the idea of justice and the idea of love and the idea of the possibility of infinite possibility, there aren't more of them than us. The issue is simply that those who hate hate with greater conviction.

Too often, conviction itself is a force multiplier. We have to love with seriousness. We have to love with a seriousness that knows that love of my own children is not enough to create a sustainable and survivable future. In order to create a sustainable survivable future, we have to realize that every child on this planet is one of our children and the earth itself is our home. We must love not only our own children, but every single child. We must make a- we must make a change that has to do with an emotional and a psychological and a spiritual shift that to me is very much in evidence in the shift from the anti-slavery person to the abolitionist.

What's anti-slavery mean? Anti-slavery means oh I would never live in a slave owning state. I think those states are crazy. I would never be a slave owner. If someone was anti-slavery and they had that attitude, that's very nice but that did not move the needle for one slave. The abolitionist, however, is somebody who is not just against slavery, the abolitionist is someone who lives with conviction and speaks with conviction and acts with conviction not on my watch. That is what we need in this country today ladies and gentlemen. We need more of us who, with conviction, are willing to realize that sometimes love says no.

And many people, Jews, African-Americans, there are a lot of people in this country, a lot of people in the world who know that this aristocratic archetype that is back, it is back, it is back this stuff is not new. And it was naive of us to ever think that somehow it was gone. You know, it is like- it's like somebody who has a herpes in their system. It's never going to be necessarily out of your bloodstream, but you try to keep it asymptomatic. It's not like racism we ever thought racism was gone, it's not like we ever thought homophobia was gone, it's not like we ever thought xenophobia was gone, it's not like we ever thought anti-semitism was gone. These things will not be gone until we have evolved as a human race to an enlightened state, but we thought in this country that we had reached a center where they were asymptomatic enough. We thought that we had reached a consensus on both the left and the right that those things would not be given emotional and psychological and technological and financial and political power that too often they are given now. And anybody who has any sense of history knows that at some point just as so often- just as with the Holocaust- we look at people and we go why didn't you leave? Why didn't you leave? Why didn't you do something?

Well they didn't do something because they didn't think it could actually happen there. You know, I visited Yad Vashem, which is the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, and they have a lot of extraordinary videos of films that were actually made in which it's very clear Hitler said what he was going to do. Everything that he did he said that he was going to do, and later Hitler said the only way they could have stopped us if they …if they had come at us swift and early and fiercely. Ladies and gentlemen, I got to tell you something about the new a rising up of a right wing and I mean far right, I mean alt-right, I mean authoritarian, I mean dictatorial, I mean fascist wave that is among us. We are really skipped, we already missed the boat on getting at it fast and fierce and- and early. We missed the fast and the early and the Swift and the fierce part. We have to do it now.

You know a lot of times people say I think we should actually have a love of democracy at the core, a love of democracy at the core of how we function. I don't think that the profits of chemical companies should be placed before the well-being of our children. You know one of the one of the issues that really got me was when Scott Pruett became the head of the EPA and then the new budget you know the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency that is now proposed would slash that budget by one quarter. And one of the first moves that he made one of the first moves that Mr. Pruett made was that there is a particular pesticide which every single environmental scientists that had been appointed during the Obama administration, every single scientist had said that this pesticide to be permanently banned because of the damage that we know it does to children's brains and developing nervous systems. One of the first things that Mr. Pruitt did was he overturned that ban saying that much as we heard for Mr. Haze tonight that the profit making capacity of Dow Chemical is somehow more important than the developing brains of our children. The idea that profit is placed before the health and well-being of our children, whether it has to do with fossil fuel companies, or whether it has to do with health insurance companies, whether it has to do with the private prison industry, no matter what it has to do with, what it what are we as a nation if we are not willing to stand up and say no?

You know there is a common anthropological characteristic of every advanced mammalian species that survives and thrives, and that is the fierce behavior of the adult female of that species when she senses there is a threat to her cubs. Whether you see it in the bear or you see it in the tiger or you're seeing it a lioness, they'll leave you alone unless they think you're coming after their cubs they'll come after you, and when we see a National Geographic special with the Mama bear acting that way or Tiger acting that way or lioness acting that way and she's coming after you fiercely, we don't say about the tiger or the bear of the lion, oh I think she's strident, I think she has anger issues. No no no no, and when you have a country when you have a country with American cubs, American children as threatened as they are a world in which 12,000 children are starving every single day, and there is no dearth of food and the fact that the adult female of our species is not standing up as much as we might in order to stop this, this is showing for all intents and purposes a species with no intent to survive.

But something is happening now there are people all over this world who look at Americans and think God we were sleep for a long time. When are Americans ever going to wake up? Yeah that's pretty much true of Americans, we are slow to wake up, but I'll tell you something those same people know this about us too. When we do wake up, we slam it like nobody's business, and that is what is starting to happen now, and for every American woman who leaves this place and says do you know about this chemical name atrazine and they're continuing to produce it and to manufacture it even though we know it does terrible hormone- hormone disruption and you leave and you say do you know I went to this TEDx Berkeley and I learned about what these undocumented kids are going through, I went to TEDx Berkeley and I learned about what some of these refugees are going through and it seems so merciless and our own parents and grandparents were refugees and American foreign policy created some of these situations to begin with, and you are met by people who go oh my god I've heard this before, are we gonna hear it from you again too? We're just trying to have dinner.

Listen, this is what you do at that time, let me tell you again do you know about this chemical called atrazine? This chemical called atrazine that we absolutely know is disrupting our hormones? And let me tell you about those undocumented workers, and then- and then if nothing else will work they'll do what they're doing now they'll call you a snowflake. I'll tell you what you say when they say either you've spent too much time in California or okay snowflake, you just look at them and you say damn right, and there's going to be an avalanche in November. Thank you.