Citizen Action Monitor

Jill Stein, Margaret Flowers – Two activists on a path of positive resistance to transform American political system

“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty”

No 915 Posted by fw, November 19, 2013

“What’s so hopeful to me is seeing frontline communities all around the country, standing up and fighting for their rights. [Occupy] inspired others to stand up for their rights. So we see low wage workers all around the country standing up. And now states that are starting to pass minimum, raising their minimum wages. We see anti-foreclosure activists fighting back and people being able to stay in their homes…. These things are happening. They’re not covered in the mass media. They’re not funded by the big funders. But they’re happening in this country.”Margaret Flowers

“Things are changing. Things are moving, but not nearly as fast as they need to. But there are real successes here, despite this you know, this propaganda campaign that we’re powerless. We actually are powerful. And I think the name of the game is rejecting that mythology of powerlessness and seizing the power that we do have right now to turn this breaking point that we’re at, you know, into the tipping point that we must have to reclaim democracy in our future.”Jill Stein

In an inspiring 40-minute interview, Jill Stein and Margaret Flowers respond to Bill Moyers’ tough questions about the daunting challenges they face as citizen activist superstars. To watch the original broadcast and access the full transcript, click on the following linked title.  Or, below, watch the embedded video and read an abridged transcript with added subheadings, hyperlinks and text highlighting. Although the video is almost one hour in length, the Stein/Flowers portion concludes at about the 40:20-minute mark.

The Path of Positive Resistance, Moyers and Company, November 15, 2013

ABRIDGED TRANSCRIPT

[Introduction]

Between them, doctors Jill Stein and Margaret Flowers have been arrested nine times. In the face of injustice in America, rather than look the other way and stick to practicing medicine, they decided to do something about it.

Stein and Flowers serve as president and secretary of health, respectively, for the Green Shadow Cabinet, a new organization formed to speak out against dysfunctional government and offer alternative policies. Each fights against political corruption and a host of grievances that that have led many people to cynicism and despair.

This week on Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers speaks with Stein and Flowers about their personal journeys, what they have learned about our political system along the way and why they continue to fight the good fight.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. I once heard a longtime grassroots organizer say, “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” For Jill Stein and Margaret Flowers that idea has become the guiding star of their life’s journey. Through one experience after another, each saw that holding political office largely depends on having huge amounts of capital at hand, and that this perversity of democracy has enabled injustice to be fashioned into law and public policy, written by the anonymous hand of lobbyists on behalf of organized money. So rather than look the other way and stick to practicing medicine — both are doctors — they chose to resist. At first they took separate paths.

Margaret Flowers had been a pediatrician in rural Maryland whose work with everyday people, including the poor, compelled her to join the fight for single payer health insurance. She is on the board of advisors of the organization Physicians for a National Health Program and is a contributor to PopularResistance.org, a website advocating nonviolent direct action for justice.

Jill Stein graduated from Harvard Medical School, practiced as an internist in Massachusetts, and became so outraged by how politics adversely affected her patients that she became the Green Party candidate for president in 2012.

Inevitably, the paths of these two crossed. And in the proud tradition of American civil disobedience, they have joined hands to take on the system together, fighting against political corruption and a host of grievances that have led many others to cynicism and despair. Each is a member of the Green Shadow Cabinet, a group that offers policy alternatives to our dysfunctional government, and just days ago, they joined with the group NukeFree.org to present a petition to the UN — 150,000 signatures — asking the world to intercede at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

The American political system is incapable of functioning in the people’s interests

MARGARET FLOWERS: [The American political system is] completely incapable of functioning in our interests. And that it’s the tools, the traditional tools that people think of that they can use for political change don’t work any longer. And so, we are in a situation where we have to not look to any kind of leader to solve our problems.

We have to start solving our problems ourselves. And people are doing that all over the world and all over the country, are coming together, and not just resisting, but a very important piece of this is creating alternative systems that replace what we have now.

The system works for the economic elite on behalf of a tiny political elite

JILL STEIN: Right. It works for the economic elite and it works on behalf of the very small political elite. The major parties are bought and paid for by corporations and that’s who they serve. In health care, in the food system, in the military industrial, the prison industrial complex, you name it. It’s a very, it’s a powerfully reinforced firewalled system that serves its corporate sponsors.

So it’s very hard to move it. It’s very hard to move the political system. It’s a very tilted playing field. But when those fights come together, the social movement and the political movement, when they come together they really empower each other in a way that’s very exciting.

It’s an abusive political system of suicide, homicide, genocide, biocide, ecocide; it’s time to stand up and walk away

Voting very much matters. But, you know, really important to vote for what’s going to help us. And not to make these sort of lesser evil compromises. I think it’s really important to change the language here because what we call lesser evil, you know, we need to think of it in terms of what it really is. It is a system of suicide, homicide, genocide, biocide, ecocide. It’s not okay for us, our families, our children, the people close to you and you yourself.

There is a timeline that’s been pretty well established now by the science around climate change. Civilization, as currently constituted, will not exist as we know it in 2050. So we have a decade maybe to get this together. It’s a real motivating factor now I think for people to walk away, to get up and walk away from this very abusive political system. It’s like breaking up with an abusive relationship, recognizing that this partner you’ve had an incredible attachment to and hopes for and dreams for your whole lifetime, that it doesn’t work. You know, they’re not okay. They’re going to drive you to the grave. It’s time to stand up and walk away.

People have the illusion that voting is all it takes to participate in a democracy

MARGARET FLOWERS: We don’t live in a democracy in this country. We live in a mirage democracy….where people have the illusion that we’re participating in a process by voting.

It needn’t take too much of people’s time to get meaningfully involved in the democratic political process

JILL STEIN: The bigger point, is that we need to create those better choices, which is, you know, very much a part of what I do and where I came to, you know, in my struggle as a medical doctor and a mother. You know, trying to give our kids a fighting chance, you know, for a future and for health and so on.

But it’s not so hard to get involved. You can find out, you know, what are the independent, non-corporate third parties in your state. And you should get involved long before the election to find out who the candidates are and to promote them because if all the fed-up people who are walking in and holding their noses and holding their breath and, you know, crossing their fingers and their toes that this isn’t going to be a terrible thing to go into the voting booth.

If all those people, you know, who are so struggling with their consciences when they when they cast a vote, if they just, you know, put a little bit of time and effort into creating independent politics, we would have a completely transformed political system right now.

It’s a challenge for the Green Party to overcome the obstacles to political participation in an unfair system

And it takes a lot of push to get [the Green party] on the ballot in many of these states. There’s a real effort to silence us. We’re often at a disadvantage in trying to overcome these obstacles to political participation. So, you know, people, with a little bit of work on the web, you can find out where the Green Party is near you.

Even if it’s not on the ballot, you can write in a vote. I mean, there’re all kinds of ways to begin transforming the political process right now. And for people to know that we actually do have the political will, we have the muscle, we have the, you know, critical mass to actually make these transitions right now. You know, I think it helps people, you know, go to the bother of making those changes happen.

The Green Shadow Cabinet was created to show the electorate there’s a real alternative to the GOP and Dems

MARGARET FLOWERS: That’s a big part of why we formed the Green Shadow Cabinet as an alternative government project. It’s because right around the last election time, people kept saying, well, I know the Democrats stink. I know they’re doing the things I don’t want them to do, but I don’t see a real alternative. And we felt like we needed to create something concrete to show people that there are people in this country who have the expertise and the will to act in the interests of the public.

It has about 90 or so members right now. It’s still growing. And Jill is the president. I serve as the secretary of health. And it’s basically to create that alternative political dialogue because our political dialogue, it’s very restricted.

We hear the Republican and the Democrat, and they’re both way over here, when what the people want is really over here. And it’s not even allowed in the conversation.

We’ve created a news website as an alternative to the mass media which totally ignores the Green party

The mass media press is not going to cover this [Green] movement. They’re not covering it. I mean, there’s a very vibrant movement going on in this country right now. And that’s why we created PopularResistance.org. It’s a daily movement news site where we cover those protests. You’ll find news stories about protests that are going on in the United States and around the world, as well as informational articles about current events that you’re not going to hear in kind of, the mass media. And you can go there and find articles about what’s going on. If you want to start learning about strategy or how to organize in your community, there are tools for that.

If you want to connect with resistance groups, and we try to uplift the groups that are in the frontlines of struggle, that are actually taking on these challenges very effectively. You can plug into those or the alternative is create, creating alternative systems. We have information about that too.

3.5 percent of the electorate – that’s all it would take to transform the American political system

Over the past few years, we’ve really been working to figure out, okay, how do we change the political system in this country? How does social transformation occur? And there’s a lot of history and a lot of information and research about that. And so, what the latest data shows is that any nation where 3.5 percent of the population has gotten engaged, no government has been able to stand up to that. 3.5 percent is all we need.

There are many ways for people to get involved or lend support

It doesn’t have to be civil disobedience. People use the court system. You know, we work with people around the country that have been stopping foreclosures by challenging the banks and actually requiring them to show that they own those houses.

People are getting involved with their local schools and fighting back against school closings.

And you don’t have to, you know, you can go to your city council, your school board meetings and speak out there. Just informing yourself so that you’re aware of what’s actually going on. And that hopefully you can be supportive. If you see other people that are taking action, share it on your social media networks, talk about it. You know, just, there are many ways that people can show support.

Americans live in an elaborate hoax of a media and political system that serves the 1 percent

JILL STEIN: This government doesn’t pass the laugh test. For our government to be, both parties, to be looking to cut some Medicare and Medicaid at a time when people want to be strengthening those programs and actually taxing the rich and cutting back on the military, this is absolutely preposterous. So it’s wonderful that people are waking up to this and are ready. People have been ready for a long time.

One of my biggest wakeup moments in the political process was in my first campaign I was running for governor in Massachusetts. And there I was, suddenly in a debate. And saying just sort of the normal everyday things that we say to each other sitting around our dining room tables. And I found myself being voted the winner of the debate. And declared winner of the debate by many of the respectable news operations as well. And this light bulb went off in my head that we are not sort of the lunatic fringe that we are portrayed as.

That we who long for democracy, justice, sustainability, real communities, vibrant schools, jobs as a human right, health care as a human right, downsizing the military, these are not fringe ideas. These are really core to the American public.

But we live in this elaborate hoax of a media and political system. It really is a hoax that’s being perpetrated on us.

The rule is– betrayal. The rule is service to the 1 percent, to the campaign sponsors, whether you’re looking at health care, the Wall Street bailouts. $85 billion a month we are spending, continuing to bail out Wall Street in this quantitative easing so-called policy of the Fed, supported by the White House.

Which pours our resources into those who created the problem. It hasn’t worked. We’ve been doing quantitative easing for many years now. It’s not working except to make the stock market boom and to give, you know, investors all the more resources to create their bubbles and so on. But it’s not working for the economy.

You know, how about we bail out students who don’t have a future right now and make public higher education free, which in fact would pay for itself? We know that from the GI Bill investing in public higher education pays back $7 for every $1 invested. So there are good things. People agree with us. We can actually get this done.

Obama has failed to live up to his campaign promises

MARGARET FLOWERS: They [politicians] can say the right things, the things that you want to hear. But no politician has stood up and really held a hard line all the way to the end on any issue, on any of the important issues that we face.

And I think that there’s this thinking by elected officials that, well, if I compromise a little bit on this, at least I can stay in office and try again to do something good. And so, they just keep compromising.

President Obama campaigned on renegotiating NAFTA in a way that was more favorable, but instead is pushing through a more toxic trade agreement. And he’s doing worse things with the drones and murdering civilians than Bush did. And it’s confusing progressives because all of a sudden you have a Democratic president willing to even cut our basic social insurances that was kind of a pillar of the Democratic Party.

Obamacare is a scam, taking us farther away from where we want to be, leaving people confused

Even the single payer groups within the United States are confused by Obamacare because there’s so much marketing going on around it, that activists are not sure whether they should be supporting it or fighting against it.

And so, we really felt it was important to show that it fits all of the steps of a typical scam. And one of the major steps of a scam is that people that have been scammed feel good about it. They don’t realize that they were scammed. I mean, we’re forcing people to purchase private insurance. We’re pouring hundreds of millions, I think $1 billion went into setting up insurance exchanges in 15 states. And then hundreds of millions to hire people to go out and knock on doors and sell private insurance.

And then hundreds of billions to subsidize the purchase of that private insurance. Private insurance companies, we’re doing all of the work for them. And what are we getting in return? Really skimpy policies. We’ve lowered the bar on what is considered coverage in this country. And the insurance companies are restricting their networks so that people will be forced to go out of network and bear more of the cost if they have a serious accident or illness.

What we’re trying to show is that this is not a step toward single payer as people are being led to believe. This is actually increasing the privatization of our health care, increasing the corporatization of it. It is taking us farther away from where we want to be. It’s defunding our public insurances. It’s privatizing our public insurances. It’s a neoliberal economic policy.

And I keep telling people that the global south has come home. The neoliberal economic policy that we’ve waged all around the world of forcing countries to allow us to have our private corporations come in and take over their resources through our structural adjustment programs, forcing them to defund their public programs that have that same policy is being waged right here at home against us.

We have to look at the data. We’ve already used these type of plans at the state level numerous times. And every single time, they’ve failed as the costs become uncontrollable and they have to cut back on services or jettison people from the program. And ultimately they fail due to cost.

If you look at the provision that youth can stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26 years old what’s happened is that we had a 48 percent uninsured percentage of that population, 19 to 26 year olds. 48 percent were uninsured prior to that. Now it’s down to 41 percent. It’s only a 7 percent change. That’s not really that significant. That provision went into effect in 2010. And I think we can’t say that we cannot say that it’s already working because people are continuing to face financial barriers to care.

I mean, the one thing that was, to me, really concerning is that in 2012 when the provision kicked in saying that insurance companies had to cover preventative care, our health services did go up a little bit as people started getting checkups and preventative care. But what are they going to do now, when they’re diagnosed with cancer or a serious condition and they find that they can’t afford to get the care to treat it? That’s wrong.

People need to reject the myth of their “powerlessness” that the mass media beats into them

JILL STEIN: When you actually get into the communities who are disenfranchised, that’s a lot of America. And that America is ready to move. And when we start moving together, in fact, I’d say all we have to do is realize how numerous, strong and inspired we are. And then we are unstoppable. You know, in the words of Alice Walker, the biggest way people give up power is by not knowing we have it to start with. It’s by flicking that switch and rejecting the disempowerment that’s beaten into us every waking moment by every media source that surrounds us.

We actually are “powerful” – look around at the increasing numbers who are standing up for their rights

MARGARET FLOWERS: What’s so hopeful to me is seeing frontline communities all around the country, standing up and fighting for their rights.

And after the Occupy movement disbanded and people keep saying, oh, it’s gone, it went away. It didn’t go away. It inspired others to stand up for their rights. So we see low wage workers all around the country standing up. And now states that are starting to pass minimum, raising their minimum wages. We see anti-foreclosure activists fighting back and people being able to stay in their homes.

We see communities creating economic democratic or democratic economic institutions. And so that they can lift themselves out of poverty. These things are happening. They’re not covered in the mass media. They’re not funded by the big funders. But they’re happening in this country.

JILL STEIN: Things are changing. Things are moving, but not nearly as fast as they need to. But there are real successes here, despite this you know, this propaganda campaign that we’re powerless.

We actually are powerful. And I think the name of the game is rejecting that mythology of powerlessness and seizing the power that we do have right now to turn this breaking point that we’re at, you know, into the tipping point that we must have to reclaim democracy in our future.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog, Citizen Action Monitor, may contain copyrighted material that may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I claim no ownership of such materials. Such material, published without profit, is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues. It is published in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing.

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