To My Pop Cultural Brethren
I'm running for Congress in California in 2008 and I'm asking for your help.
Among the assumptions I've always made in life has been that each of us Americans is a worker in a common cause. It was the job of each of us to make sure everyone for whom we were responsible had a chance to get a good education, had a chance to grow up healthy, had the chance to create a life as fulfilling and accomplished as it was in his or her soul to make it. Save the whales and the rest of us. To start with, each of us had roughly an equal shot and we lived our lives freely in pursuit of whatever we felt happiness to be.
Then, lately, a new thing began to happen. My country started to slip out from under my feet.
Now, in my fifties, I suddenly live in a country where people are born not to privilege or opportunity, but to enormous debt. The mind-spinning wealth that we still generate has been redistributed upward so few of us reap the benefits of a still increasingly productive system. Risk has been socialized while profit has become individualized. When you've got a strong, prosperous middle class you have a forward-thinking, innovative business community. When the middle class is under social and economic assault as it is today, the inevitable result is social torpor and political extremism. We approach a condition where a small group of enormously wealthy people are served by a growing community of servants, and opportunity is a foreign notion. And when anyone anywhere notices this out loud he is immediately accused of being a “class warrior” or a “blame-gamer” or a “conspiracy theorist” or some such centrally generated piece of tripe talk.
If there's really a conspiracy behind a thing, then it's no longer a theory.
The 24th district in California takes up most of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, just north and west of Los Angeles. Currently -- and for the past twenty-odd years -- a man named Elton Gallegly represents the district in Congress. Elton has generally been a reliable, if lackluster, operative of the conservative agenda. He supports tax cuts for people earning over 200-thousand dollars a year, and has voted to make those tax cuts, including the elimination of the estate tax, permanent. He voted to declare the war in Iraq part of an ongoing war on terror without an end date, and against earmarking funds to provide troops in the field either with armor or bomb-safe personnel transports. His votes are consistently anti-labor, with a 7 percent AFL-CIO rating, including completely de-funding OSHA's ability to enforce workplace safety regulations. He supports making the so-called Patriot Act permanent, and as far back as 1996 he voted to deny the right of habeus corpus in appeals of convictions. His rating from NARAL is actually 0%: he opposes funding for health care providers who give counsel on abortion, and opposes all stem cell research. He buys the whole package.
I'm running to oppose this guy, and I plan to win. This time, I'm going to make very clear who I am and who I've been. “Truth, justice and the American way” is my personal torah and I'll say so everywhere I go. I'm asking the community of people who have, over the years, shared my thoughts and many of my values, to get this thing started.
It makes me very sad to see a generation of Americans coming of age, many of whom are never exposed in the public forum to traditional American values: doing right for its own sake, being responsible to a common spiritual authority, striving to create a world where opportunity truly is equal for all and where all of us -- even the jaded -- consider integrity a virtue.
Those of us who have worked in the fantasy and speculative fields tend, maybe for our own protection, to draw a very sure line between fantasy and reality. We don't often think of ourselves as a community, as a group who have certain beliefs in common, but we do. We all believe in imagination. We all value intellectual curiosity. In a time when the absence of such virtues has propelled us to disaster upon disaster, it is up to us to bring the American character back to America.
I need lots of things from you guys -- and some of you may be in a position to help me out with some but not other things. Primarily I need (1) campaign contributions from the grass roots -- lots of them for five or twenty or a hundred dollars, (2) people who can volunteer an hour or a day or a month of their time in California or on the phone to help gather support, especially later on, and (3) right now, we need you to talk among each other and to everyone you might know who can be of help in any way.
I've always said -- I've always told all of us, every chance I got -- that the best way to get any ball rolling in America is through word-of-mouth among the biggest flapping mouths you can find, and that the place to find them is among pop culture fans. We were the people, after all, who first believed that a man could fly and that with great power comes great responsibility.
Well I've got another campaign for you. I hope you're ready.