He began his missive by harkening back to the halcyon days of the Civil Rights movement and contrasted the spirit of that age with the “…sense of hopelessness so many Americans have been feeling as the nation is confronted with one enormous and seemingly intractable problem after another. The helplessness is beginning to border on paralysis.” He points out, fairly enough that the country remains sunk in “…the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.” He hits the nail squarely on the head, moreover, when he remarks, “The government’s finances resemble a Ponzi scheme.”
Herbert begins skating on thin ice, however, when he attempts to address the causes of the current discontents and the public response to the unpleasantness. He says, “Americans have tended to watch with a remarkable and frightening degree of passivity as crises of all sorts have gripped the country and sent millions of lives into tailspins.” Herbert then returns to those thrilling days of yesteryear, stating, “Where people once might have deluged their elected officials with complaints, marched for social justice, and created brand new civic organizations to fight for things they believed in, the tendency now is to assume that there is little or nothing ordinary individuals can do about the conditions that plague them.”
The commentator next turns to the reason for this sense of hopelessness. He argues that a combination of a refusal to shoulder responsibility, and the old liberal chestnut, a supposed lack of compassion account for this startling development. “The passivity and sense of helplessness most likely stem from the refusal of so many Americans to acknowledge any sense of personal responsibility for the policies and choices that have led the country to such a dismal state of affairs and turn their backs on any real obligation to help others who are struggling.” Yes, we really blew it! If we had only elected Walter Mondale to the presidency back in 1984 none of this would have happened!
In this same vein Mr. Herbert accuses his countrymen of suspending critical faculties and ignoring reality. “Being an American has become a spectator sport. Most Americans watch the news the way you’d watch a ballgame or a long running television series, believing that they have no more control over important real life events than a viewer would have over a coach’s strategy…” If this assertion is true then why does the White House fear Fox News?
The good doctor concludes his diagnosis with a stirring call to arms. After chiding the country for timidity, complacency and wrong headed thinking, he remarks, “We will not be pulled from this morass without a big effort from an active citizenry, and that means a citizenry fired with a sense of mission and the belief that their actions, in concert with others, can make a profound difference.” He urges folks to get involved by arranging meetings, networking with like-minded individuals, and taking an active role in civic affairs. After outlining this Roman republican ideal, Herbert informs his readers, “…the need is great, and that’s how you change the world.”
It may come as a surprise to Bob Herbert, David Brooks, Maureen Dowd and all the NYT staff that what Herbert recommends as a cure for our ills is actually taking place all over this great land of ours. Someone should tell all the gang at 42nd Street that the “Tea Party” movement, the gun rights groups, and the 10th Amendment associations are all alive, well and organizing, while they implement the game plan that Herbert advocates, presumably for the other side.
Since the Obama inauguration in January and the revelation of the Administration’s wild spending plans and its far left-socialist agenda the “Tea Party” (TEA=Taxed Enough Already) movement and the other groups have engaged in everything that Bob Herbert spells out in his column. They have deluged their elected representatives with complaints via e-mail, FAX messages, and petitions they’ve marched for justice on the immigration, gun rights, health care, and fiscal restraint issues, and they’ve created brand new civic organizations to fight for the things they believe in like fidelity to the Constitution. The Tea Partiers are a classic example of Herbert’s vaunted active citizenry fired with a sense of mission and belief in the correctness of their actions and the conviction that they can make a difference.
By any standard of measurement the aforementioned groups are made up of concerned citizens who fit perfectly into the Roman or Athenian ideal of an informed society able to participate intelligently in public affairs. Yet, who dismisses these people as ignorant sheep, yokels, rabble-rousers, or quacks? Yes, it is the likes of Bob Herbert and his colleagues at the New York Times. While countless millions of Americans are actively resisting the Democratic Party and their socialist agenda the NYT simply dismisses them as mindless robots, talk radio addicts, or nutcases.
The Times, the grand dame of American journalism, once proudly proclaimed that it covered “All The News That’s Fit To Print”. It is time to find out whether this is still the case. I urge Bob Herbert, his co-workers, and his bosses to attend a Tea Party and to report what they see. Mr. Herbert and company will find out for themselves that the old American spirit that they fear disappearing is actually alive and very well!