Brazil just outlawed big money within politics because it was retarding the system. Why can’t we? Hell, bribery within politics used to be illegal. Unfortunately, ever since the Supreme Court made bribery legal in probably the most atrocious decision in its 226-year history (Citizens United), every entity from foreign corporations to so-called Super PACS can now flood our political process with cash to advance their own agenda like a game show. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. The U.S. can hardly call itself a democracy anymore. The U.S. is an oligarchy now, ruled by the billionaires for the billionaires. Only Bernie Sanders is addressing this.
So what can we do?
Progressive bluegrass star/hippie hero Peter Rowan has teamed up with Americana artists Donna The Buffalo on a tour they call “The Stampede.” At every show, special stamps are sold for $5 that say stuff like “Not To Be Used For Bribing Politicians.” Rubber-stamping messages on currency isn’t a new idea, but it’s an effective one. Consider it a political billboard. Every time you stamp a bill and send it out into circulation, it will be seen by 875 people. If 3,000 folks stamped three bills a day for a year, it will create 2.8 billion impressions as more and more of the bills circulate. It’s legal. It’s satisfying. It’s grassroots activism like back in the day.
Funded in part by Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, the tour will hit The Highline Ballroom in New York, NY on November 12. “Together,” says Cohen, “we can create a stampede that Congress can’t ignore. Some people say that a constitutional amendment is impossible, but nearly every generation has amended the Constitution to protect and expand our democracy. This is our generation’s fight to win.”
So go for it.
This kind of activism makes me nostalgic for the late ‘60s/early ‘70s. When I went to Essex County Community College downtown Newark in ’69 and ‘70, we brought the school to its knees with our demands. We threw garbage at the Board of Directors meeting one afternoon at the Branford Theater so they wouldn’t pass what we deemed a racist incentive to construct a lily-white liberal-arts school in West Orange. This would mean the Newark campus would be used as a cheap source of labor. We might have been off in our thinking but the sense of brotherhood within us propelled us to throw that garbage and y’know what? Although we all got kicked out of the Branford, they never did pass that resolution to construct that West Orange campus. At least not on that day.
We locked ourselves in the dean’s office overnight too. I know it sounds cliché but yeah, we sat there in the dark all night thinking we were affecting change. I was lost in thought and I remember it like it was yesterday. “Are we really going to have a revolution?” “You mean, like with guns?” “No way!” “We’re all too stoned!”
Plus we picketed. We blocked the entrance to the school. We held hands with strangers in DC singing John Lennon songs. It all sounds so quaint now. My involvement atrophied when I saw the leader of our protest—so charismatic when he spoke in his dashiki and huge afro hairstyle—in the bathroom at the end of the semester sticking a needle in his arm. So much for revolution.
But that was then and this is now. “Citizens United” must be overturned. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. And an apple a day keeps the doctor away.