How We Got Here & What NEEDS to Happen: watch “An Unreasonable Man”

Early 2000.

Florida, on orders of Secretary of State Katherine Harris, contracts Choicepoint to create and update a “Felons List” to be used to prevent convicted felons from voting in the Florida 2000 presidential elections. Their $4 million contract calls for that company to telephone verify that the list is correct. On directions of the Secretary of State, that part never occurs.

Few knew of Enron’s shaky finances at the time it became number one contributor to the George Bush campaign. Earlier, Jeb Bush had Florida state employee pension fund invest heavily in Enron stock, a move which helped finance his brother’s run to the White House, but later cost thousands to lose their savings. In effect, Florida retirees paid for the distorted results of the 2000 election, which, for many, has since taken on the dimensions and results of a coup d’etat.

November 2000.

For the first time in US history, no presidential decision is announced after Election Day. The nation is in paralysis.

Counts. Recounts, the answer changes. Pregnant chads, hanging chads, butterfly ballots, a new vocabulary to describe flawed election practices rules the news. Still no decision.

In the midst of heavy pre-election presidential campaigning, then Miami-Dade county mayor, Alex Penelas flies off to Spain, never once appearing on behalf of “his party’s” candidate, Gore.

Tens of thousands of Floridians, mostly black, go to the polls only to be told they cannot vote because they are not registered: their names appear on the “Felons List.” Ninety percent of that list is false. No one defends them. No one even finds out this has happened for months. Ballots show up in dumpsters in Central Florida. The recount in Miami-Dade is stopped by “angry citizens” who really are Republican operatives flown in for the event.

Even with tens of thousands of citizens claiming unlawful disenfranchisement, along with thousands of questionable ballots, Katherine Harris, Florida Secretary of State and Bush Campaign chair, declares George Bush winner of all Florida electors with 537 vote margin.

December 2000.

Florida Supreme Court orders recount of all votes. US Supreme Courts stops recount, giving victory to George Bush. Black Congressional representatives question the seating of Florida’s delegates. Gore blocks their efforts.

Dismayed, angry Democrats blame…Ralph Nader for putting a determined, yet ill-prepared, inarticulate demagogue into the White House.

Nader, who for more than forty years contributed to the betterment of law and life in the US, becomes the scapegoat for a fixed election and badly flawed campaign in a race where both major parties conspired to keep his candidacy and important thoughts out of the presidential debates and politics.

2007.

The Film “An Unreasonable Man” examines the life and actions of Ralph Nader, which led him to become one of America’s “most trusted” men, and those conditions which eventually led him to run for the presidency. Get to know the selfless and dedicated life of a man many came to call an “egoist” and the cause of our current ills.

Advocates and critics both contribute to this unique story of a unique and highly principled man, who seeks nothing less that an aware, active citizenry prepared to bring about a re-birth of democracy in this land by taking political power back into the citizens’ hands, away from corrosive and all-consuming corporate control. The Corporate super-concentration of the media in this land make this task and this message all the harder.

It is in fact, the colluded silencing of Nader and of the popular and Green movement who he represented, that has led us to the present impasse in Congress today. We have today representatives that can look the highest crimes in our history in the eye and not bat an eyelid. It is precisely this current scenario of a Congress incapable of saying “No!” to its corporate funders to the point of taking the US to the brink of permanent war, torture and potential dictatorship, that the Nader/Green candidacy and campaign efforts attempted to forewarn and forestall.

Those who today express deep concern and distress about the nature and direction of our current government, with its lack of representation, accountability and backbone and the deteriorating state of our rights, should have seen and heeded the warning signs in Boston when Massachusetts state police, on orders for the Republican and Democratic Parties “running” the Debates, physically removed Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader from the location of the Debates where he was intending to merely watch so he could give later commentary to the networks.

It is a scene of police power enforcing the corporate decision about Who Gets To Speak (or even Watch). The police would not allow Ralph to speak or defend himself, threatening him with arrest. This scandalous, illegal, immoral, and antidemocratic act should have shocked the nation. Instead, this story was barely mentioned in the so-called “mainstream” press.

This was an attack on the people’s rights to be represented or to have opinions which differ from the corporate agenda.

This opening salvo in the War on America was not considered “newsworthy.” You can now witness live footage of this shameful event, which until now has never reached American TV screens, in “An Unreasonable Man” this week in an Independent Lens production on PBS. Seven years late.

America has come to a troubling historic crossroads through decades of machinations and power-grabs, where the power of people and its democratic institutions has been consistently diluted or ignored and the power of corporations ever-increased, too often through fraud or deceit, to the point of privatizing nearly everything, including our military. During this there have been hundreds, if not thousands of warning signs along the way.

There is indeed, something very disturbing in a society which can miss ALL the signs of trouble, and yet seek to place blame for these ills precisely upon an individual and a movement attempting to warn us and to show us how to change directions before it is too late. We need to get grounded in our reality to find a vision and way out.

This week.

On this December 18th, on the very day the FCC is poised to give corporate print media outlets further unprecedented access to TV and radio — against the wishes of the majority of American people and the Congress — PBS presents a film on the life and struggle of Ralph Nader, “An Unreasonable Man.”

You owe it to yourself to watch.

In my home town of Miami, the program airs Tuesday, 10 pm on WPBT, Channel 2. It re-airs on Thursday at 1:00 am.

You can find other listings through: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/guide.html

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