- Levees Not War - http://www.leveesnotwar.org -

Now Entering 2011: Wishes + Promises for the New Year

[1]“Here and now I want to make myself clear about those who disparage their fellow citizens on the relief rolls. They say that those on relief are not merely jobless—that they are worthless. Their solution for the relief problem is to end relief—to purge the rolls by starvation. To use the language of the stock broker, our needy unemployed would be care for when, as, and if, some fairy godmother should happen on the scene.

“You and I will continue to refuse to accept that estimate of our unemployed fellow Americans. Your Government is still on the same side of the street with the Good Samaritan and not with those who pass by on the other side.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, draft of “New Deal” speech accepting Democratic party nomination (1932); facsimile in When Art Worked: The New Deal, Art, and Democracy [2] (Rizzoli, 2009), p. 20

*

We wish you our readers a good new year in 2011: good luck, steady employment, safe travels, fun with family, and all those good things. We also wish for all a government both at the local and state level and at the national level that takes care of its people—particularly the poor and powerless. This is never the “given,” but the ideal we strive for.

Just as FDR in July 1932 pledged to the nation “a new deal for the American people” (see below), we on a much more modest level promise persistent efforts to push public officials to protect the people, the land, the nation with investments in infrastructure, environmental stewardship, public health and education programs, and so on—and to end the wars that are wasting our nation’s energies and resources, especially our human resources. (Yes, we have our work cut our for us, but we’re not alone.)

“We Must Rebuild Our Strength Here at Home”

So much remains to be done. As ever, we hold that “National Security Begins at Home.” We believe that deep down our president understands this, but he is pushed and driven by powerful forces insisting on War Forever. As Obama said at West Point [3] in December 2009, “we must rebuild our strength here at home . . . . the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.” We’re not sure how sincerely he meant that—or his semi-pledge to draw down troops from Afghanistan in July 2011—but we mean to hold him to his words.

We also mean to support the president when we can (actively, vocally), to give him the progressive backing to be all he can be. We want to help him because the opposition he’ll be facing in the new 112th Congress is likely to be incessant, poisonous, and directly opposed to the humane ideals that the Democratic Party at its best represents—values expressed above by President Roosevelt and stated eloquently the official version of his nomination acceptance speech [4] at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in July 1932:

As we enter this new battle, let us keep always present with us some of the ideals of the Party: The fact that the Democratic Party by tradition and by the continuing logic of history, past and present, is the bearer of liberalism and of progress and at the same time of safety to our institutions. And if this appeal fails, remember well, my friends, that a resentment against the failure of Republican leadership . . . to solve our troubles may degenerate into unreasoning radicalism. . . .

What do the people of America want more than anything else? To my mind, they want two things: work, with all the moral and spiritual values that go with it; and with work, a reasonable measure of security–security for themselves and for their wives and children. Work and security—these are more than words. They are more than facts. They are the spiritual values, the true goal toward which our efforts of reconstruction should lead. . . .

Our Republican leaders tell us economic laws—sacred, inviolable, unchangeable—cause panics which no one could prevent. But while they prate of economic laws, men and women are starving. We must lay hold of the fact that economic laws are not made by nature. They are made by human beings.

Yes, when—not if—when we get the chance, the Federal Government will assume bold leadership in distress relief. For years Washington has alternated between putting its head in the sand and saying there is no large number of destitute people in our midst who need food and clothing, and then saying the States should take care of them, if there are. Instead of planning two and a half years ago to do what they are now trying to do, they kept putting it off from day to day, week to week, and month to month, until the conscience of America demanded action.

I say that while primary responsibility for relief rests with localities now, as ever, yet the Federal Government has always had and still has a continuing responsibility for the broader public welfare. It will soon fulfill that responsibility. . . .

I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people. Let us all here assembled constitute ourselves prophets of a new order of competence and of courage. This is more than a political campaign; it is a call to arms. Give me your help, not to win votes alone, but to win in this crusade to restore America to its own people.

[5]

Share on Facebook [6]Share on Twitter [7]Share on Tumblr [8]+1 [9]Digg This [10]Submit to reddit [11]Pin it on Pinterest [12]Share via email [13] Share