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The World Can't Wait

Russ Baker

November 01, 2005

 Investigative reporter and essayist Russ Baker is a longtime contributor to He is the founder of the Real News Project, a new organization dedicated to producing groundbreaking investigative journalism. He can be reached at

Patrick Fitzgerald’s indictment of Scooter Libby for lying about how he learned of the Valerie Plame affair is an interesting and important development. But the narrowness of that focus, absent further developments, shows again the limitations of “the system” in confronting the sheer magnitude of an entire government subverted, and with it a proud people, from all that we once revered.

For those disturbed by the deceit and the intrigues, the reckless warmongering, the wholesale looting of the common trust to benefit the privileged, the clampdown on rights and liberties, the unconscionable enthusiasm for torture, the embracing of a Know-Nothing attitude toward science, the hastening of environmental collapse, the buying of the legislative process and the neutering of the judicial one, waiting for indictments is no longer sufficient.

One difficulty with opposing the current malefactors of power is that they are so venal, so mean-spirited, so incompetent on so many fronts that it’s hard to focus the public’s attention on the true magnitude of the threat, which dwarfs any single instance of wrong-doing, as egregious as this or that outrage may be.  Essential to any successful anti-Bush campaign is the constant reminder that the president and his cronies are dangerous across the board, from the selection of a science textbook in a small town in Kansas to the mobilization of the “shock and awe” war machine for political purposes.

What to do? Tomorrow, on the one-year anniversary of George W. Bush’s contested re-election victory, many Americans will go the direct action route, taking off from work and from school to make their voices heard and their faces seen.

At locations throughout the country, gatherings and marches will sound a wake-up call. Some of those endorsing “The World Can’t Wait: Drive out the Bush Regime” are Gore Vidal, Cindy Sheehan, Cornel West, Studs Terkel, Alice Walker and Harold Pinter. But in such times, of course, you don’t need celebrity endorsements.

It’s possible that the turnout will be underwhelming. It is possible that these events will make no difference at all. Many former activists find themselves discouraged by the prospects of direct expression, or are just too busy—or too comfortable.

But then again, the world has copious examples, from Argentina to Ukraine, where crowds gathered, and chanted or banged pots, and began to change history. Perhaps this will be the beginning of a return to the honored tradition of democracy speaking directly.

Increasingly, we’re seeing signs that the American public is fed up. Polls show Bush’s approval ratings at near-record lows. And a combined and weighted set of fifty statewide surveys from SurveyUSA  shows that just 29 percent of American adults think the country is going in the right direction. A remarkable 66 percent think it is going in the wrong direction. And given all the red state/blue state rhetoric, it’s particularly striking that in not a single state do 50 percent of adults believe the country is on the right path. And in 25 states, fewer than 30 percent of adults think so.

We’ve seen growth of a variety of protests from mainstreamers, including the families of those who have died or been injured in Iraq. Even the iconic soccer moms and NASCAR Joes are leavening the mix with the more eccentric birds of plumage who usually come out. And to be sure, the vanguard of popular movements often includes some more strident and conspiracy-minded elements whose viewpoints don’t necessarily reflect the broader sentiments.

As for tomorrow: One day will not in and of itself a difference make. But it could be the invitation to the dance, the tantalizing seeds for a gradual mass awakening, a slumbering beast beginning to rouse itself. 

In New York City, participants will gather at noon in Union Square, and then march up 8th Ave. But essentially, the organizers are asking people, wherever they live, to skip work, skip classes and converge on public spaces, from town squares to major downtowns. For those interested, more information can be found at

Recent examples of civic participation at its best include nationwide vigils held last week in recognition of the 2,000-troop death milestone. And we’re seeing, thanks to the Internet, a rapid growth in petition campaigns on a host of issues. With the spectacle of Rosa Parks, a woman who wouldn’t get up from a bus seat, lying in honor this weekend in the Capitol Rotunda, we’re reminded that there’s scarcely a more honorable pursuit than putting one’s principles into action.



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