CAN A MOVEMENT SAVE THE AMERICAN DREAM? There was a time when the American dream was more than just a lofty ideal. After World War II, it was a reality for millions of Americans—broadly shared prosperity that offered good jobs with decent wages, accessible and affordable healthcare, good education and the promise of a secure retirement for all. Though the promise often exceeded its performance, the possibility at least provided a way up. But as Institute for America’s Future President Robert Borosage and I explain this week in “The American Dream: Can a Movement Save It?” today’s failed economy and corrupted politics have imperiled every element of that dream. While the richest 1 percent absorb nearly a quarter of the nation’s income and control 40 percent of its wealth, hard-working middle-class Americans struggle to find decent jobs and pay for soaring costs of education and healthcare. Meanwhile, pensions are gutted, home values continue to plummet, and the cornerstone of America’s safety net—Social Security and Medicare—lie on the chopping block. And there’s little help from Washington: partisan bickering, gridlock and influence have saturated and stifled our politics.
Like the progressive battles fought over the last century—from the trustbusting days of the robber baron era to the New Deal, and more recently the civil rights, antiwar, women’s, gay rights and environmental movements—it will take a truly popular uprising to save the American Dream, one unlike the faux populism of the corporate-backed Tea Party Movement. Van Jones of Green For All has joined MoveOn.org, the Campaign for America’s Future, The Center for Community Change and dozens of other progressive organizations to challenge the reign of private interests under the umbrella of the American Dream Movement to mobilize energy for widespread progressive organizing. On October 3, activists from across the country will gather in Washington at the Take Back The American Dream Conference to push for an agenda that has broad support and represents the real priorities of America’s middle class: jobs, growth, investment in infrastructure and education, tax reform and the rebuilding of our basic social contract and safety net that once gave a path to prosperity for millions of Americans. As Reverend King once said, “I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream.” The time has come to make his dream, our dream, a reality once again.
LETHAL INJUSTICE. On Wednesday, September 21, the state of Georgia executed Troy Anthony Davis for a murder of a police officer in 1989 that witnesses now say he did not commit. As we argue in this week’s lead editorial, the tenuous case against Davis—an African-American man convicted of murdering a white police officer in a Southern state—has awakened Americans to a vicious system that thrives on racism and condemns the innocent to die. It is a relic of injustice that must be abolished once and for all. As our collective attention was focused on Jackson, Georgia that tragic night, The Nation’s executive editor Richard Kim was live-blogging the dramatic developments at TheNation.com late into the evening. Be sure to read the compelling account of the events here. And associate editor Liliana Segura’s article about Georgia’s cruel use of sodium thiopental to kill Emmanuel Hammond earlier this year is a must-read. She joined Countdown with Keith Olbermann on Thursday night to explain why Davis’s execution should change the way we conceptualize the death penalty, law and justice.
IRAN HIKERS FREED. We were both delighted and relieved to receive word this week that Nation writer Shane Bauer and his friend Josh Fattal have been released from prison in Iran, following an announcement by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this month that he would pardon and release the two students. Bauer, Fattal and friend Sarah Shourd were arrested by Iranian soldiers two years ago while hiking along the Iran-Iraq border and accused of trespassing and espionage. Shourd was released but Bauer and Fattal were convicted in August and sentenced to ten years in prison. We watched with joy as Bauer and Fattal embraced family members upon their release and exodus to Oman. Our hearts go out to Bauer, Fattal and their family and friends. Executive editor Richard Kim reflects, “I’ve been thinking a lot about Shane throughout the Arab Spring. Fluent in Arabic, he was based in Damascus before his arrest. Among the many things lost to his incarceration is undoubtedly some excellent, insightful reporting from that part of the world. I can’t wait to make him an assignment.”
TIME FOR OUTRAGE: INDIGNEZ-VOUS! I’m honored to join the stage with 93-year-old former diplomat and hero of the French Resistance Stéphane Hessel, who will be in New York next week for a special event at the Maison Française at Columbia University on Tuesday, September 27. The event will feature a special conversation with the resistance leader, concentration camp survivor and one of France’s most eminent diplomats about his best-selling pamphlet, Indignez-Vous! (Time for Outrage), which sold nearly 2 million copies in France and millions more worldwide since its publication in October 2010. The Nation was proud to publish the pamphlet for the first time in the United States in March. We’re delighted that Twelve Books has signed on as its American publisher and is bringing this timely cri de coeur to a larger American audience. Hessel’s impassioned call-to-arms reminds us that life and liberty must still be fought for, and urges us to reclaim the essential rights that have eroded in recent decades. Be sure to listen to NPR’s interview with Hessel about his fascinating life and inspiration behind the book.
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