Ellison Horne on American Experiment
Does your timely working draft, Renewing the American Experiment, ever resonate with me! What you are writing about can only serve to better understand the causes of this dysfunctional popular culture of modern America, and teach us how to turn it around. Thank you for sending it to me.
You’ve touched a nerve that reminds me of the words of James Garrison (New Orleans Attorney in the 1960s who investigated the Kennedy assassination) from an October 1967 Playboy interview :
“What worries me deeply… is that we in America are in great danger of slowly evolving into a proto-fascist state…. Its origins can be traced in the tremendous war machine we've built since 1945, the "military-industrial complex" that Eisenhower vainly warned us about, which now dominates every aspect of our life. The power of the states and Congress has gradually been abandoned to the Executive Department, because of war conditions; and we've seen the creation of an arrogant, swollen bureaucratic complex totally unfettered by the checks and balances of the Constitution….
In a very real and terrifying sense, our Government is the CIA and the Pentagon, with Congress reduced to a debating society. Of course, you can't spot this trend to fascism by casually looking around…. We won't build Dachaus and Auschwitzes; the clever manipulation of the mass media is creating a concentration camp of the mind that promises to be far more effective in keeping the populace in line.”
What you are doing, Dave, is helping us to better understand historically the underlying forces that continue to shape and control our social behavior in what can be described as a silent holocaust raging in this country. Messages from mass media that incite fear, cynicism, apathy, helplessness, instant gratification, blind consumption, relentlessly drone on in the social psyche where millions are systematically hypnotized by these messages—these stories—that enable a social dysfunction to thrive.
So many things you’ve state resonate deeply with me, especially the need for new stories. As you have stated,
“A story that embodies a flawed theory can be challenged successfully only by a more compelling story… We must integrate the practical and the visionary in stories that express our vision of the human possible and provide real answers to serious questions.”
In fact, I would add the means to communicate the stories is just as essential. We recently developed new language for the Solutions project that ties in perfectly with your powerful insights about the need for new stories. Just as you are heralding this call to respond, we are developing a comprehensive means to reach the public enabling them to share their stories. We now call it “Celebrating Solutions! The power of story, the possibility of change.” Our mission is to cultivate a solutions ecology by harnessing the forces of media and technology to share stories, foster connections, and inspire action for positive social change.
I also wanted to mention that early on in your paper you stated that the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, yet many of us know the ravages of slavery are still with us today in the form of racism. While it is true that over two million people are now held in prison in the United States an even greater number among the current population have been incarcerated at one time or another, and their right to vote taken away.
Although we could write pages on this issue, I was thinking it might be helpful to amplify a bit more your statement, “A young African-American male faces a greater prospect of going to prison than to college.” For example, the Justice Department reports that 1 in 8 black men in their 20s and early 30s were behind bars last year, compared with 1 in 63 white men. The chance of a black man going to prison in his lifetime is 1 in 3. This should be alarming to us all—the fact of a significant population never having the ability to influence public policy by a fundamental right to a vote.
Thanks again, Dave. I’m really excited about what you are doing by writing this. I hope you will include me as it continues to develop.
Posted January 16, 2004