This was the first column Brian wrote in the 12-year run of his weekly column, “Let’s Have At It.” It was originally published by The Appleton Press on December 3, 2003.
My first column in The Appleton Press must include a thank you to editor Leslie Ehrenberg and the Johnson family. Why do it? When I told my wife, Janine, about this venture, she replied, with as much sarcasm as her gentle soul could muster: “Sure, you have nothing else to do with your time!”
True, my plate is usually full to slopping over. I am one of those fortunate folks who loves his work — pursuing justice for people seriously injured, or families who have lost loved ones, by the negligence of others.
I am also proud and humbled to be the current chair of CURE, our local, non-profit environmental advocacy group that is pursuing no less than restoration of clean waters in our Upper Minnesota River Watershed.
Add on the seminar speaking and work for our Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association, and you get a calendar covered with ink. Oh yes, my kids and grandkids know who I am.
I’m certainly not the lone ranger in this community in being very busy. The salient purpose of this column is to encourage you, my fellow citizens, to become more politically aware and engaged.
Since I began studying and watching our America just over 30 years ago as a political science major at St. John’s University, I have never been more alarmed about its direction.
Too many of the crucial decisions for our society and planet are being made by a powerful few. It seems that greed has an open season in our country, at the expense of everyday people, and the clean air, water and earth necessary for our physical and spiritual survival.
Whining, pretending to be powerless, and caring about nothing but you or your immediate family, is a peasant mentality that allows the greedmongers to prey on us. Even if all one cares about is the immediate family, what kind of planet are we letting the greedmongers foist on them, your children and their children for generations to come? How will they look back at us? Let’s stand up, face them and have at it.
For decades this society has been propagandized with a message of “government is bad.” Of course, those financing the sale of this message ripped off billions of our wealth in the Savings and Loan crisis, and the more recent investment scandal rip-offs.
A central purpose of government is to protect and regulate the commons, the collective wealth that we should all have the right to share responsibly. This includes the economic common wealth and the ecological common wealth that it is based upon.
If Teddy Roosevelt hadn’t stood up to the railroad and banking trusts, and if unions hadn’t stood up and stopped children working seven 12-hour days a week in coal mines, where would we be? Where would we be without passage and true enforcement of America’s Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act for the last several decades? In a much nastier and terribly more polluted world.
This old battle has never stopped in America. It’s the community telling powerful individuals and small groups (corporations) “enough with your greed.”
I also intend this column to celebrate some of the beauty that is around us in the people and places of this little corner of the planet. As James Taylor sang it, “the sacred, green wet one” that we live on.