Four years ago I voted for Obama primarily because of his foreign policy stance: While he had pledged to bring our troops home from Iraq upon taking office, his opponent seemed to be itching to start yet another land war in Asia, glibly altering an old Beach Boys song to “Bomb-Bomb-Iran.” As our country subsequently continued in the direction of increased military intervention, greater income disparity, restricted civil liberties, and more power appropriated by the executive branch, my only consolation was to think that it could have been worse.
Then last September my 17-year-old son asked me to watch a presidential primary debate with him. I was certainly not expecting truths we had found in hard-hitting documentaries like “Why We Fight,” “The Corporation,” and “Manufacturing Consent” to be spoken by a Republican candidate running for president, yet there was this congressman from Texas condemning preemptive, undeclared wars as militaristic nation-building that actually undermined our national security. Ron Paul—where had he been all this time?
The more accurate question, as it turned out, was “Where had we been?” Congressman Paul had been opposing the endless wars and other unconstitutional measures for decades. As an expert in monetary policy, moreover, he exposed the role of the Federal Reserve not only in war financing, but also in currency devaluation, vast debt accumulation, artificial boom-bust cycles, and even our loss of civil liberties, as he details in his book “End the Fed.” Given that a partial audit of the Fed—thanks to Paul’s relentless efforts—had revealed secret bailouts of trillions of dollars to both foreign and domestic banks and institutions, it began to concern me that Goldman Sachs and its cohorts—the same banks that profited from the government bailouts–were top contributors to both Obama’s and Romney’s campaigns.
Rereading Thomas More’s “Utopia” in preparation for my class, Nobility and Civility: East and West, I came upon the question of how a king would respond were he to be shown that “all this war-mongering, by which so many different nations were kept in turmoil for his sake, would exhaust his treasury and demoralize his people, yet in the end come to nothing through one mishap or another.” What if rather than a king, we have a two-party political class serving monolithic corporations who also conveniently control mainstream media? Might that be why the establishment isn’t willing to present Ron Paul honestly, either treating him as “the 13th floor in a hotel,” as Jon Stewart quipped, or distorting his views through biased coverage?
Despite the media blackout and outright hit pieces, our “Daily Paul” study breaks revealed impassioned responses to Paul’s message from both within and beyond our nation. In the past months I’ve seen Dr. Paul likened to “a clean boat in a sea of garbage,” a rock star, a Jedi knight, a prophet, and Don Quixote. One significant difference with respect to the latter figure, at least, is that the giants Paul has been challenging (the military-industrial complex, crony corporatism, the Federal Reserve) are all too real, even though they are largely hidden from view.
Having set my homepage to the Daily Paul, I reactivated my Facebook account to post Paul-related articles, switched my affiliation from independent to Republican to vote in the primaries, and began shopping at the campaign’s on-line store. My son brought in rally signs to his high school teachers for their classrooms and started a Youth for Ron Paul chapter at Columbia within minutes of enrolling as an incoming freshman. Our concentrated focus on Paul-related news was initially disconcerting to my daughter, a Columbia College sophomore. Over Thanksgiving break she complained of feeling displaced by a new baby in the family and sought help from Yahoo! Answers: “My family is obsessed with politics! They’re driving me nuts. What can I do?” (Ironically, the best answer came from someone with the opposite problem who offered to trade parents.) Yet by semester’s end she was relating Ron Paul to her CC readings, especially Locke on the government’s role to protect the natural rights of liberty and property. When she started playing Ron Paul songs on YouTube and phoning-from-home, I knew she was a Ronvert! She even succeeded in convincing her grandmother to vote for the first time since the 1960s.
As the three of us followed the news together over winter break, we asked ourselves how President Obama could have signed the ACTA (global internet censorship treaty) and NDAA (indefinite military detention of American citizens without due process bill). Yet it came as no surprise when in mid-January Congressman Paul introduced an amendment to repeal the NDAA’s most undemocratic section. In the space of one semester, he had become our champion.
Our favorite Frank Capra classic, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” had a happy ending, but it was only a film. Will Ron Paul garner enough support to disappoint the Republican establishment’s predetermined nominee despite systematic media misrepresentation? Will the good doctor be given a chance to cure our woes come November? In my opinion, given the pro-war, pro-bankster, anti-liberty direction adopted by both parties, our collective future as a free nation may depend on it. As Ron Paul said in “We’ve Been Neo-Conned”: “Let it not be said that no one cared, that no one objected once it’s realized that our liberties and wealth are in jeopardy.”
The author is an associate professor in the Italian department and an instructor for Literature Humanities.