BY NELSON PEERY
The America the world admired, studied and strove to emulate, was an America of vision and visionaries. Few remember the real-life Jefferson who amassed a fortune purchasing kidnapped Africans, enslaving them and cruelly working them to death. The Jefferson who gave the world the vision of a country where all are created equal and a government that derives its power from the people is immortal.
As America grew, the antagonism between its vision and its capitalist reality deepened. Thousands of citizens stepped forth to defend that vision from the slave owning, expansionists that sought to destroy it. Poverty, physical attacks and murder did not deter them.
One hundred fifty years of slander has not tarnished John Brown's vision of an America free from slavery and exploitation. That vision, the soul of Old John Brown, is still marching on.
Defying a world gripped by reaction and slavery, Abe Lincoln gave humanity the vision of a nation--not a country--a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. This vision--stronger than embattled armies--rewrote the Constitution and became a beacon for the downtrodden of the earth.
During World War II, as the forces of fascism threatened to engulf all humanity, it was the vision of a "free New World" that sustained American soldiers fighting from Normandy to the Solomon Islands.
We have always been a nation of vision and visionaries. Vision has always rallied and sustained us during times of crisis. Vision has played a greater role in describing America than perhaps any other country.
Today our country, shorn of vision and its ability to dream, is known by its stockpile of nuclear arms, bullying of nations, and slaughter of the world's poor striving to be free. It is known for its greed and its state-sanctioned selfishness. We are seen as a nation where vision was slain by the sword.
What happened to our country? The dull and leaden mind of America is the harvest of anti-communism planted during the McCarthy era. It is the harvest of greed planted by President Reagan. As they planted their malignant crop, every lofty vision, condemned as communist, was forsaken. Equality for the minorities and women, peace and finally democracy itself, was branded "communist" and forbidden. There was nothing left save consumerism and greed. Reagan elevated this malignancy to the level of a national program. America lost its way as it lost its vision. Vision is a statement of where we are striving to go.
Clarity of vision by the people is the ultimate defense against misleaders. Any tyrant can take a nation that doesn't know where it is going down any path. Now, more than any time since WWII, our country desperately needs a clear vision.
Vision arises from material possibilities. We have, in the new electronic production, the possibility of doing away with stultifying toil forever. We can do away with poverty and privilege. We can create a world of love and peace. First, we must take these marvelous means of production away from those who use them only to create profit, poverty and privilege. We must convert them from private property to public property for the public welfare. If we do not, this concentration of wealth and power will be used to crush us.
America is dangerously close to following other great nations who, losing their way, stumbled into the ashbins of history. Perhaps Henry Miller was thinking of this moment when he warned, "The tragedy of Greece lies not in the destruction of a great culture, but in the abortion of a great vision."
The future is up to us.