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Dear Senator Nelson (The day our democracy died.)


By....Ted Burnett

“…We're crazy to the point, I've come to believe, that if everybody agrees on something, you can be sure it's wrong! Every new idea, every great idea, when it first began was in a minority of one…”
– Fr. Anthony de Mello, S.J.
By the time you receive this commentary the crisis that’s facing our elected officials, in Washington, and gripping the nation may have been averted. If not, I’ve fled the country with my few precious bars of gold! Regardless, know that the real crisis is far from over. In fact, it’s only getting worse. Our government is unraveling right before our eyes under its own dead weight and not at the hands of our enemies – al-Qaeda and the Taliban – or our frenemies – China or anyone else we can think of to blame. This one is of our own ego’s making. 
Our form of government known as “democracy” or a representative democracy, call it whatever you want, no longer works. It’s become too corrupt, insane and self-destructive to face reality, to govern in the interest of all, instead of in the interest of a few. It can’t see, what’s become so obvious to the world, how its own actions are inflicting pain and suffering on so many. The Washington establishment made up of elected officials, government bureaucrats, law firms, lobbying firms and the media are in deep denial. They’re too entrenched in supporting the status quo and they like it that way. Its behavior is no different that of an alcoholic, drug or ‘sex’ addict who’s always deflecting blame for his/her inappropriate behavior by pointing the finger at someone else. It’s never their fault. 
Our cozy media with their correspondents embedded in The White House, on Capitol Hill, and in The Pentagon…are accomplices in treason against the American people, their broadcasting licenses, which are issued by this same corrupt government that they’re suppose to be reporting on should be pulled. Under this present arrangement, no news would be better than what they’re feeding us each morning and night. While one dose maybe harmless, the long-term exposure of this radioactivity will kill you. It’s killing this society. CNN and the other news outlets have gone from being an American asset to becoming a liability. Their value to society has greatly diminished as has much of TV entertainment.
The U.S. government is no less secretive or transparent with its own citizens and taxpayers than our former Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union, was with its citizens and us. Truth and freedom, if they’re indeed the cornerstone of a democracy they can’t exist, much less flourish with all our national secrets along with the departments and agencies established to protect them from whom – from us, from China, Russia or Israel? Secrets erect barriers between individuals, between free citizens and their representatives, between our representatives and the government bureaucrats and between societies. Secrets impede spiritual and emotional growth and intimacy. It undermines peace and security and not the other way around. It’s a growing cancer within man and in our society. No transparency = no freedom. No freedom = death. Thus, a grand American ideal must die in order for its people to finally move forward. 
The late Fr. Anthony de Mello tells the following story of a Jesuit [priest] who once wrote a note to Father Arrupe, his superior general, asking him about the relative value of communism, socialism and capitalism.  Father Arrupe gave him a lovely reply.  He said, "A system is about as good or as bad as the people who use it." People with golden hearts would make capitalism or communism or socialism work beautifully. How true. Capitalism has proven to be just as dishonest, deadly and unresponsive to its own people, as it has to the rest of the world. 
Our great experiment, democracy, has been shown, repeatedly, to be no better and no worse than any other form of government. In the matter of human rights, this government loves to push its index finger into the eyes of our global neighbors while denying the problems caused by our domestic and foreign policies that have relegated human life to that of a sewer rat. Just ask our troops, our veterans and their families, just ask those living in crime-filled inner-city neighborhoods, just ask kids attending dangerous and dilapidated schools, just ask the addict, the homeless, the incarcerated (just ask Army Pvt. Bradley Manning and all those being held at Guantanamo Bay without due process), the insane, the needy and the sick existing across America. This shame isn’t a sign of a nation’s greatness, but a sign of its mediocrity and a life of hell that’s endorsed by our out-of-touch politicians, in Washington. They’re actions are criminally insane and we’re constantly being asked to accept all this as the best they can do.  If they want our society to be different then it would.
What you or I might do, in a fit of rage, to our next door neighbor that would land us in prison for life, the United States has repeatedly done to its global neighbors with virtually no noticeable consequences. The laws that govern this land and its citizens should be the same ones that our own government lives by in its dealing with the world. Acts of violence have never produced long-term peace. Any romantic notions we might have about democracy has to be tempered with the stark reality. We have to wake up to this truth. For all the patriotic concerts, flag waving and fireworks on our national holidays too many problems are being papered over as we briefly come together, with our anxiety and fake smiles, to participate in yet another unearned celebration. We’re enjoying the desserts of “freedom” without first being required to finish our supper.
This government and much of our society have been idling for way too long. Greatness has given way to mediocrity. Problems in our society abound from Maine to Florida, from New York to California. Our streams and rivers are teeming with so many environmental, political, religious, social and spiritual troubles that their ripe for the picking. We only need a small scoop net to fill up our boat. Americans for all our material wealth we, as individuals, don’t know how to live nor do we know how to solve our basic problems – ourselves. We don’t know how to work successfully through a personal crisis or trial. We seem to only know how to deny everything and runaway. That’s the basic issue, at hand, and a major character flaw of this society. 
Many of us have gotten, both, a religious and an academic education while being instilled to some degree in social etiquette, but not one minute was ever spent in the first twenty-one years, of our development, on how to solve everyday problems other than the artificial ones found on test day. What value is any of this if it takes an individual and society, as a whole, off course from True north, from finding one’s talents, one’s purpose in life and their joy for living? What if our best institutions are no more enlightened than a four year old? A free child can speak the truth; I don’t think the Church, our government or our universities can. Some of these cherished institutions may have to crumble, in order, for real change to occur. So be it.
Let me briefly continue with what my friend, the late Fr. Anthony de Mello, was saying (at the beginning of my introduction)…“Every new idea, every great idea, when it first began was in a minority of one. That man called Jesus Christ - minority of one. Everybody was saying something different from what he was saying. The Buddha - minority of one.  Everybody was saying something different from what he was saying. I think it was Bertrand Russell who said, "Every great idea starts out as a blasphemy". That's well and accurately put.  You're going to hear lots of blasphemies during these days. "He hath blasphemed!" Because people are crazy, they're lunatics, and the sooner you see this, the better for your mental and spiritual health…”
America is suffering from, both, a leadership and a spiritual crisis. Our next election is only fifteen months away and the slate of Republican hopefuls is dreadful. The current crisis has clearly highlighted President Obama’s failure to govern. He hasn’t lived up to his own campaign promises of “hope and change”. He’s bitten off more than he can chew. As President, he’s followed the conventional wisdom of Washington politics and it’s failed him, badly. It’s failed all of us. The president doesn’t deserve another term in the White House and America doesn’t need to be dragged through another four years of this. None of these candidates are fit to serve.
We stand at a crossroads. We need someone who transcends party politics, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic standing, nationality, culture. We need someone who has everyone’s interest at heart, even the world’s, so we can sail through this current storm, together. We need a unifier, not a divider. We need someone who can see through our man-made labels, who can see the similarities and not get all hung up on the superficial differences. There’s no outrunning this one or blindly throwing good money at it. We’re broke. It’s time to belly up to the bar and pay our tab. The country needs to go in a different direction. Maybe our nation’s capitol needs to be moved out of the District of Columbia. It’s morphed into something other than what it was intended to be. Beyond the national mall, which is lined with some world-class museums are a couple of whorehouses.
I’ve heard many times Americans say that the founding document of the United States is our constitution, but I disagree. I believe its Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. He laid out the grounds for declaring our independence, the purpose of the new country and our reasons for going to war with Great Britain. He wrote that “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator [not by King George III, not by the Pope or by the president] with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” 
Fulfilling his vision has been a costly one, beginning first with the institution of slavery which was allowed to persist under the formation of this new nation. It’s been the United States’ greatest sin and the main source of hypocrisy. Eighty-four years later, a great war was fought over this issue and afterwards a visionary, The President of the United States and the commander-in-chief for the Union paid, for ending this sin, with his own life. Historians have long wondered what re-construction would have looked like under Abraham Lincoln. Instead, more pain and suffering was inflicted on all – free slaves, women while basic civil rights were denied to all minorities, the disabled and gays. 
The consequences of slavery can still be felt today between the two primary races and our conflicting cultures. Am I right? In recent years, I’ve pondered whether our country is moving forward or backwards. Some days, it’s hard to tell. If our nation’s forgotten goals are to fulfill Jefferson’s ideals then we have a ways to go. We have our work cut out for us. A great tension confronts our nation on the issue of the economy – an artificial environment vs. a natural one, one that requires infinite growth operating on a planet with finite resources or one that ebbs and flows, like, the tides, like, the seasons. 
One demands conformity, slavery of the mind and body resulting in lots of misery while the other seeks individual freedom and happiness. What does this society, of freedom and happiness, actually look like – well, we’ve never seen it in modern times maybe not since the beginning of civilization? This natural life has become foreign to us while the fabricated world, which seems so “natural” and comfortable, violates the laws of nature.
The current petroleum-based economy produces cheap, inorganic compounds that make tens of thousands of beneficial products “while the supply lasts”, but they don’t easily breakdown in the environment or in our bodies leaving our landfills full and pollution everywhere. A mature conversation is needed to address this issue and the environment, in general. Unfortunately, we lack that mature society. We have to get off the “drugs” first, so we can clear our minds and our bodies. We need to grow up. We must move away from the convenient, the familiar political and social positions, which have never settled a single issue and move courageously towards spiritual solutions that end the debate, once and for all. That’s actually possible.    
Looking at our history and all the social movements that have taken place, I have to believe that we are progressing, ever so slowly, in spite of the many temporary setbacks and the Biblical anchors. We might expect America’s current financial and political scenario to be facing other countries like Greece, Ireland or Portugal, but not us. Yet, we’re in a mess and all attempts to rationalize it away or to minimize it by the government’s and media’s experts is extremely dangerous. Has the other shoe even dropped?
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. For all the resources spent by the United States in time, energy, money, manpower and equipment to solve our “terrorism problem”, we’ve grown weaker, not stronger, as a country.  How can this be? How could all our pain and suffering be channeled into anger and violence result in us being no better off than the day of the attacks? Obviously, we focused on the wrong problem, we fingered the wrong culprit. Was this a case of dishonesty or laziness on our part? Where’s the presidential commission looking into this screw up? Do we want to know the truth? As a result, we’ve become a very fragile nation – economically, emotionally, militarily, physically, politically, socially and spiritually.
We’re facing a Gettysburg Address-moment where someone, with a vision, can explain to the rest of us why we’re here, how we got here and how we’re going to upright this ship. He or she needs to stand up, now. Is this leader already working in Washington? Is this leader serving as a governor? Are they working in a corporate boardroom or in the halls of academia? Or are they among the millions of unemployed and foreclosed on?      

In June, I received an email from The Nation magazine asking me to submit my ideas for re-inventing capitalism, in four hundred words or less. Rather than produce a completely new essay, I decided I would submit a piece that I first wrote, in 2009, following the U.S. and global economic crisis. My essay, “Corporate consciousness”, was sent out to my audience that fall where it caught the attention of Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren.
Having seen no improvement in our economic and social situation, I though this piece was still relevant. Since two years have passed, I’ve added some new thoughts to the original version before emailing it to The Nation. Never one to share my work with just one set of eyes, I went on to distribute it to my faculty members teaching in business, government, law and public policy schools among others. Most of you have not seen the original piece or the revision. For going the extra mile, I received the following reply…
"Dear Mr. Burnett, Thank you...for forwarding your piece to Professor [Michael E.] Porter...we found it interesting thinking and a good read."
--Stacie Rabinowitz, Research Associate
The Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness
Harvard Business School
Cambridge, MA
June 21, 2011
So, one essay shared over a two-year period generated a positive reaction from two distinguished Harvard professors. Not bad.  “Corporate consciousness” (v 2011) is one of two essays attached for your viewing. The inspiration for this latest email is my commentary “Dear Senator Nelson (The day our democracy died.)” and it follows this introduction (It begins on page seven.). This essay was written in the days leading up to the federal debt ceiling limit deadline. 
Since April, I’ve continued to grow my audience. I’ve added more top universities on the American West Coast and several schools in my hometown of Mobile, AL. I’ve also begun a campaign to grow my footprint in Mobile, as well as, in Washington, DC via the social networking site Linkedin. Already, I’ve picked up a number of notables including corporate CEOs, senior congressional staffers, political personalities in the media, senior fellows at several policy institutes and numerous public relations firms.      
Finally, I recently invited Venezuela President Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan Ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Angelo RiveroSantos, to join this audience after watching two “pro-Chavez” documentaries on the “dictator”. Both films complimented one another while a third highlighted the U.S.’s deadly influence on the democratically-elected states of Latin America, during the 20th century. Together these films have opened my eyes while changing my opinion of Chavez and Venezuela. It’s also educated me on some of the good things happening, both, culturally and economically, throughout South America.
Sadly, my prior attitude of President Chavez was based solely on how the U.S. media has portrayed him along with the condemning statements made by the Bush Administration (For the record, I voted for W., twice. Regrettably). Much of what President Bush said and did while in office has since been proven to be wrong, violent and costly for Americans and for many others. Little was accomplished. So, who’s really telling the truth? Who’s brainwashing whom and why? It’s a reminder to all of us, whose dogma are we marching to when we refuse to use our own senses and experiences?
The Declaration of Independence – http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/
de Mello, Fr. Anthony quotes – http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Anthony_de_Mello
de Mello, Fr. Anthony – Awareness – The Perils and Opportunities of Reality © 1990
About – Fr. Anthony de Mello, SJ (1931-1987) was a native of India, a Jesuit priest and an American-trained psychotherapist. de Mello gave talks at spiritual conferences around the world. He wrote several books on spirituality and meditation. An institute was named in his honor at Fordham, a Jesuit university, in New York, NY.
Note: The following is my reply to an email that I received from Senator Bill Nelson (FL-D) asking me to "weigh on the debt plans". I did, see below.

July 27, 2011
The day our democracy died.
Ted Burnett

Dear Senator Nelson,

Only a sane man could possibly understand the following comments therefore this excludes all members of Congress and the president. At one time, in American history, our new political system, called democracy or “a representative democracy” with its parties honestly disagreed over pieces of legislation, but they found a way to reach an agreement or a compromise. In the beginning, the system seemed to work well. Congress passed these bills and they moved on to the president's desk, for his signature.

Over time, these honest disagreements were replaced with alternative political realities (or ideologies) that each party started defending for the sake of keeping their voting base happy. Sometimes it was done on the grounds of principle, but other times it was done on the grounds of pure politics. These new political views were based less and less on the true belief and more out of convenience, many times it led to mutual back scratching “across the aisle”. As a result, the political system began to die.

Today, insanity rules, in the nation’s capitol, not honest disagreements between mature men and women. Washington, as a whole, is out of control and nobody wants to face this reality. Most seem incapable of working together to solve real problems, so instead they invent them. The current crisis that you're asking me to comment on is merely a symptom of an artificial political system that’s gone bankrupt. This political system lacks truth, which is the basic building block or foundation of all living matter including an open society, thus our government suffers from too much corruption. Does anyone working in Washington ever bother addressing this chronic issue during their press conferences – never?  It’s a deadly infection, a malignant tumor that’s metastasized and is killing the patient – America.

The crisis and your plea is the latest evidence that 535 mental patients are now unable to work with each other in the interest of 310 million Americans and for all those dependent on this government for their paycheck, their Social Security and disability checks, their healthcare... Somehow none of this is enough motivation to get the members of Congress from, both, the Republican and Democrat parties to come together and solve this crisis that y'all have made for everyone else.

You’re being paid to perform a job on my behalf and many others, if you can't accomplish the task in a timely manner then I would suggest that you and your colleagues resign and head straight for the door. Please leave town and don't stop by K Street for a job interview. There are tens of millions of out of work Americans and surely some of them are capable of doing as good or even a better job than you and your colleagues are doing. Why should I suffer, for one minute, at the hands of your insanity, at the hands of your incompetence and recklessness? Why should anyone have to? I would be embarrassed to call myself a member of this Congress. Now, go wave your flag at that!

Ted Burnett
Daphne, AL

Copyright © 2011. All Rights Reserved. “Dear Senator Nelson (The day our government died.)" by Ted Burnett.

My other essays can be viewed at my blog – http://www.toxicnation.blogspot.com/. I can be contacted via email at – tebjr1@yahoo.com. My biography can be viewed at http://www.tedburnettresume.

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