Step 1: Admit that you were under the sway of right-wing, anti-democracy radicals. This is the first step for every conservative or "ditto-head" listener on the way to recovery. It is important to understand that the people you were listening to are not "compassionate conservatives," "Republicans," or "pillars of morality." They're right-wing conservative radicals, more interested in strong corporations than strong democracy, and you must be honest with yourself about that fact...
Published on Tuesday, November 4, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
Step 1: Admit that you were under the sway of right-wing, anti-democracy radicals.
This is the first step for every conservative or "ditto-head" listener on the way to recovery. It is important to understand that the people you were listening to are not "compassionate conservatives," "Republicans," or "pillars of morality." They're right-wing conservative radicals, more interested in strong corporations than strong democracy, and you must be honest with yourself about that fact.
Step 2: Realize that we can't have freedom & liberty without first building a civil society.
And civil society has certain costs, such as education, infrastructure, health care, defense, transportation, communications, a viable social safety net, and the protection of the commons, which we all agree to pay for with something called taxes that we levy on ourselves and not on our children. Only on this basis can we have individual liberty.
Step 3: Love democracy's basis in debate and respectful disagreement.
The processes of debate, dissent, and compromise are democracy's underlying strength. This may be the most difficult step for those of you who had completely surrendered to the dark side of conservatism and have labeled dissenters as unpatriotic. Admit that democracy actually requires dissent. You might want to read the words of our Founders to better understand what democracy is and what it isn't. Start with Jefferson.
Step 4: Understand that a living wage is vital to maintain a viable middle-class.
A strong middle class is vital to democracy. To say that somebody who earns millions a year by sitting by the pool collecting dividend checks "works that much harder" than a middle-class wage earner is simple nonsense. Although morality tells us that people deserve a livable wage and fair taxes, reality tells us even more starkly that without everybody having access to a good job, and in a nation where dividend-earners pay only 15% in income tax, democracy is at risk.
Step 5: Support labor unions and stop chanting "cheap labor" as the tired old right-wing mantra.
"Cheap labor" is the core mantra of the conservatives, and ultimately harms democracy. If capital can organize in the form of a corporation, and corporations can organize as conglomerates, Chambers of Commerce, and trade and lobbying associations, then labor must have an equal and guaranteed-by-law right to organize. Strong unions are the only thing standing between you and serfdom at the hands of corporate masters, and without the unions of the past there would be no American middle class today. If you have difficulty with this step, spend a week with a family living below the poverty level because their manufacturing jobs were sent overseas for "cheap labor" and all that was left was a cashier's position at Wal-Mart. You'll be chanting "livable wage now!" in no time at all.
Step 6: Stop listening to TV and radio pundits who have "amnesia" about the separation of church and state.
Their intent is to convince everyone that church-state separation was never intended by our Founding Fathers and that the United States was started as a Christian nation. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robinson not only lie about our founding fathers, but also don't grasp the lessons of millennia of bloody battles between popes, mullahs, and kings. Look at the back of a dollar bill and see "novus ordo seclorum" - "a new secular order" - and realize that the US Government is a secular democracy, not a religious theocracy.
Step 7: Stop pretending that you don't understand that government is "We, The People," and not some sort of "them."
"Drowning government in a bathtub," as conservatives have recommended, may have been a good idea in the former Soviet Union, but the United States is a constitutional representative democratic republic where our government is, literally, us. It was designed to work for us, be owned by us, exists solely by virtue of our ongoing approval, and must answer to us. The shared commons of our nation - including our air, water, transportation routes, airwaves and cable networks, communication systems, military, police, prisons, fire services, health care infrastructure, and courts must, for democracy to work well, be held either by locally-controlled non-profit corporations or by a government responsive to its citizens, with corporations barred from the political process.
Step 8: Repent from your SUV and let's start taking care of the planet we all share.
The natural world - including our water and air - is our most vital and essential commons, and therefore must be protected from those who would despoil it for short-term profit. When they poison the world, they degrade our quality of life and threaten our children's future. Begin now - by participating in our representative government - to take immediate steps to protect the commons we share with all other life on planet Earth.
Step 9: Stop listening to conservative talk radio.
Understand that talk show hosts of the conservative ilk daily demonstrate that bullying, humiliation, and the "big lie" are at the core of conservative talk radio. Turn them off, and instead tune into one of the many liberal talk shows that are daily sprouting across America, and where democracy is still alive and well.
Step 10: Help transform America back into an energy-independent nation.
Building a civilization on liquefied fossils and then thinking it will last forever makes no sense. World oil reserves are enough to sustain us only into our children's lifetimes, and then will run out. Encourage your elected representatives to help create viable energy sources that are not dependent on fossil fuels, and, in the meantime, take immediate steps to reduce use of and preserve our precious stores before they're exhausted.
Step 11: Refrain from rewriting political history.
Its now time to admit that George W. Bush and his administration have been lying to us about the war on terror, the invasion of Iraq, taking away our freedoms with The Patriot Act, and misleading the America people on issues from the environment to taxes to jobs. Know now that George W. Bush was selected not elected, and the election was stolen from Al Gore. You may now research beyond propaganda from right-wing think tanks and Faux News to understand things as they really exist in the world. Stay in touch with the many progressive news sites (like this one) and publications and encourage our mainstream media to stop being cowed by right-wing bullies and corporate paymasters.
Step 12: Be a visionary. Once you have completed the previous steps to freeing yourself from conservative talk radio, it's time for you to share this awakening with others who will benefit from your new enlightenment. Go out amongst the "ditto-head" sheep and spread the good word of your freedom from the chains of ignorance that once bound you. Congratulations, and welcome to reality! And keep tuning your radio to The Thom Hartmann Program.