We better hold on to that dream—because if we don’t, we’ll sink closer and closer to this reality that we have, and that we don’t want.
Be wary when you hear about the glories of the market system. The market system is what we’ve had. Let the market decide, they say. The government mustn’t give people free health care; let the market decide.
Which is what the market has been doing—and that’s why we have forty-eight million people without health care. The market has decided that. Leave things to the market, and there are two million people homeless. Leave things to the market, and there are millions and millions of people who can’t pay their rent. Leave things to the market, and there are thirty-five million people who go hungry.
You can’t leave it to the market. If you’re facing an economic crisis like we’re facing now, you can’t do what was done in the past. You can’t pour money into the upper levels of the country—and into the banks and corporations—and hope that it somehow trickles down.
We are citizens. We must not put ourselves in the position of looking at the world from their eyes and say, “Well, we have to compromise, we have to do this for political reasons.” No, we have to speak our minds.
This is the position that the abolitionists were in before the Civil War, and people said, “Well, you have to look at it from Lincoln’s point of view.” Lincoln didn’t believe that his first priority was abolishing slavery. But the anti-slavery movement did, and the abolitionists said, “We’re not going to put ourselves in Lincoln’s position. We are going to express our own position, and we are going to express it so powerfully that Lincoln will have to listen to us.”
And the anti-slavery movement grew large enough and powerful enough that Lincoln had to listen. That’s how we got the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth and Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
That’s been the story of this country. Where progress has been made, wherever any kind of injustice has been overturned, it’s been because people acted as citizens, and not as politicians. They didn’t just moan. They worked, they acted, they organized, they rioted if necessary to bring their situation to the attention of people in power. And that’s what we have to do today.“