Question: Jefferson and Franklin modeled the Articles of Confederation and later, the U.S. Constitution, on the Iroquois Confederacy. Ideas such as federalism, states’ rights, and individual freedoms were native concepts. What important lessons didn’t the U.S. learn?
Chief Paul Waterman: Democracy. Because democracy means being honest and telling the truth. They lie, then pass laws to enforce their lies.
— November 5, 1997; Part Two of interview with Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman; AHSKWA.
I was lucky, in that I had two outstanding mentors when I was young: Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, and Chief Paul Waterman of the Onondaga Nation. Often these days, I find myself thinking back to things that I discussed with both of these extraordinary human beings. Both Rubin and Paul had fascinating opinions of, and insight into, American politics.
The above quote comes from the second in a series of four interviews that I did with Paul, for the newsletter “AHSKWA” ( meaning “the bridge”). This was at a time when Chief Waterman and the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy were engaged in negotiations with both the state and federal government. I had the honor of serving as Paul’s top assistant for many years, primarily involved with burial protection and repatriation cases, along with other related environmental issues.
I remember three times when I told Paul that I trusted different elected representatives in various political offices. Twice, it turned out the gentleman was purposely lying to us; one time, the elected official had tried to assist us, but was “instructed” to stop doing so, if he wanted to keep his job. Each time, I apologized to Paul for having said that I had thought the person was honorable. Each time, he said, “That’s okay. You’ve only known him a short time. I’ve been dealing with him for 500 years now.”
That is not to imply that Paul didn’t trust anyone in the state or national government. He had a good working relationship with a number of politicians and bureaucrats. But, as he pointed out, more of the honest people were found in local government, with substantially fewer at the state level, and only a very few to be found in Washington. And the more important an issue — which is often connected to how much money is involved — the less likely even these were to be able to hold firmly to their principles. The US Supreme Court’s decision that placed George W. Bush into the Oval Office — after Bush lost the 2000 presidential election to Al Gore — documented the high levels of gross corruption in Washington, DC. …..and as former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi showed in his book on this theft, each of the five injustices that selected Bush had serious financial conflicts of interests that should have caused them to recuse themselves from the case.
I’m convinced that if the ancient philosopher Diogenes of Sinope walked the streets of DC in search of an honest politician in 2016, he would have declared that there was but one — Senator Bernie Sanders. Initially, it sounds as if Bernie is speaking a different language than the others in the House and Senate. Consider, for example, how Sanders talks about the most pressing issues confronting the United States today: he speaks openly and honestly, unlike any of the other twenty-plus politicians who entered the primary contests. His analysis of the environmental crisis is unique: he identifies the problems, and makes it clear that we all must work together to reach solutions.
The other candidates have taken the opposite approach. Those who have taken large fees and “donations” from the energy corporations are, by definition, the worst liars. For as the prophet Jesus taught, you cannot serve two masters. Beware of those who shed tears over the children of Flint drinking contaminated water, at the same time they are pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars from those who poison other waters by fracking for gas.
If you believe the corporate media, it would appear that the majority of Americans reject Bernie’s message. Individual journalists that would prefer to tell the truth are pressured in the exact same manner as those few politicians that have been tempted to have the courage of their convictions. Diogenes could search the “main stream” media for years without successfully finding an honest man or woman. He’d have to turn to the alternative media sources, to find someone like Abby Martin, willing to report openly and honestly.
The truth is that as Americans have become familiar with Bernie Sanders, they find that they agree with his analysis of our political, economic, and environmental crises. While some are mistakenly convinced that they would be “wasting” their vote by supporting an honest politician, many more are actively supporting him. This includes people who normally would not participate in elections, because of the corruption they see. Indeed, even those in government who want to be on the right side of history are endorsing Bernie Sanders.
The machine that currently holds the reins of power — including corporations, politicians, and their media — resort to doing what they do best: lying. They lie about who Bernie Sanders is, what he stands for, and how the Sanders Revolution will impact society.
Still, people recognize corruption for what it is. If you or I were to try to bribe a politician, we would face criminal prosecution. But, as Chief Waterman pointed out, those same politicians can pass a law — or deliver a US Supreme Court decision — that makes it “legal” for corporations to bribe a politician, by declaring it a campaign donation. Or, a speaking fee …..like the $23 million one former Secretary of State “earned” in speaking fees since 2012.
Gandhi said that, “When it is relevant, truth has to be uttered, however unpleasant it may be.” It is up to us to decide what is actually more unpleasant: the truth of the Sanders revolution, or the lies of the machine.
Patrick R. McElligott