There are a number of Americans who are direct victims of substantial waste, fraud, and abuse by their local, state, and/or federal government. The population is undoubtedly small in comparison to all Americans inhabiting the United States. However, the quality of liberty in America is defined by the rigors of vindicating that beleaguered group.
When a relatively few experience, but find it virtually impossible to overcome their government's oppression, the majority of their countrymen enjoy a freedom too tenuous to be more than illusory. As Americans, their quality of life may be high nonetheless. Many reason that the country is accordingly gripped by apathy to even the most compelling need for government reform. Actually such efforts falter because Americans unduly rely on major or mainstream media to disclose and combat government malfeasance and misfeasance.
On multiple occasions, Justices of the U. S. Supreme Court have noted in regard to publicity that without it ". . . all other checks are insufficient: in comparison of publicity, all other checks are of small account." Yet "publicity" can resound as effectively (or ineffectively) as that proverbial tree falling in the midst of a dense forest. Pundits question whether that tree makes a sound as it topples when no one is around to hear. Perhaps they should also consider whether publicity is publicity when it generates little or no discernible response.
Obviously profound movements have been ignited and stoked by media coverage. Societal norms are often shifted for the better or worse as a result. However, contending with deeply entrenched government corruption in America presents different dynamics. As the plague does not immediately impact most Americans, a persistent challenge is to convey why they should find it intolerable. That effort is complicated by the somber reality that Americans are inundated with news of atrocities, competing for their attention and concern. Moreover, should the targeted corruption be truly systemic, at least initially its redress pits American reformers against vast segments of their own government. Such a foe is typically recalcitrant to the point of seeming relentless. Usually the will and stamina to resist it must be nurtured.
To spark righteous indignation, lawful protest, and escalating demands for appropriate relief in America, good government advocates must do more than "publicize" a corresponding need for reform. They must enlighten and inspire an ever increasing base of support on the subject. Major or mainstream media can be a critical and integral part of, but cannot supplant that continual process. It should be an intense, multifaceted, and coordinated promotional effort, using a variety of communication mechanisms. Adequate momentum for the underlying cause will never erupt from a single news item or event or somewhat haphazard series of either.
Music, sermons, talk shows, billboards, bumper stickers, editorials, speeches, commentaries, advertisements, articles, webpages, theaters, and stages should all clamor for good government in America from different perspectives. Activists, bewildered upon trying to launch this hailstorm, often yearn for a renowned, preferably wealthy benefactor to do the job. Of course it is a buyers' market for rich and famous champions of justice. They can do tremendously good work without tackling complicated, irretractable controversies precipitated by official misconduct.
Some celebrity advocates are funded in whole or part by interests inimical to vital populist movements. In any event, the obligation to pursue justice hinges on more than the pursuit's affordability. Also, the resolve to pursue justice is hardly evident from casting primary responsibility for the task on those who could undertake it with relative ease. In fact that strategy fosters tolerance for government oppression as America waits for the most privileged to magnanimously uplift its downtrodden. Wishful thinking attendant to that methodology leaves grassroots advocacy grossly underutilized as a tool for enhanced self-help and mutual support.
Victims of government oppression, like wise prophets, probably find it easier to garner support outside of their family and friends. However, seemingly invincible malefactors are unlikely to face defeat through simply the kindness of strangers. Some of that goodwill should be used to recruit the family and friends of those most affected for the front lines of battle against government corruption in America. Their roles need not be high profile or large. Purchasing a stamp and/or sealing an envelope can help spread reform messages as much as speaking into a bullhorn.
What should be clear is that government reform in America needs to be as systematic as the malfeasance and misfeasance making it necessary. Amazingly the idea of systematically combating official misconduct tends to overwhelm people, even after they spend years, sometimes decades fighting the fight on a random or ad hoc basis with limited if any success. A systematic approach to the situation entails building the capacity as well as exploiting the current capabilities of one or more advocates involved. Few accurately assess the value of both endeavors.
Too many measure the viability of an advocate, strictly in terms of self-sufficiency when the worth of an advocate relates to what he, she, or it can and will do. Hence the apparent, but unrealized potential of an ally, should trump the historical successes of elusive comrades. In asking what you can do for a fledgling advocate, more options are created as to what could be done for you.
A national community of grassroots, good government activists emerged in America this millennium via internet. Oppressed people turned to its members for relief, not realizing or accepting for the most part that it comes with empowering related campaigns and movements. The pro rata demands may be small, but rarely spawn reliable support. Leaders abound on the scene, but not followers. Vacillating between the two groups while maintaining a distinct identity of their own are masses of avid observers, advisors, and critics. Though engaged by the cause, this wide audience seems determined for sweeping government reform to spontaneously combust in America. Those among them striving more deliberately for relevant change, at great personal sacrifice, may be well be castigated more often than praised for their work.
The undeniable truth is that collective strength harnessed through grassroots advocacy is the best hope for vindicating America from government corruption. That hope fades in direct proportion to the country's fanciful desire for appropriate change primarily through spectacular acts of chivalry by the most conscientious of its ruling class. It has less privileged, but far from destitute Americans substantially abdicating their stewardship of the country in droves. Generally with regard to grassroots activism, "fee" is a four letter word and "volunteer" is a synonym for unreliable. Hopefully the table will turn as people confirm the old adage that you get back what you put in.
Zena D. Crenshaw is Executive Director of National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc. (NJCDLP). NJCDLP is a nonprofit legal reform organization combating abuses of the American legal system that are facilitated by judicial misconduct. Ms. Crenshaw is part of a speakers' panel that will discuss "The Realities and Essentialness of Grass Roots Advocacy" at a national judicial reform conference hosted by NJCDLP in August, 2007 at Rice University of Houston, Texas [see: www.njcdlp.org/Texas_Conference.html ].