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An Open Letter to the Corporate Leaders of America

by Marina Michaels

An attractive line made up of colorful flowers and butterflies

Dear corporate leader,

I am not a journalist, so I won't insult your intelligence by saying something manipulative and dramatic like, "I am the voice of America." I know and you know that many Americans have allowed themselves to be gulled, cullied, diddled, and mollycoddled to the point where they expect to be taken care of by "the government," forgetting that in this county, they are the government. They don't even know what it means for a government to be "by the people." They think that the government is something over them, something that controls them, rather than the other way around. They don't think their voice counts for much of anything, and so they sit there in their armchairs watching television and reading the newspaper, and they don't speak up or take action.

And, God help us, some of them even want the government to control them—and the rest of us. They may call themselves liberals or Democrats or even Republicans, but they are really socialists or Communists, since they want an authoritarian government that takes away rights from all and tells us, in increasing amounts of legislation, how to live and what to think and what we can and cannot do. If our founding fathers knew that today people meekly submit to having to apply for permission to even own and drive a car, those founding fathers would either laugh or be aghast, or perhaps both. Did our founding fathers think that people needed permission to own and ride a horse or a horse and cart? Did they think the government had the right to tell people what they could and couldn't own, and what they could and couldn't do with what they owned? Of course not. It was unthinkable.

The original liberal believed in both individual rights and individual responsibilities—an infinite number of both, one might say—and believed that the governance of this nation was to be performed by the people in this nation. What that means, if you will pardon the brief civics lesson, is that the people collectively would decide what the laws are, and would not give up their rights—in fact, could not give up their rights—in any way, because those rights are inalienable. "Inalienable" means, for the less educated in the crowd, that those rights cannot be taken away. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights enumerate a few of those rights, but our founding fathers said that our rights are as innumerable as the stars.

By "enumerate," I mean that they spell out what the rights are. It is most vital to understand that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights do not GRANT any rights—they affirm those rights. What's the difference? The difference is this: Just as a birth certificate does not grant a baby the right to live, or grant the baby life, but instead it acknowledges a fact which already exists, just so the Constitution and the Bill of Rights acknowledge the facts of liberties that are ours by right of being human. Not government or person can take them away from us.

Fundamentally, that means that any law that proposes to take away one of our rights is unconstitutional, and should be stricken from the record before it does further damage to the people's sense of their rights and freedoms. Our founding fathers didn't even think they should have to spell out any of our fundamental human rights, but after some discussion, they decided that they should list some of the most basic rights. Thomas Jefferson said that if people came to the point where they did not understand their rights and treated them irresponsibly, the answer was not to take away those rights, but to educate the people in the proper and responsible exercise of them.

But alas, like the mythical frog that can be boiled to death if you but raise the temperature of the water by slow degrees, so that the frog never realizes he is in danger and therefore never jumps out of the increasingly hot water, the erosion of those rights has been done slowly and carefully over such a long period of years and a number of generations that each successive generation is less educated about their rights and responsibilities and less aware of how many rights they or their parents have already surrendered.

We are at the point where even the most basic rights are under attack, as our congressional representatives and even ordinary people debate whether one or another of the items in the Bill of Rights is "outdated" or "no longer appropriate in today's political climate." (And what does that mean? That the right is inconvenient to the agenda of controlling people?) Just recently, McCain and his ilk tried to severely restrict the right to free speech, calling it a "campaign reform bill." Even two traditional opponents, the ACLU and the NRA, seeing that bill for what it truly was, banded together against it.

So what is my point in all this? It is this: You are corporate leaders. You have enjoyed the freedoms and the fruits of the freedoms of America. Some of you think that you do not need to be ethical, or that you do not need to take care of the environment and the people who work for you, because you are getting wealthy by lying, cheating, bribing the right people, fudging records, manipulating the energy market, and so on. For those of you are have not done these things, I give my thanks. For the rest of you, I have a message. The American people are not all gulls. Many of us think, and many of us pay attention to what you are doing and the results of those actions. And an increasing number of us act upon that information and make our own choices about what you are doing.

I, for instance, will not do business with certain companies because of their actions, policies, or products. You may not hear from me, and so perhaps you think that there is nothing going on, but I am an intelligent, well-educated, and perhaps most importantly, articulate person who feels that it is her right and duty as a free citizen to state her opinion of corporate practices and to act upon those opinions. I refrain from purchasing a wide range of products in order to make a statement with perhaps the greatest impact. Some would call this voting with my feet (by leaving an establishment or by never setting foot there in the first place) and voting with my pocketbook (by buying products that are produced by people who are ethical and care for me and the environment, and by not buying products that are produced by rapacious corporations and countries).

Remember that I not only perform these actions, but I also tell others about them and, more importantly, why I do them, so that I am informing and educating people constantly. Informed people tend to inform others, and so on, so that one person can eventually affect hundreds or even thousands of others on any given topic. Multiply that one person by tens or even hundreds, and you have at a minimum thousands or possibly even millions of people changing their behavior based on a greater level of education and information. And despite what you may otherwise think, this is still a government of and by the people. The people will change your actions if you choose not to change them yourself.

And, dear corporate leader, remember where you are reading this: On the Internet, either at my Web site, which gets 50,000 hits a month, or through an email that someone forwarded based on this article. Ultimately, who knows how many people will have read this letter and started to think that they might, after all, be able to effect change in this world by making simple changes in their thinking and in their lives.

As the author of Fast Food Nation says, if we the people demand better from corporations, they will provide it. If we demand organic and healthy food from fast food joints, we will get it. If we demand that corporations stop doing business with China, they will. If we stop buying gasoline with MTBE in it, the oil companies will stop making it. If we demand that our legislators stop accepting the corporate point of view when making laws, they will. Not enough people—yet—understand the power of their voice, and so they don't make these demands. But they will. They will.

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