On December 8, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed Congress. He said: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
He added details about the attacks. Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, Malaya, Hong Kong, Philippine Islands, Wake Island, Midway Island, and torpedoed American ships on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu—many American lives were lost in the attacks. He closed with these dramatic words:
“The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.”
“As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.”
“There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.”
“With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph.”
In 1941, Americans understood the dangers of Adolf Hitler and his allies. They did not blink at the “fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.”
Do we, the people of 2019 squarely face the fact that because of global warming our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger, or do we blink?
Do we, the people of 2019 have a President who is ready and able to mobilize our resources and our population to develop and implement expensive, time-sensitive, long-term, wide-spread, resource-devouring, international projects needed to fight global warming, or do we think we have plenty of time?
If we don’t have such a President now, how likely are we to get one in 2020, and how likely is it that she will have a Congress that will support her efforts? If she has such a Congress, how long will she keep it? How long will she stay in office? Will the next administration reverse course?
Where is the American leader who will rise today and say that global warming is an even greater threat than Adolf Hitler, that Hitler never invaded our shores, but global warming is already at work everywhere on earth and is gaining strength by the minute?
Roosevelt was right in 1941 when he said: “The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.”
But his words do not apply to the American people of 2019. We do not “well understand” the dangers of global warming.
How can we get the American people to take global warming as seriously as Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt took Adolf Hitler?
At this critical moment we may well be at the beginning of the end, and tragically, the triumph over global warming is not inevitable. As things now stand, as trends now indicate, and as history teaches us about our flawed systems, it is more likely that global warming, and those who profit from it, will triumph, and our civilization and perhaps our species will die.
We must heed the words of the Framers who told us that our republic relies on a flawed method of delegating power to our representatives. Our rule of thumb for delegating power is: “great, broad, and enduring.” We must adapt the rule of thumb used by the Athenians: “small, narrow, and fleeting.”
We must heed the Framers’ warnings about the dangerous men who form factions and seek political power.
In Federalist 1, Alexander Hamilton said: “Of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.”
In Federalist 10, James Madison said: “Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people.”
In Federalist 10, Madison defined factions thusly: “By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
Later, near the end of his second term as President, George Washington published his Farewell Address, and said this about men who form and control factions: “They [factions] are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people.”
Washington’s predictions were correct. Our systems of government and economics have been controlled by factions since the beginning, and since the beginning these factions have mistreated seven hated groups: the not white, not male, not Christian, not heterosexual, not well-to-do, not native born, and the disabled. Sadly, it has become apparent that the factions who control our systems are creating an eighth hated group: schoolchildren. Our systems are accomplices in the mass murders by gunfire of our schoolchildren as they sit at their desks preparing for the day when they will have the liberty to live their own lives while in pursuit of their own happiness.
According to the Framers, according to more than two centuries of history, and because of their natural propensity to devolve into factions that naturally work against the common good, our two-party system is the cause of, not the solution to, our problems.
We must change the way we delegate power. We must take control of our systems of government and economics. We must adapt or die.