Thom Hartmann is reproducing chapters of his book on his blog. This is the beginning of Chaper 12. It is insightful, brilliant, hopeful.

A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolved, and the people recovering their true sight, restoring their government to its true principles. It is true, that in the meantime, we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war, and long oppressions of enormous public debt. …If the game runs sometimes against us at home, we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost. For this is a game where principles are the stake.

—Thomas Jefferson, writing about the conservative John Adams presidency

At the core of every form of political and social organization is culture—the collective stories people tell themselves about who they are, how they got there, and where they’re going. Government, in many ways, is one of the most direct expressions of culture, as we’ve seen by the forms of governance adopted by groups ranging from the Maori to the New Caledonians to the Danes to modern-day Americans. Conservatives are fond of describing contemporary political battles as “culture wars,” and this is far truer than most Americans realize.

The good news is that democracy has come under assault in America before, we’ve survived, and the nation actually became stronger for the struggle. The year 1798, for example, was a crisis year for democracy and those who, like Thomas Jefferson, believed the United States of America was a shining light of liberty, a principled republic in a world of cynical kingdoms, feudal fiefdoms, and theocracies. Although you won’t learn much about it from reading the “Republican histories” of the Founders being published and promoted in the corporate media these days (particularly those of John Adams, whom conservatives are trying to reclaim as a great president), the most notorious stain on the presidency of John Adams began in 1798, with the passage of a series of laws startlingly similar to the Patriot Act.

In order to suppress opposition from the Democratic Republican Party (today called simply the Democratic Party) and about twenty independent newspapers who opposed John Adams’s Federalist Party policies, Federalist senators and congressmen—who controlled both legislative houses along with the presidency—passed a series of four laws that came to be known together as the Alien and Sedition Acts.

The vote was so narrow—44 to 41 in the House of Representatives—that in order to ensure passage, the lawmakers wrote a sunset provision into the Acts’ most odious parts: Those laws, unless renewed, would expire the last day of John Adams’s first term of office, March 3, 1801.

Empowered with this early version of the Patriot Act, President John Adams ordered his “unpatriotic” opponents arrested (beginning with Benjamin Franklin’s grandson) and specified that only Federalist judges on the Supreme Court would be both judges and jurors.

The Alien and Sedition Acts reflected the new attitude Adams and his wife had brought to Washington, D.C., in 1796, a take-no-prisoners type of politics in which no opposition was tolerated. In sharp contrast to his predecessor, George Washington, America’s second president had succeeded in creating an atmosphere of fear and division in the new republic, and it brought out the worst in his conservative supporters. Across the new nation, Federalist mobs and Federalist-controlled police and militia attacked Democratic-Republican newspapers and shouted down or threatened individuals who dared speak out in public against John Adams.

In the end, the Sedition Act, which made it a crime to publish “false, scandalous, and malicious writing” against the government or its officials, expired in 1801. The Alien Enemies Act, which enables the president to apprehend and deport resident aliens if their home countries are at war with the United States of America remains in effect today (and is most often brought forth during times of war). Some things, it seems, have changed, but many remain the same from the days of Adams’s Federalist hysteria.[liv]

Recovering a Culture of Democracy

Our democracy and culture have truly reached a threshold. It is time, now, for us once again to follow Jefferson’s wise advice. Hope for the best, organize for a better America, and recognize the power and evil unleashed by politicians who believe that campaign lies are defensible, laws gutting the Bill of Rights are acceptable, and that the ends of stability justify the means of repression and corruption.

America has been through crises before, and far worse. If we retain the vigilance and energy of Jefferson, who succeeded Adams as president—as today we face every bit as much a struggle against the same forces that he fought—we shall prevail.

For the simple reason that, underneath it all, “this is a game where principles are the stake.”

While the principles of that day were confined largely to issues of democracy, personal liberty, and the public good (the interconnectedness of humans), today we have an added principle that we must draw quickly into our national—and international—consciousness. Very simply, if we fail to realize—and to make part of our national education and discourse—the reality of our interconnectedness with every other life form on the planet and the importance to hold them all sacred, we may well perish, or at the very least descend into a hellish existence of our own making.

As Leonardo DiCaprio so eloquently points out in his movie of the same name, we are now at the eleventh hour:

An acre and a half of rainforest is vanishing with every tick of the second hand—rain forests that are not only one of the two primary lungs of the planet, but also have given us fully 25 percent of our pharmaceuticals, while we’ve only examined about 1 percent of rain forest plants for pharmaceutical activity.[lv] They account for fully half of the planet’s biodiversity, although in the past century over half of the world’s rainforest cover has vanished. In Brazil alone over 90 separate rain forest human cultures, complete with languages, histories, and knowledge of the rain forest, have vanished since the beginning of the last century.[lvi]

In 2008 the “Red List” of endangered species was updated to note that fully half of all mammals on earth (we are mammals, let’s not forget) are in full-blown decline, while the number of threatened mammals is as high as 36 percent.[lvii]

* Every five seconds a child somewhere in the world dies from hunger; every second somebody is infected with TB, the most rapidly growing disease in the world, which currently infects more than a billion people; every day one hundred to species vanish forever from this planet.

In America there are 45 million people with no health insurance, and most Americans are one illness or job-loss away from disaster. Worldwide, more than half of all humans are already experiencing that full-bore disaster, living without reliable sanitation, water, or food supplies. As global climate change accelerates, within thirty years more than five billion humans living along seacoasts or in areas with unstable water supplies will experience life-threatening water-related crises.[lviii]

Every single one of these problems (and the many others mentioned earlier) is, at its core, a crisis of culture.

Reunite Us with Nature

Nothing but changing our way of seeing and understanding the world can produce real, meaningful, and lasting change, and that change in perspective—that stepping through the door to a new and healthy culture—will then naturally lead us to begin to control our populations, save our forests, recreate community, reduce our wasteful consumption, and return our democracy to “We the People.”

This requires transforming our culture through reimagining and re-understanding the world as a living and complex thing, rather than as a machine with a series of levers and meters. We are not separate from nature, and we are not separate from each other. “We are all one” is a religious cliché, but when you look at our planet from space and see this small blue marble spinning through empty blackness at millions of miles an hour, you get that, like most clichés, it’s grounded in a fundamental truth.

The message of mystics from time immemorial is that, at its core, that we’re all interconnected and interdependent. Ironically, such mystics were the founders of all the world’s great religions, yet that part of their message has largely been ignored—although every major religious tradition still has within it the core of the idea of oneness.

In October 2005, the thirty-million-member National Association of Evangelicals sent a statement to their fifty-thousand member churches that said, in part: “We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part. … [G]overnment has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation.”

It’s a beginning that we must bring to all religions, to all governments, to all people of the world.

Please open the link to read the rest of the chapter.