I started Voices of Reason over nine years ago, during the dark days of the Bush years when reason was under assault by an administration riddled with incompetence and arrogance. A lot has changed in the past decade: America has weathered the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and twice elected a man who, for all of his shortcomings, is firmly in the reason camp and a champion of sensible policies. The country is in much better shape, and a host of new liberal policies have been enacted. While imperfect and incomplete, they’ll significantly improve millions of people’s lives and strengthen our economic system over the coming years.
But we all know that the work is far from done.
On climate change we have barely gotten started and time is running out to mitigate the severe impacts that are becoming increasingly evident by the day. Millions of people are still out of work, and their lifetime economic prospects dim every day they remain so. Even on healthcare, where tremendous progress has been made, the reforms that go fully into effect in 2014 are but the starting point for a series of reforms that are necessary for our long-term fiscal solvency. And we remain far away from sensible gun regulation that can make a serious dent in the stunning levels of violence that continue to make America an outlier among developed nations.
And the simple fact is that reasoned arguments are simply not sufficient to get things done. When the gun legislation proposed by the Obama Administration went down last week, it had the support of 90% of the American people—virtually unheard of in modern America. Yet it wasn’t enough to overcome GOP obstructionism in the Senate and the lobbying efforts of the NRA, one of the most heinous organizations in the land.
It is hard to believe, but the “reason camp” has won almost all of the major policy arguments that confront us. Majorities support action on climate change and green energy, immigration reform, gay marriage, drug decriminalization, single payer healthcare (which is what Medicare is), progressive tax policy, etc. If our laws reflected majority opinion America would look more like Scandinavia than Texas, and we would all be better off for it.
The reactionary forces in America know this, which is why they use every tactic, no matter how unscrupulous or unethical, to sow disinformation and thwart the will of the majority. Since they have no allegiance to the public interest, only to their narrow self-interest, they feel no compunction about pitting one group against the other, about lying and harming others to get their way. As has always been the case, it’s easier to destroy than to create, easier to confuse than to illuminate, to divide rather than unite.
So our task is that much harder.
But it is not impossible, and that’s why I’m transitioning this site from reasoned argument to reasoned action. It’s time for implementation, execution, and performance. Reasoned arguments will form the backbone of all actions; they’ll be the catalyst, the inspiration, the spark. But more is needed. We need to think creatively, better understand human psychology, make use of new technology, and speak to the human emotions that drive behavior.
Sometimes reason in action may take conventional means. Just this past week I learned that Eden Foods, a company whose excellent organic products I have been buying for over 20 years, is run by religious extremists who are fighting to overturn the rule requiring free reproductive health services for women under Obamacare. I joined forces with many others to begin a boycott of Eden products and wrote a letter to the company.
Sometimes reason in action will inspire new businesses, new art, new stories, new political campaigns. Or it may take the form of a new Facebook group to share information, as I and others did this past Earth Week. All evidence points to the overwhelming health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet, so we led a panel discussion between a vegan (me), a grass-fed beef rancher, and a local sustainable seafood purveyor, followed by a tour of Whole Foods and a vegan food competition. The event drew over 50 people and the food was incredible. Dozens of people had never tasted vegan food this good before and were inspired to transition away from animal products. We are keeping the momentum going with our Facebook group and recipe sharing. People often email me asking me for vegan tips.
All of us have similar stories of things we know that had a direct impact and sowed the seeds of change.
Over the next few months VoR will become a place where those stories are shared and direct action is promoted. I am not sure of the exact format, frequency, and other details of this effort, and I welcome your opinions. Please use the comments section of this piece to send along your ideas. If you’re on the VOR mailing list, I’ll let you know when the new site is up and running; if you’re not on the mailing list, be sure to add your name. I’ll also make sure that this site and the new one are linked.
Thanks for all of your thoughtful emails and comments over these past nine years. They have kept me returning week after week even when readership was low. I look forward to this next phase where we can all share ways to make positive impacts in society and put reason into action.
All the best,