Home Andy Schmookler: Duty means going beyond what we’d do for ourselves

Andy Schmookler: Duty means going beyond what we’d do for ourselves


schmooklerDuty is an old-fashioned word. And as one who was part of the “counter-culture” more than forty years ago, I recall when such words were regarded with displeasure and even disapproval– too heavy, too constraining, to denying of our right to do our own thing and get our needs and wants met.

“If it feels good, do it” is a far cry from “Do your duty.”

I’ve been thinking about that in relation to what it is that’s happening so far here on NSB, and why it seems important that we here bring our activity up to a whole different level.

For myself, our status quo is just fine– looking at it solely in terms of what I need for me. The NoneSoBlind site tells me that well over 2000 people a day are reading what I post here. And beyond NSB, I get read regularly by thousands of additional people on other websites; I have op/ed pieces running regularly in newspapers around my congressional district; I get to talk to radio audiences with some frequency.

Lucky me. Believe me, compared to many, many years of my life, where I toiled in unwelcome isolation, this pretty fully satisfies an important need of mine– the need to have people listen when I have something to say.

During the years 2005-2011, from the beginning of NSB until my decision to run for Congress, I regularly gave thanks for my good fortune to live at a time when the Internet allowed me to publish my own words and find an audience. More readers and responses in a day, it seemed, than my books gave me in a year. After more than thirty years as a “voice crying in the wilderness,” I felt satisfied and grateful.

And so it would be now, were my needs what this this endeavor is about. But it’s not, and the status quo is not enough.

This isn’t about what I need or you need. It’s about what America needs.

Right now, it’s a matter of duty. Only if we push ourselves beyond what we want for ourselves — and press the battle — do we have a chance to have a real impact on our national crisis.

This week, I’ve been watching a film from the 1940s. It contains a scene in bustling, crowded Grand Central station, and in that crowd we see a great many men in uniform. Of course, that’s because America was then fighting World War II, and everyone was having to make sacrifices in their lives, and some to put their lives on the line, to do their duty for the nation.

We in America today are in that same situation. Our democracy is under assault from a force that is also blocking our acting to protect the health of our planet. This force must be fought and defeated. Just as those brave men who landed on the beaches of Normandy were not serving their own needs, so also are we in our time called upon to confront grave danger facing our nation — and our children and grandchildren — and to do what needs to be done to protect them.

There are differences, of course, between our era and that earlier one that get in the way of our responding as did the Americans of that time. America in that earlier battle could call upon a deeply ingrained tradition of rallying to the flag in wartime, whereas that battle to which we today are called is of a different kind for which we lack so powerful a tradition. And in World War II, the men of that era had Uncle Sam pointing his finger at them, drafting them into service under penalty of the law– but for the present battle, America is altogether dependent upon our volunteering.

My way of volunteering is to launch this “Press the Battle” campaign. And I’m asking you to push yourselves to go beyond what comes easily and answer the call to battle.

World War II was not won by any single battle, but by struggles on my fronts across the whole planet. I am thinking of “Press the Battle” offer one such front, but also as one that goes at a vital target– the cover of lies and hypocrisy and blindness and silence that obscures the deep dark truth of our times from the American people.

The “Press the Battle” campaign has a chance, I believe, to have an impact on the battle for America’s (and the planet’s) future. But not if we just do what we’re doing so far. Me writing, you reading, a few of you commenting — it’s all fine. But it’s not enough.

I’m asking you if you’re willing to push beyond what you would choose to do simply on the basis of what you need.

If you see some other front that looks more promising, then go fight on that front.

But if you find the “Press the Battle campaign as promising as anything else available to you, I’m asking you to ask yourself: “What contribution can I make to help this effort succeed?”

I’m asking you, are you willing to fight?

In the next installment, “Are You Willing to Fight,” I will propose two good ways you can help.

Now is the time for all good [people] to come to the aid of their country.

Andy Schmookler is an author and a former Sixth District Democratic Party congressional nominee.



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