This is the personal blog of Rick Staggenborg, MD. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Take Back America for the People, an educational 501.c3 nonprofit established by Dr Staggenborg.

Feel free to reproduce any blogs by Dr Staggenborg without prior permission, as long as they are unedited and posted or printed with attribution and a link to the website.

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Monday, March 26, 2012


All around us we are witnessing the erosion of our personal privacy. While disconcerting to many, it might be the best thing that ever happened to America. When we keep our thoughts to ourselves, our anger can destroy us. We cannot hide behind a mask of civility while wanting to attack those who disagree with us. We cannot achieve the consensus required to govern ourselves if we feel afraid to let our neighbors know what we think about the issues confronting all of us and the dangers to human civilization of allowing corporate control of the US government and thereby the world. When we do not expose our ideas to scrutiny, we remain ignorant of our false beliefs and continue to fight each other rather than the corporate Puppetmasters who would enslave us all in a fascist New World Order.

The passage of the National Defense Authorization Act gave Obama and all future Presidents the power to declare any of us enemy combatants, subject to indefinite detention in military prisons without charges. When so few US citizens trust their government, it is a wonder that this did not produce widespread protests. It seems that conservatives remain so afraid of terrorists and Democrats so fearful of Republicans that most did not dare to protest. Those of us on the front lines of the struggle for democracy in America know full well how such power might be abused if we succeed at building a united front against fascism in the United States and war in the world. We will be the first to test this and other laws abridging our freedoms of speech and assembly.

In the face of this blatant warning to dissidents in the US, we must not be cowed into submitting to the international corporate terrorists behind the NDAA and similar legislation. If we are serious about building a united front behind Occupy and similar coalitions, we must face the fact that when we succeed there will be attempts to silence the loudest of us. It requires faith that we can build a movement that is independent of the need for identified leaders and that is wide enough that it cannot be stopped with such simple measures. That is the essence of nonviolent anarchical warfare against the police state and the fascist New World Order that it protects.

Only by making our voices heard can we hope to build such a movement. When enough of us join in a chorus demanding a return to the path toward democracy, our voice will be heard. That collective call must include people from everywhere on the political spectrum who demand change, if we want to claim to speak for the 99% That means that we must keep the message on point, relevant to the needs of the movement and consistent with values shared by all Americans. We will not achieve consensus on many issues but we can all agree that we must fight for the survival of the American dream of democracy in the US and the world.

As a psychiatrist, I am familiar with the dangers of hiding one’s beliefs and attitudes from others. We all wear masks but some are more deceptive than others, capable even of deceiving ourselves about our selves. To have a firm conviction in how to proceed as a group or as a society we must know and trust ourselves. That cannot be done if we live in fear of being exposed as weak, ignorant or tainted by our past. We must remember that we fight the power structure not so much out of anger or fear but out of love for all our children and Mankind itself. That begins by learning to love ourselves, with all  of  our  faults. To  move  forward  together, we must respect others who have angered us. It is division that allows the powerful to control us. In unity lies strength.

Democracy requires that a People be good enough to rule themselves. If we believe that democracy is possible we must believe that however confused they may be, our neighbors are essentially good. We can choose whether to consider them allies or enemies, but I will never choose to make a potential ally my enemy. The cause is all that matters. Those who will not join us will still be our neighbors when the Revolution is over. If we wish the Revolution to remain nonviolent, we must learn to accept those with whom we disagree even as we work to defeat the sick ideology that some unwittingly support.

Imagine a society where people accept each other rather than judge, where is understood that we have  nothing  to  fear  from  the  judgment of others. Such a world is possible  if  we  learn that in judging others we diminish our selves. It is by accepting the fact  that  humans  are  much  more alike than different that our commonalities are what make us human and that diversity is  critical  to  the survival  of  human  civilization  that we can forge a world society capable of surviving  and  thriving  in  the  post-New World Order. In such  a  world  we  celebrate  the  differences  that  give  life  its  wonderful complexity and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

We have nothing to fear but fear of our selves. If we look deep within our hearts and learn to love what we find there, we can find it in our hearts to forgive others. We must know ourselves and to our own selves be true, for it is truth that is the only thing that will set us free. When enough of us learn to  speak the truth without fear, we will create the Tectonic Paradigm Shift in human consciousness that will save human civilization from self-destruction.

Sunday, March 25, 2012



Move  to  Amend  has   made   great   strides  in educating  the  public about the need  to pass a constitutional amendment  to abolish corporate personhood, declare  that money is  not speech and that would  direct  federal,  state  and local governments  to   regulate   direct  and  indirect campaign   spending.  From  New  York  City   to rural  towns  like Coos Bay, Oregon, citizens are passing  resolutions  calling  for  an  amendment that would overturn Citizens United or do even more.

The question  arises as  to how we can translate this  support   into  concrete   action   to   move Congress   toward   passing   the   amendment. Clearly, most members of Congress now   in office  have  little or no desire to do so. While a dozen or so amendments have been introduced in Congress, the best of them fall short and the worst are dangerous. Many only give Congress the   power   to   regulate   corporate campaign contributions. Congress has demonstrated that it has no interest in using such power if it would undermine the  ability  of  the  corporate  tools among them to get re-elected.

Worse, this type of amendment would enshrine in the constitution the principle that corporate financing of campaigns is legal.  If our goal is to end  the  corruption  of  Congress  by  corporate money,  we  need  to  demand  that  members of Congress   support   an   amendment   that   will explicitly   ban    special    interest    money   in elections,    something    the    proposed    MTA amendment  does  not  do,  according  to  some experts on constitutional law.

The only effective way to pass an amendment is to make support for it a campaign issue in 2012 and beyond.  If members of Congress are more interested  in  keeping  their  seats  than  taking care  of  the needs and desires of the electorate, then we  need to  make their jobs dependent on standing  against  the   corrupting   influence  of money in  politics. 

If  people  around the US descend on town halls during   the  election  season  prepared  to  ask candidates  whether they will make a pledge to support  such  an amendment, the issue cannot be   ignored   any   longer  by  the  bulk  of  the “alternative” media.  It will eventually seep into the public consciousness through the corporate media, which  cannot   ignore  the   issue  when members of Congress  begin  to  lose  seats  for opposing it.

2012 can be a historic year  in American politics if enough  people  from  the  Occupy  movement and those in organizations working for universal health care,  the   end   of   war,   environmental responsibility  or  any  other  justice   issue  join together  to  call  on  our  politicians  to  declare publicly that they will put the interest of We the People  over    corporations   by  supporting  an amendment    that    will    abolish    corporate personhood,  declare  that money is not speech and  explicitly  ban  special  interest  money  in elections.

This strategy cannot be ignored until  we have 99%  of  the  American  public  behind us. If we only follow the  limited strategy of passing local resolutions  calling  on members of Congress to pass   an   amendment   we   will  have  lost  the opportunity  to  affect  the 2012 election debate and to set the stage for running candidates who support the  amendment in every congressional race  as  early  as   2014.   We have   seen how Congress   and   the   White House respond to petitions already. It is time that we held them accountable at the ballot box for ignoring us.

The beauty of this approach is that since nearly 80%    of    both   self-identified   liberals   and conservatives were opposed to Citizens United, a  Pledge  to  Amend  campaign may be the one way  to  bring together the left and Right in the common cause of putting America back on track to  becoming  a  real democracy. We must strike while   the   iron   is   hot, connecting   the  dots between  Citizens  United  and  the failure of the US  government   to  meet  the basic needs of its citizens.  I challenge  anyone  to  name another such crucial issue as that  has  such  widespread support across the political spectrum.

We all need to  support  the  efforts  of  Move  to Amend  to  raise  awareness  of  the  need for an amendment.   I   would   suggest  that  Move  to Amend   also   needs to  support  the  efforts  of those  of us working to add this weapon against corporate  control  of  the US government to our arsenal. Until we can agree to work together for our common goal, we will remain divided. With the many threats  to   the   survival  of  human civilization    from   global    climate   instability, endless  war  and  the twin threats of pandemic and mass starvation,  the world cannot wait. An incremental approach to democracy in the US is as naïve as thinking Democratic incrementalism will get us there.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


In 1941, German-born sociologist and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm explored the roots of fascism in the seminal Escape From Freedom. He concluded that fascism could arise in any nation whose people allow themselves to submit to authoritarian government. Sinclair Lewis had written in his 1939 novel It Can’t Happen Here that fascism could arise in America if the collective consciousness of its people became one in which populist demagogues promising relief from the Depression were seen as the answer to economic suffering.

As events have proven, fascism can indeed arise in America. The citizens of the United States grew fat and complacent after WW II, believing that it was their  manifest destiny to prosper, never questioning where the source of much of that wealth and American power. As the military-industrial complex grew and became a threat to the rest of the world, Americans were willfully ignorant of the suffering that our profligate consumer-oriented society was based on. The Vietnam War was supported by a majority of Americans who did not have to fight it for years, while 58,000 men and women gave their lives for corporate Empire. 

Fromm’s thesis was that there are two kinds of freedom: freedom from and freedom to. He argued that as children we are free of much of the decision-making that adults have to engage in. As we grow older and are forced to make more decisions for ourselves, anxiety and uncertainty result. Many therefore escape from the freedom to make choices about their own lives by accepting what they are told by the corporate media, politicians and their peers. They refuse to grow up and accept responsibility for making their own informed decisions about political questions or their role in a society that increasingly functions to benefit the rich.  

Freedom to is the freedom to make our own choices according to our own values and beliefs. This requires questioning the prevailing ideas of our society. If we are unwilling to do so, we surrender the freedom to have a role in determining our individual and collective destinies in exchange for relief from the anxieties that come from challenging orthodox beliefs that often do not reflect our own values. This is what we have done in giving up on a broken political system that is the result of our willful ignorance, complacency and lack of sense of social responsibility. We have allowed fascism to emerge in the cradle of democracy.

It is not too late to save ourselves from being enslaved in a fascist New World Order. If we examine our deepest beliefs we will find that most of us do possess a sense of social responsibility. That means that we have a responsibility to work together to mold a new society in which the needs of the least among us are as important as our own. 

We must give up on the naïve belief that in a fascist system all have an equal chance to live the American dream, which is quickly becoming the American nightmare. Those of us who have shirked our responsibility to think for ourselves must learn to we can't avoid our responsibility to each other and call ourselves free. We must realize that in a society governed by a wealthy few, we do not have the power to control our individual destiny, let alone our collective fate. We can know true freedom only if we work together to become a society in which we are all free from want, free from oppression and free from the threat of endless war.  

Once upon a time there was a truly United States. It took the misery of the Great Depression to make us realize that a system designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many would inevitably become oppressive and that only together could we take back the reins of government. Were it not for the social safety net that is now under attack, since 2008 we would have been in an even greater Depression. 

Those who accept the myth of the corporate media and politicians that "creeping socialism” is bankrupting the nation are living in an artificial reality divorced from that of most Americans. When we seek to escape our responsibilities as sovereign citizens by letting an economic elite make the decisions that affect all of us, we are submitting to the authoritarian mindset that is at the root of fascism in every place that it has taken hold. 

If rugged individuality is the defining characteristic of Americanism, we should learn to think for ourselves. No one is truly free in a society of people who do not feel any responsibility toward others.
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