I met Mitch Richards last May speaking against the use of paramilitary policing tactics by the Columbia Police Department. The particular SWAT raid that had brought us to City Hall had happened in February, to a family who lived about 5 miles from my downtown abode; the cops had obtained a warrant based on specious paid informant testimony and gone in at night, guns blazing. They shot the dogs, manhandled the suspect, and videotaped the entire affair for training purposes.
In the crowd that came to Columbia’s City Hall that May night to protest the raid, Mitch stood out. Above the angry, sometimes incoherent clamor that night, Mitch spoke in measured, eloquent language about individual sovereignty, natural rights, and the freedoms protected for Americans by the Constitution of the United States.
In these times such a voice speaks loudly. There is great yearning in America for our lost Liberty; across the country, the political landscape is experiencing an upheaval as citizens find our political structure inapt to meet their demands. Much of this energy is unfocused. In this environment opportunists, charlatans, and fringe elements proliferate; witness the incoherence and sheer ignorance of Sarah Palin.
And the establishment is not much better. We are asked by our leaders and our governing institutions to give up many of our most basic freedoms in the name of security and liberty. Both political parties are perversely invested in the status quo; this is often reflected in the transition that happens between (relatively independent) candidate and (beholden) elected official.
American politics has been defined by powerful institutional players and vested interests for decades. In this morass one may lose one’s way and spend an eternity adrift far from the borders of hebetude. Consider Barack Obama, who ran on an anti-war ticket in 2008. Now he is President Obama. War-monger Obama.
Reasserting our stakeholder interests in American politics may be a Sisyphean task. I may be delusional for thinking that Americans can successfully challenge the political structures that seek to enslave us with debt and barter away our freedoms. But I know it is possible to try, and that there is virtue in the struggle. It is hard to remain independent, and speak truth to power about the realities of America’s governance, about the insanities of our Wars on Drugs, Terror, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Mitch has never been afraid of confronting these realities; in his approach he represents an honesty and integrity that has been lacking in our politics since before I was born in 1984.
I look forward to tonight’s vote as Mitch seeks election to Columbia’s City Council in the First Ward. The outcome is uncertain, but I know that tonight’s election is an opening move, not the endgame.
Please visit Mitch at http://mitchrichardsforfirstward.com/