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Report from the American Citizens' Summit, Denver, February 2009
by Carol Brouillet
"A house divided against itself cannot stand." Abraham Lincoln
From February 11th to 15th , 2009, at the American Citizens’ Summit in Denver, people from across the political spectrum gathered to speak and identify priorities demanding attention at a time of converging global crises. Processes included meeting in circles, listening, open space, and innovative feedback technologies that allowed everyone to vote on issues, ideas, and positions--anonymously and instantly--and to reflect the information to the group.
Left to Right- Joseph McCormick, Steven Bhaerman, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Cynthia McKinney
An interim Sunshine Cabinet--including Cynthia McKinney (2008- Green Party candidate for President), Congressman Ron Paul, Grover Norquist, Liberty Coalition co-founder Michael Ostrolenk, Barbara Marx Hubbard, humorist Steve Bhaerman and Committee for a Unified Independent Party director Jackie Salit--spoke about their top priorities. They included transparency, dismantling the national security state, a non-interventionist foreign policy, peace, justice, dignity, promoting liberty, following the Constitution, creating a Peace Room, and addressing the collapse of the economic system by creating a local/global sustainable economy that values solar energy, food, human invention and love.
The history and evolution of the Transpartisan Movement was mapped. Processes, some of which were developed from high school classroom ground rules and from rules adopted at the first Bipartisan Congressional Retreat, were explained. Spiral Dynamics allowed everyone to understand a framework to help people consciously transcend the limits of bipartisan thinking. People were encouraged to leave their egos at the door and to be open to all points of view, deeper truths, and surprising synergies, so they could create space in which ideas or solutions drawn from the collective wisdom of a diverse group of people could emerge.
Mark Gerzon, a pioneer in the movement, candidly admitted that the Stimulus Bill (which President Obama publicly signed into law February 18th, 2009, in Denver), was a result of bipartisan thinking and give and take, creating ammunition for future arguments and battles between Republicans and Democrats. A genuine effort to rationally examine measurable effects of past efforts to improve the lives of individuals, communities, and regions--to meet people’s needs and ameliorate economic conditions--was thwarted by Congress.
The Stimulus Bill is basically window dressing that does not begin to tackle the deeper systemic problems or the most urgent immediate needs of the people at a time of uncertainty and crisis; it is window dressing that promotes the “idea” that the government is “trying to do something” and is on top of the situation--which is an illusion, like the bubble wealth creation of the financial sector that has burst. Throwing money at the speculators’ black hole of astronomical debt will only reward and enrich the banksters and transfer an unpayable debt from them onto the shoulders of taxpayers. Rescuing banks has never served or helped the plight of populations who have seen their homes, savings, and businesses stolen from them by predators who already have the most wealth.
With so many systems failing, prescribing “more of the same medicine” does not inspire confidence. Pronouncements from the World Economic Forum and the White House try to convince us that the government and corporate structures that have dominated the past several decades are going to offer genuine solutions. These government and corporate structures are a large part of what has created the problem in the first place. The current policies might maintain the veneer of structural integrity, but beneath the surface explosives are going off, destroying huge swaths of infrastructure--key columns, as happened in the controlled demolition of World Trade Center 7. The fall time is predicted by the laws of physics, so that those in the know can exit and profit as they watch from a distance--and calculate how to profit even more from the insurance money that they’ll use to build the next bubble economy.
Facilitator Peggy Holman, author of The Change Handbook, wrote:
“Systems call forth different aspects of intelligence, as needed. When everything is working fine, people who have answers are rewarded and the pioneers and questioners are pushed to the fringe. When shifts begin to happen rapidly and systems begin failing, smart people and institutions start pulling in those who are effective at challenging the status quo and asking and pursuing powerful questions. What was fringe becomes central…” >
In creating room for dialogue and compassionate listening, respect for diverse points of view, awareness of the “triggers” that push our buttons and how to overcome reactions and “stay present,” the Citizens’ Summit created a space for surprising insights, ideas, synergies, and solutions to emerge in powerful ways.
The Citizens’ Summit identified the values we held in common: the top ones were respect, listening, integrity, transparency, taking action, building trust, compassion, and love. Joseph McCormick, primary organizer of the Citizens’ Summit and co-founder of Reuniting America, deliberately chose the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday as the date of the conference to draw together people with the "courage to cooperate" across traditional ideological barriers. He voiced his concern about the increasing polarization taking place within the country. He showed a map delineating Republican and Democrat counties in 2006 and 2008 that highlighted how the red areas were becoming redder and the blue areas bluer, with very little purple.
Michael Andregg, in his book On the Causes of War, explains that wars arise when there are two distinct narratives to explain “a common event.” Pitting right against left allows the top to control the bottom. The summit was an attempt to bring people from across the political landscape together, and we all experienced the challenges of this attempt. For example, the processes were too “communistic or touchy/feely” for some participants who came to advocate their particular issues. There were some very passionate advocates for radical reforms, but some of them had learned over decades that the best way to persuade people about these issues involved the softer approach of compassionate listening and thoughtful, honest, deliberative dialogue.
There seemed to be many “leaders, authors, presidents, politicians, and founders of various organizations” at the summit, and few “followers.” There was a healthy gender balance but a distinct lack of ethnic and income diversity. The registration fee to attend the summit and the hotel costs were beyond the price range of struggling activists and those who have to “earn a living.” The organizers had approached the conference with a strong vision and had gone out on a limb to try to pull off a conference in the middle of February in Colorado. A poster session focused on endowing the Transpartisan Alliance, paying off the debt, and advancing the work.
I was drawn to the summit when I learned that Cynthia McKinney and David Ray Griffin were invited speakers. I had hopes that the issues that I have worked on for years would be addressed and I was intrigued to try the new processes. The Northern California 9/11 Truth Alliance voted to sponsor a booth at the summit and send Ken Jenkins, Richard Gage, and me as delegates. Fran Shure of Colorado 911 Truth Visibility offered to host us and help us with a 9/11 Truth booth. Jennifer Parisi, also active with Colorado 911 Truth Visibility helped at our booth. Jonathan Elinoff brought his laptop and shared excerpts from his new film "Core of Corruption” which includes dramatic new footage on 9/11. We are Change Colorado had a booth. In addition to attending the summit, Richard Gage, AIA, founder of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, spoke at a local bookstore to a full house, which also drew people from the summit. Even though our poster sessions on 9/11 Truth were lightly attended, when polled over 70% of the participants on Sunday indicated that they believed the US government either allowed 9/11 to happen or made it happen.
Evan Ravitz, activist and webmaster of www.vote.org, who is a passionate advocate for national ballot initiatives, offered us an idea to improve our outreach to the public. Observing the popularity of the homemade cookies that we gave away at our booth as well as at some of the poster sessions, he suggested making a large banner saying “9/11 Truth and Cookies” and using that name to create yet another 9/11 Truth group, with perhaps greater appeal than the many Architects and Engineers, Pilots, Medical Professionals, Veterans, Fire Fighters, Scholars… for 9/11 Truth groups. He also suggested putting the cookie recipes on the website.
As publisher of the Deception Dollars, I had been planning to print a new bill that would be an evolution of the “Conception Dollar” published in August 2007 that pointed towards solutions. While attending the summit I volunteered to publish a “Perception Dollar,” or “Transpartisan Dollar,” in collaboration with others at the summit, to further the Transpartisan Movement and identify the values, processes, and solutions that citizens were coming up with in response to the massive problems generated by corporations, militarism, and the corruption and abuse of power so prevalent in the institutions that seek to dominate our country and the world.
Frankly, I’m not sure what the next step will be for those of us who came to the summit, were transformed, and have committed to work together during this time of crisis. I was surprised to learn that Obama chose to sign the Stimulus Bill in Denver, in the wake of the citizens’ summit. Obama was elected because people wanted “change,” but he has surrounded himself with those who engineered the economic crisis. Obama and Congress have supported the bailout and permitted the largest transference of wealth in history and the biggest financial crime ever.
Prior to 9/11, my main issue--after I became aware of the extremely destructive nature of the debt-based monetary system--was money/monetary reform, or global economics (the global power structure). Although I had inherited some wealth, after I realized what was behind our monetary system I literally gave away all my money in the 90’s to change the system, to promote local currencies, and to educate people about money--a major blind spot of civilization. I had been expecting a financial collapse for a long time and felt that the system held up only due to the smoke and mirrors of the mainstream media--which hid the criminal fraud of the system itself and of the most powerful players on the world stage--as well as due to the lack of an “alternative system.” I realized that to change the monetary system required changing the belief system of Americans and the world.
In some ways, 9/11 created a unique opportunity to expose “the curtain” and “those behind the curtain” who create “events” or “psychological operations--black operations--terrorist attacks” to manipulate public opinion and trick populations into supporting wars and allowing the construction of a police state.... Despite the powerful psychological obstacles to looking at the facts about 9/11, it turned out to be easier to help people understand the events of 9/11 than to educate them about how money is created and how global economics works. (An excellent resource on both issues is Michel Chossudovsky’s website, www.globalresearch.ca.)
At a poster session on “Transpartisan Economics” there was a very friendly, respectful discussion regarding numerous approaches to tax reform, land reform, and monetary reform, which recognized that there is no silver bullet solution to quickly solve and retool our economic system. Wendell Fitzgerald, president of the Henry George School of San Francisco (www.henrygeorgesf.org), and Steven Shafarman, author of Peaceful, Positive Revolution: Economic Security for Every American, advocated for a guaranteed basic income, together with tax and monetary reformists, agreed that we need “an honest, above-board participatory economic system valuing community in the creation of money, land value and tax policy to serve our individual and common needs, creating income security for all, and not passing down debt and loss to the final consumer or future inhabitant.”
Last September, when the financial crisis made headlines and the bailout was proposed, a huge majority of people suddenly could see that they were being ripped off and that the crooks who were most responsible were being rewarded. The time for monetary reform is ripe. Knowing the importance of this issue, I actually tried to get those advocating monetary reform to attend the Citizens’ Summit--including Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who last October introduced H. R. 7260 (Transparency in the Creation of Wealth Act of 2008), which demanded transparency in the Federal Reserve; Stephen Zarlenga, founder of The American Monetary Institute and author of The Lost Science of Money: The Mythology of Money, The Story of Power; and Richard Cook, author of We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform.
Congressman Ron Paul, who also proposed legislation to “end the Federal Reserve,” did not speak directly about the issue at the summit, but indirectly and more broadly suggested that we promote liberty as a unifier, as well as honoring the Constitution. His supporters were passionately advocating a return to silver and gold backed currency. I took the workshop on “overcoming triggers” just so that I could dialogue with the hard money advocates without immediately falling into debate mode. At the circles addressing economics issues, we realized that most of the work we had to do was in the realm of public education--overcoming myths that entrench a dysfunctional system that maintains and exacerbates the disparities between the rich and the poor and decimates the middle class.
These are the top issues that emerged from the collective whole, framed as questions:
How do we give everyone access to affordable, quality healthcare?
How do we create a system for quality education that respects the individual, encourages the desire to learn, and develops critical thinking skills?
How do we achieve transparency in all government transactions including taxes and the Federal Reserve?
How do we develop an alternative energy economy that provides jobs, protects our environment and creates energy independence?
Enhancing local role in decision making:
How do we deepen the quality of engagement between Americans and their government?
All people are authentically engaged in the creation of all public decisions and policy. America's government is termed a Republic:
How do we achieve a truly representative Republic - a truly representative Democracy?
How do we create economic policies that provide the basic needs and opportunities for every American?
How do we create healthy, safe, vital, sustainable local communities?
Establishing common ground and trust in shared values and goals seemed to be the first step in working together through the more gnarled strategies and steps necessary to realize them. On the first day, a long presentation on spiral dynamics looked at the evolution of thought processes and how increasingly complex problems and crises demand new ways of thinking--first for tribes, then nations, and finally for civilizations to adapt and survive. Many have not survived.
Sometimes the most personal stories are the most universal, when someone has the courage to bare their soul, removing whatever façade they might wear to protect themselves, and exposing their weaknesses, their vulnerabilities, their heart. The revelations we offer one another--and the sensitive listening, reciprocity, and respect--are the essential first steps toward developing trust and overcoming stereotypes and prejudice based on appearances.
I was surprised at the summit by the revelations I heard. I was also told directly by several people that Ken, Richard, Fran, Jennifer and I broke “the crazy conspiracy theorist” stereotype for people who otherwise would not have doubted or questioned the official 9/11 story.
My own natural “mistrust” of elected officials was challenged when I learned that one of the wealthier men in Congress actually sponsored the attendance at the summit of my activist friend Evan Ravitz. During a hike after the summit, Evan told me about Jared Polis, a freshman Congressman from Colorado who used his entrepreneurial and Internet skills in his college days to help his family make a fortune with their greeting card company. Jared devoted much of his personal fortune to passing good legislation, improving education in Colorado, and serving the greater good.
Mark Twain wrote:
“It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress.”I agree with Twain for the most part. I am embarrassed to even admit that I ran for Congress twice. (I usually add that I ran because Congress was behaving treasonably by not defending the Constitution and by not impeaching Bush and Cheney, who I considered the greatest threats to our nation and the world. I also knew, as a Green Party candidate, that my chances of winning were almost nil, but running allowed me to speak publicly about taboo issues). However, I have also met those with great courage and integrity who were in Congress and lost their seats because they posed a threat to the status quo. And under tremendous pressure, a few, including Representatives Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, continue to speak up and champion the people’s interest over corporate interests.
9/11 truth and the monetary crisis were transpartisan issues in the sense that they transcended the limited political boxes, or hats that people wore, drawing people from across the political spectrum to question the invisible agreements and assumptions that permeate civic life and the possibility that those could and should be changed.
On the last day of the conference, we were asked to stand where we felt we were in relation to the Transpartisan Alliance--anywhere from the center to the edge. Except for getting up from my chair, I didn’t move, because I could see how I could incorporate the good ideas into my work and help promote them, and at the same time try to balance my life and continue to work on the issues that I cared about passionately. However, in the last round of stating our commitments to the group, I found myself teamed up with Robert Steele, an ex-intelligence professional (can one actually retire from the CIA?) who has strongly advocated open source public intelligence available to all, promoting the idea of Collective Intelligence--inspired by one of my mentors and friends, Tom Atlee of the Co-Intelligence Institute. I subsequently found myself on the funding committee.
In an era when the volume of information is exploding, knowledgeable processing of that information can’t keep up, and genuine wisdom is rare and speaks so softly that it is hard to discern from the cacophony, my deepest concerns are over technology. On one hand, technology is incredibly empowering and enables us to communicate without the traditional gatekeepers of the mainstream media; on the other hand, technology can be abused and has a history of being used to serve elite interests and maintain their control over the planet. I struggle to process more than I can possibly disseminate and share in words or through art and actions, while balancing the demands of my family, my colleagues, and the world.
I have a heartfelt desire that we move from the paradigm of fear toward one of courage, love, respect, and cooperation. My hope is that we can transition from the “love of power to the power of love,” and my fear is that every technological trick in the book will be used to deceive, frighten, and fragment people to maintain the dying empire. How can we nurture new, transparent, life serving, decentralized, local, state, national, international Transpartisan efforts to identify and solve the real problems that we face? Can we draw from the collective wisdom of the diverse many with direct knowledge and experience in the real world whose voices, concerns and insights need to be heard? Do we need technology to do it? Can we do it through face to face meetings? Like money, will technology tyrannize humanity? Or can we use it, as we might use an enlightened monetary system, to serve human needs? I don’t know all the answers, but now more than ever, we need to raise questions and come up with new ways to solve our problems. Matching processes with purpose seems like the right place to start.
Last group photo on Sunday afternoon