"I hate that man! He's evil," moaned a friend when I told her that Ralph Nader would be appearing in the Memorial Chapel at the University of Redlands (recently.)
I didn't argue, but I knew where she was coming from. She's another Democrat who still blames Nader, and his Green Party presidential run in 2000, for the alleged victory of George W. Bush that year, dismissing the many other factors involved, ranging from an Electoral College which denied the win to Gore, who, remember, had half a million more votes than Bush, to an extremely dubious decision by a partisan Supreme Court.
It's just that it's so much easier to blame one man.
And who is this "evil" man? Only a person I've admired for more than 40 years. A man who, along with his teams of fired-up, idealistic young people, whom the press dubbed Nader's Raiders, has done more to fight the corporate assaults on our own personal health, and the health of our nation, than just about anyone else you can name.
A man who has literally saved tens of thousands of lives through his battle to see that seat belts and then air bags were installed in our cars, despite the industry's vicious opposition. A man whose life's work was partially inspired by the time in the early '50s when he came across an auto accident and saw that a little girl in the front seat had been decapitated when her unrestrained body had hit a glove compartment door. A man whom many have thought should be president since my high school days - including myself.
But, sadly, his life's work is tainted for many by his daring to think that he had a right to run for president - just like anyone else - while they continue to ignore his message that it's not him, but the political process in this country that's tainted by forces that have completely subverted the goals of true democracy.
Sadly, too many Americans have ended up like my friend - angry at Nader - rather than angry at a sick system which continues to paint Americans into a corner every election cycle, making far too many feel that they have to cast a "Hobson's choice, lesser of two evils" vote year after year after year. It's become one of the best methods ever devised by the powers that be to control dissent, keep the status quo firmly in place, and subvert true democracy.
However, as Nader has pointed out, there are solutions to this problem, and many other countries are already using them - solutions such as proportional representation, which eliminates winner-take-all elections; ranked, or instant run-off voting, so you can vote for the person you really like without the fear of helping elect someone you really don't; and, most importantly, publicly financed elections, so we can cleanse our government of politicians who are bought and paid for by their moneyed backers.
One of the reasons we have not seen these solutions implemented is because those in power are constantly working to see that they aren't, and the first step we can all take to counter this problem is to simply stop voting for their candidates.
The bottom line is this: Although we say we live in a representational democracy, in reality that claim is all lip service because millions of Americans are not represented by candidates from the two major political parties currently running the country.
I know I'm not, and today I'm more convinced of that than ever in light of our ongoing and fraudulent wars based on lies, which have helped to bankrupt our nation; the use of torture; and now Obama's hit on Osama, which was a complete violation of two key Green Party values, because it was both an extrajudicial execution, and - it was an execution.
So, I invite you to direct your anger at the corruption that pervades our politics rather than toward one of the greatest Americans alive today, and urge that you first listen to, and then work on what Nader has to say, as he continues his crusade against the corruption.