|A protester wears a gas mask and carries an American flag during a rally in response to Michigan's coronavirus stay-at-home order, at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, May 14. AP|
By Emanuel Pastreich
I have been a teacher for most of my career, teaching at university level, but also for high school, starting in 1998 at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. My specialty has been East Asian studies, covering the cultures and histories of Japan, China and Korea. More recently my writings have expanded to cover contemporary politics, security, technology and economics.
I made up my mind early on that as Asia became more central in the international community it would be critical for the next generation (which I thought of as people like me back then) to have a deep understanding of Asia and to be able to engage with Asians with at least the same level of sophistication that Asians have when engaging with us.
I also spent part of my career in Japan and Korea and that experience not only gave me understanding of what the United States needs to do to respond to a new world, but it also allowed me to see our country with greater clarity from the outside.
As president of the Asia Institute in Washington, D.C., a think tank that conducts research and holds discussions on diplomacy, security and economic issues, I work to help Americans understand Asia accurately. I do so with a minimum budget, working with those committed to the truth, not to security big budgets.
I could see from January this year in Washington, D.C., that the entire federal government had shut down and that a dangerous cloud of uncertainty had descended over the institutions that determine our future.
It was also clear to me that the current political system is incapable of addressing any of the serious challenges facing the United States, whether climate change or the concentration of wealth, the global arms race or the negative impact of technology on our lives.
I looked around at the politicians, not just candidates for president, but others too, and it was crystal clear that those politicians have fallen into empty rituals, the repetition of phrases like magic incantations, and that we are no longer engaged in a dialogue with citizens about ethical issues, about science or about the future.
This political culture is not only disturbing, it is frightening. I could see signs even in January that the entire federal government was marching forward toward unmitigated catastrophe.
I decided to declare myself a candidate for president because there were no candidates out there, even among the minor parties, that were addressing seriously the challenges of our age.
I drafted my declaration over a period of several weeks with the conviction that nothing could be done in the United States unless we worked outside of the established system, and that only an independent candidate would be capable of moving the country in a healthy direction.
When I mentioned this idea to my friends, most immediately responded that unless one has high media exposure, lots of funding from corporations and deep connections in political parties, there is no way you can run for president, or for Congress, or even for local government.
Any such effort would be perceived as nothing more than a stunt.
But when I heard those words, I felt only the more strongly that in the midst of the growing chaos and uncertainty that for me to make such a declaration could make a difference if I did so, not as an appeal to the corrupt institutions that dominated Washington, D.C., today, but rather as an appeal to the words and the spirit of the constitution. This core document, which defines the United States, clearly recognizes me as fully qualified to make such a bid for the presidency.
Moreover, after I wrote the speech and spoke with a variety of people ― from working poor and teachers to restaurant employees ― I came to believe that I was able to represent precisely the needs of the country, because I have not accepted any external funding, and I was myself unemployed. As someone in the same position as the majority of Americans, I can represent them in a manner that privileged politicians could not possibly do.
Established powers have erected high walls in Washington, D.C., to make sure no one like me will ever be covered in the media, will ever be invited to any events, will ever be considered as someone worth listening to.
But this reality encourages me, rather than discouraging me. So obvious is it to me that only a complete transformation of the politics of the country can save us, and that the two political parties, wallowing in money and privilege, cannot measure up to the task. Also, so-called independents are incapable of mounting a serious campaign.
Today's pundits and politicians, whether they call themselves progressive or conservative, fight with each other for the honor of offering up an unholy sacrifice before the filthy idol known as the corporate media. They dumb down their words, avoid critical topics and bend over backwards to please the powerful.
That media is a racket. It creates profits for corporations and denies us the right to understand what is happening in our country.
Other politicians assume that the corporate media has so much power to make or break anyone, through slander, or by cooked-up scandals, that they will not dare to look the false god in the eyes.
If the requirement for becoming a presidential candidate is having the backing of the rich and being praised by a corrupt media empire, then clearly I am not qualified.
But the United States constitution, which should always be our starting point, does not say anywhere that money or power is required to be president.
I want to take the opposite position, to say that if the other candidates are taking money from investment banks, from multinational corporations, or from the super-rich, that it is they, and not I, who are not qualified to be president.
I am certain that if you read my materials, or listen even to a few minutes of my speeches, it will be clear just how serious this campaign is.
I am committed to you and I want my policies to reflect your insights. I have no interest in tired-out phrases like "conservative" and "progressive" designed to confuse and to divide us. Please let me know what you think and let us work together to create new hope in the United States.
Thank you for your valuable time.