Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Moral Fantasy

In my own grieving process over the election I find that I’ve entered a stage of bargaining. My thinking frequently goes in the direction of fantasies and magical thinking. The idea of petitioning the Electoral College to become faithless electors is a fantasy. The notion that recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania will swing the election to Clinton is magical thinking.

And yet, from a different perspective, from a prophetic perspective, aren’t these fantasies worth naming? When the prophet Isaiah called on rulers to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks wasn’t that also fantasy? When the prophet Micah calls the people to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly is that magical thinking? Isaiah and Micah were correct in their prophetic proclamations. Today we are justified in our moral counsel whether that means directing the electoral college, calling for reviews of elections, or offering other kinds of moral instruction.

Below, in the form of a letter, I share my latest moral fantasy. I share it not because I have any belief that it will happen, but because, morally, it is what should happen. There is a moral obligation to name what is moral even if it is thought impossible.


Dear Billionaires,

You have the moral obligation and the collective power to save our world.

I have a fantasy that if Donald Trump tries to build his wall he will discover that Bill Gates has purchased a controlling interest in every major concrete company in the USA and the answer will be, “No deal.”

I have a fantasy that Warren Buffett buys the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline and scraps the project.

I have a fantasy that two years ago Mark Zuckerberg had purchased a contract to manage all the DMV offices in Wisconsin and used that influence to issue IDs to every disenfranchised voter in the state, swinging that state to Hillary Clinton.

My fantasy is that the wealthiest billionaires in the United States – in the world – use their individual and collective wealth to block or disrupt many of the objectives of Trump’s presidency.

Think this idea is way out there? Consider this: Five out of America’s six richest men opposed a Trump presidency. Warren Buffett openly campaigned for Clinton. Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, the newspaper that went hardest against Trump. Michael Bloomberg spoke out against Trump at the Democratic National Convention. Consider this: Technology companies in Silicon Valley and beyond dumped millions into Clinton’s campaign and opened up their coffers for Obama before her. Tech companies tend to care about America being a welcoming home for immigrants and about issues of free speech.

There are, of course, Republican billionaires like the Koch brothers, the Waltons, Sheldon Adelson, and many others who are openly embracing a Trump presidency. But it is not like billionaires who embrace some form of liberalism don’t exist. In fact they’re plentiful. They include major executives at Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, and other major tech companies. Mark Cuban was one of Clinton’s biggest backers. George Soros recently committed $10 million to fighting hate crimes. Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has pledged to battle Trump’s environmental policies.

Who else might be enlisted in the cause? Hollywood’s leading stars have the power to raise large amounts of capital. NBA players earn a collective $3 billion dollars per year. America’s Ivy League schools plus Stanford, MIT, and Wellesley control endowments totaling over $150 billion. It is time for these educational institutions to leverage their resources to defend freedom.

Paging Carlos Slim Helu, Mexico’s richest man and one of the handful of richest men in the world. I don’t know his politics but I do know that he was once an immigrant from the Middle East. I know that he would be regaled as a Mexican hero if he stuck it to Trump by throwing a monkey wrench in Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda.

Perhaps this is all terribly naïve. If the world’s billionaires cared about poverty, health care, or the environment they would have already done something about it. But maybe, just maybe, this moment in history will be spark a moral awakening.

I wonder if Apple, Microsoft, and Google could join forces and purchase one of the world’s largest oil companies only to immediately begin decreasing oil extraction and redirecting company resources to the production of green energy.

I wonder if Martin Shkreli can purchase a drug and hike its price, why can't Paul Allen buy a drug and lower its price?

Could the Catholic Church buy a privately owned prison system and operate it according to the dictates of justice instead of the temptations of greed and exploitation?

The Presidents of the “Seven Sisters” colleges recently wrote a letter condemning Steve Bannon; could they use their endowments and collective fundraising potential to bolster public education in a region of the country where public education is being dismantled?

Truthfully, I’m not holding my breath. But the prophet Isaiah didn’t hold his breath when he called out for swords to be beaten into plowshares. Jonah didn’t hold his breath when he brought a message of repentance to Nineveh.

To those with massive wealth and power: it is time to do justice, to act compassionately, and to save our nation, our planet, and its people.

 Feel free to share and especially feel free to send this to any billionaires you may know.