Jerry Wilson admits he never thought it through. When he sent his full-page essay, “America Inc.,” off to The New York Times, he had a $42,000 check in his hand, but nothing up his sleeve. He wasn’t thinking follow-up. “I just lit the fuse and ran like hell.”
The firecrackers have been going off in Wilson’s mailbox at Soloflex ever since.
“Your message . . . was the finest thing written since the Gettysburg Address,” Wallace Morrison of Woodburn wrote in a quivering scrawl that suggested he may have heard Abe deliver the speech.
Wilson’s message — which ran in the Times on March 4 and in every Oregon daily the following Sunday — was that a massive public works push could rescue the United States’ economy.
He argued that every citizen is a shareholder in this country and, as a shareholder, can demand that the company stop burying 40 percent of its industrial output in security (the defense budget) and reinvest it in such things as interstate water systems and new sources of energy.
“You have once again proven,” wrote Gordon Solie, a professor emeritus at Portland State, “that it is not the real intelligentsia that is running for public office these days.”
Some responses came in pencil, some by postcard, some by fax. Among the 250 letters that arrived that first week were notes from John McConnell, the founder of EarthDay, Gene LaRoque, the director of the Center for Defense Information, and Harry Lonsdale.
A Brooklyn woman, Annemarie Degla, said she was moved to tears. Barry Commoner was moved to send a copy of his book, “Making Peace with the Planet.” Many of the others arrived at the end of their moving letters with one of two questions:
“Where do we go from here?” Or, “Have you ever thought of running for office?”
Read the full text: America Inc.