On June 23, 2011, Van Jones and MoveOn.org launched a new force for change in America. I covered the launch event for the great website HyperVocal. Read my piece and share it around.
Today is complicated. On the one hand, one of the greatest enemies not only of the United States but of peace and equality and justice everywhere is finally dead. On the other hand, he was executed by a sovereign nation acting at least in part on illegally obtained, coerced intelligence and through a covert mission on another sovereign nation’s soil. Not to mention a person, heinous though he might be, is now dead — and that always seems like an odd reason to celebrate.
I imagine I’m not the only person feeling happy and dirty at the same time.
I’m a New Yorker. I vividly remember 9/11. Walking the length of Manhattan to get home as buses passed covered with debris from the collapse. Watching with confusion as people who had clearly been near the World Trade Center and looked like dusty ghosts walked past the restaurants and stores and normalcy of a world that now seemed a million ages ago. Showing up a Red Cross center a day later, not sure really how to help, and finding a few thousands of my fellow citizens standing there too, hoping to do something useful.
And then I remember the suffering of those who died and our national suffering and fear in general being exploited for war. A war Afghanistan and then again in Iraq that had nothing whatsoever to do with the Twin Towers or Osama bin Laden. Wars that, it turns out, had nothing much to do with anything except oil and military expansion. It was as though our tragedy was nothing but a convenient excuse for violence. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.
But it got worse. “Extraordinary rendition” to secret CIA detention camps. Unthinkable torture of human beings held by our government at Guantanamo Bay.
Yes, I am instinctively brimming with national pride today that our military, under the guidance of our government and Commander in Chief, executed one of the world’s worst criminal masterminds and homicidal maniacs.
But I don’t believe in the death penalty. I don’t believe in the illegal, unconstitutional and either way immoral detention practices that apparently contributed at least in part to bin Laden’s whereabouts. I don’t believe that sovereign nation’s should invade the territory of other sovereign nation’s without at least the legitimacy of the international community.
There are moments when our values are a hard fit with reality. Those on the Right are experiencing the same sort of disconnect right now — as the would-be cheerleaders for any action to take out a character like bin Laden are twisting their moral fabric to wrap heroism around George W. Bush while denying victory to Obama. Those who can, even in a great moment of national history, practice the ugly politics of division instead of the deeply American tradition of unity, so should seriously question their patriotism.
But I’m more unsettled by my fellow progressives.
Perhaps it’s acceptable to attack the means while celebrating the ends in a complicated situation such as this. Perhaps….
Perhaps, whether we admit it or not, we’re putting aside our preferences for peace and non-violence because we see the political importance of rallying around our previously-beleaguered President. Perhaps….
Perhaps we don’t believe as deeply in diplomacy, international law and human rights as we like to think we do. Perhaps….
I honestly don’t have any answers myself right now. Just questions.
I have an op-ed that will run in the Sunday, April 17 print edition of the Washington Post Outlook section. It just went live online so you can get a sneak peak — and share it with your stratosphere.
Here’s the link:
Upon learning that Glenn Beck will be “transitioning off” of his daily TV show on Fox News, I wrote a piece for ColorLines entitled, “5 Reasons To Miss Glenn Beck (and for Progressives To Learn From Him)”. Okay, there’s some sarcasm in there… but it’s mostly an honest assessment of what Beck does well. Yes, he’s crazy — but he may also be a crazy genius.
You’re gonna want to read this one:
In case you missed it, Glenn Beck and others on the Right believe that protests for democracy in Egypt are really (a) being instigated by progressives in America and (b) aimed at creating an Islamic “caliphate” to control the planet. Seriously. No, seriously
Sally gets out her white board… er, in this case, a napkin… to correct Beck’s twisted interpretation of reality.
Please watch and please spread.
I have a new post up on the Fox News opinion page about the small but significant overlapping reform agenda between Progressives and the Tea Party. Here’s an excerpt:
“These three actions would dramatically curtail the corrupting influence of special interests in government and society and return power to the people. Then we can return to our respective ideological corners to fight over tax cuts versus public infrastructure or the future of gays and guns — but at least we’d be fighting fair, with the outcomes truly determined by public will as opposed to which side’s outsized corporate influence throws its weight behind which argument.”
Read the entire piece here.
As many of you who read this site know, since the Movement Vision Lab and I left the Center for Community Change in January 2010, I’ve been contemplating the most strategic role that I can play to advance social change in America.
I believe that significant, transformational social change only happens through significant, transformational mass social movements — the kind we’ve had in American history but don’t have today.
And what’s clear is that, among many movement elements missing in the progressive field today, every major social movement in the history of America or anywhere else in the globe has had a robust program of consciousness raising. Whether it was the 40,000+ paid political educators who traveled the Midwest during the Populist Movement to explain why the economy was failing small farmers. Or the Brookwood Labor College the radicalized workers leading to the union movement in the early 1900s and inspired Civil Rights leaders to create the Highlander Center which played a similar role in that movement. Or the feminist consciousness raising groups organized in living rooms across America in the 1970s.
Progressive social movements by their very nature struggle against the dominant ideology and philosophy of the status quo. In order to build an informed and active mass movement, we not only need alternative ideas and analysis — but alternative ideas and analysis that are delivered in a compelling, accessible and popular way.
With this in mind, I present for your feedback a working concept paper on the Movement Vision Lab’s “Center for Popular Popular Education.” Read it. Share it. And then fill this page with comments — your constructive thoughts on the movement analysis within this proposal and the sets of activities proposed as a response. In the Freirian tradition, popular education (let alone a proposal to do popular education) can’t just be a one-way street!
I’ve posted the entire proposal, including the proposed budget, to be as transparent and participatory as possible in developing this plan. In addition to seeking feedback on the concept, I am currently soliciting funding — so if you’re reading this and have feedback you want to share privately OR would like to provide funding (at any level) please contact me.
A final thanks to the organizations that have already endorsed the Center for Popular Popular Education and expressed enthusiasm to work with us going forward. There’s a great field of groups that already do political education in some form and a great field of groups who want to do more. We’re excited to join the mix!
The One Nation Working Together march did not draw as many people to the Washington Mall as Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally a few weeks prior. And that is a good thing.
Glenn Beck and the Tea Party represent a very vocal minority, so worked up about the direction of our nation that they’ll pour into Washington by the hundreds of thousands to worship at the feet of a religious revivalism rooted in nostalgia for a white-washed version of America that never was. We already know, from poll after poll, that the Tea Party are whiter, wealthier and more male than the average American. And, despite all of their populist blustering, the Tea Party agenda is merely new clothes for the old wolf agenda of the pro-big business, elitist Right. The Tea Party is motivated to be hyper-vocal and hyper-visible precisely because they represent such an an incredibly small and fringe set of interests and ideas in our nation, with a very small following.
The hundreds of national and grassroots organizations behind the One Nation march represent the vast majority of Americans — literally, through their millions and millions of members, but also spiritually, morally. Organizations like the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, Green for All, the Sierra Club, the Children’s Defense Fund and SEIU stand for the core, shared values of our nation — that we once forged and now continue to forge a union knowing that each of our prosperity is dependent on the common good.
There are hundreds of millions of Americans frustrated that while Wall Street strong-armed big bank bailouts as profits and CEO salaries continue to rise, foreclosures are increasing, job opportunities are stalling and real wages for most of us continue to decline. There are hundreds of millions of Americans who understand that the way our economy works isn’t working for white people in Ohio, black folks in South Carolina or undocumented immigrants in Arizona. There are hundreds of millions of Americans who don’t care about the deficit remotely as much as they care about creating new jobs, reinvesting in our schools and our environmental future and redistributing real opportunity to all who work for it.
Unfortunately, these hundreds of millions of Americans are also incredibly disappointed. These are the Americans who believed in the hope and promise of Obama the Candidate and feel let down by Obama the President, in part because of an ossified political system in which the status quo is deeply entrenched on both sides of the aisle, but in part because Obama failed to chip away at or at least vigorously rail against that ossification (until fairly recently). These hundreds of millions of Americans want change. Their anger is not at the boldness of Obama’s agenda. Their anger is that more of it has not been achieved and, given the political system, seems increasingly and sadly unachievable.
These are the hundreds of millions of Americans the One Nation coalition represents. And unfortunately, these are the very people who are sitting at home popping Prozac rather than taking to the streets in protest. They were visible and vocal in 2008. Been there, done that, and look where it got us. Yes, we have historic and critical health care reform, the stimulus investment that staunched the bleeding recession, financial reform that will put Wall Street in check and more. But we still have jaw-dropping financial control of Washington by corporate interests. We still have the filibuster. And, despite every sign that it has failed us wildly, we still have the persistent dominance of Regan-era pro-corporate, trickle-down, neo-liberal economic ideology.
The Tea Party activists are disproportionately vocal and visible in comparison to their actual percentage of the population in part because they believe victory is within their grasp. The fact that, titular Democratic power of the moment notwithstanding, Right wing economic and social ideology continues to undergird much of the political establishment and discourse, is, for them, encouraging. It’s ironic when the Tea Party talks of “reclaiming America” since, ideologically, they very much already control the norm — from anti-government skepticism to deficit hawkishness, from a constant state of anti-terrorism warfare to widespread hatred of new immigrants. Meanwhile, the millions of Americans who want change, who see a positive role for government in creating an economy and a nation that truly works for all of us — they took a chance against the status quo and, despite all inclinations toward cynicism, believed in 2008 that change is possible. Two years and not enough change later, they’re feeling disheartened.
The real issue with the One Nation march on Washington this past Saturday versus the Glenn Beck rally or any other Tea Party gathering isn’t literally how many people show up but how many millions and millions of other people they actually represent. The good news is the One Nation organizations and their values and vision for our country represent far more Americans than the extremist, elitist Tea Party. The bad news is that, as the mid-term elections near, that Tea Party fringe is way more fired up and active.
NEW YORK TIMES PROFILE
JOIN SALLY’S EMAIL LIST
FOR A GOOD TIME, FOLLOW
RUMORS ABOUT MELoading Quotes...
TV DOESN’T PAY THE BILLSMake a tax-deductible contribution via our fiscal sponsor, the Grassroots Policy Project
POPULAR TAGS2012 Election 2012 Elections barack obama budget capitalism civility Congress corporations debt deficit democrats economy feminism financial reform Fox News gay rights Glenn Beck government greed ideology inequality jobs marriage equality Mitt Romney Obama occupy wall st occupy wall street Paul Ryan popular education populism president obama progressive protests race racism Republicans Right wing sexism social movements strategy taxes Tea Party unions values Wall Street