Don't be left out.
The media lie when they talk about how this country has become more conservative. We are the majority. Each night on this tour, hundreds, often thousands, of people showed up eager to talk about the state of their American Dream. The majority of these individuals were not part of the (dis)organized left. They were people who had probably never been to a "political" meeting--clerks, temps, construction workers, nurses--good people who have simply had enough of Corporate America kicking the crap out of them. How strange that Big Business is doing our organizing for us! For every mom or dad they rip that American Dream from, they have sent a new person looking for a political response.
But are we, "the left," ready to lead and organize them? Would we even know them if we saw them? Or are we too busy talking to ourselves? While we've been moaning how everything stinks and feeling smug about how we're the ones who REALLY know what's going on, the right wing is out there going to school board meetings, churches and stock-car races with its message. (Note to Nation readers: Stock-car racing is the biggest spectator sport in America. It's where the average American hangs out.)
We're not there, but the right is, reaching out to the disfranchised with all its pat answers--hate, fear, blame the immigrant, blame the single mother, watch out for black helicopters, etc. It's very easy to manipulate people down on their luck with hatred toward those on the lower rungs of the ladder. And it works. In my home state of Michigan there are now fifty separate militia groups. Do you think it's just an accident that this has happened in the state hardest hit by the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/NAFTA assault? Do you think it's just a coincidence that Terry Nichols was living a few miles outside Flint and that Timothy McVeigh was the unemployed son of a G.M. autoworker from Buffalo, New York?
So where are we for all these doomed Americans? Where is our outstretched hand? Our solutions to the mess we're in? Where are our leaders? WHAT LEADERS?
Good friends, trust me, we are missing a golden opportunity to get this country turned around. The majority of citizens refused to vote on November 5. The media would not report this historic event for what it was--a virtual act of civil disobedience by an electorate sick and tired of our two political parties. The people are not stupid. They became acutely aware during the campaign that there really wasn't much difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. And they're really pissed off that the rich (the I percent who own 40 percent of the wealth) now have two parties that represent their interests and the other 99 percent of us have none. There is no better time to get out there and make something happen. Labor Party--YES! New Party--YES! Greens--YES! The Alliance--YES!
Nothing will happen unless you put down this magazine right away and go line dancing. That's right, line dancing. It's what Americans do--you know, the people you want to lead to the revolution. Go see the new movie Star Trek First Contact, number one at the box office last week. Here's an exchange from the film, between Alfre Woodard, who has just arrived from the past, and the captain of the Enterprise, Patrick Stewart:
Woodard: How much does this ship cost? Stewart: Well, we have a different way of economics in the twenty-fourth century. We no longer believe that the acquisition of wealth should be our main priority in life. We believe that our work should be for the betterment of humanity.
Whoa! Sounds like...The Nation! I want you to see this movie. I want you to stand in line and buy a lottery ticket. I want you to turn on a country radio station. You'll hear Garth Brooks singing about gay rights, Faith Hill singing about battered women, Mary Chapin Carpenter singing about a housewife who hasn't had a raise for fifteen years. Many of you probably would never think of listening to a country station--or a rap station--but there's where you'll find the people you want to lead.
I know that the thought of doing any of the above may be too scary for many of you on the left. That's O.K. I understand. Change is hard. There's that strange comfort you feel when the media report that George Bush has a 90 percent approval rating and you sit there feeling good because either (a) you like being the victim and the martyr or (b) you like knowing you're right and all those yahoos out there in Bumfuck U.S.A. are just a bunch of stupid jerks who watch a lot of sitcoms and read People.
That's why you'll never really effect change in your lifetime and 1, frankly, don't want to be part of your pity party. I'm going home for the holidays, I'll catch a hockey game in the Flint Generals arena and, while I'm sitting there chowing my nachos, the guy next to me will start talking about chicks and I'll tell him how hot I think Hillary Clinton and all strong, independent women are, and I swear I'll have the guy thinking feminism before the third period.
Recently, Harry Belafonte said there is a Rosa Parks out there, somewhere, right now, just waiting to happen. The spark that will trigger the real change we need in this country will not come from a nationally recognized leader. It will happen because of one tired soul who will decide that she or he has just had enough and will do something so simple yet so profound.
I think we all better be ready for that moment. Otherwise "the people" are going to pass us by. And some day, after they've just gone ahead and reined in Corporate America, created a new safety net for "the least among us" and gotten a woman elected President, they'll ask, "Whatever happened to the left?" To which someone will reply, "I guess they just got 'left' behind."
See ya out there on the line-dancing floor!
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|Title Annotation:||Media Matters; the need for the political left to communicate with the people|
|Date:||Dec 16, 1996|
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