Alliances, Coalitions, and the Naivete of Privilege

We live in the United States of America.

The nation that killed protesters at Jackson and Kent State Universities.  The nation that executed Fred Hampton in his bed, without so much as a warrant.  The nation that still, still, still holds Leonard Peltier in prison.  The nation that supported Noriega, the Shah, Trujillo, and dozens of other fascist monsters who did nothing but fuck over their own people and their neighbors.  The nation of Joseph McCarthy and his current-day descendants.  The nation that allows stop-and-frisk.

Joseph Raymond McCarthy. Español: Este persona...

Joseph Raymond McCarthy. 

Before all that:  The nation that enforced Jim Crow laws.  Before that, the nation that built itself on slavery and the slave trade.  And before all of that, the nation that nearly succeeded in the genocide of this continent’s indigenous peoples.

So why are you so surprised that our government is gathering yottabytes of data on our phone calls?

Some of us outgrew this level of shock and outrage in our 20s.  Which in no way means we don’t want to work to repeal the Patriot Act, or fight the current NSA invasion of our private lives.

In the interest of full disclosure, though I’ve stated it elsewhere:  I’m a red-diaper baby raised in a multicultural environment.  My parents were doggedly tracked by Tailgunner Joe McCarthy and his pals.  They were under constant threat, and their careers compromised as a result.

Our phone was tapped.  Our mail was opened.  We were followed by G-men in black suits with white socks.  Our homes were broken into by the same guys.

FBIWhen my brother was able to file for his FBI files under the FOIA, the delivery of the materials filled his sizable living room from wall to wall and floor to ceiling.  We were all in there, sometimes accurately, sometimes with laughable inaccuracy.

During the Vietnam years, I was tear-gassed and beaten with batons by police multiple times.

I’ve worked closely with the Black Panthers, the Young Lords, SDS, and Occupy.

And some of you are angry that we’re not all as up in arms as you about the NSA collecting data?

Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Marylan...

Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland. 

The shocked reactions to what happened to Occupiers, for example, leaves me astonished.  I was, in truth, equally astonished that police brutality had regressed to 1968, but it wasn’t completely unexpected.  Particularly in NYC, given who the city’s mayor is.  And, of course, the level of weaponry used against citizens has become so much more powerful (and often illegal, even in the hands of the police).  But still — shock?  Really?

Welcome to the world many of us have lived in for decades.

These things have never stopped activists from focusing on the problems.  On assessing them fully.  On finding the most appropriate ways to fight back against the problems.

Those of you angry at some of us because we don’t seem as angry as you have demonstrated what I can only call a naive sense of privilege in your unfettered name-calling, slandering of our good names, and total failure to even ascertain what our views on the subject of NSA data collection are.  Instead you gleefully reply to us with insults and write about us as idiots, ‘bots, blind supporters of the President, and “cheerleaders.”

The essence of community building — and, in fact, the building of any kind of successful movement — is forming alliances and coalitions.

So the question is, where do we go from here?

Do we remain two discrete groups essentially in agreement about the issue but opposed to — and distrusting of — one another’s methods?

Or do we cast that all aside and work together to approach this problem?  Lord knows, there’s a shitload of work to be done on it.

How do we move on from the vast chasm that keeps us from interacting in a productive way?

The truth of the matter is I’m every bit as incensed and disgusted as most of the people on this site.  But no one asks; no one offers a dialogue.  Mostly they just hurl invective because I’m not tearing out my hair or rending my garments.

If the best we can hope for is throwing shit at each other, we’ll implode just as fast as the GOP has.

The key difference seems to be that some of us don’t hate Obama enough.  Those of us who don’t hate Obama don’t hate him because he never presented himself as liberal — always self-identified as moderate.  I didn’t expect miracles.  But what I got were some of the most profound changes in social issue and social justice legislation this country has ever seen.  I got troops pulled out of Iraq and, in progress, out of Afghanistan.  I saw a president who’d inherited more of a shitstorm than any in history make choices based on what was practical and what would be impossible with a completely recalcitrant GOP controlling the House — not to mention a bunch of half-assed Democrats in the Senate.

Divisiveness is what the Right wants.  And divisiveness is what we’re giving them.

There’s practically no one in my life I can’t make peace with, given the opportunity.  There’s not a soul among my friends who is anything less than kind in their intentions or uses meanness as a debating technique.  Life’s too short and too easily poisoned for that.  And that’s a choice I made in the second grade, long before I had a really strong read on the world.

So can we, in the interest of productive political unity, work something out?

Terror from within

At the moment America is too consumed with news about Herman Cain’s sexual predilections to hear or be interested in the the latest terror plot. It seems, sex sells even better than terror, or at least good enough to obscure news about terror. The fact that the defendants are not the types we like to associate with terror, although they are of the demographic that is more likely to be terrorists here in America than any Muslim, makes our fascination with their case even more fleeting if not downright non existent.  Four men in their 60s and 70s have been charged with offenses that could only be considered terrorism given what it was they were accused of doing.

Federal authorities said the men held clandestine militia meetings, beginning in March, in which they discussed using toxic agents and assassinations to undermine federal and state government…

This will never get the play in the media that foreigners or foreign sounding terrorist names would get in the face of such revelations and that is one of the many problems with the politicization of terrorism in today’s America.  The four defendants aren’t just some  cranky old men hatching another isolated incident of terror inspired violence on America, they are a side of America which has always been around and views change as violent and necessarily so.

During the 60s and 70s people of similar mindset were paraded in front of our televisions and on the front pages of our newspapers as threats to our society, and politicians made their political fortune denouncing the likes of the Black Panthers, SDS, SNCC, SCLC and other alphabet soup organizations that we were told posed an imminent threat to our democracy.  These organizations and the people that participated in their activities bore the full brunt of an enraged federal government and its police agencies that trampled on their rights, spied on and at times even killed them because some one said it was necessary and the right thing to do and very few of us flinched nor protested. Rather we cheered on and elected those politicians who said such actions were necessary in order to preserve the social order.  That was the same response we had to the cries from neocons about the clash of civilizations meme.

Somehow we are not quite able to see the threat the same way when it’s presented to us in the form of four senior citizen white males who are members of groups we’ve been told since the beginning of the Obama Administration were equally vicious and threatening to the American fabric. (On a side note, I wonder how vociferous  would our denunciation be if Obama decided to unilaterally send a drone attack over one of the meetings these four defendants had to hatch their plots and  killed them and any of their relatives?)  Our minds still seem to be  focused only on the dark, seedy,murderous, savage fundamentalist Muslims who want to destroy what we stand for because they are unable to reach the greatness that is America.  Such imagery when attached to anything evokes a response of horror and disgust, revulsion and abject rejection even when that thing is notable and essential to the life of our Nation.  How else can we look at our indifference to the various  Occupy movements spreading across the country, and the hostility they face from political leaders and members of the media who conjure up images of opponents of a bygone era or radical associations of a more recent time.

This is the story that will probably not receive the attention it deserves, not because these men wanted to overthrow the country….they couldn’t, or not because they are symptoms of a wider problem, they are but we are a country of over 300 million people and we’ve got a lot of problems.  This story deserves attention because there are too many people who believe that in order to defend this country they have to go out and kill somebody to do it. How did we get to this point that people like 73 year old Frederick Thomas think, ‘when it comes to saving the Constitution, that means some people gotta die.”  Perhaps, his time would have been better spent joining #OccupyWallStreet in Atlanta where he could have affected real change rather than plotting acts of terror that would only lead, as it has, to his own ruin.