Sunday, October 09, 2011

Of Card Tables and Canes

Dissent is Wicked Patriotic!
Quite a bit has been happening in our quaint little republic. The true grassroots movement against the attempted destruction of our democracy (Koch Brothers, Diebold), corporate person-hood, and an historically unprecedented bail-out of capitalism is deeply moving and inspiring to me. Back in the day ('90's), when I was very active in the Socialist Party USA, and in the Socialist Party of Massachusetts, and in the Boston Local, I learned quite a lot. Here is a short list of what I learned through activism:

1. It's possible to have a very productive meeting with just a card table and four chairs.
2. Intellectuals love to argue. The love it.
3. Getting people involved in a grassroots movement is a difficult task, in the extreme.
4. It's absurdly difficult to get a third-party candidate on the ballot (the most we could do was a, "certified write-in," which meant that the votes had to be counted. Yeah, big deal).
5. The longer one is involved in a radical, left-wing movement, the more psychosomatic illnesses accrue. Frank P. Zeidler seems to have been the exception. As a thrice-elected Socialist mayor of Milwaukee, he didn't have to bottle his outrage within himself. He had access to change things as a, Sewer Socialist. If memory serves, he got around pretty well, and wrote me often after our time together in Milwaukee. Sigh. I miss his letters. Anyway, other Socialists use canes, take SSRI's, have gone blind, suffer from vague aches and pains, argue with birds in the park, and have irritable bowel syndrome. Why? It's not easy knowing what is wrong with the country you love, only to have your solutions ignored and to be accused of being, "Anti-American."

That's a short list of five. I took away a lot more than that. For example, at the Feminist Expo 2000 in Washington DC, I learned that feminists are not to be fucked with, and will punch your lights out if you piss them off. Also, Eve Ensler's, "The Vagina Monologues" is incredible. At the Socialist Scholars' Conference at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, I had lunch with a group of Libertarians who were there in solidarity with our cause for fair ballot access for third parties and learned that real Libertarians (not "Republican Libertarians" who are just confused) are a fine bunch of people. They enjoyed calling me a, "Pinko." I loved it.

Advocating revolutionary change is not an easy business. Hell, taking the bus to Chicago for the 1992 National Convention of the SPUSA was a fucking nightmare, but hey, that's how us poor folk travel. One does what one has to do! Trying to unionize a shop is not easy. Getting people out to vote is also not easy. Overcoming the natural inclination towards despair that afflicts the poor and powerless is extremely difficult. As a poor person who feels that our nation has been robbed from us, I feel that despair, as well.

We all get by with a lot of help from our friends and comrades. America is a very flawed country, but at least there is a chance (albeit small) for poor and middle class people to get together and scare the hell out of corporations. It's also deeply satisfying to stand-up for human decency (universal health care, amnesty for illegal immigrants, a minimum wage increase).

And the people you meet! The comrades! J. Quinn Brisben, Frank Zeidler, David McReynolds, Eric Chester, Ann Rosenhaft, Kari Fisher, Matt Andrews, Paul Avery, Greg Pason, and on and on. These are people I admire. Now we have a grassroots movement of consequence. Very dedicated and bright young men and women are doing a magnificent job. Bravo, comrades!

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