Thursday, November 04, 2004

Boing Boing: My Modest Proposal: The U.S.A.R.�

Funny I've heard, like, three other proposals for this today.
Check it out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hate to pee on anybody's candle. But let's not grant this "proposal" credence, even though we might feel good with it, rhetorically, at the present time.

I come from refinery town near Philly, and I and all my family worked for the oil companies. My father worked for the same oil company for 42 years, and at the end of that time died penniless, of asbestos-related causes, leaving behind only his grief and his strength and his memory. There were also tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills for my mother and me to pay, but I can't blame him for that, as most of them derived from the fact that his doctors were experimenting on him with new drugs. (Asbestos victims were used heavily in pharmaceutical trials for chemotheraphy drugs, and they and Medicare paid for those trials.)

My family also fought in the Civil War and passed down memory of that as part of our beliefs about race, class, and progressivism. You can go to Gettysburg and see my great-great-grandfather's name inscribed on the wall there, along with the volunteers he coordinated to fight in every major battle of the war. There were also enlisted soldiers in my family. Part of our family culture was to believe in things that most people apparently don't anymore, including that slavery--including wage slavery--is wrong, and must be resisted. Fighting in that war might not have been the best form of resistance, but it was the form that those ancestors had, and I honor them for that.

The South of today ain't the South of Jeff Davis. There is in fact solid and extensive economic power there. I and my family watched the energy and much manufacturing industry move South in the 1960s and 1970s from the Northeast. This is what impoverished us so badly. Look at the US oil industry--it is largely headquartered in the American South. Sure, we could figure out how to live without them...but I think we tens of millions in the blue states would have a helluva time living without the grain fields of the Midwest.

As a young journalist in that refinery town, my home, I talked to many people, and as I was getting my college education, I had access to a a good number of well-heeled conservatives who worked for those corporations. They were delighted to take the jobs to the South because, in their view, people there were more tractable, less inclined to organize, and willing to put up with things like structural racism and corporate domination. My city was 65 percent African American, and the vast majority of my neighbors of color came from the South in the 1920s, trying to get away from the culture of institutionalized racism.

Anyone who'd consider a northern secession movement is thinking and dreaming in white. There are millions of disenfranchised, ignored people of color in the South, and the DNC has never bothered to organize them...or even listen to them. When Jesse Jackson and PUSH and Operation Vote and the Rainbow Coalition organized voters of color in the '80s, leading to a wave of Democratic victories in Congress, the DNC's response wasn't, "How can we continue to include black Americans in our party," but "How will this phenomenon further our goals of getting white people elected to the posts of highest power?" While calling Jackson "unelectable" (that year's codeword for Black).

My modest proposal involves the DNC, and white people in general, developing some listening skills, some historical understanding, and some willingness to share in the discomfort of living in an empire. What I'm seeing this week is dismaying. Those who have the money, skills, and power fantasize about leaving for some better (whiter) place, like Canada.

Those who lack those privileges do what we've always done. We figure out how to make a commitment to our values, and how to live them. How could anyone think, never mind propose, that there aren't tens of millions of people in the red states who are grieving even harder than we in the north over this election? And having to live in the middle of all that evangelism, racism, etc.

It's time for people in the north to learn how to listen to people who aren't like them. If Gandhi taught us anything, it's that you can't defeat an empire using the tools of empire. The GOP has masterfully manipulated a third of the electorate to deliver elections to the corporations' interests, and the interests of evangelical Christians. That leaves 2/3 of us--1/3 of whom voted for Kerry, the other 1/3 who see voting as completely useless.

There's a proposal for you: mobilizing that remaining third. Without using hatred or projection onto third parties. The GOP succeeded this time through a combination of dirty tricks at the polls (not counting votes in selected areas) and playing on the age-old tradition in the US of stereotyping and oppressing women (the only people who have abortions), people of color, and bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender people.