Thursday, July 07, 2005

Signifying Nothing

When I checked my email on Friday, July 1, there were over 50 messages in my inbox about Sandra Day O'Connor's surprise resignation from the Supreme Court.
"O'Connor Resigns – Women's Lives Are at Stake!"
"Urgent Alert! Action Needed Now!"
"Abortion Rights Emergency!"
"The Battle for the Supreme Court Has Begun"
"Protect Our Rights!"

Reading them, I found myself moving from irritated to fuming. It's not that I disagree with the basic premise. There is no question that we are at a very dire moment. Whoever fills the vacancy left by O'Connor's retirement will have an influence on the Supreme Court for decades to come. Looking at Bush's nominees to the lower courts, we can tell the type of jurist he will likely nominate for the Supreme Court. And the prospects are not good. The consequences will be far-reaching, and will have a direct impact on people's daily lives.

As Adam Cohen wrote in New York Times in October, 2004:
"Abortion might be a crime in most states. Gay people could be thrown in prison for having sex in their homes. States might be free to become mini-theocracies, endorsing Christianity and using tax money to help spread the gospel. The Constitution might no longer protect inmates from being brutalized by prison guards. Family and medical leave and environmental protections could disappear."

So why am I fuming when I should be joining the fight? Because the Left is gearing up to fight the same battle they've fought, and lost, since Bush stole the election in 2000. From the Florida recount debate, to the launch of the Iraq War, to the 2004 election, to the filibuster battle, the Left has used the same losing strategy over and over again. In essence, the strategy is to get lots and lots of people – including those who have never participated before - to support the Democrats, and to hope/beg/lobby that they will "do the right thing", which usually involves maintaining a system that was long-ago broken. The solution to the vote fraud in Florida? Get more people to vote. How to stop the war from starting? Call your Senator! Want to get rid of Bush? Hold your nose and vote for Kerry! Desperate to prevent Bush's outrageous judicial nominees from getting confirmed? Celebrate as a victory a "compromise" that ensures the filibuster won't be used.

Even progressives have embraced this strategy, citing of the importance of "speaking truth to power."

Well, the truth is that power doesn't give a shit. Power is only interested in staying in power. As Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." So far, no one is demanding anything. Nothing of substance, anyway. Nothing that will really rock the foundations and change the dangerous course that Bush, et al, are leading us on to fascism and theocracy.

So I'm fuming because all this desperate activity - the emails, the national conference calls, the emergency meetings – strike me as nothing but "sound and fury, signifying nothing." Nothing, because the result will be the same as with the other major battles against the Bush juggernaut: Lots of time and energy and money will be expended, and Bush will still get his way.

Some said of the 2004 election that the bright side was that unprecedented numbers of people, many active for the first time, were mobilized to work to elect Kerry. The thought is that these folks will now be involved in new battles. But is it a good thing for people to organize to go down a dead end? Isn't that actually disorganizing?

Many people comfort themselves with the thought that "the pendulum will swing back." But the fact is, there is no pendulum. The laws of physics do not dictate that the world will swing back and forth between the radical left and the radical right, eventually settling in the moderate center. When the times have "swung" one way or the other, it is because the people made the world change. Civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, all were achieved with decades of hard work and personal sacrifice. Many people went to jail to make change. Some people died. In every case, it was only when the demands of the people became so great that those in power had no choice but to pass legislation or issue court decisions that echoed the will of the people.

The situation we find ourselves in today is also the result of people on the extreme right working for decades behind the scenes to make the change that THEY want to see in the world. The architects of the Bush agenda have been working since the Nixon administration – my entire lifetime – to get to where they are today. They are not going to walk away from power just because a bunch of new people registered and voted for Kerry. They are not going to back down from their agenda and nominate a moderate jurist for the Supreme Court just because people ask them to. And the Democrats are too invested in protecting their own limited power to step out in a way that might actually make a difference.

So what to do? We have to do something. Everyday we grow nearer and nearer to a point of no return. I go back to Douglass's assertion that "Power concedes nothing without a demand." What demand will make a difference today? What demand will stop this juggernaut and take us away from the brink, from the point of no return?

The only proposal that I've heard that has the possibility of actually turning things around is The World Can't Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime! < http://www.worldcantwait.org/> The name says it all. We can't continue to fight this stuff piecemeal with ineffective strategies. We can't wait for an imaginary pendulum to swing back. We can't wait for 2008. We need to be bold and take this on head-first. Some people say we need to develop a long-term strategy first. But let's be real: unless we act today, there will be no need for a long-term strategy. Unless we stop the Bush regime NOW, the Supreme Court will be irrelevant in the not-too-distant future.

Go to the website and read the call. Think about it. Talk to your friends and family about it. Join me in signing your name to call, and become one more in the millions needed to drive out the Bush Regime. Truly, the world cannot wait.

2 comments:

Chris Hartman said...

The critique of the Democratic Party and of coalition or incremental politics is cogent and accurate enough.

But before I would sign a call like this and/or participate on Nov. 2, I'd want to hear more from The World Can't Wait about what the next steps are after the Nov. 2 day of resistance. What is the plan, or theory, for "driving out the Bush regime" if voting or working for the Democratic PArty is seen as pointless?

Is the idea that mass direct action will lead to the Bush regime stepping down? Or are we talking armed revolution? Is there an historical model on which this approach is modeled, such as the American, French, or Iranian revolutions?

Osage said...

I think there are millions and millions of people who, rightly so, see how the world can't wait. And each of them has a different idea on what would replace Bush. And each of them (is and) needs to get involved with this call for Nov. 2. Rosemary really put it so well in this post - we can't rely on politics as usual. I mean, I think most people receiving those same emails have the same response, "here we go again" with no real sense of inspired urgency or vision of what's REALLY needed.

I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about "after Nov. 2" - but my personal opinion is, let us get there and debate that out along the way! Because what it's going to take to get to the kind of resistance needed to fulfill the passion and dream in "the world can't wait!" is unprecedented - we have yet to see anything like it in history, in my opinion, and we have a lot ahead of us in the next few months.

I mean, I'm a revolutionary communist. I think the world was intolerable before Bush's first election, and it's worse today. And, yes, I think it's ultimately going to come down to revolution to get rid of the source of all these horrors. But I would work shoulder-to-shoulder with people who call themselves Republicans, who voted for Bush in 2004, and is HORRIFIED by the lies, the torture, etc., and wants to take action to realllly stop it. His/her vision of what it means to be an American, and what our responsibility to the world is will differ, but we will agree on one thing - we need to pull the emergency break and stop this train for real, right now. No more waiting and hoping for someone in power to say, "hey, maybe we HAVE gone too far."

I think what's required is new visions of resistance and really going out to the masses throughout society - because I think it's undetermined at this point what it will take to "drive out the Bush regime". But the call is clear on how to start: "The call you are reading has to get out to millions right away — on the internet, passed out as flyers in communities, published as ads in newspapers. DO NOT WAIT!! GET
ORGANIZED!! If you agree with this statement, add your name to it!!!
And do more than that: send it to friends, get them to sign it, organize a meeting, take it to your church, your school, your union, your health club, your barber shop, to concerts and libraries and family gatherings,
everywhere you go." Really imagine what that could look like. It gives me goosebumps.


P.s.
Hooray to Rosemary for the blog! I look forward to reading your thoughts on things..

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