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.
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.
When 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?
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?