It’s Our Chance to Become Players in History Through Grassroots Organizing
By Mark Rudd (April 28, 2017)
My Chicano and Indian friends have in one way or another been trying to tell me that T and company are nothing new. Juan Abeyta, for example, told me months ago to look on a $20 bill and see who’s there? I already knew: Andrew Jackson, mass murderer, destroyer of whole Native nations, as cruel and repugnant a racist as anything we have in the White House now.
Today the same subject came up and Juan said, “It’s American history being exposed naked once again. Everyone can see it as it is. It’s a good thing.”
I’m sorry, what I’m about to write is reductionist, there’s all sides of American history, I know because I’ve read both the original Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States,” and the comic version, “People’s History of US Imperialism.” So please don’t get all teary eyed and sentimental, like you’re listening to Garrison Keeler bleat on about this gorgeous, good good country. Anybody with half a brain and the guts to look at the situation knows that it’s been murder and theft and rape and bragging about it since before the beginning, around 1609, when the English killed their first Indians and brought the first African slaves to this continent Not to ignore the ignoble Spanish in Mexico and what is now the US Southwest, where I live. Most relevantly, I know that the only reason I live comfortably in New Mexico is the US Army occupation by force of arms in war, 1846. Beginning and end of story.
So Mr. Trump is the real deal, the embodiment of the real America. Vicious thief, bully, rapist, who knows how many people have died because of him? Make America Great Again!
Trump and his advisors, especially Bannon and the Mercer family behind him, correctly identified the true nature of the seething revolt of the left-behind, the miserable rural and white unemployed working class. And they correctly identified the bogus twin enemies to present to their angry and hurt base, immigration and Mexicans on the internal side, and the rest of the world, especially Muslims, on the outside. Promises to undo trade agreements, get tough on China, and bring back coal were supposed to somehow Make America Great Again!
Mostly, though, fantasies of a mythological America, sturdy independent pioneers conquering the wilderness, subduing savages, bringing to heel the wretched Mexicans, swirl in the heads of Trumps right-wing populist base. And Trump is more than willing to say anything, insult anyone, demean whole nations and peoples, even murder them in war if need be.
It actually gets even worse. As official committed global warming deniers, Trump and the Republican Party are hastening the demise of the planet. Ideology is much more poerful than science. Naomi Klein has written extensively in recent years of the origins of global warming in global capitalism. I believe it’s in her 2014 book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the climate,” that she makes the bitter observation, “When given the choice between saving the planet or saving capitalism, many people will choose capitalism.”
But Klein also points to the resistance of indigenous people to fossil energy development in their lands. Calling the resistance “Blockadia” she effectively predicted the rise of Standing Rock and other struggles here in the US and around the world.
And that points to a way out of our predicament. There are many more of those of us who love our planet and our lands and peoples than there are those who worship money. We can resist injustice and global destruction through direct action, and through whatever other nonviolent means exist, such as running candidates. The levers of political power still have some semblance of democratic access. It will take work, it will take organizing, it may take years. But we’ve got to do it. It’s our chance to become players in history, rather than observers.
Here’s a great example of what can be done through organizing: In Houston, TX, of all places there was an almost clean sweep by Democrats in local elections in November. This article from the March 2017 Harpers tells the story. The organizers of the Texas Organizing Project achieved the Holy Grail of progressive Democrats, something that regular Democrats have rarely if ever done, mobilizing unlikely voters to actually vote.
Actually the Grail was achieved also by Obama’s campaign in 2008 and 1012, but this Houston/Harris County model brought brought people out to vote in local elections. Their method in 2016: old fashioned, fine-grained community organizing. Check it out.
(Thanks for staying with me this long. I know it’s tough to read long stuff, but I’m trying to bring back the form. I’m the anti-Trump.)