Organizing for Change

¡Hola! Everybody…
I saw an excellent movie the other day, Vicky Christina Barcelona. I was going to write about it, but it didn’t come out. I wholeheartedly recommend this film. It’s a beautifully crafted, skillfully acted. I have to say that Penelope Cruz has chops; she’s not just another pretty face. The thing is that both she and Scarlett Johansen are actors that need a lot of direction in order for their talent to bubble up to the surface and in this case, the direction is superb.
Javier Barden (an actor who inhabits his body in phenomenal ways!) utters one of the more interesting premises of the film “only unrequited love can be romantic.” I tend to agree, but that’s another post for another day…

* * *

-=[ Real Change ]=-
“Community organizing is getting the masses off their asses.”
— Saul Alinsky

I didn’t watch last night’s RNC Convention. I was at an outdoor concert and, in any case, as a New Yorker, I simply cannot abide anything Giuliani says. You wouldn’t know it with all the publicity and money he has garnered since, but some of his executive decisions as mayor (stalling on upgrading the walkie-talkies firefighters use, locating his center of operations for crisis management at the Trade Center, etc.) cost hundreds, possibly thousands of lives. More obscene has been his naked grab for power and money by exploiting the events of 9/11.

The McCain campaign won’t explain why Palin waited until last week to tell the McCain team that her unmarried 17-year-old daughter is five months pregnant.

Or why Palin didn’t submit to a face-to-face interview with the head of McCain’s search team until a few days before her announcement.

Or why she’s accused of improperly ordering the firing of the former public safety commissioner.

Or why she supported the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” and other pork-barrel projects before telling the nation on Saturday that she was against them.

As far as I can tell, not one word on the economy last night. Nothing about the healthcare crisis or the failure of education. Not one substantive word on a plan to pull out of a war that has been horribly mismanaged. But considering the fact that Palin has five children, she probably doesn’t understand the concept of “pulling out.”

The bottom line is she’s there to attack, then play up her identity as a woman we she’s attacked back Not an unwise move on the McCain’s people part. The parts I was able to see shows her as coming off as bitter and sarcastic. I would disagree with her definition of a hockey mom. I say, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

The one huge mistake I saw in Palin’s speech was here denigration of community organizers. It’s a mistake because community organizers come from the full spectrum of the political landscape – from radical progressives and staunch conservatives. As a former community organizer, I can tell you there is no more democratic principle than people on the ground working together to create change. It was the hardest job I ever had and I didn’t even last one year. It’s hard, low-paying work, and demands a huge amount of communication and organizational skills. It’s about working outside of the bounds of the system to create change within the establishment.

Community organizers have accomplished things like ensuring the right to vote for women, enacting civil rights legislation, and forcing the Supreme Court’s hand in the monumental Brown v The Board of Education decision. I can write a series of volumes describing the accomplishments of community organizers and grassroots movements and still not be able to capture the breadth of their accomplishments. In fact, I would go as far as saying that community organizing and grassroots campaigns are the ultimate form of government because it is an embodiment of the people’s will.

In fact, it was as a community organizer that I learned that conservatives and progressives could come together to effect change. I was in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, and initially, my rag-tag group of community activists was people with strong faith-based connections. These were people who differed with me on a host of issues – abortion, the role of government, education, etc.

Then one day we planned a demonstration and the police manhandled some of the older women. They were outraged! They couldn’t believe that they were treated that way. They were hard-working, religious, law-abiding people! My question to them was, “Well, what do you want to do about it?” Their response could only be measured in action not words. While I don’t think they changed their minds about abortion and other issues, they realized that the only real change they would ever see would have to come from them, and the communities they lived in.

My experience as a community organizer is main reason I am voting for Obama because I feel as a president, he will be able to draw on that experience to create some measure of change. In fact, Obama’s whole election bid, as improbable as it is, is to some degree a testament to his ability to bring a wide range of people together – black, white, red, brown, middle class and poor – to effect change. Who here predicted Obama would be able to pull this off? ::blank stare::

This scares people who only know and desire entrenched power.

Every time I look over the sea of (mostly white) faces at the GOP convention, I’m reminded of how divisive politics work. They work on fear and anxiety. Republicans hate government and criticize it, but conservative ideology has squandered this nation’s resources and have created a monster.

Grassroots movements work off self-empowerment and the belief that regular people bring something of worth to the table. I’m not surprised Palin and McCain don’t get it. They come from a world where everybody looks and thinks the same. Last night, the republicans resorted to their tried and true techniques: fear mongering and blaming the media when things don’t go right for them. Palin was picked to serve in the second-most powerful office in the world. The media see its role as a scrutinizer to see if she’s up for the job and to scrutinize McCain’s ability to make decisions. Palin serves McCain on two fronts: they can trot her out to bark insults and jabs at Obama (yip yip!), and she energizes a conservative base that is, at best, lukewarm to McCain’s bid.

More of the same…




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