Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Salem, Oregon Continues To Organize---Hold January 14 For A Day Of Protest!

Calls for on-going nationwide protests are continuing as we get closer to Trump's inauguration. A meeting held in Salem last night and another meeting held today have confirmed that activists are coming together and looking for ways to unite and join in the national movement and make this real at the local level.

Please hold Saturday, January 14 if you live in the Salem area, and please turn out that day to join in the protest waves. People with gather at the State Capitol at 11:30 AM under the leadership of CAUSA and other local groups to make the peoples' voices heard.

No central slogan or demand has been formulated yet, but this needs to be a disciplined, large and loud event led by CAUSA and affiliated groups and in line with a forward-looking national agenda which brings the peoples' and working-class forces together.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Kurdish response to climate change

From an article "A Kurdish response to climate change" found here:

Historically, two key opposing trends have run through environmental movements. The first is reformist and favours environmental engineering. This approach still views nature in terms of how it can serve human needs through “environmentally-friendly” reforms and technologies. For the Kurdish movement, this avoids the question of who has profited from environmental damage and delays an effective solution to the problem. The second is a deep ecology approach, which tends to be anti-technological and anti-human. This is also limited because like it or not, it is humans who have, over time, developed most capability to shape nature. This power can be used to renew and protect nature, or to destroy it. So when a deep ecologist says “humans are responsible for everything” they imply that the chiefs of the fossil fuel industries are no more guilty than our Kurdish grandmothers who live in their villages tending the land.

To move beyond these two approaches, we need to understand the positive role human technologies have played – and could play again – in the reciprocal relationship between biological nature and human society. Do we really need to have a bird inside a cage in our house to show our love to it, when it is its nature to fly outside?

We also need to understand the roots of today’s climate crisis. How did the idea of controlling nature arise in the first place? Can humans control ‘external’ nature if they don’t first create structures of domination among themselves? Our views on this are based on studying our 5000-year history. Imprisoned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan has written about how hierarchy began to be institutionalised for the first time in the temple complexes of ancient Mesopotamia, beginning with the rise of the male priest and the institutionalisation of patriarchy. From here followed the state, slavery, the standing army, private property; features of many societies we know even today.

Salem City Councilor Benjamin Is Gone. The Struggle Continues. The Salem City Council Meeting On November 28.

Photo from Facebook

Salem activists were successful in mobilizing people to attend last night's Salem City Council meeting and in pressing for the resignation of City Councilperson Benjamin for racist posts he shared and, some say, for a history of bad behavior on Council and outside of Council meetings. A majority of City Council members and the Mayor supported the motion to censure Benjamin and to accept his resignation and spoke publicly to that point. The Council meeting was moved to the Public Library's auditorium to accommodate the large crowd and we filled it. Only Councilperson Nanke struggled openly on Council with the Benjamin issue, taking a line similar to that of the one "out" Trump supporter present, a "homeschool mother" and the Salem Leadership Foundation's Sam Skillern, all of whom spoke from the floor.

We are fortunate to have so many strong local leaders from people-of-color organizations and many of those leaders spoke last night. I was particularly moved by hearing Reggie Hendrix (NAACP), Levi Herrera (Mano a Mano), Mish'al Almuntafki (Muslim community) and Kai Blevins (Salem Social Justice Collective). The speakers spoke to the Benjamin posts and the need to oppose them, but many also spoke to the need to make our town an accepting place and a sanctuary city and to the issue of the alleged cyber-bullying by a Salem cop and a Marion County law enforcement officer and bigotry present in our community. This set an agenda for our future: there will be a March election, there is a need to press on protecting immigrant communities and there is a need to continue to fight racism, sexism, transphobia, Islamophobia and all of the other forms of bigotry and oppression present in our community. Local people, organized and ready, can take this on and win.

Brian Hines gave a compelling account of Benjamin's past bad behavior and took a step that no one else did by fingering the real estate interests and Chamber of Commerce interests who elect and exercise undue influence over many of our City Councilpersons. Intended or not, Hines' remarks showed the actual and material basis for expressions of racism on City Council. He gets major credit for getting the word out early on Benjamin. Many other local speakers pointed to next steps, challenged Councilperson Nanke and spoke about their experiences in our community. Most of their interventions were helpful and on-point. Without their points, the fact that a City Councilperson made a racist move and didn't get called on it by other City Councilpeople would have stood by itself as just another bad incident.

KATU predictably got the story wrong after doing a bit to break the story last week. Their film coverage was excellent, giving Andrea Miller of CAUSA the attention she and her organization deserve, but they turned the evening into an argument for making Salem a sanctuary city and seemed to say that the Mayor opposes this. The politics ran deep and well last night and we will see a renewed sanctuary push. The new mayor will have to respond to us. But last night ran deeper than what KATU understood. Laurie Dougherty nailed it by bringing together santuary, racial justice, climate justice, organizing in the community and standing up and standing together against injustice.

I think that among our biggest problems are taking on the attitudes which say "it's over and let's move on," or making racism a religious or mystical issue, or not being clear about what racism and privilege are and amount to. We also have the problem that no Salem womens' organization has yet stepped up to take on the cyber-bullying fight. We have the problem of lots of people turning out to watch a controversy unfold but not joining an organization. Sometimes marginal issues and tangents detract from taking action---like the woman last night who pushed for a fee waiver for a public menorah and the constitutionalist who wanted to make an issue of why he has to have a drivers' license. We have the problem of Sam Skillern and his Salem Leadership Foundation, which acts to change the subject and demobilize people; his organization is a front for banks and churches allied with one another and behind a conservative agenda.

Do people believe that we turned a corner last night? An African-American woman with 40 years in our community told me last night that she didn't think so. Other leaders in local people-of-color organizations were more positive, but everyone is looking forward to the next rounds. A number of community organizing meetings are being held and actions are being planned. Perhaps our most remarkable win last night was building a large turnout, manifesting unity between local groups, taking direction from these groups and expressing a shared determination to keep fighting under their direction.            

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Crazy Meeting In Salem Tonight---And Critical Responses From Valued Local Activists

Have you ever gone to a meeting, realized that you didn't belong there, stayed anyway and left in a huff? This happened to me this afternoon.

I attended a meeting of a local pacifist organization with the understanding that the meeting was called to discuss the current political crisis and our response to it. Others showed up for other reasons, and the meeting was quite large. There were a number of great women activists there and a leader of a local Latino organization who always hits it just right and a number of people active with Salem's Racial Justice Organizing Committee (RJOC). Many of us came with a common or shared ask: turn out for an anti-racist and anti-sexist protest at Salem City Council tomorrow and participate in a meeting to found a progressive network in Salem on Tuesday.

I looked at the meeting agenda, saw that we were going to sing "We Shall Not Be Moved" and do small group work and knew that I was in the wrong meeting. And when a white activist introduced himself by saying, "I'm (name), and I just learned at the peace lecture that I'm a racist" with what I heard as smugness and no one called him on it I knew that this would not go well. The meeting was structured to avoid confrontation, but confrontation happened anyway.

At one point we broke up into groups to discuss moments in our lives when we engaged in collective action and felt support from others and learned from one another. I lucked out and was in the group with the Latino activist, and he spoke quite well about his struggles. Others in the group wanted to talk about themselves, not about action or collective struggle. I was shut out of participating and one of the people left for another group when it was my turn to speak.

Back in the larger circle our Latino friend stated a need very clearly in order to help define the meeting: his community is in panic mode, a sanctuary movement is needed, he needs to know who will support him and faith communities should be on this. A reactionary pastor active in the local African-American community, disagreed, said there is no need to "build sanctuaries" and that our mission should be about squaring our relationship with Jesus Christ. He added on much that we might agree with in countering racism, but the argument against sanctuary just hurts. The Jewish people and secularists in the room were offended. An LGBTQIA activist and a Jewish woman took the floor to speak from their experiences and give support to our Latino comrade. A guy in the group who has a court hearing coming up---the guy who pointedly left our small group when it had been my turn to talk---changed subjects and asked for support at his hearing and the facilitator tried to get us back in our groups, saying that the guy could talk about his issues later. The guy then went off on the facilitator. A strong RJOC activist intervened and got us back in our groups. My group was now somewhat smaller, the guy with the upcoming hearing having gone to another group and the Latino activist trying to help another group and a woman who made an issue of not having washed her hair in two weeks stepping in and out of the conversation. A Jewish woman kept talking to me about some "Islamic holiday" cards she had and didn't know what to do with; it turned out that they were for Kwanzaa, not a Muslim holy day.

Back in the group, I over-reacted and came off as more angry or militant than I should have. And when we reassembled I reported for our little group without checking in and out of order besides. I was wrong in my approach and work.

The RJOC activists and the women activists and out Latino friend stayed on point. I left when it was time to sing or do a non-violent communication exercise just before the close of the meeting.

I was part of a great work circle at Mano a Mano on Friday, learning from the women and men there, the Salem Social Justice Collective (SSJC) did an energy-filled meeting with folks yesterday that people should feel good about and our socialist group met today and had a strong discussion which lasted two hours. So this meeting with pacifists was a downer. A rewrite of the Stones' "Street Fightin' Man" came to mind: "Well now, what can a poor man do/'cept to wish for a rock and roll band/'cause in sleepy Salem town/there's just no place for a radical man, no." Really, there aren't that many places for a radical blue-collar white person to go in this town. I appreciated hearing our Latino friend say that he lives in 5 separate communities which intersect in him but not with one another because I get that.

How do we get lots of smart and active people in one room and have so many misunderstandings and find such a need for awareness and, worse, how is it that it is so clear that racist, me-first-and-only, no-struggle and parochial views are the strongest in the room?

I'm struggling to understand why this afternoon's meeting was so bad and the other meetings were so good. I can say that it was partly about class, since so few of the people this afternoon were working-class, and partly about national composition, since so few of those present this afternoon were people of color, and about gender, since men did much of the damage today (and I am including myself here). But I don't think that this quite hits it. I am struggling with the possibility that people who come to pacifist groups can be somewhat more self-obsessed than people who come to other groups, more willing to focus on themselves and not on mass collective action. This is not a good explanation either, though, since some great RJOC activists are pacifists who do not fill that bill. Is it that people are tense and stressing in searching for something at this moment and that they will take thios out on one another? Is it the religious nature of this particular group? Some negative intersection of class, race, gender and politics? Is there something built in to this formation which prevents people from being able to visualize organizing and mass collective action?

Mano a Mano, SSJC, RJOC and our small group gets it. Why don't others who we share the demonstrations with get it as well?


This was a mean-spirited post. Maybe (this organization) is not the most effective organization, but they are people of good will who are trying to find their way through the terrible aftermath of the election like we all are. I know and like several people who were at the meeting, don't like a few, and don't know others at all. But they don't deserve such a public expression of disdain. Constructive criticism, sure, but disdain no. I hope they never see this blog post.


My main objections were to (the pastor's) comments and the guy with the upcoming hearing, who I think was totally out of line. I liked my small group, even if I didn't necessarily agree with all that was said. And I like the format of having small groups discuss issues before sharing with the larger group. I also like that the host had us discuss actions that can be taken.

I do sense a peace-justice/chicken-egg divide, if you will. You say that you think justice brings peace and not the other way around. I'm inclined to agree, but I get the impression quite a few others would disagree. Well-meaning people (often coming from a religious perspective, which doesn't jibe with me personally) who are more interested in trying to change individual attitudes than systems.

Lastly, I think some just like to hear themselves speak.


While many groups (primarily on the national or state level) will claim that they are open, try sitting in a room with many people who you know hate you (or your "sin") and refuse to speak, acknowledge you or include you. I often do not feel like I am closer to this goal much less succeeding, but I try...I too was surprised by last night's meeting. I thought we were going to be holding a large discussion about the needs of marginalized threatened people and direct actions that we can take. I felt very let down. I was also very uncomfortable with all the talk of religion. I am an atheist, but I respect that many of my friends have, want or need this crutch. I feel that it is important for me to stand with them as this is their right. I was greatly disappointed by the minister's comments. I felt like he was not only undermining the efforts of everyone in the room, he was somehow still carrying the yoke of slavery and attempting to share it with us all.


Friday, November 25, 2016

All out for Inauguration Weekend, January 20-22, 2017! Let’s build a nationwide United Front against Trump!

Jamie Partridge in Portland writes:
All Out for Massive Labor-Community Protests - Inauguration Weekend Jan. 20-22Call to Action – Let’s build a nationwide United Front against Trump by Communities and Postal Workers United & Community-Labor United for Postal Jobs and Services
The election of Donald Trump is dangerous for all working people, including and especially immigrants, people of color, women, LGBTQ people and the disabled. Postal workers and customers can expect stepped-up assaults on our public postal service.
A president Trump, coupled with Republican control of the House and Senate, raises the very real possibility of his appointment of a reactionary Postal Board of Governors seeking to further dismantle and privatize the USPS; an employer-friendly National Labor Relations Board which could reverse the gains of past years; a conservative Supreme Court hostile to public sector unions; and an anti-union, anti-worker Department of Labor. National “Right-to-Work” legislation, which would be a major blow to the labor movement, is a top priority of the new administration. This would hurt the growing national movement for $15 and a union.
A Trump presidency threatens the deportation of millions of undocumented workers; the exclusion, surveillance, profiling and incarceration of our Muslim sisters and brothers; major restrictions on women’s reproductive rights; the return of anti-LGBTQ laws; and increased harassment, brutalizing, and incarceration of Black and Brown people by local police departments. It threatens to support environmentally dangerous projects like the Dakota pipeline, and repression of the Indigenous Nations who are fighting it.
Tax cuts for the rich and even more funds to the military (making another war more likely) will be used to justify austerity, with deep cuts to Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, education, housing and other programs that working people need to survive. The Trump victory has emboldened racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic predators who are intimidating and assaulting our most vulnerable residents.
Spontaneous “Not My President” demonstrations have erupted across the country immediately following the Trump election. Many student, labor, community and women's groups are planning for massive protests on the weekend of Trump’s Inauguration, January 20-22, in Washington, D.C. and other cities.
To save our public postal service and living-wage, union postal jobs, we will need to help build a national United Front of all those threatened by the Trump presidency, in the spirit of An Injury to One is an Injury to All.
We will need to mobilize our networks, in collaboration with other labor, school, faith, community and women’s groups, to encourage and participate in organizing large and small actions leading up to and including Inauguration Weekend, as part of a nationwide united movement against Trump and all he represents.
All out for Inauguration Weekend, January 20-22, 2017!
Communities and Postal Workers United –
Community-Labor United for Postal Jobs and Services –

Thursday, November 24, 2016

SKCE Serves The People

Members and supporters of the Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality (SKCE) did a mailing on upcoming events and anti-racist resources for the community.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Daniel Benjamin Has Resigned

The City of Salem has confirmed the resignation letter from Councilor Benjamin. Follow the link below.

After consulting with officers of the NAACP and leaders of advisory organizations, Salem's Racial Justice Organizing Committee will still be showing up at the council meeting and representatives of those organizations will speak. The message now will be to show the unity of organizations representing people of color in Salem and white allies, and to be clear that we will hold public officials accountable to make Salem a welcoming community for all peope.

Note that the location has changed to Loucks Auditorium at the Salem Public Library.

We should all feel we made a difference. Have a good holiday with your families and please come show the unity of our community at city council on Monday.

Please note: Monday's City Council meeting will be held at Loucks Auditorium in the Salem Public Library in order to accommodate a larger group.

Salem City Councilperson Daniel Benjamin Must Resign!

This letter has been sent to Salem City Councilperson Daniel Benjamin by the local branch of the NAACP:

November 23, 2016

Councilor Daniel Benjamin,

We demand that you resign from your position as Salem City Councilor. Your action posting a blatantly outrageous and racist video on your Facebook page demonstrates your lack of fitness to serve as a representative of the people of Salem. No one could conceive of images of Black people being intentionally mowed down in the street by cars as anything other than racist. This is not a joke, especially given the history and current reality of violence experienced by Black Americans and people of color.
            You have also posted on your Facebook page a virulently racist anti-Muslim tirade. This is yet more evidence that you have no intention of serving all the people of Salem.
            Salem must be a welcoming city for all people. A welcoming city does not have a city councilor who would so callously and violently demean entire groups of its residents.
            This is not just a matter you can claim as private because these were on your personal Facebook page. You are a public official, and the public has every right to hold you personally accountable for circulating a racist hate video and a racist post no matter whether they were on a private or a public page.
            This letter is signed by organizations representing people of color in Salem and white allies in the quest for Racial Justice in our city.
Pastor Marilyn Williams, Benny Williams; Salem Keizer NAACP
Annalivia Palazzo-Angulo; Salem Keizer Coalition for Equality
Andrea Williams; Causa
Levi Herrera-Lopez; Mano a Mano Family Center
Salem Islamic Center
John Scott; Teacher
Paul Krissel, Deborah Abello, Nina Kulander, Bob Rossi; Racial Justice Organizing Committee

Support the Demand that Salem City Councilperson Daniel Benjamin Step Down!

The following letter has been sent to Salem's Mayor and City Council by the local branch of the NAACP:

November 23, 2016

Mayor Peterson and members of Salem City Council,

We demand that you take every action within your power to condemn and censure councilor Daniel Benjamin, and that you insist that he resign from the Council.
            His action posting a blatantly outrageous and racist video on his Facebook page demonstrates his lack of fitness to serve as a representative of the people of Salem. No one could conceive of images of Black people being intentionally mowed down in the street by cars as anything other than racist. This is not a joke, especially given the history and current reality of violence experienced by Black Americans and people of color.
He has also posted on his Facebook page a virulently racist anti-Muslim tirade. This is yet more evidence that he has no intention of serving all the people of Salem.
            Salem must be a welcoming city for all people. A welcoming city does not have a city councilor who would so callously and violently demean entire groups of its residents.      
This is not just a matter you can consider as private because these were on his personal Facebook page. He is a public official, and the public has every right to hold him personally accountable for circulating a racist hate video no matter whether these were on a private or a public page.
            Recently Mayor Peterson posted a video declaring Salem to be a safe and welcoming city to all people. One way to demonstrate the truth of that sentiment is to demand councilor Benjamin’s resignation and to declare unequivocally that all public officials who represent the people of Salem be held to a high standard of inclusivity.
            This letter is signed by organizations representing people of color in Salem and white allies in the quest for Racial Justice in our city.

Pastor Marilyn Williams, Benny Williams, Michael Chenault, Garrett Snedaker; Salem Keizer NAACP
Annalivia Palazzo-Angulo; Salem Keizer Coalition for Equality
Andrea Williams; Causa
Levi Herrera-Lopez; Mano a Mano Family Center
Salem Islamic Center
John Scott; Teacher
Paul Krissel, Deborah Abello, Nina Kulander, Bob Rossi; Racial Justice Organizing Committee

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Be at the Salem City Council Chambers on Monday, November 28, at 6:00 p.m.

Please share this action and invite others to attend. Be at the Salem City Council Chambers on Monday, November 28, at 6:00 p.m. to sign up to speak and demand the immediate resignation of racist City Councilor Daniel Benjamin. Salem City Hall is located at 555 Liberty Street SE, Salem, OR 97301. The Salem City Council Chambers is Room 240. Please bring signs and your voices. Salem City Councilor Daniel Benjamin shared a violent, racially charged video on Facebook Thursday. The video shows several African-American people being run over by vehicles.

Monday, November 21, 2016

That Woman In Front Of Me At Freddy's This Morning

So I'm standing in line at Freddy's really stressing about healthcare. I have to cancel some of my insurance and appointments because I can't afford them, and I have to go back to work because retirement doesn't pay. I found out that fixing one toothache now costs more than a funeral, and I'm thinking about what that means. We live to work in order to live and that's crazy.

But, anyway, I'm standing in line with my stuff at Freddy's. I'm thinking how I'm mad about healthcare and how I can't afford the chicken and pomegranates I want and I'm looking at those magazines at the checkout stand that are all about the joys and drama of being white. You know the ones---they show brides and homes and stars in various states of ecstasy and collapse. I just want to get out of there.

And there are two Hispanic kids in front of me with some groceries. They are probably 8 or 10 years old. The checkout person isn't moving. The kids are anxious. Mom shows up with some candy she went to get, and I can see in her eyes that she's just so happy to get something for her kids and I can see by her hands that she works hard and I can see by her hair and shoulders that she's prematurely old, like 28 going on 60. I know that maybe because I'm a worker, too.

The daughter is translating for her mom. The milk costs too much, it was on sale last week, not this week. The checker, a union member, is patient. Mom says that they can do the vegetables but they can't do the milk. The mother looks into her purse and does that quick calculation and tells her daughter again to tell the checkout person that they can't do the milk, put it back, please.

So I interrupt and tell the daughter and the checkout person that I'll buy the milk. Mom thinks I'm upset, and I am, but it has nothing to do with her. I'm angry because she can't afford milk and neither of us can afford healthcare. No, I say, I'm getting the milk. And I try to explain in broken Spanish which becomes Italian and Turkish because I'm fumbling with words that it's okay, that my family were immigrants once and we're both workers and that this is solidarity, not charity. Don't worry.

Mom is embarrassed. I'm embarrassed and angry. The daughter smiles and thanks me. They leave.

So I'm walking back to my car and I think, damn, before four years are up that woman is going to need a lot more than milk from me. And every headline I'm seeing today tells me that that is so. And how symbolic is it that I get to worry about healthcare, chicken and pomegranates and she's dealing with milk?

This is not a post about me or my needs or me being a nice white guy. None of that works.

This is not a post about the white, Anglo-Saxon and protestant ethic that says that that mom should have taken back the candy and bought the milk. Most kids like sweets, most moms want to provide for their kids and see them smile, we have no business interfering when that happens and shaming a family.

This is a post that says that we need to prepare for real forms of resistance and sanctuary based on a conscious organizing strategy that intersects race with class and gender. Working-class people will recognize one another and can help one another, but we need the solidarity and encouragement to do it across race and national lines. Keep picking up the milk for those women with the kids, keep explaining that it's solidarity, and don't do it because it makes you feel good---do it because it's absolutely needed. But what we really need right here and right now is help making that a journey of solidarity and turning solidarity into resistance and turning resistance into winning. Milk and healthcare for all are pretty good demands to start with. It can happen. It has to, right?

The Old Mole Variety Hour 11/21/16---Please Listen!

Today's Old Mole Variety Hour was especially good. I found "The Left and the Law"segment with Jan Haaken and Mike Snedeker especially helpful in thinking through Trump's proposed appointment for Attorney General, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, and what that means for criminal justice reform and organizing. Mike and Jan specifically focus on Sessions and his bills, previously introduced in the Senate, to crack down on sanctuary cities throughout the U.S. The program also talks about the sanctuary movement as critical sites of resistance to Trump's law and order politics.

Listen to a recording of the program at

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The November 20 Womens' Rally in Salem

A few of us turned out for the womens' rally in Salem tonight. The rally was organized through social media and by word-of-mouth and drew a few hundred people, mostly women. We gathered at the Courthouse and marched to the State Capitol. For many people who attended it was probably the first march or demo they had done since the election.

On the positive side, it's great that someone with no prior organizing experience can put this together so well and that needed resources were provided without cost. The first speaker, a trans woman, gave a great speech that moved you if you listened. Most of the other speakers---and especially Shelaswau Crier--who we heard had something important to say. People were disciplined and eager to demonstrate.

On the negative side, there was a "love is the answer" theme to the rally and it was an explicitly non-political event with political messaging. An African American musician gave a speech putting responsibility for social change on white people and talking about smoking dope, no one we heard connected people to any organization struggling for change, Hilary Clinton got props and praise which she does not deserve, much was said about the power of individuals and small groups but little was said about movement building and the person who was speaking as I left was telling people to get some sleep. I have never been to a rally where a speaker told us to go to sleep.

With hundreds of people in motion, then, an opportunity was lost to build a movement, build leadership and take action.

It's great to talk about the need for a sanctuary movement, but if you don't connect that with a group then you're demobilizing people.

It's great to talk about womens' power, which is real. The Chinese saying that "women hold up half the sky," popularized by Mao, just begins an exploration of that power. But if we do not address the fact that a majority of voting white women voted for Trump---without blame, but with analysis---then we're not dealing from a place of honesty and accountability.

Telling people to get some sleep, eat well and love demobilizes people.

Putting the responsibility for social change on white people empowers white people to do nothing; that is not a way of building multiracial, multinational and multigender leadership that we need right now, today..

Smoking dope demobilizes people and takes them out of the struggle. Remember that the vote to make pot legal in Oregon came with a no vote on drivers' licenses for immigrants without papers, a liberal betrayal of people of color that should not be soon forgotten.

A positive message would be to take certain actions: come hear Jo Ann Hardesty when she speaks in Salem on January 9, join a progressive organization and push that organization to join a united front against racism and sexism and exploitation, come to the Standing Rock benefit on December 10, get familiar with the platform of the Movement for Black Lives and start living that out, push the Democratic party to be a real opposition with progressive leadership, get ready for civil disobedience and start building a sanctuary movement. These are positive steps.



Talking To White People About Racism

Today a leading member of Salem's Racial Justice Organizing Committee (RJOC) and I went to a local church to do a one-hour meeting on our anti-racist, pro-racial justice organizing. I volunteered for this without fully thinking through what I had to offer, and when I got to the church I remembered that I was once more talking to people who identify as middle-class and who are mostly a bit older than I am.

Uh-oh, I thought, feeling intimidated by the surroundings and the class differences. I suddenly felt very unprepared. Fortunately, my co-presenter is an articulate and inspiring woman who knew how to talk to the folks gathered to hear us. She did great while I stumbled through.

My co-presenter had a good agenda: talk about ourselves, open the meeting up for a bit of discussion, focus on RJOC, ask for commitments. This is the real content of organizing. Tell a story, engage and listen and then close with a commitment. But when it came my turn to speak I said that I had never had an "ah-ha! moment" with anti-racist work. It's true because I have them daily, or almost daily, but I made the mistake of focusing instead on my family and them stumbled when I decided to not let this be about me.

The people picked up on what we were saying and some of them carried the ball. One guy talked about how the factories in Detroit had brought Black labor up from the south and exploited Black workers. People focused right away on the farmworker struggles. Some of them knew Oregon's racist history quite well. Some of them were very attuned to the needs of refugees and immigrants settling here.

Then one white guy said that he had no prejudice and had not encountered Black people until his senior year of high school.

Uh-oh. My instinct is to cut those conversations short, criticize or shame the person and appeal to others for support. But that isn't organizing. Instead, my co-presenter and I talked more about how RJOC studies the dynamics of white privilege, how subtle and destructive white privilege can be and how we try to take action against institutional racism and about our advisory committee structure which gives local people-of-color organizations leadership in RJOC. A couple of the people were ahead of us and talked about racism is used to divide and conquer us and how the current crisis has deep roots in the past.

Another white guy said that he knew what it was like being discriminated against because he once tried to buy ice in a Vietnamese store in California but couldn't get help from the Vietnamese workers but did get help from a Latino worker. Another "uh-oh" because my instinct is to jump on those remarks and talk about power dynamics and privilege, but my co-presenter jumped in and transformed talking about that experience to talking about what immigrants go through every day. Given my own background, I should have picked up on this, but I didn't.

We closed with asking for commitments and a few people joined RJOC. Every member counts, so this is a real victory for us. I handed out an article from the new issue of Sojourners about anti-racist kids books and talked about getting these books for kids (and for ourselves) and reading to children and discussing anti-racism with them. People seemed to like this idea. At least I met people where they were at and helped them move up a step. That's a good organizing principle.

Beyond being a mostly white crowd, these weren't "my people" and I didn't connect as well as I should have. As I say, my co-presenter was on the money and she got us through by establishing credibility and making our case.

This opportunity came as I was still flying high from last night's LUS Family Heritage Dinner---see the post below this one---and as I was thinking about some of the dynamics of the anti-racist movement. There is a move to disband the Showing Up for Racial Justice organization, white working class people like me are getting blamed for Trump's win by many people on the left and by some leading Black activists, there is an argument being made that "allies" are no longer needed but that "co-conspirators/accomplices" are needed instead, Sanders and Warren aren't quite where we need them to be when we need them to be there and they're the best national politicians who we have, our protests over the pipelines connect us to a struggle over environmental racism and have repercussions in our labor movement, some of our union leaders are willing to give Trump a chance because of his promises on infrastructure projects, there is an absence of analysis but much blame going around, I hear some radicals saying that the working class isn't needed to make change or revolution and the Democratic leadership seems to (predictably) be letting an opportunity slip through their hands and the ultraleft gains from that. I hear lots of speeches, most of them from essentially moralistic positions, but I don't hear much analysis or accountability.

I think a great about why anti-racism matters. Some people come to this from the point of view that it makes them better people. Perhaps many of the people we talked to today are there. I don't agree with this, but I can work with it. If you want to be a better person, you can join a faith community or Transactional Analysis and do better there than in the anti-racist movement. But, still, anti-racism can help you struggle and transform. Some people are motivated by guilt. This is harder for me to work with because it paralyzes most people. Some people attach anti-racism to a political agenda. That's a good starting point, but I bet that the other items on the agenda don't get resolved without putting racism away. The only good reason that I can think of to do this work is because anti-racism helps build the conditions for self-determination for people of color and that that is a necessary condition for working-class power and, ultimately, socialism.

We're often caught between smart people who say that Trump and racism are nothing new and that nothing has changed and that there has been no progress, folks who say that we have to fight to keep what we've won and some leftists who want people to go zero-to-sixty and seem prepared to walk away when they won't or can't. Many of the smart people are telling us that the hard conversations have to be put away and that decisive commitments to people of color organizations need to be made now. I get the urgency but I keep coming back to the point that there is no shortcut which replaces patient organizing and action as my co-presenter modelled today.

Under these conditions all that I know how to do is try to gather people in, meet them where they are and try to push back. My faith is in the idea that if we just dare to struggle then we will win at least some victories, and that victories create victories. The woman I did the presentation with today gets that better than I do. We all have much to learn from strong activist women.            

The NO LNG Protest at Salem last Monday

This is an excellent video of the protest last Monday at the State Lands Building done by Max Guiley. Please check out Max's videos on You Tube. We attended the protest and posted about it here.

The LUS Family Heritage Dinner

I was gifted last night by being able to attend and help out at the Family Heritage Dinner put on by Latinos Unidos Siempre. It was great to see people enjoying good food and socializing. The crowd was multigenerational, multinational and multigendered. Best of all was hearing Belinda and Sandra, two of the strongest young women I know, speaking to the community and to hear Ramon Ramirez giving his always-good wisdom and to see the young people leading in everything. We need to thank and honor Cipriano Mañon and Alex Buron and be grateful for them being part of the community. You know that LUS is on the right track when it can ally with MEChA high school students and work with the young people to lead in the community. Helping out with set-up, food serving and clean-up was practical solidarity, but it was also a way of making real the serve the people idea.

As I helped clean up after the dinner I felt the same joy that I did as a kid when I went to union halls and participated in labor events. There were still union halls then--not union offices, but union halls--where you felt that you owned a share in the movement by showing up and participating. Few unions and union offices have that feel anymore, but some social movements do a great job in instilling a sense of responsibility and ownership in people. I hope that some day the young people who were at the dinner last night will be at the center of the movements for social change and fully own their movements.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Marion County Dems Met Last Night

I attended the Marion County Democrats meeting for awhile last night and watched the election process. By-laws were voted on and accepted without discussion or, for that matter, copies of the by-laws being available. Speakers had very limited amounts of time to make their points. The crowd was overwhelmingly white and middle-aged or older. At the point when I left it seemed that the establishment candidates were winning, with one notable exception. On the other hand, one of the people elected with a strong showing has questionable credentials and made tightening up on meeting minutes and non-disclosure of party information a winning issue.

An activist who was deeply involved in the Sanders campaign, attended the meeting and ran for a position said, "It went exactly how we thought it would go. We did well with the CD Five and the alternates to the SCC. That gives us the opportunity to get lucky. Also, we were able to force better governance." We're hoping for additional comments.

The Democrats provide a logical political space for people to gather now and organize from, but unless the most progressive forces "get lucky" it would seem that we are hitting a roadblock.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Some Important Voices Today

There are many important statements being made this week. Here are a few of the comments we're picking up on. Two come from local people. We are often contradicting ourselves and working at cross purposes in these days, and there is an unfortunate rush to blame rather than to do analysis. The contradictions will be worked out in practice and over time, I think.


I gave Trump a chance. It was called the election. He had and took numerous opportunities to communicate to me. They might have been nuanced and thoughtful and expressed in ways that would lead me to think I might not agree with him but that he will be careful in how he proceeds and try not to hurt people.

What he actually did was express vile ideas with crude hostility to large categories of persons who deserve better, that include people I love and wider circles of friends and comrades, and that are hurtful to me in attacking the kinds of community I want to live in. Additionally, numbers of his policies attack my own material interests. Most specifically, his attack on the ACA probably means I will not be able to afford health insurance when he's done and the tax credits for the individual market are gone. So even as a white straight male intellectual of the professional middle class I have skin in the game for myself in resisting him.

He is of and for the billionaire class, with all that entails, and I am not waiting to voice my opposition to everything that he has so vigorously promised.

I want his program to fail.

I want his vileness to fail.

I want his presidency to fail, based on what he has loudly said he wants it to be.


To be clear, I will not donate a single cent to replacing broken windows in the Pearl District, nor will I tactic shame those who broke them.

My focus is organizing to protect the vulnerable, but remember riots really are the language of the unheard, as Dr. King said (inconveniently for his liberal whitewashing fans). Also, violence is something that happens to people, not property.

It's not that liberals oppose violence. They've just outsourced their violence to the pig cops and to the military, and they don't want to be reminded of the atrocities committed on their behalf. Even when they end up on the business end of the same police state they've empowered. Liberalism is a bankrupt ideology that has no analysis and no solutions except accepting defeat.


I've seen a lot of posts calling for unity. I've tracked that they have only come from other white people in my life.

My question to anyone who has posted something like that is: unity for what purpose, to what end?

If you want to unify to fight back against the kind of world where Bannon gets an appointment like this, I'm in. Because there is no "give Trump a chance" after this decision.

If you want to unify against the Hate crimes happening across the country, Paul Ryan's plan to gut Medicare and Medicaid, the destruction of the environment, I'm in.

I'm only interested in the kind of unity where we as white people have to take some risks. Where we know we are only accomplishing something when we feel uncomfortable, pushed out of our safety zone. Where we have the same sadness, anger and fight in us two months from now as we do today. Where we know when to step back and let others lead.

If you are in my life, expect me to raise these kind of questions and conversations moving forward.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Pointe Saint-Charles rail blockade in support of Standing Rock---International Solidarity!

The Salem No LNG Rally Yesterday---A Report From The Front Lines With Photos

Some of us attended the No LNG rally in Salem yesterday. It was a strong rally led by First Nations people and we were gifted by being able to be there in solidarity. Here is a report from an organizer and some photos. 

1) Over 200 people came, many from the Karuk Tribe and the Yurok Tribe. True North Organizing, the Yurok Tribe, Klamath Riverkeeper, and the Klamath Justice Coalition did an amazing job bringing folks up, and leading the rally at the capitol and the march to the DSL building. The Karuk Tribe issued a statement on Nov. 14th in opposition to the pipeline (attached) and the Yurok Tribe is also officially (and has been) against the pipeline. 

2) We had folks at the capitol from across Oregon! Roseburg, Coos Bay, Salem, Corvallis, Klamath Falls, Medford, Ashland, Chiloquin, Portland, Eugene, etc. were present!  What an awesome statewide effort. 

3) Four women did a peaceful sit in in the lobby of the Department of State Lands that resulted in a 2 hour meeting w/ director Jim Paul.  Thanks to Paula, Renee, Sarah Westover, and Beth, (with Graces awesome police liaison guidance) for taking that step. Francis and Deb then tapped in to talk with Jim Paul as well and asked him some tough questions.  Deb and Sarah will be sending out notes from that meeting.

The Portland No DAPL Rally--A Report from The Front Lines

We are grateful for this first-person report from a Salem activist:

Yesterday our carpool left Salem and picked up three activist along the way to the Portland No DAPL rally at the Army Core of Engineers. It rained the whole way but upon our arrival in Portland the sun came out a bit. The crowd was a true mix of people, children with parents or grandparents, every racial and social category was present. This was not just a peaceful demonstration but a loving one. After the days of Trump protests in Portland the vibe here was religious. One could barely hear the speakers even with the mics yet the crowd remained unified. One Sioux speaker told us how a split in the land caused the river to enter from two directions. Washing the river stones from two sides and thus creating the sacred stones. The Army Core of Engineers had years ago done a project that ended this and sacred stones are no longer created. I arrived early and did not realize how much the crowd had grown until the chant began, "water is life". So loud and sudden, I could have been at a Ducks game! Looking around I realized the crowd had grown to over 3000. Then even louder, "water is sacred", sunflower umbrellas and signs bouncing in rhythm. The sun had set and as we quietly left a single large star hung low in the eastern sky. Pointing us to the sacred stones.

Our friend also later addedd this note:

I've been thinking about the no DAPL event in Portland yesterday.

Yesterday our carpool left Salem and picked up three activist along the way to the Portland No DAPL rally at the Army Corps of Engineers. It rained the whole way but upon our arrival in Portland the sun came out a bit. The crowd was a true mix of people, children with parents or grandparents, every racial and social category was present. This was not just a peaceful demonstration but a loving one. After the days of Trump protests in Portland the vibe here was religious. One could barely hear the speakers even with the mics yet the crowd remained unified. One Sioux speaker told us how a split in the land caused the river to enter from two directions. Washing the river stones from two sides and thus creating the sacred stones. The Army Corps of Engineers had years ago done a project that ended this and sacred stones are no longer created. I arrived early and did not realize how much the crowd had grown until the chant began, "water is life". So loud and sudden, I could have been at a Ducks game! Looking around I realized the crowd had grown to over 3000. Then even louder, "water is sacred", sunflower umbrellas and signs bouncing in rhythm. The sun had set and as we quietly left a single large star hung low in the eastern sky. Pointing us to the sacred stones.

Discussing Our Opposition---#3

Our discussion of the "Our Oppsition" post we put up earlier (see below) continues with a rewrite of a response from a friend who is active in local anti-racist work. We are interested in running additional responses from local activists, whether we agree on every point or not, as activism in Salem picks up again. Please send in responses! I have stated some disagreements with our friend in his first post. I want to suggest that people read Peter Lavenia's artcle and Marshall Auerback's article and Teresa Albano's article---all from sources we would not usually recommend, but which I think we should consider with some thought in the present moment and as we read the responses to the "Our Opposition" post. 

The election of Donald Trump was jarring if not totally surprising. I was filled with anxiety in the weeks leading up to the election, and convinced myself he couldn’t win as the thought of him becoming POTUS was too much to bear. I’m now filled with anger and grief, which must give way to activism. I won’t dismiss entirely criticism of Hillary Clinton and the DNC, but I think focusing on Clinton's flaws or the Clinton Campaign flaws (both real and imagined) is akin to excusing a host of other factors, some of which must be addressed regardless of who runs in 2020. Such as:

1) voter suppression (removing people from voter rolls, having an insufficient number of polling places in urban areas, voter intimidation tactics, and so on)
3) the trifecta of racism, sexism and xenophobia (white nationalism has gripped Europe as well)
4) a general ignorance (including those who insist there's no difference between the 2 major parties; even Noam Chomsky advocated voting for Clinton, as did Bernie Sanders), such as failing to understand that calls for sensible gun control is not the same thing as suggesting that all guns be banned (people shouldn't fall for NRA obfuscation but, alas, they do)
5) the FBI’s unprecedented interference in the final days of a presidential campaign

In a sane world, the choice was clear. Trump is the definition of a demagogue, and that anyone would vote for him is a sad commentary on our society at this point in history. It’s 2016 and the President-elect is being celebrated by the Ku Klux Klan. Let that sink in for a moment. 

Really, stop and let that sink in.

This election wasn't so much about competing political ideologies as it was about a deplorable candidate who surrounds himself with deplorable people, which is why I'm with Leonard Pitts in his refusal to unite with bigots. And why I was with Leonard Pitts when he called for annihilation of the GOP. There's a good reason why John McCain, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and other Republicans refused to support Trump, but they need to understand that GOP rhetoric (including their own) and code words of the last several decades (going back to Nixon and his southern strategy) gave rise to the Trump Phenomenon that they claim to oppose. 

Perhaps in a so-called anti-establishment climate, Clinton wasn't the best choice. But I'm not convinced an unvetted self-proclaimed “socialist” would have won. People will point to various hypothetical match-up polls taken during the primary season, but those have been historically misleading (for instance, such polls indicated that Michael Dukakis was going to become POTUS, and we know how that turned out). I also question how "anti-establishment" the electorate is given how many incumbents won re-election, as usual. Incumbent US House candidates won re-election at the highest rate in the last 6 elections, while incumbent US Senate candidates won re-election at the third highest rate in the last 9 elections (source: Not surprisingly, Trump is filling his staff and cabinet with establishment types and lobbyists, as well as climate change deniers and bigots. Those of his supporters who may have been drawn to him for reasons other than his hate speech are going to experience buyer's remorse.

And for all the talk about how unpopular Clinton and Trump are, which was supposed to result in much higher than normal 3rd party voting, Clinton and Trump received more than 95% of the vote. More than 40% of eligible voters didn’t vote (voter suppression accounting for some of that) but that’s pretty typical for a US presidential election.

More than anything, I think what we're experiencing is a white backlash, which has historically been the response to any advance in racial justice (including the election and re-election of Barack Obama). Trump, a sexual predator who bragged about grabbing women by the genitals, even won among white women (and only lost by 6 points among white women with college degrees). No Democratic candidate for president has won the overall white vote since LBJ. Trump’s Birtherism and the Tea Party were rooted in racism, as is quite clear if you’ve ever heard the many interviews conducted of those who attended Tea Party rallies or similar rallies (such as one led by Glenn Beck) or seen the homemade signs being carried at said rallies. And it’s not just been constituents. Elected officials over the last 8 years have spouted all sorts of racist vitriol toward the Obamas.

I maintain that racism, along with sexism and xenophobia (the latter being closely linked to racism), continues to be a much greater factor in our society than many wish to believe. Denial of racism and white privilege is a long-standing tradition. Well-known anti-racist Tim Wise points out that, "Indeed, as far back as 1963, before there was a Civil Rights Act to outlaw even the most blatant racial discrimination, sixty percent of whites said that blacks were treated equally in their communities. In 1962, only eight years after the Brown decision outlawed segregation in the nation’s schools (but well before schools had moved to integrate or equalize their classrooms), a stunning eighty-four percent of whites were convinced that blacks had equal educational opportunity. In other words, white denial of the racism problem is nothing new: it was entrenched even when this nation operated under a formal system of apartheid."

While I don’t doubt that (misattributed) economic struggles played a role in the election result, I don't think many Trump supporters were sitting around having in-depth discussions about trade policy, or any policy for that matter. I just don't. For one thing, Trump himself didn't offer substantive positions. Instead, he repeatedly made vague statements like, “We're going to look very strongly at health care, and we're looking at jobs -- big league jobs.” It's a meaningless statement utterly void of substance, but that's been par for the course throughout Trump's candidacy. And, no, that's not a statement from early on in his campaign. He made that remark in recent days following the election. So, he still has no plan. Somehow that didn't matter to his supporters, nor did it matter that previous Republican presidential candidates refused to support him. For another thing, survey after survey makes it clear that large percentages of the electorate subscribe to patently false beliefs while denying scientific and mathematical realities. Examples:

Millions of people can't even name the Vice President, much less express a nuanced position on a complex subject like trade or debt. Our ratings-focused, false equivalence promoting media is failing us, as are our educational institutions (increased privatization of schools and further media consolidation will only make matters worse).

One will not win over another by pointing out how ignorant or racist they are, and it’s certainly fair to say that everyone is ignorant about some things. But recognizing and working to address the fact that tens of millions are stunningly ignorant and bigoted seems necessary if one hopes to unite the deeply divided working class. The same goes for acknowledging that the mainstream media is largely responsible for stoking division with the primary objective of making money. Again, watch the opening to the November 5 edition of Saturday Night Live and tell me that isn't pretty accurate satire. The skit doesn't even touch upon how more than a dozen women accused Trump of sexual predation with little media coverage relative to the seriousness of the charges. And those charges likely would have gotten even less coverage had a tape not surfaced of Trump bragging about sexual assault. Nor does the skit bring up the fact that a young girl was allegedly raped by Trump and his sex offender friend, Jeffrey Epstein, and dropped the case due to receiving death threats. Nor does it bring up Trump's fraudulent "University" for which he's being sued. No, instead, it was all Clinton emails all the time.

If most were working from a set of agreed-upon facts, there would still be disagreement over root causes and appropriate responses. But what makes matters worse is that millions of people simply deny facts, while clinging to false beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence. And the media -- or infotainment industry -- of today is largely responsible for that.

My point being that it does no good to suggest a Sisyphean task will be a walk in the park. We've got our work cut out for us.

While there is a valid leftist critique of Clinton, I'm afraid the decades of baseless right wing hate (much of it rooted in sexism) directed at Clinton has leached into the consciousness of leftists and left-leaning people. Bill Maher, who I don't always appreciate, rightly blasted talk of Clinton being a “lesser evil”: Sure, US foreign policy has been responsible for some evil doings, but Clinton is more of a cog in the system than a driving force, a symptom and not a cause. And John Oliver pointed out the ignorance of leading 3rd party candidates: The most successful 3rd party candidate of 2016, Gary “What is Aleppo?” Johnson, says we need not be concerned with global warming because our sun will eventually – in billions of years – engulf Earth anyway. Seriously, he really said that. A candidate for president and former governor said that.

Here’s where I admit that I was once a lesser evilist, Green Party voter. My frustration with the Democratic Party's rightward shift boiled over, so I went through a stage where I abandoned the Dems. Along with coming to recognize that such a stance exhibits white privilege (those who are most oppressed can ill afford to lose an election due to purist ideology), I read these mindset-changing pieces by Julio Huato: and I don't agree with everything Huato wrote, but I'm with him when he writes "we cannot just will conditions that don't exist." As Bernard Chazelle wrote years ago, "America has lefties but no left." Leftists haven't laid the groundwork necessary for structural change.

Regarding the notion that there’s no real difference between the 2 major parties, consider the following:

1) a Clinton Administration wouldn't foment hatred or roll back progress made in the area of civil rights
2) a Clinton Admin wouldn't nominate horrifyingly right wing justices, who could spell disaster for women's rights among other things, for the Supreme Court
3) a Clinton Admin wouldn't try to privatize Social Security, Medicare, public infrastructure and so on
4) a Clinton Admin wouldn’t attempt to do away with the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
5) a Clinton Admin would push for alternative energy investment, maintain the US's position in the Paris Climate Treaty and wouldn’t consider scientific consensus to be a “hoax”
6) a Clinton Admin wouldn’t scrap the Iran nuclear deal
7) a Clinton Admin would have worked to improve upon the Affordable Care Act, which has insured millions who would not otherwise be insured at all (a public option would go a long way toward addressing rising costs)
8) a Clinton Admin would have attempted to lower the cost of college tuition

And on and on and on. If you don’t subscribe to right wing ideology, the choice was clear. As Huato wrote, “In the last two decades, the Republican Party has established itself as the reactionary, proto-fascist political vehicle of a mélange of highly parasitic capitalist special interests -- military contractors, media conglomerates, energy companies, industry lobbies, financial firms, prison contractors, medium and small business organizations, and top and mid-range wealthy individuals -- and gained a dominant position in all levels of government. A large portion of its voting power results from exploiting the social prejudices of petty-bourgeois anarcho-libertarians, the nationalism and xenophobia of some sectors of the working class, and the conservative religious beliefs of evangelical Protestants, Catholics, and Jews.”

Make no mistake, the Democratic Party has been overly influenced by some of those same special interests Huato lists, but to suggest that the 2 major parties are the same is a misguided and lazy cop-out.

I watched all 3 debates and I'd never before seen one candidate so thoroughly dominate the other. Clinton kicked Trump's ass in every debate. She offered substantive policy proposals, whereas Trump did not. She gave some inspiring speeches, whereas Trump fomented hate, which was just about the only time he was coherent. Read the transcripts of Trump’s stump speeches and debate performances, and try to figure out what the hell he's saying half the time—I dare you. And I’d be remiss to not mention that Clinton did win the popular vote. I do have toagree with Obama’s suggestion that the Clinton Campaign should havespent more time in more areas of various battleground states.

All that said, the Clinton Administration would likely have compromised too much (often starting from a position of compromise as Democrats are wont to do) and wouldn't have followed through on various promises (leftists would, of course, need to put pressure on the administration). A Clinton Administration would have been an extension of the Obama Administration but probably slightly more progressive. Not because Clinton is personally more progressive than Obama but because of the impact Bernie Sanders had on the Democratic Party platform, and because society is (seemingly) moving in that direction. How can I say society is moving in a progressive direction when Trump is the President-elect? Well, as devastating as the election was, I’m reminded of a Theodore Parker-inspired quote by Dr. King. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” the civil rights leader famously remarked. The arc was just made longer, perhaps, but I have to believe it is still bending toward justice. Trump may seem to be a proto-fascist, but that doesn’t mean the US is destined to become a fascist state.

What's done is done and I do think the Democratic Party altering its course is long overdue. I’ve been railing against the Democratic Party for years, and kowtowing to existing power structures is not acceptable. Going into a debate about health care reform with single-payer and a public option “off the table” is not acceptable, just as an example. Making Keith Ellison the new DNC Chair, something Sanders and others are advocating, would probably be a good start. Ellison was laughed at by George Stephanopoulos and co-panelists when he suggested in the summer of 2015 that Trump might be leading the Republican ticket. I would have been laughing, too. Ellison is a progressive and deserves some props for seeing what others didn’t. Pushing hard for campaign finance reform, regulation of the financial industry, investment in new industries (as the jobs that have left the US are never coming back), more labor unionization, and an end to gerrymandering would also be good. Busting up the unions has been key to dividing and conquering blue collar workers. Gerrymandering has been key to further marginalizing the political power wielded by persons of color.

And the Democratic Party (as the only viable alternative to the GOP in afirst-past-the-post/plurality voting system) most certainly needs to do more to combat oppression, which will only get worse given who is headed to the White House and how much control the Republican Party now has (at the local, state and federal levels of government). The Democratic Party can’t ignore bigotry in its various manifestations, or the reality of white privilege (and male privilege), in the interest of appealing to working class white voters. It must find a way to be welcoming of immigrants, and combat institutionalized racism and sexism, while at the same time demonstrating that progressive politics are key to improving the economic and educational standing of all working class Americans.

I don't know what the answer is to combating all that ails us, but I don't think the answer is promoting socialism or any other -ism. Attempting to persuade people that a certain term (a loaded and divisive one at that) doesn't mean what they think it means seems like a poor use of time when there are pressing matters at hand. Nor do I think attempting to create a new viable political party is a good use of time and energy. Perhaps that could eventually, against all odds, be accomplished, but millions will continue to suffer in the meantime. Huato wrote of 3rd party campaigns for POTUS, “ any measure, the electoral, educational, or organizational results have been humbling. And that's to put it mildly. These radicals imply that, because they have come to understand in their minds that the main parties are not the right vehicles for the workers to advance their political interest, the tactical targets of the struggle are to be calibrated to their beliefs, as opposed to the actual behavior of the bulk of the class.”

I also question the efficacy of protest marches, though I understand why people are drawn to them during troubling times. Right now, people understandably need to feel a sense of solidarity in opposition to the 2nd coming of George Wallace. Ultimately, though, those opposed to oppression must somehow find a way to achieve more concrete political victories, and that's going to require helping the electorate (and young people who will become part of the electorate) become more informed and more active (that means less mindless entertainment and more organizing around issues of concern). One can hope that the mass demonstrations taking place all across the US at this time will be a stepping stone in that direction. As Julio Huato wrote, "It seems to me that leaps in the quality of an organic process have to be preceded by a prolonged, very patient process of accumulation of small quantitative changes. By definition, in and by themselves, quantitative changes do not alter the quality of the process. The quality remains. But those gradual changes prepare the sudden alteration in quality."

I haven't a clue how to achieve more political victories or address institutional racism (though I'm confident the former would aid in the latter), but I'm involved with the Racial Justice Organizing Committee and the Salem-Keizer NAACP as a means of figuring all of that out. Maybe some town hall meetings (with 30-50 residents of Salem-Keizer) would be worth organizing (some specifically for people under 18 and some for adults). Maybe going door-to-door between election cycles, and not just during campaign season, to discuss issues would be worth doing. I don't know. One thing I do know is that taking part in sparsely attended meetings of like-minded people isn't sufficient, therapeutic and necessary as those meetings can be. We must unite all oppressed people, create majorities and win political victories.

Monday, November 14, 2016

What I intend to do - will you join me?

1.  Go to every rally/protest against the racist, woman-hater,
climate-change-denier Trump and against LNG pipelines/terminals and the DAPL,
selling of Elliot Forest and all related anti-Earth and its peoples events.

2.  Go to every rally supporting indigenous peoples, all residents of this
land,  especially children and women, and for protection of our water,
environment and wildlife - - all our relations --- with love and solidarity.

3.  Sign every petition that seeks to preserve Mother Earth and vulnerable
peoples and their/our rights.

4.  Donate as much as possible to organizations that take on the racism/climate
change deniers/attacks on our Mother Earth and our relations.

5.  Like Amy Goodman says, "Go to where there is silence and speak."

6.  Talk online and in person about the above.  Organize.  Go to the streets,
the politicians' offices, the government offices and say what must be said,
peacefully, but relentlessly.

7.  Repeat steps 1-7 intensively for the next 4 years and beyond.

Discussing Our Opposition---#2

Here is another thoughtful local response to our post "Our Opposition," found below. 

I think it's important to point out that Clinton was a terrible candidate when having good faith conversations with those on the left. We can't allow our organizing to be centered simply around opposing Trump so we must call out the ineptitude and arrogance of the neoliberal Democratic leadership. The blame for Trump's win lies at both his supporters’ feet as well as the Democratic Party for running a terrible candidate.

One of the things that pained me the most about the Sanders campaign was that it either fell in line with Clinton (Sanders himself and many supporters) or turned into an idealistic and somewhat incoherent attempt to 'elect better Democrats’ (Brand New Congress/Our Revolution). The fact that I've seen a huge influx of people reaching out to the PSL, WWP, and FRSO has countered that feeling (although it also could be who I surround myself with on social media).

On another note, I'm not so sure that the fact that racism coincides with the interests of the bourgeoisie is that much of a coincidence. Maybe I'm wrong here, but it seems that stoking racist fears about immigration as well as a Black president/Black progress is inherently in the interests of the monopoly capitalists so as to divide the working class. This doesn’t change the fact that a main driver of Trump’s candidacy as well as the last 8 years of opposition to Obama was largely rooted in racism.

I agree that it is important that we take back the ‘language of struggle’. We've seen the Sanders campaign co-opt the phrase 'Political Revolution' and ‘Revolution’ in general. And while some of the Cold War, McCarthyite stigma has been removed from the word Socialism, we’ve seen the concept of what socialism watered-down to mean ‘anything the government does’ (e.g. I saw many ‘Berners’ post memes that called the FBI, CIA, police ‘Socialist Institutions). Not to mention the fact that Clinton continued to self-describe as a progressive with or without any qualifiers.

Now under a Trump administration, I wonder if much of the unknown about the divisions and contradictions that exist or will appear, stems from not knowing exactly how his administration will govern. Because he's an opportunist, no one knows if he'll stick to his TPP opposition (or any trade deal that may come after) or his Muslim ban, or really anything else that he ran on. I mean he nominated a fairly mainstream conservative as Chief of Staff (Priebus) and a white nationalist as his top advisor (Bannon). Though, I do think we need to take him at his word and prepare for the most reactionary possibility. We also need to organize and confront the rise in fascist groups across the county. Being anti-fascist needs to be a foundation.
And while organizing against reactionary forces and policies, I think it’s crucial to make to connect the fact that Democrats have not offered a viable alternative for the working class and poor. The working class, and like was previously pointed out, particularly working class women and people of color, have not benefitted from the most recent ‘recovery’. Obama has deported more immigrants than any other president. We can’t fall back into just organizing electoral politics to support Democrats take power from Republicans.

We must focus on “patient and long-term organizing is needed of the kind which forces us to put aside the no-longer-relevant aspects of our thinking and pick up the daily tasks of loving and serving the people to revolutionary ends.” This tendency is one where I feel I have no experience with, but it makes a lot of sense. Patience is one area in which I am always trying to improve and I can see how damaging not being patient would be in organizing work. I'm in full support of being a listener/learner before leading. And I really like the concept of shifting away from just being oppositional to becoming "builders and co-creators".

I think current organizing efforts should be directed toward working to implement the Vision for Black Lives Policy Demands, organizing potential strikes, and defending our immigrant communities from ICE and other law enforcement. I'm a bit skeptical of focusing too much on building a true left within the Democratic Party or replacing leadership. Maybe I'm being bitter or arrogant or maybe it's my relatively short experience with being disappointed with the Democratic Party but I feel like the party might be beyond repair and energy should be directed elsewhere.

To end, I am really at a loss as to how to answer the pressing question of whether we organize among the politically engaged or among the most disaffected people. I am curious as to how different the tactics and structures would be and whether or not we cannot do both.