Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Own Highlander Folk School

I spent much of my day today researching nonviolent resistance (when, of course, I needed to be working on my current copyediting project). Alas, this was triggered by a post that appeared in my Facebook newsfeed about a recent issue of Sojourners magazine devoted to the subject of nonviolent resistance. I was especially intrigued by Jeannie Choi's interview with civil rights leader Bernard Lafayette. Lafayette describes the training in nonviolent resistance he received when he first became involved with the civil rights movement.
John Lewis [now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives] and I were good friends, and he was the one who persuaded me to come to those workshops. I was a little reluctant because I didn't have time; I was a student and had a couple jobs on campus and a job downtown during the lunch hour washing dishes. But through the training, I learned to see the world through another person's eyes. That was an important step in my personal development.

What methods were used to train you in nonviolence?

Myles Horton, who was in charge of the Highlander Folk School at the time, would always ask provocative questions that got us to think and analyze. At one point, he started making some racist comments like, Why do you black people want to be eating with whites? Don't you enjoy being by yourself? I started challenging him and arguing! Now I laugh at how I responded to that. But I learned so much from that experience. The entire training program was to get people to think about how to put yourself in another person’s position and see the world through their eyes. That was so helpful for me in being able to embrace nonviolence.

We practiced "loving, not judging" your opponent, but thinking about the fact that there was a reason your opponent behaves the way they do. It's important to understand that if you want to bring about change. We learned that the idea is not just to get rights, but to behave in such a way that we would win our opponents over. That was the difference between simply demanding your rights and the goals of the civil rights movement: We were concerned about others.
I want to go to that school. I want lessons in how to be an effective, persuasive change agent. Because it certainly does seem that there's a lot of increasingly powerful evil that needs to be resisted these days, and I want to do my best to resist it in ways that are effective and strategic.

Another thing that's driving me is that lately I feel overwhelmed by all that's going on in the world. "I don't even recognize the world I'm living in" runs through my mind on a regular basis. The assault on the workers and the middle class, the scapegoating of immigrants, racial profiling, the ever-widening chasm between the extremely rich and everyone else. My reaction to feeling overwhelmed is to read, because I can't shake the idea that the better I understand something, the better I can cope with it. And there sure is a lot to cope with and understand these days.

Another thing rattling around in my head a lot lately is a theory that I've read recently that we're still fighting the Civil War. That idea is spurring me to learn what I can about the history of the Civil War and race relations in the United States. I found a ton of stuff that I could download onto my Kindle for free: Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Souls of Black Folk, Up From Slavery, to name only a few. Maybe I've enrolled myself in my very own personal Highlander Folk School.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bait and Switch

Yesterday I clicked on an ad in the right-hand column of my Facebook page. (I know. This is probably never a good idea.) It said something along the lines of "Support immigration reform" or "Make your voice heard about immigration reform." Yes, there was a photo of Obama on the ad. I really should have known better.

So my click teleports me to Obama's page. I still stupidly think I'm saying something about my support for comprehensive immigration reform (silly me!). So I click on the next thing that just says "Count me in!" Sure enough, this counted me in to support Obama's bid for reelection. Apparently it had nothing to do with immigration reform.

I know about bait-and-switch. But really--really? So I unsubscribed after I got an email today from the Obama campaign about volunteering. (Again, it said nothing about immigration reform.) In the very tiny box where I was given the opportunity to give my reason for unsubscribing I wrote: "I signed up to voice my support for comprehensive immigration reform, not to support Obama's reelection. There's a difference. I hope you guys know that."

So far, all Obama's done regarding immigration reform is talk nice about immigrants and give his lukewarm support for the Dream Act. And the only action we've seen is the increase in reinforcement of our very broken and very unjust immigration system (for lack of a better word--it doesn't even deserve to be called a system). More raids. More deportations. More broken families.

I'm underwhelmed.

I do support Obama's reelection. I guess. Because whatever the Republicans cook up to run against him will undoubtedly be extremist in the extreme. Although, I have to say, if there's a good candidate running against him in the primaries, I just might vote for her.

I'm really, really, really sick of Obama doing more to appease the extremists than to do the work we elected him for.

In 2008, it was the Latino vote that turned many previously red states into blue ones. Without Latino support Obama never would have made it into the White House. He needs them. Big time.

But so far he's gone way out of his way to show the extremist xenophobes that he's "serious about enforcement." Why is he eager to cater to them? They're not the ones who elected him. And no matter what he does, he cannot please them.

So is it too much to ask for him to go out of his way to do what his supporters elected him for in the first place?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Moral war?

Every so often someone applauds what he calls a "moral" war, as Krugman does once again here: "the Civil War and World War II are the two great moral wars of our history, and they should be remembered with pride."

Once again, I have to respond:

The Civil War was never about slavery. "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."--Lincoln Lincoln preserved the union to preserve its power. Shame on you, Professor Krugman, for calling Lincoln's war moral. You know better. If Lincoln had permitted the states to dissolve the union, we would not have the power to do the great evil we have wreaked in every small country we've meddled in since the end of WWII.

We entered WWII to punish the Japanese, who attacked our war-making capability in the Pacific. We prided ourselves in fighting the evil Hitler. In beating him, we became him. The list of countries the U.S. has attacked with our military, CIA, gifts and sales of weapons, gifts of money for weapons and military . . . is almost endless. The tail of war profiteering has wagged the dog of U.S. policy since Eisenhower succeeded in his quest, begun in WWI, to create the military-industrial complex he warned us of too late. "I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent."--Mohandas Gandhi The enemy is not an evil dictator. The enemy is evil itself. We do not win by doing evil.