This isn’t about Alchemy or metalsmithing. This will most likely be the only political blog I ever write, but I had to get it off my chest…
A while ago I had a dream in which I found a bald eagle, dead, lying in the mud. When I asked some friends about it, one of them suggested that it had to do with my feelings about the current unrest here in America.. Well, that makes sense… but, at the time, I wasn’t really sure how I felt about that situation. What I did know is that, when I thought about it, I become, in turns, sad and angry.
So I retreated to my Fortress of Solitude for forty days and forty nights (I didn’t fast though. Smoked a lot though). This is what I came up with…
Thoughts From Your Reluctant Enemy
I am watching events unfolding in this country of ours - America. There are a lot of things here which - in my honest opinion - need to be changed, not just for the benefit of the country itself, but also for the benefit of ALL the people who call this place home. The two things are really the same - what is good for Americans is good for America, because America is made up of Americans.
I refer to myself as a “reluctant enemy” because, as much as I would like to support those who are working to produce these changes I find myself completely unable to do so. The reason for this dilemma is that - also in my honest opinion - all sides of this ongoing public “debate” are making serious and foolish mistakes.
If it were just me it really wouldn’t matter. Feel free to write me off as a fool also, if you want to.
But you do so at your own peril - at present, we still live in a democracy. Unless your actual goal is to overthrow our government and establish some sort of dictatorship, you will need to win over people like me (and there are a lot of us) by convincing us that you really have something legitimate to say. In order to do that, you will have to clearly state what that is, how you intend to achieve it, how it will improve the lives of our fellow citizens, and how we can do it without tanking our already tottering economy.
These are simple questions. If I were buying a used car, I would ask most of the same questions - what is it, how does it work, what will it cost me. I don’t need to ask how to get it - that I already know.
If these questions are not answered, I will wonder why. The two things that hop immediately into mind which might explain the silence are: A) people don’t actually know what they are doing or why, and B) somebody is hiding something.
I’d like to help out the people who are working for needed change. I’d like to join you. I’m not really your enemy, but I am an outsider, and, as an outsider, I can tell you how you look to other outsiders. This is very important to know, IF you intend to work within the democratic process.
Here is what I think needs to happen - if you want to win over the undecided middle:
1. Peaceful protests.
Before staging a protest, be very clear as to the specific, actual, physical goal you intend to achieve, and have a specific plan of action as to how that goal will be reached so that people will have something constructive to do while they are at the protest - unless the time frame is very short, like an hour or two. Then you can fill their heads with speeches, or sing Kumbaya.
“Raising awareness” is not the goal. Prior to the protest, you raised awareness - otherwise, hundreds of people would not have traveled long distances to take part.
Now, you have them - many angry people confined to a small space, possibly for days… with nothing to do. If you imagine that anything other than anger, violence and property damage will come out of that, then you really do not know enough about human nature to convince me to pay attention to you.
If your goal is violent confrontation, this is exactly the way to achieve it. I’m probably wrong, but it makes me suspect that violent confrontation was the real goal all along - after all, as one of my friends pointed out, a movement is advanced when it can produce a few martyrs. Probably it was just clumsiness on the part of the planners, but next time, learn from your mistake - don't make excuses or blame others.
On the other hand, have clear goals and an actual course of action planned - something constructive for people to do while they’re there - and you might actually be able to achieve it.
2. Don’t tell people, even inadvertently, that you intend to overthrow the government.
Do not compare your protests to those which took place in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, et al. Those admirable populist uprisings had a specific purpose - to remove repressive dictators from office and establish democratic rule.
If you are modeling your actions on those of, say, Syria, please tell us who the evil dictator is. Is it President Obama, the man who ran for public office on a ticket of social reform, who was elected by a respectable margin via the democratic process, and who has been tirelessly working to get affordable health care into the hands of ALL Americans?
I sure hope not.
If you are not REALLY intending to overthrow the government, don’t tell people that that is what you are trying to do - even accidentally. It makes a lot of us very nervous.
And no, Big Business is not an evil dictator. What you call “Big Business” is a set of business practices. There is nobody you can overthrow to stop big business from unfair practices - that needs to be dealt with in an entirely different way.
3. Separate yourselves from extremists. Separate yourselves a LOT.
I’ve heard people frenetically babbling about all kinds of things, ranging from a communist revolution to the establishment of a Christian theocracy.
You can say “They are not us” until you turn blue and choke to death, but WITHOUT A CLEAR STATEMENT OF PURPOSE and a STRONG PUBLIC DISAVOWEL of their respective causes, nobody will hear you because those fringe groups are ALSO claiming to be speaking "for the people.”
Currently, it looks to me like the “leaders” of this movement are reluctant to distance themselves because they need those fringe groups to swell their numbers and make “the cause” look strong. This is a big mistake -
First, because middle of the road people (like me, whose opinions you MUST win over if you intend to work within the democratic process) get real nervous when we hear talk of that stuff (incidentally, this is one of the ways in which we - middle of the road people, are being manipulated by the media. For more on that, see number 7).
Remember what we (middle of the road people) are mostly middle aged, trying to pay off homes, we have families, reasonably decent jobs, ties to and in the community. We don’t want all we’ve been working for all our lives to be destroyed in some dumb revolution.
If THEY are shouting about a communist revolution and Christian theocracy, and YOU are shouting about socialized health care, and there is no clear statement of purpose and intent, what WE hear in the muddle of voices is Socialized Communist Christian Theocratic Revolution. And that ain’t a pretty picture at all.
Second, you want to avoid them because associating with these groups is like stepping in dog shit. Later on, no matter how hard you try to wipe it off, some of the stink still clings to you. If, for example, one of those groups does something really stupid, like launch an anarchist bombing campaign, then you, by association, will be smeared with the guilt - even if you deplore what they did.
4. Publicly disavow violence of any kind as a means to your end. Make Gandhi your role model.
According to a Wikki article I read (I know - you can’t trust Wikki. But it’s the only source I could find) more than 50% of your crowd, when asked, stated that they would be willing to use violence to achieve their goals.
This is troubling. Resorting to violence would mean that you have decided to reject the democratic process, and toss out the Constitution. If you are willing to do this, I can not be with you - and the same holds true for many others.
Do not suggest (or even imagine) that a revolution or civil war in this country will lead to any good for anybody - except undertakers and munitions dealers.
Until all the undertakers are dead.
To have a revolution or a civil war, there will need to be a split in the American military, resulting in two or more factions.
If you can imagine the total devastation that would come about if the military divides and fights against itself, while simultaneously fighting us (the citizens), bringing all the might of modern weapons, munitions, air power, and rapid transport into battle anywhere on this continent, you’ll understand that THIS civil war would be nothing like the rambunctious but jolly run through the park that the last one was.
With a war like that here, we’d be overly and undeservedly lucky if there were one single smoldering chunk of fused American granite left poking it’s embarassed nose above seawater.
If THAT isn’t enough, please consider - a massive American civil war would almost certainly spill over into Europe.
They’ll call that WWIII, if anybody survives long enough to give it a name.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if people trying to do good ended up being the ones who finally managed to destroy the entire planet???
If you think I’m an alarmist, read the stories of the Iranian kids who accidentally took over an American embassy for what was supposed to be an hour long sit in, and how it ended up in a protracted seige, or the story of a dumb kid talked into shooting somebody "for the good of the cause" starting WWI.
5. Don’t engage in hate speech in public. At all, ever - even when it is disguised as a “cute” expression.
This is about as cute as telling n****r jokes - very funny, unless the one hearing them is black, or is that type of person who REALLY does care about other people, at which times it becomes mean, obnoxious, pathetic, and inflammatory. If you are claiming to be the good guys, but behaving badly, I, and other observers like myself, are more apt to believe what we see, as opposed to what we are told. That’s why we are not already with you - we believe what we see.
I am an old man. I’m trying to learn what to do with Facebook, and really not getting it. I was pretty happy when my daughter showed me how to “Friend” people. There were a whole bunch of people whom I thought I knew, and respected, ready to be friendly. I figured that I’d read about their happy times, and so enjoy them with them, and read about their sad times, and I could lend them an ear to cry on.
Instead, almost instantly, I was buried in a flood of hate speech in the form of cute sayings with insulting messages. Even when they didn’t directly relate to me (and they usually didn’t), it was still horrible.
A few people lost my respect pretty fast. Fortunately, my daughter also taught me how to “unfriend” people. I feel like an absolute jerk every time I do it, but I have been listening to so much hate being spread in the name of “doing good” for so many years that I can not stand it any more. I doubt if I’m alone. Can anybody say “negative campaigning”? If you don't like it, don't do it.
I really don’t expect many people to care a whole lot about my respect, or my feelings, but there are an awful lot of people out there who, like me, are trying to make sense of all that is going on these days. We would like to do what is right for our country, but if you are spreading hate and imagining that by doing so you will gain the support of any caring and concerned people, you are a making a serious mistake.
“Eat the rich”? Seriously - this expression brings to mind (in any educated person) some of the worst events in a long line of communist atrocities. It may not matter much to you, but the expression stops being cute when the guy next to you is singing the glories of a communist revolution.
A clear statement of intent and strong commitment to nonviolence will help alleviate the concerns of people like me, and you can show how serious you are about being a decent person by watching your tongue in public (at least).
6. Do not allow the wrong people to speak to the public, or accept any financing from them. Pick the right person for that job.
Take a guy like Michael Moore. He was, for a long time, pretty popular with the “liberals.” In the time since his last film he has lost a lot of support, not only from “the other side," but from his own side as well. The reason for this is… people found out that he purposely tells outright lies to further his cause.
Some people don’t know this because, since he tells them what they want to hear and blames who they want blamed, they never bother to check the facts. Others (and this is truly pathetic) excuse it because it‘s “good for the cause” (i.e. - I know it's a pack of lies, but so what? I believe it anyway).
But anybody who is actually interested in social causes, and REAL social reform has looked into it, and knows him for what he is. When your fellows sing his praises, people of the type I have described are very likely to write you (and your causes) off as an example of child-like and silly naivety. This doesn’t make your side look very good. And taking funding from him is the "liberal" equivalent of a "conservative" accepting a large "gratuity" from an oil company.
Find, if you can, somebody of the quality of Dr. Martin Luther King. I’m pretty sure that the last time things got this bad in America we would have ended up in a civil war if not for him. Dr. King was able to get both sides talking sense, and things improved fairly quickly for millions of Americans - and they had a hell of a lot more reason to be pissed than most people today. He should have a statue right next to Abe Lincoln’s. Possibly in front, because he actually managed to stop the war and resolve many of the problems before the war occured.
Where can you find somebody like Dr. King today? That’s a hard one. Nobody trusts anybody any more, and with good reason - everybody who speaks in public these days seems to be pushing his/her own lopsided and highly biased agenda. You don’t trust them, I don’t trust them, nobody really trusts them. I doubt if they even trust themselves.
My first choice to suggest for the job was the Dalai Lama. What we need here is some real compassion. He’s kind, gentle, and absolutely brilliant. He’s not going to make corrupt business men like you, or make you like them. He won’t make much headway with the religious right (what with him being a devil worshiper and all). But that doesn’t matter - all you need is enough… you don’t need it all.
But he has a lot on his plate already. Besides, there is a much, much better choice. I do believe that, if you can pull this off, you will move social reform not a mere 3 or 4 years ahead, but, literally, DECADES ahead in a very short time.
Who is this amazing person?
Consider - Show a groundswell of support, and elect him for a second term. This sends some very clear messages to the American people. It shows that the greater mass of Americans are willing and happy to have an African-American hold the highest possible office in this country - and keep it. It shows that the American voting public wants what he promised to provide - social reform. This will make it clear to everybody that no politician can get elected again unless they are willing to work to give the people what they clearly want, and we care more about that than we do about a person's race.
He hasn’t been entirely successful, but he has worked very hard. That’s all you can ask - he’s a president, not a dictator. He didn’t get as much done in his first term as we’d have liked, maybe, but he tried to set aside partisan politics and get a decent health care bill through. You can show all the other presidential wannabes that they don’t have a prayer of getting elected running on trash talk and Jesus. Give him a second term and he can do more. The second term is always the most productive anyway.
In addition, you will get his attention in a very positive way. Show up at those protests with signs reading “We believe in you, President Obama,” or “Save our nation, President Obama,” or pictures of him right next to Gandhi on big posters, and you’ll have his ear.
I hope he’s not the kind of guy who will bend down and kiss your hind end to get votes, but having a sympathetic ear in the highest of high offices is not, in any way, a bad thing. And when he knows that you are counting on him to set this nation right, I do believe that he will work even harder to do so. And the other politicians will find that they must fall in line and work with him - if they are ever to get elected in this country again.
If he does not get a second term, the message we send will be clear - you can't win on a social reform ticket.
President Obama has been an OK president so far. I believe that he has the potential to be the greatest American president since Abe Lincoln, and possibly even greater - if you help him to be that man. Praise him for what he sincerely tries to do, rather than blame him for what he was unable to do.
7. Be aware that your are being manipulated by others for their own purposes, and don’t fall for it.
I’m not talking conspiracy theory here.
I doubt that there are many of you out there who are unaware of the fact that every day you are subjected to a barrage of manipulative tactics by people who have a vested interest in what you do - politicians, news media, advertisers, and everybody else who can make some kind of profit or gain some sort of power by doing so.
Their greatest trick (and I should know - I’m not real proud of it, but I used to work in advertising) is to make you believe that you are too smart or worldly wise to be tricked.
So you’ve seen it happening on “the other side”? Well, good for you. You’re very clever.
Now look for how it is being done to you.
That would be smart.
We are all being manipulated - you, me, them. The only defense we have is wide open eyes and a sharp mind.
So open your eyes and use that mind of yours.
(See the section on Michael Moore for further details on propaganda.)
This will help you - decide what you are willing to do to achieve your goals, and how far you are willing to go. Then, do not go beyond that point, no matter how many lemmings are pushing you over the cliff.
In 1920, after watching the course of a disastrous and foolish European war which we now refer to as WWI, the poet William Butler Yeats wrote a poem called “The Second Coming.” This is the first stanza of that poem:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity…
This is possibly even more true here and now than it was then and there.
And it’s a sad picture of my - of our - country. It’s time to drop the passionate intensity, and develop some decent convictions.