Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Home Front

Another protest at UN Plaza to "bring the troops home"? Dubious groups like A.N.S.W.E.R. and Not In Our Name, with their collection buckets and Socialist Worker newspapers, as the prime movers of protest politics in the US? Another Michael Moore movie? Lets take a hard look at all the ideas that didn't un-elect George Bush and his cronies. Lets mobilize around a new purpose and fresh ideas to reverse the slide of our disintegrating and increasingly militarized autocratic state.

The focus of the American Left in 2005 should be the domestic agenda. We need to look deeply at the internal problems of America itself, rather than the overarching impact of the Bush Doctrine in the global arena. In a sense, that battle was lost during the first Bush administration (George HW Bush that is), but what has not been challenged in Shrub's term of office is his abysmal tenure on the home front. There's no president in our history who has engineered such a failed domestic commitment as our current president. This is his weakness, and our strength. So instead of making plans to move to Montreal, Berlin or Barcelona, join me in digging in, and linking with our fellow citizens and neighbors in joint solutions to what is ailing the soul of this nation, and causing cool blues to turn red-hot.

The success of the Black Panthers and other revolutionaries of yore was part grassroots organization and also the creation of neighborhood programs and collectives for change. The Panthers founded local food and education programs, which is what made them dangerous to the US govenerment, not their sunglasses and leather coats. Yet every young radical today sports the same tired affection for Che t-shirts and Black Bloc bandanas. Crusties, old lefties, middle-class arm chair politicos and labor alike need to wake up, start building cross-platform coalitions and neighborhood committees to address America's deepest problems, those which the Bush government is impotent to act upon.

Many of America's urban inner cities and poor rural areas share many of the same woes. Poverty ain't much different in Cohoma, Miss or Lincoln Heights, East Los Angeles, CA. As such, Left, progressives, radicals, Food-Not-Bombers, liberals–call us what you will–hell, even poor conservatives–must band together in block-by-block and street-by-street organizing movements to combat poverty, youth gang violence, depleted health care, underfunded education, workers rights, immigrant and housing issues. Think of it as a reverse Falujah. Instead of a foreign military pacifying an insurgent occupied country, we’ll dignify a nation in need of fixing with a domestic force of will.

Many like to chant at rallies about a people united never being divided. Yet, these same well-meaning marchers rarely walk their own streets in search of ways to enact their goals for more freedom, transparency and access to basic care. Personally, I’m not sure how lying down in front of a military base gate is going to stop a soldier en route to Iraq, or register with said patriotic volunteer that they're being fatally betrayed. Lets take the ideas of direct action to a different front. Instead of torching SUVs, make meals for day laborers. Instead of on-line pledges to Move-On, move down to a blighted area and start a day care program for working mothers. Only when we start transforming our neighborhoods, cities and rural areas with our own hands will the Left become practical and legit to the average American, rather than the elitist, latte-swilling yobs were seen as.

This year lets take it to the streets. Lets take back our neighborhoods, farms and civic spaces. But most importantly, lets lend an ear to the unheard American citizen, lend a platform to those being crushed by Bush’s debt-economy. The problem with America is in America, its how we treat the least of our own, and how we reach out to those caught under the steamroller wheel of the not-so-free market system. We might not have much control over where the next bomb will be dropped, but we have control of what’s outside our front doors.

(photo above from