Forget the middle ground: Why don't the progressives take over the Democratic Party and make a real fight of this thing?
This week, I'm going to turn this space over to filmmaker and writer John Sayles, but first I have to honor the health plan that has probably aided more Austinites than any other: Austin's People's Community Clinic is turning 35. I bet there is no other group/company/plan that has served as many artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, working poor, unemployed, students, temporarily unmoored, financially overwhelmed, creative, desperate, and/or in-need folks as the clinic has. In the first decade of the Chronicle, it was our only health plan. Now we have insurance, but the clinic is still there to serve those many who are without it.
There is a reunion and open house on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2-5pm, at the clinic, 2909 N. I-35. (See our Community listings for more information.)
When I was struck with illness, I went there, and they helped me get well. When I was sick to my core, they comforted me, telling me it was my soul and not my body that was ailing, helping me to find the path to health. When I was vomiting blood, they told me what I had to do to stop, as well as writing me a prescription. They've not only been there for the many who needed them, but have always responded with grace, humor, compassion, and a true, deep respect for every patient. Invariably, they bandage the soul as they tend the body.
How they did it, I really don't know. That they are doing it still gives me hope in a time when there is precious little. Without pontificating, without preaching, without celebrating themselves, they did what had to be done: They tended to those who needed it, they healed their community, truly performing the Creator's work. So they've done for 35 years, and so they are doing still. Let us all wish them the happiest of birthdays, and let's take this opportunity to ask what we can do for them. Louis Black
Forget the postelection excrement on how the Democratic Party needs to reach out to fundamentalist voters and find a "moral position" people can identify with. What? Let's become less tolerant? More homophobic, more racist?
How's this for a moral position?: Thou shalt not lie, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill. It's always popular politics to attack liars, thieves, and murderers (and even better if you're not one yourself).
But you can't oppose a mess of a war by claiming you would have made less of a mess of it. And you can't tell the truth about the Middle East without mentioning our policy with Israel and years of support for repressive regimes in the Muslim states.
Segregation was presented as a moral position until we got it out of the legal codes. Now it's just a by-product of the alleged free-market system.
Worried about abortion rights? You should be. But if the anti-abortion crusaders are willing to lie down in the middle of highways, chain themselves to fences, picket abortion clinics, shouldn't people on the other side of the issue be prepared to do the same? It isn't comfortable. It isn't fun. But if you believe, you believe.
What if the right to have an abortion were on the ballot in those states? Or a bill to charge doctors who perform abortions with murder? Always the chance that you might lose, but it certainly would be a motivating factor to get off your butt and pull the lever.
Pretty much half of the people who voted don't want to go where George W. Bush and his gang want to take us. This is not a bunch of cranks and sore losers. It's important to remember that any inch you give up through cynicism, apathy, or mere laziness is an inch that will be twice as hard to win back.
Know your enemy. People who take away your liberties, the services you've fought and paid for, your standard of living, your public lands and utilities, have stolen from you just as blatantly as if they came into your house and robbed you with a gun. The bribery and extortion they've used to do this is only "legal" because they've been able to get away with it. Television and radio networks that conspire with them to do this are your enemies as well. Buy nothing that can profit them (preferably in an organized boycott), and let the world know about it.
If you're a "content provider," try not to work for them. Corporations that control politicians who sell us out, who rape America and the rest of the world and give nothing back, need to be identified, their methods revealed, boycotted, publicly hounded.
The people who voted for Bush are familiar with direct mail how about some campaigns sending them the news, with names and numbers of their civic leaders who are robbing them blind? Class war should have an economic face, not just a "cultural" one.
Ask yourself what you might be doing to accommodate or encourage the current system, how you or your business may be helping the IMFs and WTOs ravage American and foreign workers. Then stop doing it.
Complacency and distance do not help. Why are gay people marching in San Francisco? Instead, they should go en masse and meet people in those states who want to ostracize them (where many of them actually come from) and see if anything human can happen.
If you are lucky enough to have money to invest and choose to use or protect it in that way, ask not only how much your money is earning, but who else is profiting by the use of it. This is not "political correctness" (a term that even in the late Sixties I only heard used by reactionaries), but just trying not to feed the people who are fucking you over.
If you don't know how to change a tire or fill the gas tank, you shouldn't own a car. If you don't know how to inform yourself, you shouldn't expect to live in a democracy. The hard message of our recent movie Silver City is that we all have to be detectives to know what is going on in the world. That means searching rather than just receiving. It means weighing evidence. It means critical thought.
Yes, this is exactly what the Republican Party relies on its constituents not to do, and why the bulk of those constituents will be powerless to avoid the economic beating the Bush deficit is going to lay on them. Information is power only if it is used. Pressure constant and massive pressure has to be put on the commercial news media, however embedded they may be, to make sure the muggings perpetrated by those in power are public ones.
It can't be relegated to books or movies produced three years after it's too late. The power of the Web will be used as a weapon by friend and foe. Some of its success as a tool for change will be the ability to invade other people's space, to leave the chat rooms filled with like-minded people and go visiting.
Civil disobedience is effective when it is well-aimed and has staying power. If you don't trust the military or what the regime in power is sending it to do, don't join it, and do what you can to help other people not to have to join it. If you think you're getting screwed, make a stink about it. If you think somebody else is getting screwed and can think of a way to help, do it.
Let's say John Kerry had gone to the working people in those so-called red states and promised them that if they voted for him, he'd guarantee them $4,000 a year in extra income and services. Would you have any respect for a person who would give up a deeply held principle (on abortion or any other issue) for $4,000?
Politicians are only as good as we force them to be. The religious right took over the Republicans. Why don't the progressives take over the Democratic Party and make a real fight of this thing? If that leads to more regionalism and divisiveness, so be it. You either think these things are worth fighting for, or you don't.
Bring it on.
John Sayles is a filmmaker, director, and novelist. His latest film is Silver City.