Friday, October 19, 2007

Political Problem 2

Lately, a loyal JJ reader has been undergoing some soul searching in regards to her socio-political activism. Working with community organizers this summer instilled in her the primary concentration of effective organizers: focus on an issue. Win the issue. You can’t waste your time with broad contemplation when a hard-line decision is at stake.

It’s the main reason why most community organizers (whether you agree with their causes or not) are ferociously effective movers and shakers. And I remember feeling, at first, that THIS was the best way to impact politics. Forget that Hill-brokering, that sell-your-soul type stuff. This was the real deal—eye contact, punch and cookies, real grassroots, real real.

In early 2006 I attended a recruitment workshop for IAF. I got to meet and chat (and network) with some of the DC area’s most important organizers. Really. One group of them had just finished brokering a deal for construction hands working on the new Nationals stadium; the guy I knew had just come back from London where he negotiated a minimum wage deal for all employees connected to the upcoming Olympics there and done a great deal for school programs in Baltimore; there were organizers there responsible for new libraries in SE; I could go on all day about the work they do.

But at that workshop I realized why I could never work for them. I am totally obsessed with the big picture, the wide angle. I feel claustrophobic when I focus on a single issue. To me, issues are like strands of hair or threads of yarn. They alone are only a piece, while it is the whole head (indeed the whole body) or the whole quilt that really matters.

In our friend’s soul searching, she has discovered newfound contempt for the objectionable actions and beliefs of our government. From education to torture, rarely does she read a newspaper without at least 30 minutes of difficult digestion. She literally gets heartburn from the front page.

She called me today to vent on Mukasey, saying she couldn’t believe that he was nominated.

Though I’m also frustrated about the whole process—especially that we’re not getting someone SO much better than Gonzales—I never had an emotional reaction. Even now, thinking about it, I’m not angry.

My friend said that it is unacceptable that Bush nominated this guy and worse that I’m not reacting to it with any passion. But to me, it seems from the administration’s point of view to be a rather good appointment. How can I blame someone from wanting to go after what he wants?

The point is, I don’t think I’m being weak-willed or anything. Nor do I feel anything close to apathetic. I just think that political strategy is so far removed from the sphere of actual truth and justice that I don’t regard these kinds of decisions with any kind of emotional attachment. The fact is we (America, world) messed up by allowing this administration to remain in office in 2004. We can’t blame the President for following his own beliefs just because we disagree with the beliefs.

The best thing we can do at this moment is hope the congressional Democrats muster enough balls to at least make the road to nomination uncomfortable and draw attention to the questionable practices that this administration has put into effect the past six years.

Besides that, the main thing on all our minds should not be anger with this appointment. It should be focus and work on 2008.

Is this a resigned attitude? I don’t think so. I think it’s a wide angle view. True, I’m not going to get up and protest this nomination myself. But that’s because I don’t think it would do anything but add bitterness and partisanship to a position that is only pertinent for a lame duck year anyway.

Instead, if we are going to focus on an issue, let’s focus on 2008. Let’s focus on taking back the government with a statement of power. At this point, 2008 is the big picture.

I may sit back on a privileged pedestal, middle classed and protected, but goddamnit I know that this country can be made better—it’s just a matter of HOW.