(Coming Soon: SherryTalksBack.com)
Sometimes folks on the left are given to expressing our outrage at the injustices of the system with hyperbole. I’ve been known to dabble in extreme language myself on occasion and I chalk it up to my youthful exposure to Rosa “socialism or barbarism” Luxemburg. But I am beginning to think Rosa was onto something.
Even the most colorful linguistic radical may be considered tepid in light of how crappy virtually every aspect of life, work and culture has become. Worst of all, perhaps, is that from unemployment and racism to infrastructure collapse and yeah, even TV, we’re expected to accept all this as normal.
Global media cite Pamela Geller, a self-styled bimbo bigot leading the “Ground Zero mosque” hysteria, as if a vacuous woman who spews Islamophobia online while splashing around in a bikini should be accepted as an authority on “hallowed ground.” I would have expected that her Atlas Shrugs Web site—adorned with a graphic of the silhouette of a naked woman, the kind seen on mudflaps, draped over the New York skyline—automatically qualifies her as a wingnut.
But this cybercrap is not only stoking real anti-Arab and anti-Muslim violence at home, it gives cover and even justification for ongoing U.S. wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. If all Muslims are somehow suspect of terrorism, the thinking goes, then stopping an Islamic community center and prayer space is part of the “war on terror.”
Powerful politicians and billionaires like the Koch brothers, “the Standard Oil of our time,” as Jane Mayer describes them in the New Yorker, are behind the Gellers, Becks and Palins, so this latest wave of racist hate cannot be dismissed as the doings of dingbats. Disputes like this one are becoming the normal backdrop to social and economic crises in the United States.
This week Honeywell nearly nuked the Midwest by reopening the nation’s only uranium conversion facility with scab labor leading to an explosion. Rather than pay union workers their retiree benefits at the Metropolis, Illinois, plant, they locked workers out and forced the facility back online with improperly trained scabs. This is the same corporate thinking of unregulated profits above all else that has left the Gulf of Mexico an oil- and chemical-soaked swamp.
From TV shows without actors, scripts, or social relevance to major cities bulldozing their streets and turning off their lights for lack of funds, we have entered a truly crapified state of affairs. And that’s just the domestic picture.
Corporate America and their shills in Congress want us to think that this is all inevitable. That people becoming so frustrated with the racism at work that they’d march in with a gun in their lunchpail and blow away the foreman, a few co-workers and themselves is just the way things are. Normal.
But it’s not. None of this is either inevitable or normal. And thankfully I’m not the only one who thinks so—and neither are you. There are lots of people wandering around these days saying, This sucks, I didn’t vote for this! And a small, but not insignificant, number of them are starting to act on those feelings of discontent.
Last fall I worked with a handful of people led by Harvey Milk’s collaborator, Cleve Jones, to build the 200,000-strong LGBT National Equality March that has led so far to some partial reforms. Today there are small labor actions and organizing efforts among janitors and car washers. Immigrants are fighting back and some of their kids are truly inspirational sitting in and wearing their “I am an Illegal Immigrant” t-shirts as a visible fuck you to the racist scapegoaters.
And now the NAACP and the labor movement have teamed up to call a One Nation Working Together March on Washington October 2, 2010. I’m going. I don’t care if some of the folks at the stage will try and narrow its agenda into a get-out-the-vote action for November. The anger is deeper than click-here activism and the ballot box can absorb, and the crisis requires street heat to force an agenda of genuine change.
The crapification of U.S. society is severe, but we’re not impotent in the face of it. That’s just what the people at the top want us to think. Don’t buy it. Speak out, organize and go to the march.
Sherry Wolf is a public speaker, writer and activist available to speak at your campus, community center or union hall for a moderate fee. Wolf is the author of Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation (Haymarket Books, named one of the Progressive’s “Favorite Books of 2009”). Contact: sherrywolf2000 at yahoo.com