I was thinking about social movements in general. I specialized in studying social movements in college and was able to do more work in that area in law school. Suffice it to say, writing letters may make us feel better, but is otherwise useless. Courts are merely agents of co-optation. Nothing happens without people getting out in the streets, occupying places, etc etc etc. I have probably said this before.
The trouble is, once people do this and discomfit the rich and powerful, who never give up their illegitimate power, the rich and powerful figure out ways to NOT give people what they want while appearing to give them the OPPORTUNITY to gain same. E.g. civil rights act, voting rights act, social safety nets developed during the Depression for WHITE MEN ONLY. (See below for more on this issue.) This process is called co-optation.
Pelosi et al are engaging in co-optation by running investigations without teeth, by making growly noises about issuing subpoenas, while more people suffer and die all over the world every single day. They know EXACTLY what they are doing.
We cannot be content with being co-opted. What point is there in keeping the Democratic Party in power if it exists only to co-opt legitimate and necessary actions? Right now, that seems to be job 1 for the Dems.
RE: WHITE MEN ONLY. Social policies that reward members of the dominant race only serve to emphasize an unwarranted sense of superiority in the dominant race and create more suffering and desperation for everyone. The BONUS for those who promulgate those policies is that it prevents the unification of whites and non-whites into effective social change agents. (The white person, no matter how desperately poor or ignorant, can always thus take comfort in the knowledge that at least they are not a damn *fill in the subordinate ethnic group* and remain oblivious to the fact that we all suffer from the same systemic ills and are contaminated by needless hate. Thus, we are immobilized.)
I took a course at UCSB: The History of Racism in the United States. Way back in the 1600s, an event called Bacon’s Rebellion occurred.
“Bacon’s Rebellion demonstrated that poor whites and poor blacks could be united in a cause. This was a great fear of the ruling class — what would prevent the poor from uniting to fight them? This fear hastened the transition to racial slavery.”
There were many free Blacks in the US in the 1600s, landowners. The government began to allow whites to drive them off their land. Many were subsequently enslaved. Slavery became the NORM for Blacks. Whites were enslaved as well, but could not be held with the ease of Blacks, merely because they were white. Once they escaped, they just blended in. Not so for people of color. (also see the PBS Documentary, The Terrible Transformation.)
By refusing to stand alongside the victims of the Bush administration, it is more likely that we will become victims ourselves. Law professor David Cole maintains that the poor treatment of immigrants (theft of rights) always leads to the poor treatment of citizens. (Japanese internment camps, deportation of Hispanic American citizens in the 1950s, ad nauseum, Tuskeegee experiment, MKulta, Cointelpro.)
“Cole’s thesis in Enemy Aliens also serves as a warning: Americans should worry about the way their government treats immigrants, for it is often a precursor to the way it will treat its citizens. Quoting Justice William O. Douglas, Cole reminds us that while it is easy to be aware of creeping oppression, and difficult to fight it, “[W]e all must be most aware of the change in the air…lest we become unwilling victims of the darkness.””
I suppose I ought to tie these threads together.
We need to stop the growth of fascism in America on both the national level and in our communities by refusing co-optation, and standing with the most obvious victims now, or suffer the same fate ourselves, either sooner or later. Actually, we are suffering now, only not to the same degree as others.
PS: I was in political chat last night. This guy (sorry, it’s guys, 99% of the time, who spread hate) came into the chat room and said that we should kill all Blacks because most of them did not have good “morals” and they were destroying America. I pointed out to him that supporting the killing of innocent people was not a moral position to hold. So if he considered himself to be more “moral” than Blacks, he ought to engage in self-reflection. He was unfazed. That is what we are up against. Sigh…
These books are key. They contain the stories of the people who suffered and died for the freedoms that I treasure: lunch hours, weekends, the ability to control my reproductive fate, the ability to leave a brutal husband.
Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail
by Frances Fox Piven
In struggle: SNCC and the Black awakening of the 1960s. Harvard University Press, 1981. ISBN 0-674-44726-3
A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn
by Richard O. Boyer
and Herbert M. Morais
Sexual Politics: Kate Millett