Tuesday, December 07, 2004

One Small Voice? No, many, many voices

Sue in Waterbury writes, "I am a Christian and I'm about to dump your site. If you ever link to a story by that ___ Tom Hayden or his hideous wife, I ____ing swear I'll never come back to this site."

I'm assuming Sue (and what strange language for someone who's first statement is to explain she's a Christian) means Jane Fonda -- who would be Hayden's ex-wife. Sue, you're almost two decades behind.

Tom Hayden was linked to (and quoted) in "Snapshots of Iraq." I liked what he wrote then, I like it now. I'd link to it again. (In fact, I may at the end of this post.)

Sue tells me that Hayden and Fonda "are killers!" (Sue says a lot more but we do have a language policy on this site.) I don't remember reading that Hayden showed up on the set of Steelyard Blues or Klute to say, "Jane, I need you to come with me now. We've got to start bombing Cambodia." I guess I missed that?

Marcia writes in on the Michael Moore link to say thank you for it and note that he's going to be "Jane Fondad by the party." She feels it's already beginning and "it's disgusting when we eat our own." Agreed.

Michael Moore's comments this summer were the only thing prompting the media to finally (Boston Globe and a few others excepted) look into Bush's military service.

I'll also give Wesley Clark credit for refusing to trash Moore when prompted to do so by Peter Jennings. (Moore had called Bush a deserter at a Clark rally and Jennings called it a reckless charge attempting to force Clark to distance himself from Moore.)

Marcia, I agree with you.

Michael Moore's a film maker. And you can bet, since he's been successful, the Democratic party will be going to him for contributions but distancing themselves to appear "moderate" and "reasonable." Translation, like Fonda, they want him as their personal ATM.
It is disgusting.

I have not always agreed with everything Moore has said or done but not only did he make a powerful film (an incredible one), he also raised issues that needed raising. There are no plans to draw a line between this site and Moore to appear "resonable" or "reasoned."

The same goes for Fonda or Hayden or anyone else who's been demonized by the right while too many cowardly Democrats have moved quickly to disassociate themselves from anyone that's tarred by the right.

Sorry Sue, but there's a plate for Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda at this table. If you're uncomfortable dining with them, we'll miss you but the evening will go on.
The Nation did a cover story on Jane Fonda not that long ago. Tom Hayden's "You Gotta Love Her" (http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040322&c=1&s=hayden) and Carol Burke's Why They Love to Hate Her" (http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040322&s=burke) were featured in that issue. (If those are subscriber only links and you're unable to access them, e-mail the site at common_ills@yahoo.com and they'll be sent to you because they are worth reading.)

Marcia's right. The attacks on Moore aren't about Moore, as she notes, they're an effort to say, "Oh the extreme right is correct, Moore's crazy, but look at me, I'm insulting Moore, I'm distancing myself, so see I'm normal and reasonable."

Robert Novak can out a CIA agent (Valerie Plame) and though he committed no crime (if this needs to be explained, let me know), what he did was shocking. And that the right continues to stick their heads in the sand over this is shocking. The right's not doing purges with Novak.
But we let them make a Moore or a Fonda or a Joan Baez or whomever a liability and instead of us saying enough, we quickly rush to the "center" and tsk-tsk to prove how reasonable we are.
Not on this site.

If Michael Moore wants to turn into a Bush supporter cheerleading us into another war, we may have a few comments for him. At present we wish him all the best.

Toby e-mails that he's a Green and wants to be sure he's welcome here. Yes, you're welcome here.

I don't see the site endorsing in a "We endorse . . ." because that would be only my view. I don't see that happening ever. But when we're in the election cycle, if you write in about a candidate and why you're for them, it'll be posted. The Greens are of the left.

I don't, personal opinion, think a Green president in 2008 is the answer. Not because I think the Democrats are better than the Greens but because historically you see huge power grabs among the three branches. Under Bush, we've seen the executive branch grab power repeatedly. At some point the legislative branch (Congress) will reassert their power if history holds true. That should start in the near future, Congress grabbing back the powers they've freely handed over
as they marched willingly behind Bush.

And if that happened with a Green in the oval office, we'd see Congress cripple her/him. Because there's no block of Greens in Congress.

That, however, is my opinion. Not only could I be wrong right now, but events between now and 2008 could shift or change so that the issues I'm fretting over aren't issues in four years.

If Joey Jones (trying to grab a non-gender specific name) runs for president as a Green in 2008 and you want to argue Jones' case, it has a place on this site.

If Ralph Nader runs again and someone wants to argue for him in 2008, you have a place here.
If NOW starts their own party and runs Gloria Steinem in 2008 (or anyone), a supporter will have a place at this table.

I don't think I did a good job in the "Red" State series explaining two points. One point was I'm not ready to write off all Bush voters. My point there was that I don't think everyone who voted for him understood what he stood for. I think, regardless of reframing or not, we really have to work on getting our message out. ("Our" being the left.) And I think a lot was accomplished and, in many ways, it was amazing when you think about where we were in 2002.

By noting the clowning of the press, that point might have been underscored if, largely, unstated. But I don't think I got across, second point, that I don't see the Greens as the enemy and though I wasn't for Nader, I don't see him or those who voted for him as the enemy either.
The Green party deserves a lot of praise for what they've done in the last few years in the states. They are building a strong party structure. If you look at historical trends, it's very likely that they may emerge as one of the main parties in our system (which tends to only support two main parties). The Whigs vanished. The Democrats could as well.

That's why I've griped so much about the party infrastructure of the Democratic party. It needs an infusion.

If you're a Green party member, please feel that you're success stories are welcome here. You can e-mail to say, "We elected . . ." or "We didn't get the office but we got __% of the vote."

Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, of Global Exchange and of the Green party is someone this site will gladly praise. And her bravery at both the Republican and Democratic conventions this summer is to be applauded.

If you saw the coverage of the conventions on Democracy Now!, I can't imagine you not being impressed with Benjamin. She (and Code Pink) have also bravely stood up to the FCC's drive for deregulation.

Elizabeth DiNovella has a great interview with Benjamin in this month's The Progressive (http://www.progressive.org/dec04/intv1204.html). If you like the battles Medea Benjamin fights or if you're unaware of who she is, I would urge you to check out the interview. (The issue is a strong one -- The Progressive comes out strong with no hand wringing dramatics -- so if you have the money to do so, you might want to consider purchasing this month's issue.)

Here's one section of the interview:

Medea Benjamin: Kerry lost because he never provided a clear message or an inspiring vision about the direction this country should take. And we have to admit that Bush's fearmongering and gay-bashing worked. Bush kept on message, while Kerry didn't. On Iraq, Kerry had a terribly mixed message. It was very confusing to people to understand where he stood on that issue.
Up until the debates, it was a pretty lackluster campaign. It was almost as if those of us from the anti-war movement grimaced every time Kerry would open his mouth and say something about Iraq. I never put on a Kerry sticker, button, bumper sticker. Not for a person who supported the war in Iraq. And I know a lot of people like that.
The Democrats have really lost touch with their base. In this campaign, the ones who were out there going door to door for Kerry were the 527 groups like America Coming Together and MoveOn. While these organizations galvanized thousands of activists, I witnessed a lot of duplicated efforts and wasted money by bringing in a lot of volunteers from out of state. Whereas when you look at the Republicans, they were more organized, united under a "central command" in the party, and rooted in community through church networks. The Republicans emphasized local volunteers.

Domnick e-mails that he's a Green and that he's not sure what term we're using on this site. He's asking about "liberal," "leftist," "progressive," etc. Use whatever term you're comfortable with.

There's a lot of commenting on how the Republicans have made "liberal" a dirty word. That's true. It's also true that the left began sending up the term themselves. In the sixties, it was a term that many on the left lampooned. There were reasons for that which go beyond this post but I do think it's worth noting that the Repube attacks were not the only attacks on the term.
(Then or now.)

And "Repube"s is a term I'm using that some of use as well. Wynter writes in to ask why that term is used as opposed to "Repugnant." I can't tell you why others use the term (but if others write in on it, I'll be happy to share their responses). For me, when the plastic, fabricated music came along and so many in Gen-Y (though not all) lept on the Disney-fication of music, the term seemed appropriate. For me, we saw a lot of play acting. Various starlets (I can't call them musicians) went around bragging about the virginity while attempting to peddle sex. (Starlet is a term I use for the females and males.)

It's an unquestioning music, an uninformed music. So when Britney Spears made that ridiculous statement of support for Bush and how we should always support the president on CNN (which Michael Moore includes in Fahrenheit 9-11), it was so fitting. It was the rebirth of the party, to me, the Republican party, their born again, pre-adolescent stage. Hence "repubes."

I want to be clear that not everyone of Gen-Y (or whatever term you want to dub the baby boomlet) fell for that music. But it was shocking to me that from grunge we swung so quickly into "music" that would have been ridiculed (and startlets who would have been ridiculed as well) not just a few years before, but for years and years before.

And whenever anything went "wrong," these starlets (mindful of those endorsement contracts?) would immediately rush out to say they had no idea that was going to happen -- from being kissed by Madonna to Janet's top coming off, they were innocent. Completely innocent.

Whether it was that or trying to act raunchy while still assuring us they were Polly & Paul Pure, it was hypocritical. (So very fitting with today's strain of Republicanism.) But maybe when you put out so much plastic, there's little left to talk about other than your supposedly well maintained, well tended virginity?

Sheryl Crow made a comment awhile back about how seeing these "performances" was like watching a high school talent show, I felt that captured the "artistry" involved as well.

I'm going on a great deal about music but I think that's one thing we need to do, reclaim music.
When these people have exceeded their 15 minutes by several years, it's time to ridicule them and demand real music. You can be into classical or jazz, vintage rock or soul, post-modern, neo-soul, alternative or what have you. But we need to get some authenticity back into our world that's become such a wasteland. And start pointing out that these famous for being famous persons aren't contributing anything.

I'm curious about who some of your favorites are. (I'll try to remember to put a song quote in before I post for those who keep writing, "I miss the lyric opening!")

But I don't think we dumbed down overnight or that it happened just because the news failed us. I think we've been headed down this infotainment path for some time. And the standards have just been lowered and lowered. I don't mean morally, I'm speaking of professional standards. Cokie Roberts turns out yet another clip-job (relying on the works of others) and she's hailed as an "author. " James Carville publishes a PowerPoint presentation in book form and we hail him as an "author."

We've chicken-souped our souls and deprived our brains in our easy access, lust for entertainment world. And when we hail a film as "great" or "must see" because of how well it did opening weekend at the box office instead of on it's merits, there's a problem. It's as though we went to sleep while in the middle of an all night concert given by Kurt Cobain, Tori Amos and Living Colour and woke up in the Eisenhower fifites but it doesn't appear there's any Odettas, Bob Dylans, Joan Baezs, et al that are about to come along and jar us out of the easy chair.

Jack e-mailed that he found both "Snapshots of Iraq" and "The Fifth Book of Peace by Maxine Hong Kingston" posts jarring; and that he's grateful for that. I am too. There are disturbing things going on and I don't think we tune out and pretend everything's wonderful because we can zone out in front of the TV.

Brad shared a story that I know was similar to what I experienced and I'm guessing many of you have a similar story as well. A few months after 9-11, he began speaking out against a policy (in his case, the rounding up of immigrants) and he was told to be quiet both by people who disagreed with him and by people who agreed with him. He decided to keep speaking his truth. It was uncomfortable for about six weeks but slowly he noticed a thaw in some people.

That's all it take sometimes. Just having the faith and bravery to say, "No, that's not right. I don't agree with that, I don't support that." Brad did that and found that others around him were then able to speak out in the space he created.

That's what I meant about how things were in 2002 earlier in the posts. Anyone daring to criticize a tax cut or any other policy move by the administration was "against the country" or some other nonsense. A lot of people were intimidated into silence, some were bullied. We can't control what our leaders (elected or otherwise) do. We can control what we do. And when we carve out a space and refuse to say, "Because I'm an American, I won't object" we're making it easier for the people around us to be a little more honest. (And being an American, in fact, is all about speaking out.)

The emperor's got no clothes on
No clothes -- that can't be
He's the emperor
Take that child away
Don't let the people hear the words he has to say

One small voice
Speakin' out in harmony
Silenced but not for long
One small voice
Speakin' with the values we were taught as children
[. . .]
Tell the truth
You can change the world but you better be strong
-- "One Small Voice" by Gerry Goffin & Carole King

Available on Carole King's Speeding Time album which was just re-released in September.

One voice can change things. That may be all the power that we have, our own voices. So we need to be sure that we're using them. We have the power of "no" and the power of "yes," as Erika notes, yet too often "we're just being silent and giving the appearence we agree."

Sue at the top of the post wants to silence (eradicate?) Hayden and Fonda. Our problem is not that Hayden and Fonda are too out there, it's that we're not seeing enough people of the left speaking out. Tonja writes in that she rented The Game Is Over (sixites film starring Fonda and directed by Roger Vadim) and the clerk behind the counter leaned in towards her to whisper, "I really like Fonda." He had to whisper that? Tonja responded loudly, "Well I love her."

Andrew feels we're rabbits hiding in holes in the ground and Tobias feels we're ostriches with our heads submerged. But both agree that our elected leaders have moved to the ever right-shifting center so much that we're damaging our national discourse.

Kara writes that the reason Bush is able to appear to be a "compassionate conservative" is because the right doesn't silence their members. "By rejecting and silencing those on the left who have spoken out, we've let the spectrum of opinion become very narrow. It's time to say no to the gate keepers and let people start speaking their minds."

And we can say "no." Erika's right that we have the power to say "no" and to say "yes." Or as Jodi noted, "Feminists always say that if everyone told their truth then the world as we know it would be altered forever. That's what we need to be doing, speaking our truths."

So when Sue comes along and says that this site "better never" link to Hayden again or she's no longer going to visit it, then we have to say, "Okay, Sue, nice knowing you. Come back again if you change your mind." Or when someone says, "Michael Moore costs us the election" we need to use common sense -- does Moore have that much power?

When we refuse to draw lines to play "safe," we can increase the number of voices we have. As Tamara wrote, "Being a liberal is a thankless job in the Dem party. You speak out, you motivate people, you rally people and you're thanks for that is to be shoved aside the minute the right attacks because suddenly you're 'controversial.'"

When the right can distort things so that James Carville is an out and out lefty, it only demonstrates to me that we need to be more vocal on the left. They think that's left?

"We never had a this great liberal media," Bill feels. "What we had was an active right and an active left so the media went for the center. Now we've got an active right and a too quiet left. The center's moved to the right as a result. And if we don't start showing some guts, it's going to move further to the right."

This is why so many of you were so upset by two of the people posting on this blog. They came along with the attitude (one Sue apparently shares) that we could be silenced or cajoled into moving to the center. This is a left blog, as I said before, we're not moving.

Some of you feel that blogs you've invested a great deal of time into are now selling you out. I don't see that happening here because your voices are as important as my voice. I'll confess to a repeat nightmare where, in my dream, I'm suddenly a Joe Lieberman spouting centerist. Talk about bad dreams. God forbid that ever happens, but even were I too (shudder) shift, I think you're voices (which are a huge part of this blog) would keep us from moving towards what Joel dubbed "appeasement."

Which brings us to Thomas who is really upset that I've not noted some "shout outs" we've gotten. I really don't feel that's what this blog is about. I'm happy to link to things I find worthwhile and it's great if someone finds us worthwhile. But it smacks of self-promotion to me, to be trumpeting, "Well we were linked on ____!" Or to exclaim, "We were mentioned on ___!"

Jimmy wonders why an e-mail from ____ wasn't published on this site. Because it was a private e-mail. It wasn't written to this site, it was written to Jimmy. I was uncomfortable discussing Marty Kaplin's e-mail that was forwarded to this site but did so because a number of you had complained and Kaplin's e-mail expressed that he hadn't meant to offend and that he was being sincere.

I may have made the wrong call on mentioning Kaplin's e-mail but the point was to make sure that people who were writing that they were hurt understood that he was surprised and hadn't intended that all. To me, there's a world of difference between that and an e-mail from ____ (to Jimmy) justifying his own actions. If ____ wants to speak publicly on issue this site has raised, he can do so. He can e-mail this site and we'll post it in full (editing only for swear words). Or he can write something or give an interview. All of those we'll comment on. But I'm not comfortable with using a private e-mail. (This goes back to Daniel Okrent outing a reader of the Times via a private e-mail that he wrote to a journalist. And Rob, I really do intend to write about that. I'll try for Saturday, okay?)

Were it an e-mail from an elected official's official site, I don't know that I'd feel the same hesitation.

Now if someone e-mails someone that they're wanting a reply and intend to share it, that's a different story. I just don't see the point in posting or addressing what was intended to be a private e-mail.

Remember that Howard Dean has a webcast tomorrow at noon eastern (http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2004/12/howard-dean-online-wednesday-12oo-pm.html)
and that you can view it at www.democracyforamerica.com.

Seventeen of you weighed in on the NY Times story "As Questions Keep Coming, Ohio Certifies Its Vote Count." Nine of you felt it was too little too late. Eight of you felt that at least the Times had finally done an article on it that didn't have a snide tone. Of the seventeen, fifteen of you said that if this is it for the paper (on this topic), it's shameful. I agree that it works as an opening piece, not a stand alone. So I guess we're all waiting to see what the paper will do next on this story.

Again, the e-mail address for the site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

[Note, Toby e-mailed me that I mispelled Ralph Nader's name. I had. It's "Nader," not "Nadar" as I had typed. It's been corrected. Thanks for catching that Toby. I'm sure there are a ton of typos in this but "Nader" is someone's name and I am glad Toby caught my mistake.]