thomas at tbeckett.com
Thu Nov 4 22:49:53 EST 2004
Forwarded with permission:
The most important Presidential election in our lifetime. And the
person we fought against won. Legitimately.
What the hell do we do now?
I’ve been spending the bulk of my organizing time (what little time I
have) with members of the League of Pissed Off Voters. I was talking
with one of the Leaguers after we’d spent time at the polls and he said
to me that he was scared that if Bush won legitimately his people
wouldn’t get out to vote again. They’d think their vote didn’t count,
and give politics up for good. An email from a Floridian political
scientist echoed his sentiments. What are black people going to do now?
We came out in large numbers, voted against Bush in large numbers and
he still won? How are we going to get out? A colleague from Saint
Louis noted that he didn’t believe in Kerry in the first place and that
he doesn’t want to have anything to do with the Democratic Party
anymore. And of course centrist Democrats are pointing their fingers
(wrongly) at the liberal-leftists within the party, and the
liberal-leftist Democrats are pointing their fingers at the centrist
I’m not immune to these sentiments myself. And if I hadn’t put myself
on a media fast (no televised news whatsoever, and no internet news
other than Yahoo! Blurbs) I probably would be at the same place.
Furthermore, the weather sucks right about now, gray, dark, and wet…like
a scene out of Blade Runner.
But I remain hopeful. Optimistic even.
Because we’ve got a tremendous opportunity. More people participated—on
the right and wrong sides—in this election than any other election in
the modern era. People waited for hours in the dark, sometimes in the
cold rain, just to cast a vote. And leading up to the vote, people
spent long hours going door-to-door, participating in phone banks,
donating money, calling friends, calling ex-friends, and telling them to
vote. People who had never ever ever participated in politics not only
voted they actually worked to make a difference.
Of course this begs the question, For What?!? We lost!
To those sincerely asking this question a couple of responses are in
The intellectual activist response:
This election was not about Kerry per se, or even about getting rid of
Bush per se. It was about beginning the process of retaking our
country. About creating a vibrant new vision of government that looks
at them as the solution rather than the cause of our problems. That
looks at taxes as a way to provide services to citizens that build their
capacity to fulfill themselves, and the world around them. That looks
at people with compassion, love, and trust. The vote you cast on
Tuesday was a very minor part of that process in the long run. Win or
lose, once you make that first phone call or participate in that first
door-to-door operation, you cannot go back to the days of just voting.
And we don’t want you to.
The hardhead Gen X response:
Listen. I’ve had my ass kicked in more ways than one since I was about
5 years old. Every time I got waxed, I got the hell up, and went back
to work. What? Your guy doesn’t get in and the world ends? Last I
heard the sun still plans on rising tomorrow and setting sometime in the
evening. Last I heard the NBA season started on time with no problems.
Last I heard school was still in session. Last I heard papers were
still due in college classes. Last I heard massive folks still don’t
have health insurance. Last I heard massive people are unemployed.
Last I heard people were still trying hard to make ends meet. Last I
heard people were still taking kids out of public school to homeschool
them. Last I heard police officers in some places were still kicking
the shit out of black and brown kids. Last I heard older brothers and
sisters are still collecting Social Security.
Now this last thing probably will change, but I know that you’re feeling
me. We lost. So what? Time to get back up and do it over again. If
success is truly defined as getting knocked down seven times and getting
up eight, I’ll be damned if I’m going to stay down after that seventh
knock down. My parents didn’t raise me this way. Inkster and Detroit
didn’t raise me this way. My fraternity didn’t make me this way. You
take a loss? Get back in the damn game. You know how we roll. They
don’t call it struggle for nothing.
Now what to do?
Short term? I suggest a media blackout. What the stories will do, what
the images of red states covering the country like a blood soaked
blanket, is demobilize you. They will depress you. (At least this is
the effect these images are having on me.)
We know Bush won. We know that the DNC is going to fight about the
future of the party. We know that Bush is going to ram his agenda
through without following democratic processes. We will not be hearing
any new information.
So ignore it. Instead, put your feelings down on paper. Take
pictures. Share time with loved ones. Talk to your family members who
actually cast votes for Bush. Most importantly, talk with people you
And begin to plan.
Keep the phone trees you created. If you’ve been exchanging email with
like-minded souls, don’t let those email lists go fallow.
And for the sakes of the ancestors, don’t think about who is going to
run in four years. I wouldn’t even suggest thinking about whether the
Democratic Party or some other political party is the way out.
Think three words. Policies. Institutions. Critiques.
What type of progressive policies would make your city a better place to
live? Would make citizens think again about sending their children to
public school? Would make citizens think of the value of public
service? Would make citizens think again about the benefits of
government service? We’ve got several blue states to use as blueprints.
Who said that states’ rights was an inherently regressive ideology?
Jesus was compassionate and a comforter. Who said that Jesus couldn’t
be used to support truly compassionate policies designed to aid and
comfort the poor?
Furthermore, what types of institutions are needed to articulate these
policies in ways that resonate with the hearts and minds of citizens?
What types of institutions are needed to develop the political and
social capital of our youth? What types of institutions are needed to
correct the propaganda that now floods our airwaves, our radiowaves, our
lan lines? If Too Short can go gold selling tapes out of the back of
his car, I’ll be damned if we can’t create cell based think-tanks
designed to inform, influence, and mobilize.
Finally, what types of hard critiques can we lay upon the
administration? What alliances can we make to pry open private
meetings? What types of sanctions can we exert upon Republican
political officials, weak kneed Democrats, and media reporters to make
sure they speak truth to power, and hold the line? The media shouldn’t
be able to report a single false utterance of the President without a
cacophony of citizens shouting LIAR!
Policies. Institutions. Critiques. In quickly mobilized, cell-based
organizations. Doesn’t matter how old or how young you are. Doesn’t
matter how many you can find to ride with you.
Will we win two years from now come the mid-term elections? Will we win
four years from now when Bush’s term is up?
Rather than answer these questions, I’ll respond with a poem.
Out of the Night that covers me
Black as a pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever Gods may be
For my Unconquerable Soul
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud
Under the bludgeoning of Chance
My head is bloodied but Unbowed
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me, unafraid
It Matters not how straight the gate
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul
(Invictus by Ernest Henley)
I am a professor. I am a husband. I am a teacher. But probably the
most important identity I hold at this moment, is that of a father.
We must remain unconquerable, resolute, confident, and strident. In the
face of terror we must remain courageous, and committed. And in the
fell clutch of dire circumstance, we must remain Unbowed. Because as
far as I’m concerned, I’m fighting for Imani, Kamari, Niara, Kiserian.
I’m fighting for Tandie. I’m fighting for Kyle, for Sydney, for Jason.
And I am fighting to win.
Dr. Lester Spence
Assistant Professor, Political Science
Kellogg Scholar in Health Disparities
unbowed at gmail.com
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