Monday, February 6, 2012

Learn to Be Still

I have a thing about California. Actually, I have a thing about the entire West Coast. Specifically, I have a thing about the entire West Coast and the Democratic Party. You see, I feel as though the Left Coasters have robbed me of my Democratic Party - the party for working people, the party of the underdog, the party that stands up for, I guess, the little man, no matter what race, religion or creed he follows.

Yes, I know all about the Democratic Party and the part it played in slavery and the Civil War. I know about the part it played afterwards and the role the Southern Democrats, in general, played in promoting Jim Crow and States' Rights. I am a Southerner. On my mother's side, I am descended from people who owned slaves and also people who didn't. Some of my ancestors fought for the Confederacy and some for the Union. On my father's side, I come from people who left Europe in the early part of the 20th Century because they'd heard America was a place of freedom where they could prosper. My father didn't begin to prosper until he came under labour union tutelage. In the South. My people are Roosevelt Democrats who morphed into Kennedy Democrats, who taught me that people are equal and should be treated equally and with equanimity no matter what colour their skin was or what god they followed. Again, that was in the South.

When many around them were decamping to the Republican Party in the wake of Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act, my family stuck with the Democrats. The Democrats had always done right by them; no need to abandon ship now. When I came of age in the 1970s and attended a university which had recently started admitting women to its ranks, at my lowest point, my mother, who was a Southern girl raised in the Thirties with her only ambition being to marry well, told me to stick out the sexism and the sexist comments; I was the equal of any man in that university and I should be able to hold my own. It's a lesson I've not forgotten.

I can tell you that it hurts me to the quick to hear the Progressive tranche of the Democratic Party sneer at people who come from my neck of the woods and to know, from recent history, how these "open-minded" scions of the Democratic Party, forty years ago, write off the South as totally racist and not worth the effort of keeping in the big tent. Their patronising attitude offended me then, and it offends me now, especially since I've seen and recognised that a lot of the language they used, albeit more sophisticated, resonates with dog whistling racism of the type you'd only think to see amongst the Tea Party brethren.

I was a supporter of Barack Obama from the getgo. I never once thought of falling in line behind Hillary Clinton's campaign, although, I daresay, I would have supported her candidacy, had she got the nomination. Obama resonated with me. I felt and still feels that, more than any active politician today, he speaks for and feels for the working classes, the working poor, and the poor, themselves. That is why I support him and have never wavered in my support. That is why I listened to what he said and didn't attach any specific agenda to his words, nor did I project my own impossible dreams onto his rhetoric.

The President has been ill-served by the Left. We've wasted the past four years nit-picking and creating scenarios to the extent that, on occasion, we've actually been guilty of as many blatant lies as the Right. We've had temper tantrums and hissy fits, we've cursed this man and called him names and even used racist rhetoric in finding fault with everything he did, didn't do, said or didn't say. We played right into the hands of the Right. The Republican Party never had better friends than some of the Professional Left and the people who chose to follow their lead.

I love the Eagles. Especially, I love Don Henley's sad and tired voice. I know many people consider them a West Coast band, but their members are mostly Midwestern boys who travelled West. And if you listen to a lot of Henley's words in his songs, you'll see that all's not well in LaLaLand.

One of my favourite Eagles' songs is one of their most recent. If you take the time to listen to the words, you'll see there's a message unto which all the Progressive movement, at its meanest and most discontented, should harken:-

It's just another day in paradise
As you stumble to your bed
You'd give anything to silence
Those voices ringing in your head
You thought you could find happiness
Just over that green hill
You thought you would be satisfied
But you never will

Learn to be still

We are like sheep without a shepherd
We don't know how to be alone
So we wander 'round this desert
And wind up following the wrong gods home
But the flock cries out for another
And they keep answering that bell
And one more starry-eyed messiah
Meets a violent farewell

Learn to be still
Learn to be still

Now the flowers in your garden
They don't smell so sweet
Maybe you've forgotten
The heaven lying at your feet

There are so many contradictions
In all these messages we send
(We keep asking)
How do I get out of here
Where do I fit in?

Though the world is torn and shaken
Even if your heart is breakin'
It's waiting for you to awaken
And someday you will
Learn to be still
Learn to be still

You just keep on runnin'
Keep on runnin'

The emphases are mine. It's so easy to blame the President for everything you want accomplished that isn't. It's so easy to forget that he doesn't legislate. It's so easy to forget the part Congress plays. (And if you don't know what that is, maybe it's time you learned). The President is helped or hindered in his agenda by Congress, and this President has been hindered from both sides of the aisle.

You really know what the answer is. If you want him to succeed, if you want really liberal or Progressive legislation enacted, you're not going to accomplish that by sitting out this election and sulking or by voting Third Party or even by being seduced politically by kindly, old Uncle Ron, promising you a spliff and the end of the American Empire (at the cost of clean air, Civil Rights, healthcare and a woman's right to choose). You're going to achieve what you want by giving the President a Congress which supports him and promotes Progressive policies. And that means getting out to vote. And that also means growing up. And listening to what he's saying as opposed to what the pundits, who have their own agenda, say.

I'm all for activism, activists and activating, if you know what you're talking about; but in order to learn, you have to listen - and in order to listen, first, you have to learn to be still.

Take it away, Don and the boys:-

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