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Feb 132017
 
Photo: at the Women's March

My wife and a friend at the Women’s March in New Orleans. Thanks to the random stranger who took this photo, whoever you are.

bart-everson-headshot-2013

History will record that Donald Trump’s presidency was greeted with massive protests worldwide. That is, of course, if any historians survive and are allowed to write anything approaching the truth. Here in New Orleans, the Women’s March on the day after the inauguration drew somewhere close to 15,000, surely the largest demonstration in our city, ever.

This is a good thing. We need more protest in this country. Protest should be a widespread part of our general culture. Unless, of course, everything is OK. (It’s not.)

To reach the epic levels we’ve seen over the last month, it stands to reason there must be plenty of fresh blood in the mix. Many people protesting have never done so before in their entire lives. I know at least one such person. I bet you do too. Maybe you even are that person.

This also is a good thing, a very good thing. It’s inspiring to me. Seeing so many people out at demonstrations, marches, protests and rallies, I get excited. Surely revolution is imminent! I got so worked up after this last round of protests, I almost felt optimistic about the future for a moment.

No going back

Then I sat down and fanned myself. My poor brain was overheated. Reality check: most people are not marching for revolution. Maybe we want a revolution, some of us, but that’s not what is driving us out into the streets en masse.

We are angry and defiant, on a gut level. We are outraged. We are also scared. We just want to go back to the way things were a few months ago.

Ugh. It hurts to type those words.

No way. I refuse to accept that. These protests cannot be about going back. For one thing, that’s not possible. It never is. History is a series of irreversible transformations, and it’s already moved on.

Furthermore: the way things were a few months ago was not so great. In fact, things really sucked. Now things appear to be getting worse on almost (but not quite) every front. Thus the protests. Thus people saying they’re “woke.” Thus a burgeoning level of civic involvement unlike anything in my lifetime.

What are we fighting for?

A great number of us wanted big changes in this recent presidential election. Candidates like Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein even had the audacity to talk about revolution. Can we elect our way to revolution? If so, then it looks like we got one, but it’s not the revolution I wanted, that’s for sure.

If Trump’s election represents a revolution, then those of us who oppose him must be counter-revolutionaries. It stands to reason. But we can’t be just anti-Trump, as necessary as resistance is. There has to be a positive goal. We have to have a vision for the future we desire.

Few people know who Stephen Covey is, but many have at least heard of his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The very first one is this: “Begin with the End in Mind.” (Okay, technically it’s number two, but that doesn’t sound nearly as impressive.) We ignore this advice at the peril of everything we hold dear. Who wants to be part of a vast ineffective social movement?

Time for some soul-searching, people. Think about what you’re fighting for. Think about what a true and meaningful victory would really be. Don’t be afraid of the r-word. Do you want a revolution, and if so, what kind? Remember, revolutions come in all shapes and sizes.

To my mind, what’s needed is nothing less than a new relation to each other and to the Earth. We have to dismantle structures of white supremacy. We have to find ways of living that allow all species to flourish and thrive. We have to accomplish what Joanna Macy calls the Great Turning, “the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.” That would be a revolution, for sure.

That’s what I’m fighting for. What about you?

Good old-fashioned grassroots organizing

Now that people are saying they’re “woke,” we have to keep from going back to sleep. This has to be about something more than installing another neoliberal regime in the next cycle, or we accomplish nothing. We must fan the flames of discontent into a truly revolutionary ardor.

Even if we agree on our ultimate goals, which is far from given, thorny questions of strategy remain. What methods will be effective for accomplishing the transformations we need and desire?

A diversity of means is surely appropriate. By all means, march in the street.

Photo: Women's March

Photo by Christy Paxson. Used by permission.

By all means, call your legislators.

Just remember you can’t do it alone.

For effective change, we have to join together with others in society in a longterm and meaningful way. I’m talking about good old-fashioned grassroots organizing. If you care about justice and humanity and ecology and all that good stuff, you need to be showing up at meetings with your fellow citizens, looking at each other, and asking: What next?

There are a number of such groups in our city. Find one that’s right for you. (I’ll be at one such meeting Monday night — come join us.) Make your contribution. Be patient without losing your sense of urgency.

Pace yourself, and be prepared to dedicate some portion of your time and energy to these struggles for the rest of your life — because that’s what it will take.

Bart Everson is a writer, a photographer, a baker of bread, a husband, a father and a resident of Mid-City. He is a founding member of the Green Party of Louisiana, past president of Friends of Lafitte Greenway, and a participant in New Orleans Lamplight Circle. More at BartEverson.com.

  6 Responses to “Bart Everson: Fanning the flames”

  1. History has proven quite effectively that socialism and communism are not very good ways to do things. So essentially it seems we have protests against capitalism and in favor of socialism/communism. If you are in favor of socialism/communism then that is just anti-USA and all that our nation was founded and and has stood for. If you don’t like capitalism there are PLENTY of socialist/communist states for you to move to. Capitalism is far from perfect but it has done more good for more people than any other form of economic system.

    • Problem is, capitalism without competition becomes indistinguishable from communism, the only difference being that our monopolistic economic overlords are free to flaunt their wealth without compunction.

      Look around you, and if you can remember, see how fewer are the choices of where to spend your money. In food, air travel, health care, computers, retail, housing, … and on and on.

      Over the last few decades, through ceaseless industrial consolidation that has been abetted by both sides of the political spectrum eager for big corporate donations, smaller capitalists have been eaten by ever-larger ones that would rather dominate than compete.

      If this is “capitalism” to you, then like communism before it, prepare for it’s death.

  2. Bart,

    The confounding issue is that both the protests AND President Trump’s election resulted from anger and frustration. Unfortunately, our country is being fragmented at a time when we really must unite as Americans.

    Rather than fanning the flames of polarization, we as a nation should focus on these key issues:

    A. America’s great now. Stop stirring the pot with inane rhetoric to the contrary.
    B. For our economy to thrive, it must be based on technology and innovation. Give our youth the toolset and mindset to innovate and build technology without forcing them deep into student loan debt.
    C. Plan for the coming crest of retirements from the baby boomer population (w/in 10 years) by rebuilding communities with walkable and bikeable urban cores.
    D. Plan for the impact on coastal communities of sea level rise regardless of its cause.
    E. Plan for the impact of less predictable weather patterns regardless of their cause.
    E. Provide all Americans with accessible and affordable healthcare.

    • Thank you, I totally agree from A – E! 🙂

      Stirring up the pot isn’t going to bring peace and reunite this nation. Apparently, there are some citizens that believe in Trump. And I am one of them. I’ve never seen so much hate and it’s really sad. I watched “OUR” last president try to ruin “OUR” country but, I sucked it up for 8 years and never created hate among those who disagreed with me.

  3. Standard socialist stuff. Bart’s worldview, although well meaning, would bankrupt us. We’d be Venezuela.

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