(Before you begin to read, let me bring your attention to the REPLY button at the end.)
Many of us know about teach-ins from personal experience. They were a mainstay of the nineteen-sixties when people had a compelling need to self-educate about important issues of the time. For my contemporaries they were about the Viet Nam War and about fairness for all Americans.
Others, younger, may know about teach-ins from stories related by parents or from novels about a not so long ago time when people yearned for change. And came together to do something about it.
Then teach-ins went away. The War ended and people went about other things–day-to-day stuff. They needed to return to a time when there was peace and conversation no longer focused on napalm and inequality. People found tranquility in complacency. Progressives included.
In 2008, change became the watchword of the day and Americans chose up sides. Most saw a need for government policy that attended to fairness. Others felt need to cling to attained advantage. In some ways 2008 looked like, felt like, 1968. A ‘hope and change’ mantra galvanized sleeping progressives and moderates–even some conservatives claiming the tag of Obamacans.
Five years later, we appear to be experiencing a return to complacency. Worse, malaise. The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are in our rear view mirrors and, again, tired of persistent stress and disagreement, and a draining 24-7 news cycle, there is a malaise among progressives. Among Americans.
Could it be that only the prospect of another ill-conceived, lie-driven war will shake us out of our doldrums?
Teach-ins, for the uninitiated, are informal meet-ups, most often organized around a political issue, typically on a school campus or in a public park, places where Americans feel they can be educated about reality. The focus turns to truth about war and about fairness.
Think of Occupy Wall Street as a teach-in. Bankers characterized it as a throng of no-goods, good-for-nothings, aiming to disrupt the status quo. Police were assigned the task of dispersal. The scene, indeed, reminiscent of the ’60s.
Not so much because of who was there; more because of why we were there. A threat to complacency was taking hold amid the actions of people coming together to self-educate and, given the turnouts, gaining mainstream media’s attention.
Despite media’s typically imbalanced negative attention to assemblages throughout the country, opposition to the unfairness that characterizes American governance and culture became a rallying cry.
Why then has such a momentary but energized movement toward fairness, toward progressive ideas, dissipated?
I have arrived at a conclusion that Americans just want to live their lives without the distraction of war. Understandably it drains us. Humans have a natural tendency to seek peaceful coexistence. As long as things appear to be quiet, there will be a momentum toward passivity. Even if that’s because governments lie to the people about stuff in order to make the world appear a better, safer, quieter place.
Judy Epstein responded to Quit Your Bitchin’:
Here’s why I didn’t write. It’s such a big issue and I can’t get my arms around it, and what can we do, anyway, except try to get a different Supreme Court? Hard to get Fired Up about when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain.
Ruth Claire Weintraub offers a sense of optimism, then backs off:
(Your article) wasn’t offensive at all. I caught a League of Women Voters
meeting on a TV station in Seattle that was about exactly this problem. There is legislation afoot in Washington State to counteract the horrific problem of fair elections, campaign financing etc etc.
But putting it all together so that it works? So that it actually happens?
Hmmm. If it were easy, we’d have done it already, no?
Among the more promising responses was that of Vicki Alspector:
Rubin and I are passionate about campaign finance reform. We went to a lecture by the president of Common Cause NY. They are doing a lot of work on this.
Part of what the apathy is about is the complete and total frustration of our voices being ignored in Mineola, Albany, Washington, etc. I’m more than willing to work for something, but we are outspent and out shouted.
It’s not about your newsletter, which I am ever grateful to receive, its about the ‘littleness of me’ that I feel I’m experiencing. Burn-out, maybe. We got Obama elected and he puts Social Security on the table. Our own people are fighting us. How can we not be depressed?
Perhaps we need a success. Occupy Wall Street was great in that it reinforced the whole concept of the 99% fighting for what is good for ALL of us. Even if we occupy the 1% or the 2%, we realize that we are nothing if the entire country fails to achieve what we have been able to achieve.
I’ve spent most of my adult life working to public education (not working, volunteering) and I see it going down the tubes in a maze of over-testing, under-funding, over-mandating, and being made the scapegoat (even by Democratic candidates) for everything. This is especially true regarding property taxes. (People with little or no information simply blame the school districts when they have no idea of where their $$$$ is going).
So, yes, I’m disgusted…but I’m not apathetic.
That’s a pretty apt description of those who participated in the teach-ins of the ’60s:
Disgusted, but not apathetic.
It’s why we have great need to re-direct our frustrations to action. It’s why venting won’t ever get us anywhere. It is why I am advocating a teach-in so all the Judys who ‘can’t get their arms around the issue’ will get self-educated.
Yes We Can! Long Island will not be alone in this effort. Social networking — not a tool of the ’60s — can help us more readily spread the word. Take a look at a sampling of the groups forming around the issue of campaign finance reform:
The Facebook page of Fair Elections for New York. Demanding fair elections for all New Yorkers. Fair Elections New York
The Facebook page of Strong Economy for All This coalition is made up of NY’s most effective and engaged unions and community organizations. Strong Economy for All
The website of Move to Amend-End Corporate Rule, Legalize Democracy. Building excitement at the state and local levels about being part of a larger movement, and about the process of movement building itself. Move to Amend
MoveOn is working together with Fair Elections for New York: Are you sick and tired of elections and our elected officials being controlled by big money, CEOs, and lobbyists? Do you think that issues like education, health care, jobs, and protection of the environment would be addressed… if politicians didn’t have to raise all their campaign cash from industry groups, companies and assorted self-interested billionaires? …If, instead, they have to depend on the voters? That’s right! Voter-owned-elections! Then you need to come to this meeting, Fair Elections for New York NOW!
Thursday, May 9 7pm Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Central Nassau
(Corner of Stewart Avenue and Nassau Blvd.)
To the many, too many, who share Judy’s feelings that campaign finance reform is ‘too big to get our arms around, and too hard to get fired up about’, I reject that idea.
I am proposing a Yes We Can! Long Island teach-in so that we can self-educate, so that we can rise above the malaise, so that we can collectively work toward a better future through campaign finance reform.
YWC!LI, working with similar-minded groups, will organize the teach-in.
First we need to hear from you that you are willing-fired up-to participate.
That’s my response to Quit Your Bitchin‘.
- How About a ‘Teach-In’ for Change?
- Time to Get Off Our Collective Asses
- Guess Who’s Going (Not) to Jail
- The Sad Simple Reality
- Don’t Hold Your Breath. Conservatives Remain Arrogant and Self-Deluding.
- Interested in Joining Yes We Can! Long Island ?
- Offering a Response to ‘We’ve Got it Backwards’
- The Problem: We’ve Got it Backwards
- The Terrible Winter
- Tikkun Olam: Repairing the World
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