“As You Walk You Make Your Own Road”

Yeah, yeah–Happy Holidays etc. But, more importantly, just as when Public Enemy famously urged us to fight the power: “let’s get down to business/ mental self defense and fitness.”

Our first action must be to combat the direct and immediate threats that will start on January 3rd, 2017 when the new Congress is seated: repeal of Obamacare, block granting of Medicaid, privatization of Medicare, deportation of the undocumented, opposition to Trump department secretary appointments and new Supreme Court Justice, repeal of Dodd Frank and threats to the CFPB, defunding of Planned Parenthood, overturning of Roe v. Wade and the gutting of Clean Water and Clean Air Acts.

There is much to do to, and all of it is important. The future of our nation surely hangs in the balance–the promise of the New Deal of the 1930’s, the dreams of the Great Society of the 1960’s and all the future goals of an American society striving for freedom, justice and equality for all are under direct attack. It may seem daunting, but as the Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote: “As you walk, you make your own road.”
All opponents of the Trump/Ryan GOP have to play defense on the most important safety net items NOW. If Ryan, Trump and the GOP are successful at, for instance, materially changing the entire structure of Medicare to privately managed accounts run through the financial services industry–rather than a stated public entitlement–that entitlement will never be brought back: not in our lifetimes, not in our children’s lifetimes, maybe never.
As if that isn’t enough of a project, there needs to be a second wave of activism focusing on the weaknesses of our political structure:
  • We need to roll back the GOP’s voter suppression programs and fight for automatic and universal registration for all–regardless of race, offender status and any other groups targeted for exclusion from suffrage.
  • We must make election day a national holiday and day off.
  • The Democrats must invest in a robust outreach and organizing operation geared toward young people and those red states where changing ethnic demographics can put a state into electoral play.
  • We must eliminate the Electoral College.
The overall political goals are threefold:
  • More Democratic wins in state legislatures in order to have the ability to redraw election districts after the 2020 Census, eliminating the kind of gerrymandering of U.S. Congressional districts that currently allows the R’s to receive fewer votes than the D’s, yet still control more seats.
  • Take back Democratic control of the U.S. Senate in 2018 in order to give us breathing room from the onslaught of right-wing Trump/Ryan legislation.
  • Defeat Cheeto Nazi in 2020.

 

A good place to start your preparations is to read and reflect upon the report pulled together by former Congressional staffers entitled: Indivisible: A Practical Guide For Resisting The Trump Agenda. As the report’s authors state in the introduction:

Donald Trump is the biggest popular vote loser in history to ever call himself President- Elect. In spite of the fact that he has no mandate, he will attempt to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image. If progressives are going to stop this, we must stand indivisibly opposed to Trump and the members of Congress who would do his bidding. Together, we have the power to resist — and we have the power to win.

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Quotation-Abraham-Lincoln-friends-friend-man-Meetville-Quotes-157266

While attending a meeting of a coalition of groups that have been working together for about two years to improve the health and safety of the neighborhoods in the city of Syracuse, I was confronted with the quote you see above, the meeting facilitator had printed it out on a big sheet of newsprint hanging from the easel at the front of the room:

Continue reading “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”

Still Organizing In The Street

It’s been a year of change here at “Still Racing . . .”  After twenty years, I left my position as a community organizer with Syracuse United Neighbors.  I have taken a new job as an advocate for disability rights with ARISE–a center for independent living (CIL) here in Syracuse. There are 37 CIL’s in NY State and their mission is to help persons with disabilities live independent lives in the community–rather than being forced to live in institutional settings such as nursing homes.

The scale is different. SUN is a small grassroots group with two employees and an annual budget of $150,000.  ARISE is a sprawling social service provider with over 700 employees and a budget over $15 million. The atmosphere is more corporate–I have a cubicle, a name tag, I sign in and out of our building.  I am no longer salaried, I am an hourly worker. Continue reading “Still Organizing In The Street”

Twenty Years Ago . . .

Twenty years ago today, I took a job that changed my life.

Organizing My Fat Self

I’m a community organizer. The shibboleth of community organizing is “educate, agitate, organize.” Lay out the reasons behind the problem, get people pissed off about it and then work together to change the situation. It’s the opposite of social work, a field of work that identifies personal problems to correct rather than the “powers-that-be” that cause oppression.

One effective way for organizers to get a handle on the agitate part of the equation, to truly understand another’s oppression, is to focus on the oppression you may have faced in your life. Understand the disrespect and disenfranchisement in your own life–and allow yourself to truly feel the anger that oppression creates within you. This will allow you to help others to harness their anger and use it to to empower both themselves and their community.

Continue reading “Organizing My Fat Self”

“So, What Do We Know?”

A friend of mine, someone I hadn’t seen in awhile, commented on a Facebook posting of mine today. He asked how things were going in Syracuse, and since he has labored as an organizer, I laid the typical, world-weary organizer rap on him as a reply:

Things are limping along in Syracuse–more poverty than ever and less compassion because the upper and middle classes are feeling constrained as well. Unions fight to elect politicians who then ignore them when it counts. City government is going broke paying for city employees (police and fire) who refuse to live in the city–contributing to the decline of our tax base. You know–same shit, different day.

Too snarky, by a longshot. It’s all true–but somehow incomplete. I thought of a phrase that my wife used the other day: “So, what do we know?” It’s a nifty line that really resonated with me. I think it’s a great opener for a leadership meeting: short, snappy and demanding others to leap into the breach! Continue reading ““So, What Do We Know?””

Claire McGrath

Claire McGrath 1995Of all the folks I’ve met since becoming an organizer in 1994, I owe more to Claire McGrath–both professionally and personally– than anyone else.

At SUN, she has been an integral leader–chairing meetings, plotting strategy and deciding policy on the Board of Directors (even signing my paycheck as treasurer.)

Personally, she and her family rescued two doggies, Sammy in 1998 and Andie in 2011–that she then turned over to my family to raise and love! Continue reading “Claire McGrath”