Political Organizing, Organic Community, and Meaning

When people organize politically, like many of us are doing now, we do so for obvious reasons at first: to resist injustice, to push toward some political goal, etc.
But by meeting face to face over and over again and cooperating towards shared objectives, something new arises: a sense of community.
What starts off as a means to an end (namely: organizing), becomes a microcosmic outline of the sort society we want to build together. Comradery, solidarity, and a sincere feeling of love, care, and trust emerge among us. Friendships blossom. We hit the streets together, and we inevitably have each others backs if something goes down; and we do so without hesitation or second thought. We were total strangers a few months ago, but now we are willing to fight and put ourselves in danger to protect one another.
Trying to create political change is immensely difficult, and only a very specific sort of person engages in such activity, but organizing with like-minded people creates links of meaning and purpose; which is why many of us are drawn to it in spite of the difficulty, stress, and discouragement which inevitably spring from such attempts. We cooperate, not because we are trying to earn a wage and happen to be hired at the same company, or because we are motivated simply by self-interest, but rather because we share a vision of what human life COULD be, and we are willing to do what we can, in our limited and humble way, to try and move closer to that ideal.
There is something sincerely beautiful and moving about that…

The Importance of Protest in the Face of a Trump Adminstration

“What’s the point of protesting? The election is over, dude, this is pointless. Ugh.”

Answer: NYC, Chicago, Seattle, Oakland, Berkeley, L.A., Denver, and even lil ol’ Omaha erupted as tens of thousands of people in major cities all across the country took to the streets today…

What does it accomplish? It sets a tone. It shows political grievance. Protests are, and always have been, an important and legitimate way to do that. Women got the vote largely by marching and protesting and not shutting up. Black folks got civil rights by marching and protesting and not shutting up. Workers got the minimum wage and weekends and safe working conditions largely from taking to the streets and marching and protesting and not shutting up. Grassroots movements have been an essential part of every single shred of progress that this country, or any other, has ever achieved.

The intent is not to overturn the election; that’s impossible. It’s to show force and to let the new Administration know that millions of us are not okay with the right-wing take over of our government, and when/if they try to do anything that crosses a line, we will shut shit down. We will be a constant source of political agitation.

Try to build a wall and send out deportation squads to split up families?
We will march on Trump Tower.
Try to take away women’s reproductive rights?
We will march on the Capitol.
Try to revive the Keystone XL pipeline, or push through DAPL, and threaten our water sources?
We will march on the White House.

This is politics. This is democracy. This is one side showing the other side that we won’t take it lying down; that they can’t just do whatever they want with no backlash. We will be a thorn in the fucking side of the Trump administration every damn step of the way. And if you don’t like that, If that just fucking rubs you the wrong way, then just do what you’ve always done: make cynical comments on Facebook, vote every few years, and be overly-flattered with yourself. It’s no sweat off our backs. You are irrelevant, and we got work to do.

Empathy as Existential Maturity

I’m listening to a podcast (“This American Life”, episode: Are We There Yet?) about refugees being housed in big camps in Greece. The reporter was going around interviewing Syrians in one Greek camp, and got into a discussion with a Syrian man who said his 5 year old daughter has psychological problems because of the trauma she experienced in Syria as a result of the civil war there. A rocket fell on their house, killing her sister and grandmother. And now the little girl can’t be left alone at all or she panics. She doesn’t go outside ever, and, heartbreakingly, has no friends in the camp. A precious, innocent little girl, scarred for life and without any other little friends to play with. When he said that, I had to stop what I was doing, sit down on the edge of my bed, and just fucking cry. That shit destroys me.

The human mind has a well known tendency to group other people together based on ethnicity, religious affiliation, nationality, etc., and pin various attributes on the group as a whole; reducing every individual within that group to mere *representatives* of that group, and not as wholly unique human beings in and of themselves. Immigrants and refugees get this all the time; and in fact a current candidate for US president has rooted his entire candidacy in this base tendency of the human mind. But no one is free from the compulsion to group and stereotype different people; regardless of political ideology.

This is why it’s important to go out of your way to try and understand human beings from any marginalized or “Otherized” group *as human beings* and not caricatures of their group stereotypes; to put in the intellectual and moral work of consciously deconstructing this tendency within your own mind by listening to stories such as the above story about a little Syrian girl. Or listening to a desperate father from Honduras explain why he came to America illegally. Or listen to a trans person as they recount all the daily struggles and every day indignities they have to face just to exist as the person they truly are. Etc. Getting down to the specific details of individuals and their experiences is essential in weeding out the “group stereotype” tendency that exists in your own mind.

This is empathy. This is our social and moral obligation to our fellow human beings. The suffering of an innocent child anywhere in the world is the suffering of all intelligent, sentient creatures. And if we can, to some extent, take the suffering of others and internalize it into our selves, we strengthen the bonds of solidarity. It may cause us pain and confusion and despair at times, but there is also something deeply connective and dignified about it. There is something existentially mature about it.

The moment I can no longer cry or be moved emotionally by the suffering of innocent strangers is the moment I am no longer fully alive; something essential and meaningful will have died within me and within the world. I hope that moment never comes.