Saturday, February 19, 2011

Clear, concise goals in troubled times

It lacks the punch of a crowd's chant. It won’t fit on a bumper sticker. It is unlikely to topple wayward, compromised and corrupted governments.

But if you are looking for a concise summary of essential needs in these troubled times, consider the official objectives of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), the Quaker lobbying arm in Washington, DC:

We seek a world free of war and the threat of war.
We seek a society with equity and justice for all.
We seek community where every person’s potential may be fulfilled.
We seek an earth restored.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wanted: A rallying cry

I’ve had two “call-to-action” responses to my brief post about Bob Herbert’s recent column and my endorsement of its message that we have serious “street work” to do right here in the USA.

My Hillsdale neighbor Peter DeCrescenzo noted that the Egyptians in the street had a rallying cry, "Mubarak must go!" They were able to invest in Mubarak all of Egyptian society’s ills. It remains to be seen whether freeing Egypt of Mubarak will free the nation of its ills.

But what about freeing our own country of its own ills as cataloged by Herbert?

Peter writes, “ be effective, the goal embodied in the demand must be understood by the majority of a country's citizens....The challenge for Americans is to figure out what our rallying cry should be. To be effective, it must unite the majority of Americans.”

He adds, “To be successful a rallying cry must be understood on an emotional level at least as strongly as on an intellectual level.”

Who what’s it to be? What are we calling for? What do we want?

I want a government of, for and by the people (sound familiar?), NOT of, for and by the super-rich and multi-national corporations. I want a society where electoral decisions aren’t made based on emotional attack ads but on reasoned, sustained, respectful and fair discourse.

If we are to achieve that, we need a new constitution. That is what the Supreme Court majority is telling us in its back-handed way. Vis. last year’s Citizens United case.

In America, the U.S. Constitution is treated like sacred text. The end-all and be-all of virtuous government. First of all, it's not sacred, but it is, like all things human, suspect and open to criticism, revision and even rejection. If an action is unconstitutional, could it be that the problem may be not with the action but with the Constitution?

So perhaps the cry should be for a “New Constitution," a new “New Deal.” Isn’t a new constitution the starting place for post-Tahrir Square change in Egypt? Why not here?

The other response came from LeeLa Coleman, another neighbor. She wants to organize friends to peacefully demonstrate at a busy corner in our community. A small Hillsdale group has been doing that for five years in opposition to America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was part of their group at one point, but moved on after Obama was elected (Silly me.)

If I felt it would do any good, I’d rejoin them.

Meanwhile, I note in a New York Times story yesterday that a major influence on Egyptian street organizers was one Gene Sharp, a Harvard professor and student of Gandhi. I had never heard his name, but I’m adding his book “The Dynamics of Non-Violent Action,” to my reading list. (Alas, it is sold out on Amazon, and I just bought and have put on hold the last copy at Powell’s. No, it isn’t in the Multnomah County Library. In fact the library has none of Sharp's several books about non-violent protest.)

I'll be looking forward to what Sharp has to say about rallying cries. For a hint, go HERE.

Labels: , , , , ,