Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A Progressive Gives Thanks

William Blake - who lays the smackdown on Jerry Falwell (below)

I've never really been a big fan of Thanksgiving. A 'progressive,' if that's what I am, is a person who sees what is wrong with the world and seeks to right it. Being a progressive, like being a conservative, is as much a statement of personality as it is of politics. The character trait of discontentment can be a great force for good. Some of us can take a good thing too far, though. Like while driving.

Gratitude has never been a natural part of my emotional repertoire, so Thanksgiving and I were never a good fit. I've been lucky enough to have some good advice over the years, however. It's been suggested that I stop every now and then to remember the positives - to try keeping my balance through difficult times like these. There are a few good things out there that come to mind. It means letting go of my ironic detachment, to which I've become very sentimentally attached, but here goes anyway ...

I'll be giving thanks tomorrow to whatever Force or scientific principles gave us the following:

Our voters - More than 57 million people voted for John Kerry. More than 41 million voted for Democrats in the Senate races, a 3,000,000+ victory over the Republicans nationally. This shows that there is a great reservoir of wise people in this country - people who were able to see the truth and act accordingly, despite the armada of electronic hypnotists that we call media. This is a strong base for future action.

Our activists - A huge wave of volunteers was formed this year. MoveOn.org and other organizations created outlets for nascent activism, and the results were impressive. So they beat us the first time around - big deal! They've been doing it for thirty years and we're just getting started. To the Falwells and Dobsons of the world, I'll quote the great Satchel Paige: "Don't look back, something might be gaining on ya."

Good advocates - We've got a lot of effective communicators speaking up for progressive positions. Michael Moore, you may have your flaws, but don't we all? You've gotten the word out to a heck of a lot of people, and you never quit. Thanks, big guy. Bruce Springsteen, I always knew you were a hell of a songwriter. Now I know you're a great spokesperson, too. It figures - some guys have all the luck. Bill Maher, Jon Stewart - who knew that stand-up comedians would become the new protest singers. What's next - Shecky Greene leads the revolution? Jackie Vernon as Minister of Culture and Brother Theodore as spiritual advisor?

New information outlets - I don't care what anybody says, the "Internets" worked. We have the blogs to keep us informed, MoveOn to keep us (sort of) organized, and outlets like Guerrilla News Network, truthout.org, Democratic Underground, Liberal Oasis, and Common Dreams to gives us voices.I'm thankful for every information source we can get, and for voices like Daily Howler and Media Matters that let us know just how distorted a picture our "news organizations" really provide.

Great music that's also good - See the above-mentioned Mr. Springsteen. He's Exhibit A, but we've also got John Fogerty, Eminem, Willie Nelson, Chuck D, and a bunch of great punk bands speaking out for us. Not to mention the immortal Merle Haggard, who's not on anybody's side but wrote a terrific song called "That's the News" about the Iraq war.

Some new leaders - Barack Obama, Barack Obama, Barack Obama. There's probably somebody else I'm forgetting.

Fine writing - Eric Alterman. Thomas Franks. James Wolcott. And lots more where that came from.

Their political mistakes - They're already overplaying their hand. I mean, come on - Changing the House rules so that DeLay can stay on even if he's indicted? Thank you, thank you, thank you! It remains to be seen if the Democrats can effectively use gifts like these, but I'm grateful for each golden opportunity.

The religious teachings of the Jewish prophets, Jesus Christ, and Mohammed, which stand in stark contrast to the actions of their purported followers in the Israeli ultra-right, our so-called "religious" Right, Islamic terrorists, and Wahhabi states like Saudi Arabia. We can use the teachings of these three religions to combat religiously-inspired oppression. And for the wisdom of William Blake, who wrote "that vision of Christ which thou dost see/is my vision's greatest enemy." Take that, Jerry Falwell.

Heroes like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandala, who struggled for many years against odds much longer than we face, and yet prevailed. I know I've got it easy.

Bush approval ratings that are hovering at 50%, despite the fact he just won an election. They went from 90% after September 11 to 71% after we invaded Iraq. Now he can't get much past the halfway mark. That's a major shift in the right direction. Not far enough to win the 2004 election, but now we've got 2006 in our sights.

Real Democrats - I'm thinking of Jimmy Carter and Al Gore, who seem to have become the conscience of the Party. I just wish both of them had been this forceful when they were elected President.

Let me know if you have anything to add to this list. Otherwise, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

UPDATE: Two good new additions to the list from Ellen M. - Al Franken (how could I forget Al?) and Sorry Everybody, the website where we can tell the world we did everything we could to win in 2004.