April 8, 2003

Speaking Out, Taking Action

Ted Glick writing at WBAI.org, talks about "Taking Risks for Peace." This is an important subject as people try to figure out how to take meaningful action in their own worlds. It's a time when people need to do something, and yet there are consequences for different kinds of actions. Everyone has to figure out what he or she can do, or tolerate. But stakes are high, so it is a time to push your comfort zone.

There's no point, however, in throwing yourself into the fire. Abbie Hoffman said, "Revolution is whatever you can get away with." If you don't get away, it impairs your ability to take further action. In this time of deep division and economic instability, there are perils to even speaking your mind in the workplace. But the depth of the emergency requires that we make efforts, not to change people's minds, but to help them understand what is happening to them.

The key is that they are getting bad information. And that is the key to helping them see the light. Only a very few are really beneficiaries of present trends. The rest who are pro-Bush and pro-war don't understand the truth about what is happening. That is the challenge, to help them see. It's not the objective to fight with them, to overcome them with powerful arguments. Good arguments can be useful, but if things are too contentious, people will be too proud to renounce the position they have staked out no matter how well-reasoned the argument.

Every small action, every one-on-one conversation is important. If the millions who feel strongly about these problems make efforts to spread the truth, it will be an enormously powerful force. Glick says, "We need to continue to take risks for peace. One form of risk-taking is acts of nonviolent direct action. Another is being out there, openly showing by the buttons we wear and the signs we hold, where we stand and what we believe. And we must risk verbal, emotional or even physical abuse by engaging in respectful and upfront dialogue with our fellow Americans. This will include dialogue-or heated discussions-with those who have been victimized, misinformed and negatively influenced by an often violent, racist and corporatist culture. We must stand firm in defense of the best of our history. We are not un-American when we oppose war, imperialism and repression."

I've had more than enough unpleasant clashes with people lately over the Bush "uniter" policies, and often afterwards I feel crappy and embarrassed. But there is a redemption for it. Even if you don't convince them, there is a chance that you opened their minds to something new. Remember the Ola Belle Reed thing: "You can't force it down people's throats. You have to do it with love."

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