imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List




IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Courting the "Middle Class"

by Cynthia Peters Saturday, Jul. 12, 2003 at 11:02 AM

....

July 09, 2003

Courting the "Middle Class"

By Cynthia Peters

As we approach election year 2004, it is tempting to lead with the rallying cry, "Dump Bush." Besides the obvious reasons why it would be preferable to unseat this frat boy with his finger on the button, many progressives believe that the slogan appeals to the "middle class."

Who is this middle class that we so often worry about alienating? I'm afraid it is made up of people who are often not our natural allies, and who in fact are more invested in maintaining their privilege than other classes of people who potentially have a lot more to offer to social change movements, but who we have a pattern of ignoring.

Perhaps we imagine that by hooking our cause to socially acceptable norms, we will grow. If our message is palatable to the New York Times, we will get better coverage, and so gain legitimacy. If our movement resonates with the social-climber professionals, coordinators and decisionmakers, then they will use their resources and talents to carry us forward.

In the last couple of years, I have received email notices reminding me to dress "nicely" for upcoming demonstrations. I have heard mostly white activists debate dropping a black rap group from an event line-up because their language might offend "families." And I have heard people argue that a "Dump Bush" demand is worthwhile because it appeals to people who "aren't ready" for a more radical message that lays the blame for war and injustice less on one evil-doer and more on the workings of society's underlying institutions.

But when we contrive a wardrobe that will appeal to others, eliminate the edge from our cultural commentary, and demonize the figurehead of our corporate controlled government, we lose credibility with the people who know better.

Consider the person I met at a local bar the other night when I was there with a couple of friends strategizing about how to link local and national organizing efforts in Boston during next year's Democratic National Convention.

We got to talking after he bought us all a round of beers for no reason other than to be friendly. His name was Johnny, and I asked him, "Who do you think you're going to vote for next year?"

"Vote?!" he said. "I don't bother voting. It's all a pile of shit," he explained as he play-acted shoveling out manure. "Watch out for that shit. You'll need your waders."

We all laughed. He went back to his friends and we went back to our conversation, with a fresh reminder that although protesting the national conventions of the major political parties seems like a reasonable and potentially productive organizing strategy, it's not going to mean much to people who think the whole thing is a charade to begin with. Johnny won't be voting and it seems likely he could care less about protesting the Democrats or anyone else since he thinks the whole system is a "pile of shit." And he's not alone. About half the electorate did not bother voting in 2000 -- that's tens of million people.

It's only anecdotal, but the people I talk to who are most interested in voting are the people who are most invested in maintaining the status quo.

The welfare recipients and low-wage workers I teach in adult education classes believe the "candidates are all the same" and that it makes no difference who you vote for. They understand oppression as stemming from the fact that they have to be dependent on abusive men, that they have to go along with English-only policies at work, that they have to tolerate bosses who yell at them and give them exceedingly boring and unfulfilling work and then stand over them telling them to hurry up. They are overwhelmingly anti-war because they understand that war kills poor people while it makes rich people richer.

Another patron of the bar was Kevin. He approached us because he noticed my friend's anti-School of the Americas shirt, which refers to the Georgia-based military training center as the "School of Assassins."

"I salute you for wearing that shirt," he says. "That place is nothing but a torture school." He had been drinking, and there was an edge in his voice as he leaned into us and pointed his finger, "I suppose you'd say I was an assassin, too. And I am. I've got four confirmed kills," he said, "and a bunch more unconfirmed ones." He had served in Beirut in `83 where a bunch of his buddies died in the attack on the embassy. He served in Panama in 1989 and in the first Gulf War. His voice veered back and forth between aggression and sadness. It was as if he couldn't decide if he wanted to pick a fight or share his deepest concerns.

Kevin made what he believes is the supreme sacrifice for his country. "And it ain't dying," he said. "It's killing."

"Dying is nothing," he tells us, "But the killing.I've got to live with that my whole life."

"Was it worth it?" I asked. He was silent for a minute. "I don't know," he said.

But then the anger returned, this time directed at "Nazi-chusetts" where we live, and where the Speaker of the House, Thomas Finneran, told the electorate to shove it when he shelved a referendum on clean elections. He railed against U.S. imperialism.

In the course of the conversation, there wasn't much that Kevin, Johnny or I disagreed on, yet there was an enormous gulf between us. "There's nothing I can do about what's wrong with this country," Kevin said at one point. "That 's for you people to figure out. You're articulate. You've been to college."

To state the obvious, Kevin would not be showing up at any anti-Finneran or anti-war protests - both of which (between my friends and I) we had devoted years to organizing. Unless we do something radically different than usual, he won't be coming to the DNC protests either even if some of the plans were hatched right there in his own neighborhood bar.

This is one of the disconnects that keeps progressive movements on the margins. My guess is that there are millions of people like the low-wage workers and the ex-marines who don't need to be enlightened about injustice. But very few would have anything to do with current social change movements, and under most circumstances would keep their distance from the apparently educated and articulate elite that seem to determine the anti-establishment agenda.

And I'll be honest. I have probably kept my distance from people like Johnny and Kevin. I did not go into the bar that night wondering what the other patrons were thinking about. It wasn't me who bought the round for everyone. I'm intimidated by guys in bars who boast about their "kills" on the one hand, but on the other reveal just how thoroughly chewed up and spit out they are by a system that recruits them with false promises, uses them for false pretenses, and then leaves them with no way to rationalize what they did.

In my isolation from the guys in the bars, I imagine them to have unattractive views about reproductive rights, affirmative action, and gay liberation. But I don't know any of this for sure as I have never asked.

Even if I discovered significant disagreement on issues I really care about, that should not impede my efforts to build alliances and work in coalitions with people like Johnny and Kevin. After all, my disagreements with the engineers of Kevin's fate -- the managers, bosses, legislators, and assorted other middle-class professionals-- are at least as significant, yet I am part of an anti-war movement that never gives up courting them.

There are possibly millions and millions of people whose trust of us will not climb along with the New York Times's, but in fact is probably inversely related. We don't need credibility from institutions that safeguard elite interests. We need credibility from the legions of people that have already given up on these institutions. Their numbers are growing. Are we talking to them? More importantly, are we listening?

Cynthia Peters (cyn.peters@verizon.net) is active in the peace and justice movement on the neighborhood, regional and national levels. She teaches in the Worker Education Project at SEIU Local 285.

Report this post as:

Local News

GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE A12 5:39PM

lausd whistle blower A10 11:58PM

Website Upgrade A10 3:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 1:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 11:58AM

Change Links April 2018 A01 11:27AM

Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018 M31 6:57PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 7:00PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 6:38PM

Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! M19 2:02PM

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A. M16 5:40PM

Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released M15 12:34AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups M06 12:10PM

After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video M02 11:44AM

Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights M01 6:28PM

What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It M01 3:30PM

Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down F14 2:44PM

Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29 F13 12:51PM

Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf F13 11:04AM

Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development F12 8:51AM

Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine F09 10:25PM

Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents F09 7:14PM

Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters F07 9:50AM

City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre F04 3:17PM

Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling F04 12:42PM

Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present F04 10:52AM

Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police F03 11:11PM

LA Times Homicide Report F03 1:57PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

What does the Quran Say About Islamic Dress?? A21 4:15PM

Biodiversité ou la nature privatisée A20 11:22AM

The Market is a Universal Totalitarian Religion A20 7:14AM

Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service A19 5:52PM

The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally! A19 4:01PM

The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder A19 11:48AM

Neurogenèse involutive A18 9:21AM

Paraphysique de la dictature étatique A16 10:13AM

Book Review: "The New Bonapartists" A16 3:45AM

The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia A14 12:25PM

Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine A14 3:30AM

The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally! A12 3:50PM

“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize! A12 3:48PM

The World Dependent on Central Banks A12 4:43AM

Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine A11 9:40PM

March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update A10 10:52PM

Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel A10 3:33PM

ICE contract with license plate reader company A10 1:14PM

Palimpseste sisyphéen A09 11:23PM

Black Portraiture(S) IV: The Color of Silence...Cuba No...Cambridge Yes A09 5:32AM

Prohibiting Micro-Second Betting on the Exchanges A09 4:18AM

Prosecutors treat Muslims harsher than non-Muslims for the same crimes A08 10:33PM

Amy Goodman interview on cell phone safety A08 10:29PM

Mesa, Arizona police officer kills unarmed white man A08 9:50PM

Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes A08 9:48PM

Paraphysique de l'autorité A08 12:11AM

Two Podcasts on fbi corruption A06 10:13PM

Fbi assassins assault & try to kill DAVID ATKINS A06 7:29PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy