Saturday, December 30, 2006

I'm gonna be lazy and not do all the proper coding, mostly because I just need to get this down. First, I cannot express how much I am going to miss reading both Brownfemipower and Black Amazon (Having Read the Fine Print). See my blog roll for links. Both have chosen to take a break from blogging, I'm not trying to suggest they don't deserve a rest and some major pampering. They have been expressing themselves eloquently on issues that tend to make a lot of people uncomfortable. I'd come to rely on their common sense and straight talk. They have renewed my faith that there are intelligent, militant and awesome women in the world willing to take on major challenges. I'm sure they are still kicking ass. I'm just going to miss the privilege of having a window into their worlds.

I comment a lot on other people's blogs, but this blog I use mostly to help keep track of the activist work I do. In the past, I always felt too busy to keep track of all the work that gets done locally. At the end of the year I would be exhausted, but never remember all we had done. The internet and blogging is making it possible for me to look back over time and see that, yes, Virginia, there really is an activist movement and I really am a part of it.

You only have to look back at activist movements of the past to see how much progress has been made. In the anti-Vietnam War movement, there would be major conferences bringing together activists in Cleveland and San Francisco and New York. Then snail mail would go out and local activists would post notices about upcoming activities in local bars, bookstores and on college campuses. But unless you already knew about those spaces, the odds an individual person who opposed the war would actually hear about an event were very small. Today, you can Google "anti-war" and find a gazillion people doing activist work of all kinds. Today, a decision made by national organizations for specific actions around the world can be communicated within moments. And being able to track that movement has been a valuable tool for me.

However, I don't have a practice of posting my political opinions and concerns in the way that most of the people on my blog roll manage to do. Lately, that has seemed like a cop out. I comment on other blogs, but I don't place long opinion pieces here so that people made curious by my comments can learn more about where I stand.

It seems especially weird now, since the discussions at Twisty's and at Brownfemipower, have made clear some major divisions within the feminist blogosphere. I consider these latest conflicts different than Burqagate and the Fire Dog Lake blow ups because in those cases, the posters were liberals and Democrats, not leftists. I didn't believe we were involved in the same struggle.

The conflicts lately are between groups of people who want a total break from the status quo. And so the pain is a bit deeper, the bitterness a bit more intense.

In Minneapolis, divisions between revolutionaries of all persuasions have been confronted and ways of working together have been developed over the years.

For instance, the local anti-war coalition, the Iraq Peace Action Coalition, made several decisions from the beginning in 2001. First, they would not take a stand on Saddam Hussein. This isn't because some of us thought he was a great guy. Instead, it was because most of us thought that it wasn't up to U.S. citizens to decide who should lead Iraq.

Second, we agreed to not take a stand on which political party to support. For some of us, there was no difference between the two capitalist parties. More importantly, some member groups were 501c3 organizations that are legally barred from taking a stance on political parties.

Third, we agreed to make connections between the war abroad and the war at home. Issues of welfare reform, affordable housing, money for education, racism and sexism were included in our events. Some activists see this as a way of diluting the antiwar message. But our experience has been that people who begin to become politically active because of their opposition to the war are in a space that allows them to start questioning the system as a whole.

Fourth, we agreed that individual groups should be supported in the various ways in which they choose to oppose the war. Visiting anti-war speakers would be shared among different groups: religious, academic, spiritual, student. Our skills would be shared and our various groups supported in their efforts. Some groups do rallies. Some groups do educational events. Some groups do civil disobedience. Some groups do regular vigils. Some groups do agitprop. Some groups do cultural events. Some groups do work in the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) party.

Some actions became widespread. Anti-war lawn signs were a new and important part of the movement this time around. Thousands of signs were produced and displayed by individual home owners throughout the area.

A weekly anti-war vigil that occurs on a bridge across the Mississippi River between the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul became a safe space in which newbies to the anti-war movement were able to feel safe and comfortable in expressing opposition to the war. They could learn about other antiwar activities, and they could realize they were not alone by meeting antiwar activists of all persuasions. They could hear the supportive honks and see the thumbs up signals from people driving across the bridge.

Local e-mail lists collated activist activities into calendars that gave each of us numerous opportunities to become educated, activated and rejuvenated.

So I have to say that I believe we are making progress. Things still suck. Soldiers continue to die. Iraqis are suffering tremendously. And yet progress is being made. Or as Willy Loman's wife said, "Attention must be paid."

All of us need to give ourselves props for doing good work and making a difference in the world. Sure we have problems, disagreements and irritations every single day. But we are also blessed with amazing tools to bring us together, to educate ourselves and to help one another in our work to make this world a better place.

I'm gonna stop here for now. Happy New Year to one and all. May you and your loved ones be happy and healthy and may the new year bring all of us a better world.

What I am saying in my very long-winded way is that we can have different goals, different definitions of what is wrong in the world and even different views of who is the main enemy and we can still work together. I've experienced it. I treasure it. I believe it can happen even on the internets.

All we need do is make the effort. My experience is that it is definitely worth it. Won't you join me?


Anthony Kennerson said...

Actually, Ravenmn, BfP is now back posting again, and my guess is that when she gets some rest, BA will be back swinging the cutlass soon, too.

Good for us, since Nubian will be missed sorely.

(The SmackDog Chronicles Blog)

Ravenmn said...

You've got that right, Anthony.

Hey, I'm serious about keystroking that Gayle Rubin document for you if you can send me a scan.

queer dewd formerly known as ( ) said...

happy belated new year to you, too!

and now BA is back!

I'm glad to read someone else point out how activism works. I get in thhese weird discussions with this guy who's a marxist and talks about activism all the time. His views on it. He doenesn't do much himself, but used to. He'll blow up at people b/c they are debating whether to vote or not. Or, he'll get in a hissy fit b/c writers like Doug Henwood feel they need to write a coherent essay on a topic which, for a marxist like this guy, just seems like a waste.

and I keep saying to him, "But there's always a division of labor. Sometimes, as individuals, we're good at writing, so we dn't do demos. Others like demos, but couldn't do a speech if they tried. Others, like me, like stuffing envelopes and doing the support work. I'll give the speech (I used to be the token "anti war mom" during the first Gulf War b/c my stepson was in the Gulf) or whatever, but my life has always been so crazy that stuffing envelopes at 2 a.m. around my family's schedule worked out best. Or posters! Love making those.

And I get that idea from what you describe: division of labor over who does what best or feels that, say, vigils fit with their particular politics but demos don't.

anyway i don't know how you do it. i got so burnt out on activism, i just had to take a break. and i got really pushy about saying, "you know, i've had bosses tell me what to do all my life, on the job and off. can we keep workerism OUT of the movement?" LOL

so, i look forward to the day when life is settled so that i have time and money to do this stuff and, woot!, not have a house full of kids to deal with too. :)