A New Strategy for a New Century from Cracker Swamp, Fla.
Reflecting on my recent re-awakening and re-entry into things political after a decade's hiatus from significant leadership roles in veterans' organizations, there are some conclusions about the future of the Left that I wish to share with you.
My resurrection was inspired by the 2005 release of a significant (but yet undiscovered) audiobook history of 1972 Calif. Vietnam Veterans Against the War Camouflage & Lace by Diane Ford Wood of which I am a central character; and my participation in March 2005 with other old Vietnam Veterans Against The War (VVAW) types in a face-off at Texas Tech University (TTU) , with the Swift Boat Veterans 'For Truth', moderated by Nancy Miller Saunders of VVAW.
The deeply personal "Camo & Lace", and the very public face off at TTU inspired reunions of friends, lovers, and former activists; some of whom had not spoken to or seen one another in over thirty years. From the renewed spirit and energy of those two VVAW related reunions, arose Vetspeak. A medium for Objective Political Truth, designed to honor the venerable history of VVAW and stop the Right's rewriting of VVAW's history, for their own purposes. It also inspired this Manifesto, which proposes broad strategic changes to the entire Left and Right methodologies.
But why now? After all these years?
In case you didn't notice; the Swift Boat Veterans (SBVs) acted as the Republican petard in the presidential election, mounting 527 attack campaigns on Sen. John Kerry’s character, Vietnam service, and subsequent anti-war activities with VVAW. These right wing political operatives filled the airwaves and cyberspace, and all other forms of media with their outright lies, half-truths, and distortions. Using millions in hate money that was donated by the special interest money machine, they proved the point that, as we used to say in the Old Corps; if you sling enough sh*t, some of it will stick.
Of course, Kerry’s silence on the issue was twice as loud as George W. Bush's thunderous lack of protestations to these scurrilous tactics, which hearken back to the Nixon style politics of dirty tricks, plumbers, and Watergate. But the silence of the rest of us regarding it, was indeed a true American travesty; one for which our beloved country is paying a very dear price. With these thoughts stirring my soul and stimulating my brain, here are my conclusions about how the grassroots electorate can evolve into a more powerful political force before the next elections.
We The People, are losing the reins of our government, and I believe that we have no one else to blame but ourselves. To quote the venerable Pogo, "I have met the enemy and he is us." We have been complacent with our victories from the 1970s, ending with the close of the Clintonista era of politics. However, the opposition has not slept. Tirelessly, the Far Right juggernaut and the like-minded continue their march on the Constitution; seizing the power and identity of the American People. In campaigns befitting the costs and ruthlessness of Sherman’s March On, and subsequent Siege Of Atlanta, they have a firm hold on the reins of government.
Even if you disagree with this perspective, you cannot deny that the Far Right is in control of all levels of government. The economy is a mess (no, it’s not Bill Clinton’s fault). There is a lack of medical care at all income levels (not Hillary’s fault). The educational and court systems have collapsed ( I don’t know whose fault that is). And about Iraq: Whether you are "fer it, or agin’ it"; the wheels are comin’ off and the wagon's heading downhill.
The Left was not politically outsmarted during the last election; we were politically outplayed. Sadly, the other team doesn’t have a clue about what to do with the ball, which they took for their own as a result of a few technical fouls. This is a very serious threat to Truth, Justice, and The American Way. In order to recapture our Flag and the true intent of the Constitution from the powers that be, I agree with George Lakoff ("Don't Think of an Elephant"). Lakoff propositions that we must absolutely reframe the American political argument. We must redefine for ourselves who we really are and not continue to allow those on the Right, with whom we so vehemently disagree, to orchestrate the definitions of terms relevant to this struggle.
We cannot continue to heel to the dictates of the power brokers and extreme factions of minority and special interest groups, or their spokespersons on either the Right or the Left. Neither can we heel to the Political Correctness advocates, and the exponents of white middle-class liberal guilt, to the exclusion or detriment of other American citizens. Although some civil rights' legislation rightfully furthers the intentions of The People; other legislation, actually furthers only the exclusive, political agendas favorable to the controlling elements of both the Democratic Party and the Left.
While it may be a shocking revelation that not everything labelled "Democrat" or "Left" is good, just as everything "Republican" and "Right" is not bad; I suggest that we radically change our way of thinking. I suggest these considerations with the spirit of a man who doesn't just write about what he believes; but who also acts on those beliefs, having been jailed for civil rights protests in Watts (1973), and having fought two tours of duty in Vietnam. This is the 21st century. It is time for NEW ideas, NEW ways of looking at things, and NEW leadership with the wind of the American voter in our sails.
We must no longer march lock-step to anyone’s set agenda, at the expense of our cultural or political identity as we did in 2004. At the very least, the Democratic Party itself must take a very studied, empirical look at these dynamics and change the way they do business. Without a new direction, they will be in the hurt locker in ’06 & ’08, despite the political power of Hillary Clinton as a candidate. As an organization with a limited political platform, the Democratic Party, like the Left, needs to redefine itself and what it stands for. Driven forward by antiquated and culturally unrealistic ideas, they continue to view themselves as the only solution to America's problems. They must recognize that the Party is best suited as a vehicle for progressive political thought, ideas, and candidates, and not as a "be-all, end-all" for social justice and anti-conservatism.
To stay focused on our defined mission; we must remain open to shedding allegiances with certain like-minded groups. This is especially applicable to groups whose mission may be honorable, but who in fact utilize the same despicable tactics as the SBVs. We need to ask ourselves: Are these alliances so important that we are willing to subvert our personal and political values to win their support or vote? Isn't that pandering? While closing the door may appear heartless, it is far more realistic to prioritize our missions by which brings the most good to the largest number of all of our citizens, as opposed to what brings the greatest benefit to any one economic group, ethnic group, religion or political party.
Let me tell you, My Friends, workable new ideas and humanistic concepts always earn more votes than tired, well worn ones. From whichever side of the spectrum they come, the old "Liberal Guilt" whip or "Liberal as Commie" label, are just plain tired. Exclusiveness is exclusiveness, no matter which side of the political spectrum it emanates from. (The same can be said for inclusiveness.) We must think for ourselves. We must not rely on the media and others’ definitions of us in order to truly know who we are. Most importantly; we must feel good about who we are, .and act and speak as though we know who we are, and be unafraid of being swiftboated. Which, from my perspective is both an honor, and a sign of our effectiveness. We should never be ashamed of being identified as an enemy of tyranny, or its proponents...Ever!
We must stop thinking of ourselves as Republicans or Democrats when it comes to allegiance to our country and Flag. First and foremost; we are Americans, warts and all. Whether earned, or by luck of birth; it is a privilege that requires duty to Family, Flag and Constitution. As American citizens, we have the duty and the Constitutional right to Speak Truth To Power regarding government wrong doings, and political excesses forced upon the American People. The Constitution grants this privilege without fear of swiftboating or reprisal by the powers that be. We must never again allow the forces of repression, selfishness, and greed, to redefine who we are for reasons of money or power. We must guard against this corruption of our rights by any faction, sector, interest, political party, country, or government who might choose to dictate to us who is a "good" American, and who is not.
We have the right to a free exchange of ideas and Objective Truth, regarding the thoughts and deeds of our elected government. The Constitution placed these rights in the hands, and in the hearts and minds of the American People via the electoral process. It is not vested in the hands or coffers of 527s and political special interest groups, nor the smoke and mirrors of the media manipulated by political candidates with fully loaded war chests. Money should not determine the criteria for gaining our votes on issues that directly effect our personal daily lives, and the very future of this beautiful country.
Therefore, in the spirit of redefinition of person and purpose; I propose that we:
- Step out of the debate regarding whether we are "Liberals" and therefore somehow unworthy;
- Think of ourselves as "Free Thinking American Citizens" with a voice and a part to play in our destiny as defined in the Constitution;
- Remain optimistic (and not be defensive) regarding our personal philosophies and political beliefs;
- Be well read and well versed, articulate, and assertive in our subscription to our philosophies and beliefs and principled in our practice of them; and respectful of our peers in our delivery of them;
- Refuse to be subservient to any person, political party, or political philosophy, except to our Great Democracy as defined in the Constitution; and finally that we:
- Be unafraid to say out loud who we are: "Proud Patriots Speaking Truth To Power."