5 Step Plan for Seattle Progressives

Dig the Giant Cross Earring

Dig the Giant Cross Earring

Yes the 8.8.15 interrupt Bernie stunt “Blew up the Internet.” Of course that does not make it good, that means someone got their picture in the paper and in news stories for a cycle or two. Never mind that the 1% got that much richer while the “Left” “debated the manners” (and then the efficacy) of said stunt by alleged #BlackLivesMatter protestors, or felt that the inherent racism of White progressives was exposed, or that one of the protestors was found to be a former supporter of Sarah Palin and a self-described “devout evangelical Christian.”

Can you imagine someone who supported Sarah Palin interrupting an elder like Bernie Sanders and demanding he relinquish the stage to her so she can demand his apology and push his campaign to the Left? (This is our world today folks.) “I see you’ve found religion, Kid” is how he could have responded. He had more class.

But this is the effect. Sanders later that evening unveiled Symone Sanders, who “serves as the national youth chair of the Coalition on Juvenile Justice, a nonprofit that focuses on appropriate care of American youth in the justice system.” She introduced Sanders at the evening reading on August 8, the one not interrupted and given to 15,000 people, and will serve as his national press secretary. Sanders listens. Remember that. Here is more evidence.

The stunt, and a different reaction from a Brother in my spiritual community, led me to think of how said community might grow and be more diverse. (We’d be happy if we lowered the average age to something below 66!) And that also led me to see just how misogynistic is one poetry community I’ve affiliated with for a couple of years, with one poet reading a poem from his life in the 70s that referred to women as “bitches” and the house band covering Honky Tonk Women, an old Rolling Stones song that relates their encounter with a prostitute. Objectify much? 1970, maybe. 2015, really?

Fanny Lou Hamer

Fanny Lou Hamer

But what could the protestors have done better? Not calling the gathered White Supremacists, for one. Also, watch the video of the encounter and you can see the vitriol of the protestors. You can see why some of the, mostly white Sandernistas took offense, not to excuse the reactions, some of them quite ugly, but hate begets hate and is antithetical to unity and we need everyone at the table to restore Democracy to what has become an oligarchy. Ask Fanny Lou Hamer about how to build a movement. It’s got to be clean. As Miles would say: “Cleaner than a broke dick dog.” (I was made aware of her by this brilliant take on the Bernus Interruptus.) Or Charles Mudede in The Stranger. Bad politics indeed.

So I am thinking about a plan of real action for the large group of people who are predisposed to support the #BLM cause and a few others related to the competition/domination model that keeps many people down and is poised to consume the biosphere.

A 5 Step Plan for Seattle Progressives?

1) Install a Civilian Review Board for the Seattle Police Department. This is a #BLM priority, so let’s make it #1 and let’s lead the country on this issue like we did the $15 an hour minimum wage. I mean if the U.S. Justice Department finds: “that SPD has engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the Constitution and federal law” you’d think that a CRB at this time is a realistic possibility. If not now?

2) Demand Inclusionary Housing. When the city’s own developer-laden committee says: “a housing affordability crisis unlike any Seattle has experienced since the Second World War” you know the situation is real. And all the developers need is time to make this San Francisco 2.0 and kick every last poor person and artist to Renton, Bremerton or Slaughter. (I tried that last one and it does not work.) If housing does not affect everyone, what does? And the poor and People of Color are already being displaced at record levels. Look at the Central District, which was for decades a thriving African-American neighborhood. No more. Whites are the majority.

3) More Artist Housing. I would like to see an artist housing complex like the ones Art Space creates, in every Seattle neighborhood that wants one. (Am guessing Madison Park and Laurelhurst would pass. Rainier Beach could take two.) Look at how artists reshape a community and make sure the tech Yuppies and Amholes don’t move in in 5 or 10 years.

Blue Angels

Blue Angels (How’s THAT for doublespeak?)

4) Get the Blue Angels Out of Our Skies. Who needs this expensive and offensive display of U.S. militarism? I envision myself as a campesino when the planes rocket overhead and it brings me terror. Surely we can let them do their military masturbation in Puyallup or Bremerton. Let’s start a petition that bans them and all such displays that wreck the peace for a few days every year. We do not need this.

5) While we’re on the subject of militarism, how about Equal Time (& Resources) for Peace Groups in all Seattle Schools? Why should the militarists get a free ride? For every dollar they spend coming into schools, we should demand an equal amount to go to bone fide peace groups that have been at it for a while like the American Friends Service Committee, for example.

These came to mind during a short walk and I am sure there are about 20 more I could come up with given more time, but it’s a good starting place and action without vision and intent is like, in the words of one Black Sandernista, “pissing on your friends.” Sure Bernie can handle a little piss, but a man with his vision deserves a little champagne, though I am willing to wait until November 2016 for that moment.

See also this wise editorial, which backs up some of my points.

About Splabman

SPLAB and Cascadia Poetry Festival founder Paul E Nelson wrote American Sentences (Apprentice House, 2015), Organic Poetry (VDM Verlag, Germany, 2008), a serial poem re-enacting the history of Auburn, Washington, A Time Before Slaughter (Apprentice House, 2010) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies (Lumme, Brazil, 2013). Founder of the Cascadia Poetry Festival, in 26 years of radio he interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Anne Waldman, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Eileen Myles, Wanda Coleman, Brenda Hillman, George Bowering, Joanne Kyger, Jerome Rothenberg & others, including many Cascadia poets. He lives in Seattle and writes at least one American Sentence every day. http://www.PaulENelson.com. Co-Editor of Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia, he is in year five of a twenty year Cascadia Bioregional Cultural Investigation. www.CascadiaPoetryFestival.org (Oct 12-15, 2017, Tacoma, WA)
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12 Responses to 5 Step Plan for Seattle Progressives

  1. Great article, Paul! Good suggestion as well.

  2. kristin says:

    I’m surprised you never heard of Fanny Lou Hammer before.

  3. kristin says:

    Oh, and good 5 steps.

  4. Splabman says:

    in 1964 I was three, so my newspaper habit was not well-established.

  5. I’m really offended by your assertion that these brave #BLM women pulled a “stunt”. The fact that the one young woman’s parents were Tea Partiers and that she has distanced herself from them was obviously something you didn’t have the inclination to read about (it was in several articles and an interview).

    These women are literally fighting for their lives. Literally. Let us not forget Sandra Bland, a well known activist that was murdered by police recently, among many, many other Black women and men and people of color being systematically murdered and jailed.

    This was NO stunt. This was a fine example of what serious activists do, which resulted in Sanders adding Racial Justice to his platform.

    Please check your white privilege and think about why having these Black women in a predominantly white space has upset you.

  6. Splabman says:

    It’s interesting that people want to judge me by the color of my skin and not know my mother was born in Cuba, raised four kids as a single mom in poverty and taught us to think for ourselves and not assume anyone is right or wring based on the color of their skin. Having been at the event, I saw the rage coming from these two people as if Bernie was the cop (any cop) who pulled the trigger and not an elder with a 50+ year record of being in the trenches during the Civil Rights struggle and working on every progressive cause since then.

    As Charles Mudede pointed out here: http://www.thestranger.com/news/feature/2015/08/12/22681317/the-bad-politics-of-the-black-lives-matter-protesters-who-interrupted-bernie-sanders

    and R.L. Stephens here: http://www.orchestratedpulse.com/2015/08/black-lives-matter-leadership/

    there are different ways of supporting #BLM without agreeing with the approach taken on 8.8.15.

    Also check: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/not-first-disruptive-tactic-for-activist-who-hijacked-sanders-rally/ and the quote:

    “While having visible support at these events, Johnson has not been embraced by everyone in the Black Lives Matters movement. Mohawk Kuzma, a local activist who has acted as a de facto spokesman at some Black Lives Matter protests, said Monday he knew Johnson from past activism but that she generally didn’t get involved “unless it’s a public stunt.””

    So Mohawk Kuzma, who is black, gets to call this a stunt, but I can’t because I am not? Dr. King envisioned a day in which people were judged by the content of their character. I’m with him.

    • You again miss the point Paul. It doesn’t matter where your mother is from. It matters that you function in this society as a privileged white male – just like when I put on my Muslim hijab and people call me “rag head bitch” I am still white and have a good amount of privelege.

      The issue is that you and I are never going to fear for our lives because we happen to be walking down the street, or driving in a car with or without a broken taillight, or wearing a hoodie and carrying skittles. This isn’t about us. This is about all the Black people in America who for decades have been attacked, jailed, and murdered at the hands of police.

      It is time for it to stop and these Black women have a right to demand change from the one person that they see may actually do something. They have a right to scream and demand change. They have a right to carry out a “stunt” just like Dr. Martin Luther King carried out “stunts” to get attention and create change.

  7. Splabman says:

    P.S. It was a public space. I do not see spaces as “Black” or “White.”

  8. Splabman says:

    Khadija, You and I are destined to disagree, given the limitations of text and the differing perspectives on how to address an issue that we both agree is unacceptable and must change. But if I have any privilege, it does not show in my finances, having chosen NOT to live a corporate life, but to do non-profit literary arts work, interviews and be the rental agent for my spiritual community’s house. And I do not see how calling people on race is helpful. My father was of Danish, Scotch-Irish, English and Mohawk heritage, but was raised by a single mom in poverty, watched his two older brothers die of diphtheria within 5 weeks of each other at age 9 and paid his union dues long after he retired. Any “privilege” I have has come from my actions alone, not my race, because I’d sure like to have a little more security, even some health insurance and be out of debt. You have the right to frame these things as you wish and as you might be conditioned to frame them, but I hope you’ll be open to the possibility that you’re dealing with an ally who sees the 8.8.15 Bernus Interruptus event from a different angle than you do, Inshallah.

    • Khadija Anderson says:

      Ah, I see that one issue here is that you are misinterpreting “privilege” to mean individual circumstance whereas I am speaking of privelege in the sociological sense which is, in the U.S., one that gives white people exclusive rights and privileges and that white is seen as the norm in society. This is not a matter of my opinion or your family’s circumstance, this is a sociological fact and you can google “white privelege” to see what I meant.

      As far as disagreeing about the women’s right to interrupt Sanders, yes we can agree to disagree, but I would state again the Dr Martin Luther King certainly interrupted many things and theae young women (along with many, many besides them) are the faces of the new Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. Progressives can either support them or not, but of one gets called a racist because of it don’t be surprised.

      Salaam

  9. Splabman says:

    It’s unpleasant to be called a racist, but I know who I am and the record will ultimately reflect that for me and for everyone. Support does not mean blind obedience, nor does it mean we should not be critical of things we think are done poorly. The absence of love is not hate, it is apathy. Dr. King knew he had to organize poor people of all races to end the Vietnam War and change the inequality in the U.S., as did Fanny Lou Hamer. Would like to see the “faces of the new Civil Rights movement” (as well as their hearts, minds and souls) talk to Elders like my downstairs neighbor Carmaletha to see how they might use their energy and courage to create and sustain that movement you and I are ready to join, of which #BLM is a part, as is de-militarizing, liquidating empire and creating thousands of human-centric policies that have been neglected since about 1940, as these issues are all symptoms of the competition/domination ethos that is destroying the biospehere.

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