Don’t just think about commitment
I’m pretty much a cynic about citizen action when that action is taken by people like me: liberals. We just can’t seem to march in lockstep for any decent period of time.
Sure, we hold many of the same beliefs, we vote for many of the same candidates, we read “Mother Jones” and think William F. Buckley was the last reasonable conservative who wasn’t David Brooks, but when it comes to hitting the streets, well, we’re good for one or two hits and then we always seem to have a lot of other things to do.
Who’s occupying Wall Street? Stockbrokers.
Well, of course I’m describing me, but you, dear liberal friend, might insist that I’m not describing you, that you are always on the front lines and maybe you are, but man, I’ll bet you’re often lonely out there.
Look, I made a march on Washington and I drove the Rev. William Sloan Coffin from New Haven to New York for a march – and his debate with Bill Buckley, with whom I shook hands because, hey, it was BILL BUCKLEY, and I’m easily impressed by people who are far smarter than I – and I had to run down to Coffin’s car to get The Rev a blue shirt because his white shirt would have flared out on TV. But …
See, I made it to the Wilton version of the national women’s march the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated IN FRONT OF A MASSIVE CROWD MORE MASSIVE THAN EVEN THE MOST MASSIVE and it was pretty impressive for a small town, what with somewhere around 200 people in the little park in the center of town, and I thought, well, this is great because … Because I want to believe.
I thought maybe this is the start, or the resurrection, of a movement, or some movement, or something, that will get many, many people to stand up and shout ENOUGH and to defend Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act and other things that actually help folks, and strike against mysogeny and racism and hate.
But I lack faith. Yeah, man, I made two marches back when, but how many didn’t I make? And I went to Phil Ochs concerts, but when he urged us to come to Chicago, well, I had to work, you know?
OCHS: “Where were you in Chicago, when the fight was being fought? Oh, where were you in Chicago, ’cause I was in Detroit.” Uh, yeah, Phil, I was in New Jersey, uh …
Now, lest you think I am a cynic alone, I give you this from Linda Stasi in The New York Post:
“In many ways, we women are to blame for finding ourselves back to pre-feminist status once again. Over the past four decades, the womehn’s movement seemed to just peter out, and we stopped fighting as hard for our rights as we had for the previous 200 years.”
It’s more than just the women’s movement, though; it’s everything of importance to people who believe in fairness and balanced scales and opportunity for everyone (and decent health care, especially for the poor.) Yes, I’m to blame, too. Me and Linda Stasi. And you?
Maybe the other 199 people in that little park in Wilton on Jan. 21 are not me, but are geared up and ready to go again, whenever again might be. But I don’t know …
And maybe they weren’t all liberals anyway, maybe a lot of the millions who marched acrossw the globe weren’t all liberals, and wouldn’t that be nice if … Oh, man, I want to believe, but …
My friend Susan and I have concluded – on numerous occasions, actually, usually involving beer – that liberals are too damned reasonable. We are ALL Librans, we all want to see the scales balanced, not tipped only our way. You know, be fair? Whatever that is.
But is that so? Certainly Donald Trump’s folks don’t view us that way but, heck, I am as far from elite as you can get, I think, unless thinking that poor people should have the ability to get a mamogram or see a real doctor or not have to be the only ones fighting in Iraq is elitist.
I looked across that little park in Wilton and I saw Gail Proctor who, unlike me, is a doer, a real liberal doer, who for years stood up at Wilton Town Meetings and spoke for all kinds of good-for-society things, and I think, yeah, but how many of us are Gail Proctor? I know I’m not.
OK, so we came to a gathering in a park, or like my daughter, took the train down to the gathering in Boston, and …
What the heck is the liberal version of the Tea Party? What is the liberal version of Trumpism? Trump got people moving and acting – even if it was only at the voting booth – because he gave them a vision. It doesn’t matter what you or I think of that vision, it was a vision, it IS a vision, and it gives people something behind which to rally.
What’ve we got?
Save Planned Parenthood because it helps the poor?
Keep abortion safe, legal and rare?
These are not rallying cries that stir the soul like MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. I don’t even have any idea what that MEANS, but I understand it viscerally. Great again relative to when? 1954, because the Giants won the pennnant and Ike was on the golf course and he made us feel safe? Beats me, but I doubt it means 1967. ’69, maybe, with Nixon giving us Agnew as Trump has given us Pence. Oy.
See, I think the problem is liberals think too damn much, and if somebody gave us a slogan that was the liberal equivalent of MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, we’d parse it, pick it apart and try to figure out its parts, rather than its sum.
MAKE AMERICA FAIR.
Not even AGAIN, because if you ask a black person or a woman or a gay/lesbian/transgender person about fairness, well … when?
So I tip my cap to those 199 other people who joined Gail Proctor and Linda LaDouceur and Kermit Williams in that little Wilton park, and I hope they are the vanguard of a movement that will protect all those things so dear to the hearts of so many people – and necessary for all the nation’s powerless, even, or especially, the people who were so energized by Donald Trump – and I will cheer them on and show up for their gatherings (when, of course, it is convenient for me, you know how that goes), and if they come up with a rallying cry, well, I will really TRY not to pick it apart.
Well, of course I’ll fail. I pick apart, therefore I am.
And maybe this time… maybe it won’t just disappear.
Mike Cleveland is former editor of The Cabinet.