Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Mobilizing Resentment

In her book Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers, author Jean Hardisty chronicles the formation of right-wing movements in opposition to the struggle for equal rights for women, people of color, lesbians and gays, with a mixture of awe, fear, and a lucid understanding of what draws people to charismatic people and events.

Someday, with luck, someone will probably write about the liberal resurgence mobilized in part by tapping that deep well of resentment against the betrayal of these and other struggles for human dignity by the institutions we mistakenly entrusted to safeguard them.

Every day that I get up and read about Cindy Sheehan and her supporters ensconced at Camp Casey, I think about the widespread loathing of our president and his cabinet and his party, that overflows from the issue of a fraudulent war into betrayals on many fronts, and I can't help but think our momentary focus on their plunder motif in war extends to our fears for retirement, health, and education and all the myriad necessities of life they have worked tirelessly to destroy over the last five years.

But while we have a right to be angry, we also have a need to be intelligent, to be careful, to be circumspect about what we do. Because, make no mistake, this is a civil war in our country, seething just below the superficial facade of society, that sends up warning flares now and then such as in the mowing down of crosses in Crawford this week.

In my memoir Blind Spots, I relate a series of incidents that coincided with media and right-wing demonization of my closest friend at the time, a woman, and--like Cindy Sheehan--a mother of four, who was running for public office in the county where we lived twelve years ago.

It began with demeaning characterizations by the local newspaper's editors and hate radio hosts, and escalated into name-calling and fear-mongering by Republican business organizations. Then her campaign signs started getting destroyed, and her headlights were smashed while she spoke at the Senior Center. When she triumphed in the primary election, she received death threats, and two days later a speeding driver swerved off the road attempting to run down her campaign manager in her flower garden. By the general election, I had to hire an off-duty sheriff's deputy to stand guard at public forums where she spoke. I shudder to think what might have happened had she won in the general election.

My friend continued her fight for accountability in local government for another ten years before she wore out and moved, but it was never again the same in the town we both left. People who cared and were once involved shrank from public affairs after seeing what happened to her and I. Thoughtful citizens took this lesson to heart, recovering somewhat, but never were the perpetrators called to account.

And so I guess as we support Sheehan and others who rise to the occasion, we need to steel ourselves for continued betrayals and threats and defamation, and not expect too much even as we demand justice, for it is a dream worth fighting for, but rarely attained.

[Read what some are doing about it today. ]


<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?