Thursday, January 26, 2006


The Movement

Last summer my colleague Chip Berlet wrote an article about building the intellectual infrastructure required to create a democratic social justice movement.

Since then, I have thought more about how that term movement gets bandied about to stand for everything from an affinity network of concerned individuals to coalitions of noble organizations to institutions momentarily gifted with far-sighted leaders proposing social reform. But by definition, movement implies that all the above are actually making headway together toward achieving a goal, creating a wake--something that has momentum.

Looking around the American political landscape, I see much running about the deck of this vessel called The Movement, with all its compartments and rankings of crew and charts of destinations, but despite all this activity, the vessel is standing still. No smoke emits from the stack. No glorious engine churns, propelling The Movement toward a new and better world.

Since first reading Chip's article Investing in Ideas, I've had the pleasure of meeting some extraordinary people with sound minds and creative energy from across our country--some young, some old--with nowhere to apply either their skills or energy productively. They discuss this dilemma daily on blogs and other websites and in letters to the editor or on the street, but there is pitifully little opportunity for the best and the brightest to use their ideas to advance equality.

If they were, however, say, Young Republicans out to plunder the public treasure and destroy the world in the process, there would be endless opportunities in the form of paid internships and fellowships and teaching positions and media jobs to further and nurture the cause. Which brings me back to the vessel analogy, and the point both Chip and I try to make.

The Movement needs fuel to run on, supplies, a trained crew, repair yards, and schools for its commanders--places to learn the trade. What it doesn't need is more confused passengers running around on a rusty deck asking when it will get underway.


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