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Are Progressives Depressed or Too Privileged to Produce Social Change? Or Are We Just Failing to Organize Effectively?

Real change seems almost impossible. What are we doing wrong?

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Wrong example. The speech was given at the bi-partisan $800-a-plate Al Smith dinner in New York on October 20, 2000, a few short weeks before an election that everyone knew would be close. This was no ordinary dinner and these were not your typical stump speeches. The Al Smith dinner tradition requires the major candidates from both parties to lampoon themselves. (See CBS News.)

In this speech Bush certainly was not a totalitarian banging us over the head with the truth. He was banging his own head for a laugh, which he got. Had he been serious, you can be sure that he and his advisers would not want that line to get out to the public in swing states just before an incredibly tight election. That kind of truth would have cost him the election.

But more to the point, I don’t think that Levine or anyone else can identify one totalitarian who uses the truth to humiliate and subjugate those they rule. Think for a moment of two infamous American leaders who leaned toward the totalitarian -- Dick Cheney and Dick Nixon. Their passion for secrecy and flat-out lying were legendary -- from Watergate to weapons of mass destruction to outing Valerie Plame. Lying to the public was their weapon of choice.

The record of totalitarian régimes in Italy, Spain, Germany and the Soviet Union shows a consistent and willful disregard and hatred for the truth. In fact, those who dominated those regimes constantly undermined the truth and destroyed those who put it forth. Victims of abusive relationships may become further debilitated by the truth, but victims of totalitarianism hunger for the truth, and are willing to die for it.

Who Are These Abused Americans?

We should be cautious whenever creating and using a massive category like "broken Americans." When you push on it, it can shatter.

The broken Americans group certainly doesn’t include those in the Tea Party (whom I wish would be more passive). The abused also don’t seem to include the extremely vociferous followers of Rush and Beck. Those folks are opinionated and confident in their points of view. If anything, many of them come across more like abusers than abused.

Clearly, the beaten-down passive group does not include the tens of thousands who are active in their unions each day, fighting against incredibly long odds. It doesn’t describe those who have spent the past several years fighting for health care reform. It doesn’t describe MoveOn.org and the thousands of people who registered voters and got out the vote for Obama. Nor does it describe the gay and lesbian activists fighting right now for same-sex marriage. It doesn’t describe the tens of thousands who are struggling to protect a woman’s right to choose, especially in battleground states like Nebraska and South Dakota. Also the category of abused, passive Americans doesn’t describe the millions of environmental activists who are extremely effective on a range of issues from global warming to toxic waste. And it doesn’t describe the many who have made difficult life choices to build the new world of organic farming and other sustainable products.

The list of activist groups goes on and on (and my apologies for the many who are not mentioned).

More to the point, I don’t believe "abuse syndrome" describes you -- the person who is reading this piece right now.

Then who does it describe? Levine points to those subjugated by financial debt, those without health insurance, those living in social isolation in the suburbs and those who have been turned from citizens into consumers. This is an amorphous grouping that covers just about everyone, except for all the counter-examples we could easily provide.

 
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