Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Extremism Left and Right -- and Monday's Direct Action

Over the next days and weeks we can expect to hear every kind of argument for and against the events of April 10. I'm still not sure what to call it, so I think I'll say Direct Action. In the vocabulary of non-violent civil disobedience as practiced by Ghandi and King, whenever a coordinated effort was used to bring attention to injustice by intentionally breaking the law, that effort was always called "direct action." Many times during I heard that phrase during the civil rights movement when what-to-do discussions were in progress..."Sounds like what we need is a little direct action!" Meaning: If we stage a sit-in or if we all simply go there together for the purpose of getting arrested, then people will be able to see the injustice we face.

Now, as then, there is a populist groundswell of frustration, rising like a boil on the body politic. It's still in the early stages. Like a boil it can be relieved by a gentle poultice or the application of warm, moist heat. But left unattended it will swell and become red and painful, eventually requiring that it be lanced to relieve the pressure.

Once I had an infected place on my thumb as the result of a particle of steel wool that became infected. The inflammation at the end of my thumb swelled, slowing the capillary blood flow and accellerating the infection. After a few days it was so painful that a doctor had to slice open the end of my thumb, pack the opening with gauze, and send me away for a week with instructions to soak it in a saltwater solution three or four times a day to "draw" the infection. He also wrote a prescription for an antibiotic and warned me that if I ever had such a problem again, especially in the fingertips where the blood flow was at its most easily slowed by swelling, I should act at once to reduce the infection before it had a chance to spread. Otherwise I would risk the loss of a finger.

That is what we are now seeing following Monday's Direct Action by immigrants, both "legal" and "illegal" pointing out a vast injustice that has been allowed to fester in America. The disease that we are fighting is as corrosive as diabetes or alcoholism or obesity. We love the sugar or alcohol or excess servings so much that we are reluctant to submit to the hard discipline needed to wean from the perceived "rewards" of the habit. We want lower-priced goods and services but we don't want wages to fall. We complain that "They are not paying taxes" but we don't want to recognize them as taxpayers so that they can begin paying taxes like everyone else. We complain about their use of another language while opposing the bi-lingual education that will teach the next generation to speak a new mother tongue with a bi-lingual capability we now lack.

As we wallow in a sea of contradictions, political struggles on the Left and Right are hard at work building what they hope will be a power base strong enough to prevail. It is a tough contest with strong, smart, dedicated advocates lining up on both sides. There are echoes of McCarthy days as extremists seek to silence opponents. In the aftermath of 9/11 extremists on the Right have been having a field day. Anyone who dares question the wisdom of America's actions or intentions in the world risks being labeled as unpatriotic, stupid, racist or worse.

David Neiwert address the Left-Right divide once more, doing the heavy lifting for us on the Left. (Yes, I stand with the Left and have for years. I have no intention of pretending otherwise. End of disclosure.) Those with minds still open are invited to read his most recent post and draw their own conclusions. Be sure to drill into the links to get the full dose.

It will be tempting for anyone to read his post with pre-concieved ideas. That is what is called pre-judice -- judging in advance. It is hard to do otherwise. I am guilty of the same offence myself. But this time, read with the memory of Monday's Direct Action. Ask yourself how all those unaligned people, most of whom still open to recruitment to any cause giving them sympathy, will be apt to turn. You can be sure that experienced people from the Left are plowing that field, even as we speak. They are not all speaking a language that you want to know about. And I'm not talking about English or Spanish. But they are being heard and listened to. I know. I've been there and done that.

I was a successful manager in the world of business for thirty years because of what I learned in my youth. What I learned was that labor unions do not emerge without the cooperation of management. I'm not talking about what management is obliged to permit legally. I am talking about what management is NOT obliged to do, but CHOOSES to do for the purpose of capturing and retaining the loyalty of their employees. Why do you think Google is such a great place to work? Why does a company in today's competetive environment choose to take a bunch of their employees out for the day to escape the cubefarm, to spend the day having lunch catered, playing video games and going home with cute little gifts?

Okay, then. Do I need to connect the dots? It is no accident that posters of Che can be seen among the pictures of Monday's Direct Action. That tens of thousands of identical "We Are America" blue and white card were there to be displayed. As the Power Line video collection likes to point out, those are the tracks of extremists. Believe it. And ask what is the most effective way that those extremists can become less attractive to their target audience. This is the North American Front for "hearts and minds" to defeat extremism. Our threat is not from abroad. It is already here. It is up to our representatives to decide if a powerful economic and political force is to become part of America or part of America's swelling ranks of opponents.

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