When I was a kid, I liked to watch cartoons and old TV shows. At some point, every channel we could tune in through rabbit ears or rotating wire sculptures on the roof stopped showing cool monster movies and cartoons, opting for a bunch of men in suits talking to each other in something like a courtroom, but with a lot of judges. I was irritated, until one day, I watched one of the men weep TV. Not just cry, weep. No one comforted him. That got my middle school attention, so I began to listen to what they had to say. That is how I became aware that my country had a central government and when I learned that they were, basically, assholes. Thank you Richard Nixon. I found out later that the weeping man was John Dean and the court was a House Committee. I’ve had a soft spot for Dean ever since. Haldeman, Erlichman, Nixon and the rest, not so much. I used to wear a Nixon Campaign button to honor his role in beginning to wake me from unconscious childhood privilege. Dick taught me the wisdom of questioning authority. But of course that is not enough and the easy allure of the Good White Liberal is a well-baited trap. Resistance begins in your mind. Street protest is a symptom, not the disease or its cure.
It has been a few decades since that nudge, yet so much of me is still dreaming. Do not assume that any insights to be found in the narrative of the previous paragraph were had at that moment or made me rethink who I was on the spot. The guys on the Congressional Committee reminded me to the guys to avoid in junior high and high school halls. Not to mention what passed at the streets in the little suburban territory our groups tread. Eventually, we got cars and drove further away; to more neutral space. It really did not matter. The Nixons were always there and their particular HR and JD were never far behind. It seemed we had a choice, be a Boss or be fucked over. I did not want to be either one. Luckily, I met a couple other people that felt similarly enough that we could become friends. The truth in the stereotype is that most Hippies were pointed to that life through music. At least this Reformed Hippie was, is, and will be.
The fly in the Hippie ointment were the Stooges and so we reformed. In sense of both Iggy Pop and the 3. Moe, Larry and their cohorts showed us the unrelenting violence of competition, anger, and revenge. For years on TV one particular station from Detroit alternated The 3 Stooges with Laurel and Hardy. The juxtaposition was interesting because it provided a kind of selection criteria among the cohort of people with whom I was socially connected. The slap-stick schtick of the Stooges did not age as well as the slightly more cerebral and ironic Stan and Ollie. One former friend once told me, “I don’t think that Laurel and Hardy are funny because they make you think. I hate them for that.” I laughed, “well, here is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into… why I oughta!”. He laughed too. As for Iggy and the Stooges. They were the seed of unrest built into “The Sixties” and they were not the only one. Years on, these would bloom into punks and new wave. Right to the Clash and the Labor fights under Thatcher and Ron. It was right about then I could see the Democratic Party ditch the workers and begin the march to the right that would bring us a dynasty of Bushes and now the rise of the Authoritarian White Right.
One of the first songs beyond Know Yer Rights and Inoculated City that hit me was The Guns of Brixton. Back in the day when accessing background information was dependent on the oral tradition, early morning radio, and mimeographed newsletters, we began to call ‘zines in the Kinko Age. I’m pretty sure it was toxic, but the scent of those wet mimeo sheets were almost like flowers when I was young. To be fair, Kinkos and copy rooms have a distinct smell about them, too. Such is the allure of reproduction. Same goes for the Academic Halls I was aiming to roam and the laboratory space I’d desire. Each has their scent. Each permeated by layers of tradition, class, volition, and genius. It used to anger me when people would infer that the University was somehow less than “real life”. They’d ask, without malice, “do you work or go to school”? I’d try not to smile and assure them, “from where I am, I’m doing both. The main difference is that I am paying good money to public institutions and not getting pay checks for doing so. I betting that this will be a sound investment in my personal financial future”. The conservatives connected with the “hard work” aspect, liberals and Leftists with the “public/private” divide.
You see, from where I stand, I am the most Conservative version of myself that is possible. I accept 3 memes that are attributed to the Conservative Democratic Right. 1) personal responsibility, 2) a culture of life, and 3) local scale systems of control. Clearly, the individual human being is the basis for the impetus toward respecting all human rights. This is why Black Lives Matter is so relevant and powerful. It points directly to the individuals executed in deference to the white supremacy that suffuses Western culture and resists any attempt to make it a mouthpiece for the renewed Black Liberation Project. To me, personal responsibility is a two way street. Each of us, authority figures included, are responsible for our actions, and all of us, together, are responsible for assuring that the personal human rights of each are respected by our society. I expand the culture of life well beyond zygotes and feti. I suggest we apply the culture of life ideal to our neighbors and environment at large. To paraphrase Rooster, let’s apply a mix of social compost aimed at enriching the soils that sustain the place where you live. Where you still hope to thrive.
At my precinct caucus on April 4, 2017 in Roosevelt High School, a DFL operative asked us all to consider the question of how the urban-based Minnesota Democratic Party could bring the ex-urban and rural Populists over to the DFL in the age of Trump. He was not satisfied by the response because it highlighted the losing record of the centrist faction and the 35-40 years long sequential abandonment of workers and labor unions by the Democrats and DFL. The idea that everyone agreed with was encouraging the centrist DNC aligned party members to listen seriously to their local constituents. My current efforts in support of a more progressive government for Minneapolis are squarely aimed at influencing the 2017 Election more through video and writing efforts than through being a Party Delegate. But that is a story I promised not to tell in this post, so I guess it is finished.