Saturday, September 01, 2007

Important footnote to the preceding three posts

Even though it marks my official, stamped and sealed departure from the ranks of "those who know what the hell is going on" because it's been around for a few years and I didn't know about it, I'm still grateful to Tim at Green Left Infoasis for bringing this to my attention.
The Not In Our Name Pledge of Resistance was created collectively by artists and activists in April 2002 as a means of inspiring protest and resistance. It is at the heart of the Not In Our Name Project.

The Pledge was not intended to be signed, rather, it is a tool to be used by individuals, organizations and communities to inspire and strengthen individual and group resistance.
I had heard of Not In Our Name in connection with its support of the teenagers who are walking across the US to protest the war. (They are now in Bridgeport, West Virginia and will be in DC on September 10.) But for some reason I was unaware of the Pledge.

We believe that as people living in the United States it is our responsibility to resist the injustices done by our government, in our names.

Not in our name will you wage endless war - there can be no more deaths - no more transfusions of blood for oil.

Not in our name will you invade countries, bomb civilians, kill more children, letting history take its course over the graves of the nameless.

Not in our name will you erode the very freedoms you have claimed to fight for.

Not by our hands will we supply weapons and funding for the annihilation of families on foreign soil.

Not by our mouths will we let fear silence us.

Not by our hearts will we allow whole peoples or countries to be deemed evil.

Not by our will and Not in our name.

We pledge resistance.

We pledge alliance with those who have come under attack for voicing opposition to the war or for their religion or ethnicity.

We pledge to make common cause with the people of the world to bring about justice, freedom and peace.

Another world is possible and we pledge to make it real.
The reason I was so glad to be made aware of this was that it proved the living existence of the spirit of resistance, that the dreams are not dead, nor do they sleep, they simply exist outside the psychological reach of the Beltway, that web of "analysis" and "critique," that narrowness of mind, of outlook, of hope that ensnares so many of us and yes I include myself in that number. We tend to forget - some, to dismiss or ignore but for me it is genuinely to forget - that there is a great deal going on out there, that there have been wins as well as losses, and even that yes, things actually have been worse in years past.

It was also encouraging because it reminded me of an earlier pledge, 40 years ago it was, in 1967. It was titled "Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority" and its purpose was to mobilize opposition to the Vietnam War and the draft, both still going full blast at the time. Over 20,000 people signed it, thereby committing a misdemeanor because it encouraged and endorsed illegal acts such as draft resistance. (Not an idle concern, as it developed: Signing the Pledge was used as state's evidence in conspiracy trials of antiwar activists.)

Two years later, in September 1969 with the antiwar movement on the rise and the first Moratorium Day coming the next month, it was followed by "A New Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority," which took a more radical stance, embracing all the original call said and going beyond it in ways that foreshadow what we see today:
The Vietnam War has reminded us that major decisions can be made in the United States in cynical disregard of the clearly expressed will of the people and with little concern for those most affected, at home and abroad. ... Closely linked to the government, providing its top personnel and shaping its policies, are the centers of private power, the great corporations that control the economic life of the nation and, increasingly of the world. ... But it is not enough to decry the exercise of illegitimate authority; if it is illegitimate, it must be resisted.
The statement laid out five major areas and consider how much could with some minor re-phrasing be said today:
1. The war on Vietnam is neither a unique folly nor an error in judgment. ... Motivated by a mixture of private interests and misplaced convictions, the Pax Americana continues to inflict suffering and subservience on much of the third world.

2. The Vietnam War has also brought the human and economic costs of the garrison state at home. It has allowed an insatiable military organization to claim over half of the federal budget, directly and indirectly. (A tenth is allocated to health, education, and welfare.) ... In brief, the violence of the state has come increasingly to threaten or control the lives of U.S. citizens.

3. This triumph of illegitimate force has continued to enrich the rich. ... The non-unionized and the unemployed are, obviously, the worst victims. Welfare programs, ill-conceived to begin with, have been cut back or left languishing, more an insult than an aid. ...

4. Like wealth, control over institutions has been unequally distributed and irresponsibly used. ... In short, most people have little control over the conditions of their work, their education, their protection, their means of transport - indeed, the air they breathe and the water they drink.

5. The most powerless have been people of color. U.S. history has included the systematic conquest and slaughter of American Indians, the enslavement, degradation, and murder of Afro-Americans, the callous exploitation of Chicanos, the detention and robbery of Japanese-Americans, and the use of atomic weapons, napalm gas, and crop-destroying chemicals against people of the third world. ... People of color die at a disproportionate rate in warfare or "peace." They are unemployed disproportionately, receive inferior education disproportionately, are humiliated disproportionately. ...

Two years ago, the first Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority focused on the war and the draft. But we cannot oppose the war without opposing the institutions that support and maintain it. Imperialism, militarism, economic exploitation, undemocratic power, racism: though the words may seem stale, they describe the exercise of illegitimate authority in the United States today. Again, we call upon all to join us in the struggle against illegitimate authority. Now is the time to resist.
I don't present this as an exercise in aging-hippie nostalgia or as a council of despair drawn from the fact that, as I said, much of the same could be said today. I present it rather as an illustration of the fact that we have faced seemingly overwhelming obstacles before, that we have felt overwhelmed by the forces opposing us before - and that despite it all we have made progress, even if incremental, before.

We did stop the draft and the war, finally. The air and water are cleaner than they were 38 or 40 years ago. (The first Earth Day, which truly was a counter-culture celebration and political protest rather than the corporate-sponsored pick-up-some-litter occasion it's become, hadn't even happened yet.) Little progress has been made on the poverty rate, which has gone up and down - but at least it has been kept below the 1967 rate for 31 of the ensuing 39 years (and the 1967 rate was dramatically below where it had been just a few years before). Among blacks, the 2006 rate is jaw-droppingly high - but it was nearly double that in 1967.

Recall, too, that some of the threats we face today, such as the undermining of the (admittedly-limited) protections under FISA, we face only because of the successes of earlier activists in getting those bills passed and those protections instituted in the first place.

And one last thing: Notice that the New Call doesn't even mention gender discrimination, doesn't even mention homophobia. Progress can happen. Progress has happened.

The existence and circulation of such as the Pledge of Resistance and the spirit it embodies show that such progress is still happening. Yes, it may again be incremental - but it is still progress. Resistance to the machinery of death, celebrations of the dream, are alive and well, along with a growing effort to link various local campaigns as one larger movement, one that can rival and by all that's right and just will surpass that of the '60s, which, I wrote some years ago
over a several-year span was powerful enough to end the draft, limit and finally stop a war, force one (and maybe two) Presidents from office, shake the foundations of a society’s judgements about half its population, force the nuclear power industry to a virtual halt, and change - perhaps not by much but quite possibly permanently - that society’s sense of its relationship to the environment.
And that made me feel so much more encouraged. And I wanted to say that.

Footnote: In searching for the text of the Calls, I discovered a book called My Hippie Grandmother, which begins
I have a hippie grandmother.
I'm really glad she's mine.
She hasn't cut her hair at all
Since nineteen sixty-nine.
It's apparently intended for grades 1-3 but damn if I'm not tempted to buy one for myself.

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