How does social change happen?

The "left" that is disgusted with Obama often cites the late Lyndon Baines Johnson as a stark contrast. LBJ was strong, Texas tough, an arm-twisting, hard drinking, real-man who didn't do all this girly bipartisan b.s. as he single handedly rammed the civil rights bills past a cowed and terrified Congress. That's what we get told - as if all these people below were just spectators or didn't exist at all.

The photo above is from the 1963 March on Washington. And that wasn't the only march.

Somehow all those people have been erased from history and LBJ somehow led the struggle all by his lonesome. Nobody was getting arrested in Mississipi or meeting Police dogs or doing any of the dangerous stuff that required enormous bravery and sacrifice and initiative.

The photo above left is of a Freedom Rider named Sandra Nixon and it comes from here - a truly inspirational site well worth visiting. It is tempting to attribute the absence of SNCC and SCLC and CORE from netroots history to "color blindness" - in that black people are invisible to much of the netroots. And that's certainly part of the story. Even white people who are too closely associated with black people become invisible.

James Chaney 21-year-old from Meridian, Mississippi, Andrew Goodman, 20 years old and Michael Schwerner, 24 years old both from New York. Somehow without LBJ's assistance, these three men volunteered to work in the civil rights movement in Mississippi and were arrested and turned over to the Klan for beating and murder. But even that didn't frighten off SNCC organizers. Or what about Myles Horton who managed to become involved in the civil rights movement
even before LBJ was president but is invisible (some of you may be able to see his photo to the right). That's another problem: the civil rights movement was not a half-an-hour docudrama - it took decades, many decades. It's not even done. Clearly, long-term time frames, ongoing struggles, and that sort of stuff is way out of fashion. But if we we look at the netroots idolization of FDR we can see that it is not just black people and fellow-travelers who get written out of history. Take a look at this video from 1934 and consider FDR's bargaining position with Congress and Wall Street when labor was in insurrection on the West Coast. All those right wing shipping magnates suddenly found a national labor review board to be a much more reasonable compromise than they had before.

FDR didn't organize labor unions or stand in picket lines or fight police in Detroit or close down the docks in Seattle or block scabs from the workplace in Minneapolis. That was all done by ordinary people engaged in the process of self-government and dragging the administration with them. One of the differences between our day and 1963 is that as the voting rights bill was being debated in Congress 200,000 people came to DC to support civil rights - but as the key 2010 midterm election was coming up, Americans went to DC to participate in a comedy rally.

All of us who get on the most advanced communication system in the world to say Obama has terrible communications/marketing should think more about what we are doing to communicate the message. The media teaches people to be spectators, consumers of what others produce. But citizens are not consumers, they are producers of political action. And the reason that the civil rights movements and labor movement and feminist movement are all so hard for us to see is that we are so immersed in a culture that pushes us to be consumers and not citizens showing at least a little bit of the bravery you can see in Sandra Nixon's face.

The netroots that won't listen has been telling us since before the primary elections that Barack Obama was not the messiah. That's for sure true. He's not even a prophet. This is not Barack Obama.

America already had its Moses and he told us that the struggle would be long and we should get off our asses and participate in it - and to learn some math too.

By the way: this is a great interview with two great people.

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