“Gonzo Notes” is Kit’s newsletter of political analysis and direct action tips.
If they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep.
Time and again, one of the resounding criticisms of activist movements from the right and from the center-left is our lack of decorum.
While we sometimes acknowledge that acts of resistance can be effective, we’ve sanded all the rough edges off of our memories of these moments. Frequently cited are the successes of the Black Civil Rights movement, but in the popular imagination their victories were won by respectful, soft-spoken men and women dressed in suits, calmly advocating for their rights.
Another clear example of this harmful myth-making can be seen in the push back by economically comfortable, white, cisgender gays against the movement by queer people of color for more inclusion (and for the exclusion of cops from Pride marches). The Stonewall Riot and the aggressive tactics of ACT UP seem to have faded into dim memory, now that certain queer folk have achieved a level of comfort within modern capitalist society that they previously lacked. Even the “Stonewall” movie erased the leadership of non-white, transgender people of color in the movement by having a white guy throw the first brick.
As the Republicans seek to ravage virtually every aspect of our government which benefits people or planet, the Democrats, as a party, enable them with their love of decorum and often by actively discouraging the acts of genuine resistance that are proven to make change.
One reason Maxine “reclaiming my time” Waters’ recent act of defiance went viral is because, deep inside, we yearn for politicians who act like this regularly, even if it makes them seem to be impolite or “obstructing” government.
But regardless of what party they’re from, they all play baseball together, tee off at the same golf clubs, wine and dine at the same expensive clubs. And they all want us to hug the cops.
To my mind, one of the most harmful beliefs in American culture is that respect is due to our leaders, automatically. Even if an individual politician behaves poorly, or misrepresents their constituency, we’re told that we should respect their station and the process that elected them as a matter of course.
This thinking turns our leadership from the role that we’re taught they play in school, as servants of the people, into a kind of elected aristocracy.
If you’ve read me for any length of time, you can guess how I feel about this idea. Human lives, and the life of our planet, are so much more valuable than politeness, the tone of voice we use, whether we yell or chant when we’re supposed to listen quietly to the rich people telling us the new ways they want to oppress us and why they think it’s for our own good.
I’ve thought about this frequently recently while watching my friends testify at the Texas Legislature against bills that restrict transgender rights or abortion access. They stand in line for hours, wait all day in an uncomfortable marble building, only to be ignored by the legislators as they demand their right to be treated as human beings.
I don’t want my friends to stop sharing their stories, but at what point do we stop asking for our rights and instead put ourselves in the way of the machinery of state that refuses to acknowledge our humanity?
The current presidential administration, and their imitators in statehouses across the country, are attacking our health care, our clean water and food. They’re tearing up families, doubling down on police brutality and the war on drugs, and threatening to put inauguration protesters in prison for the rest of their lives.
Despite the vibrant protests which kicked off the year, one prevailing message right now seems to be “stay home and let the grownups in Congress handle things,” even though they’ve proven they can’t be trusted. The exception, apparently, is the Russia scandal, about which we’re told to be prepared to stage mass protests.
While collusion with Russia is certainly disturbing, it seems like our priorities are off. What should lead us to revolt is our right to not just survive, but to thrive.
Both parties are terrified of our power, and so propagate this love of propriety, decorum, and democratic tradition. But anything the state gives us, it can also take away.
Don’t fight to preserve your government. Politicians don’t care about you.
Fight for your humanity. Fight for planet Earth.
“We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers. Our power is in our ability to make things unworkable. The only weapon we have is our bodies. And we need to tuck them in places so wheels don’t turn.” — BAYARD RUSTIN
Gonzo action tips
This week’s tip comes from “Central Texas’ Least Wanted,” an antifascist zine published by Oh Shit! What Now? collective.
Are there other issues or topics you’d like me to cover here? Email GonzoNotes@kitoconnell.com.
Do We Owe Politicians Our Respect? (Respect Is Earned #GonzoNotes) by Kit O’Connell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://kitoconnell.com/2017/07/31/respect-is-earned/.