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What Would Jimmy Do?

10 Dec Posted by in • Jewelle Gomez | Comments Off on What Would Jimmy Do?
What Would Jimmy Do?

“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” James Baldwin

I read that quote when I was much younger and it really framed how I think of political activity.  Coming of age during the Viet Nam war, I heard the phrase “Love it or leave it” continuously from conservatives who felt patriotism was only revealed by how fast you could raise a flag.  Instead Baldwin’s words reinforced what I learned in civics classes…remember those!   Our country is only as good as the work we–we individuals and as groups–put into it.

The Civil Rights Movement was successful, in part, because of the sit-ins it staged to grab the public attention.  Watching an elderly woman be pepper sprayed by anti-Occupy Movement authorities in 2011 is just as shocking as seeing Black marchers set upon by police dogs in the 1960s.

The Occupy Movement has reminded us of our responsibility to pay attention and act.  Whether you like the methods, feel threatened by their appearance on your doorstep, worry about the break down of the social contract (which has already been broken, by the way, by banks and government regulators), or simply feel uneasy because there have been no ready-made demands…that is not what is most important.  In fact feeling uncomfortable is one of the first ways we can tell change is happening.

What is significant is that enough people from a broad spectrum of communities and interests have actually acted on their social concerns and are trying to get officials to think about what happens to people when profits are the sole basis for decision making.  Not all of us are going to grab our gear and go sit in a public plaza or a tree…I need a little more help getting up from a cement bed than I used to…but there are ways to help make the process work.  I ask myself: What would Jimmy do?  Maybe start by asking questions about the ideas rather than simply stating your annoyance. Maybe ask what is the historical context for such dissatisfaction.  Or just ask what do people need who are out there?  Think about it…ask your local OM folks.  The 99% are not without resources.

When we criticize our country we’re showing our faith in its ability to grow and mature.  No one would say one shouldn’t try to correct the table manners of children, or not teach them to read or how to cross the street.  This is a young country and it needs all the help it can get. Any positive attention (large or small) we give to the dilemma of people vs profits will create more positive energy.  Can’t hurt.

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