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Oh look, there's a gun! Where's my foot? Tales from my left flank.

This is the third in an uneven, unplanned series of essays on the lunacy of my people, my left-leaning, progressive, idealists with whom I usually share my hopes, visions and desires for our society, our cultures and our country.

Lunacy? Yes. For reasons unclear and often bewildering, those on the left fringe just seem to lose it. Reason gets pushed off-stage. Clarity of thought takes a hike. Coherency is on furlough and practical, pragmatic thinking is nowhere to be found. I’ve covered some of these issues here and here. Today I’ll take a gander at the Occupy movement, the Black Lives Matter organization and the Bernie or Busters.

Occupy: What a good idea! Occupy the domain of the target organization. It began with Occupy Wall Street and the protestors engaged in classic, peaceful and remarkably effective protest simply by showing up, sitting down and “occupying” Wall St. Then it morphed in Occupy ­­_____ where the blank could be filled in by whatever program, corporation, city, governmental agency needed to have its ugly underbelly exposed. It held the highest ideals, to decrease the income gap, lessen economic disparity, expose corruption and fraud, give more power and control to the people — the little people and do so without violence or aggressive action. A pretty good summary can be found here.

So what went wrong? Why has the movement lost purchase? Why is it now either fading from public consciousness or openly mocked? For the simplest of reasons: naiveté and a failure to recognize that movements need organizers, spokespersons, committees, fund raisers, hawkers, mailbox stuffers, leaders with dreams and an eye toward growth and a coherent vision of ultimate goals.

None of this happened. For reasons that just seem childish the Occupy movement never identified leaders, never found individuals who would speak for the group (each group, any group), who would appear on talk radio, on cable news, on MSNBC or CNN. In fact they refused to do such mundane things. They seemed to embrace some new-age notion that in some mysterian way the world would change just because they sat about, waved signs and chanted. It was reminiscent of when Sun Young Moon’s bizarre church would get large numbers of people to chant all together and assume the planet would tilt on its axis — or something.

Alas, the world does not work this way and the movement with it idealistic utopians and its utopian ideals is slowly fading from our consciousness, from the news programs from our sight. Sad.

Black Lives Matter: This one is tough for me to write because I’m a big fan of BLM — the original movement, the one that was spawned by the horrific deaths of Black Americans by white cops and deluded racists who took the “stand your ground” laws to their dreadful, predictable end point. What happened?

The first big stumble was failing to issue a series of public condemnations of the killing of police by black snipers. We do not know whether the actions and statements of BLM had any direct, causal role to play in these acts but the raw reality of black men murdering police simply because they were police had an eerie parallel with cops killing blacks simply because they were black. These acts produced a significant backlash that damaged the BLM movement and the organization did little to repair it. BLM was created to be a “pro-” movement. Their luke warm response here made it look like they’d become an “anti-” one. There’s no quicker way to lose respect and support.

Then they gave us an astonishing display of insensitivity and unthinking bias. They refused to partake in Pride parades if police also took part.

Think this one through. BLM agitates against police race-based brutality and insensitivity. This is a good position to take and by emphasizing it they snapped the country’s conscience awake. The police have responded by trying to do something about the issue — yes, they really are. Sure, there are racist cops. There are misogynist cops, anti-Semitic cops and anti-LGBT cops. But they’re a minority and police forces around the country are working to root them out, reform the training and recruitment programs and repair the damage. BLM’s proper response here should be to embrace these reforms, to work with police departments to improve sensitivity to race and racial issues, to encourage cooperation with local communities.

What good can possibly come of BLM refusing to be part of a Pride parade because cops are proudly marching alongside them? The police, not so long ago, used to beat the shit out of gays and lesbians simply for being who they are. Now they’ve joined with them in celebration of the diversity of life and proudly marching alongside them. And BLM refuses to join the festivities.

If you want to put a dent in your public image I can’t think of a better way. In one stupid move BLM alienated the LBGT community, confused the cops (not to mention progressives like me), and gave the right wingers more ammunition.

Bernie or Bust: Bernie did the country a big favor. By running as an outsider, a renegade candidate, he touched a nerve, one the insiders in the Democratic Party didn’t know was there — or if they did, had no clue as to how his message would resound. The result was to significantly shift the party, it’s stated ideals and goals far to the left forcing them, and Hillary, to embrace a forgotten progressivism.

The party had been pulled toward the center by Bill who judged, rightly or wrongly, that truly liberal positions would never be passed by a congress that had a significant, right-wing element. The result was not a happy one (DOMA, DADT, Glass-Steagall repealed, welfare “reform”).

Bernie lost the nomination but won the battle by focusing on the results of these (and Bush’s regressive actions). The Democratic platform is the most progressive in decades and Hillary has been clear that she is running on the principles outlined in it.

So all looks good, right? Nope. There’s an element among the more devoted Sanders supporters who say they cannot and will not vote for Clinton. And we have, again, lefties shooting themselves in some body part (the “foot” here seems too inconsequential; this one could be a shot in the heart!).

When pressed some “Busters” seem to suggest that if Bernie isn’t the nominee then there is no one worthy of their vote. Hints that every stay-homer is, in effect, a vote for Trump seem to have no impact. Others suggest that it really never was about Bernie, per se, but about his message. Queries about why they wouldn’t vote for Hillary given that she’s now running on “his message” are greeted with disdain — and equal lack of concern about the impact of not punching that chad for HRC. Even pointing out that Bernie himself has urged everyone to vote Clinton to stop Trump fall on deaf ears (perhaps the result of guns going off too close to their heads).

Note the pattern in all three. They start with high ideals and progressive vision and then, because of poor management skills, incoherent decision-making or simply losing touch with reality in a whirlwind of self-generated empty utopianism it starts falling apart.

I find myself, yet again, bewildered by this. Politics is all about compromise and pragmatics. You have your ideals and work toward them. It’s folly to toss any hope of genuine change on the slag heap of unworkable ideals.

Reader Comments (1)

Good one Arthur!

Also its about communicating real and useful ideas that have been buried by the 40 yrs of the right wing lie machine.

July 31, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersteve wolff

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