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I went to lunch today with an activist friend in DuPage County. On the way there, I noted two things. First, I passed three "Don't tread on me" flags, the symbol adopted by many "Teapartiers". Secondly, the strip malls that used to hold small stores had been largely reduced to "CASH FOR GOLD!", "PAYDAY LOANS!" and pawn shops.

I work in a public library in DuPage County. It's free, warm in winter (and this winter in Chicago has been brutal), cool in summer, and we serve free coffee. We have free internet access. It's a good place to come if you are unemployed. And they do come. In droves.

Most of them are men, aged 30-50 or so. They check out six movies on dvd, the maximum we allow. They bring them back the next day and check out six more. They are interesting, talented people. And they've largely given up hope of ever finding work.

Others come to the desk, angry. They are checking out books by Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sarah Palin. They complain about the pensions that municipal workers get, and tell me that the firefighters - these are people who, remember, run INTO burning buildings while the rest of us are running out - should be forced to shovel snow from village sidewalks in their "spare time" to justify those inflated pensions.

Here's what I don't see them reading: Anything by Studs Terkel, John Steinbeck, or Howard Zinn. Why is the right capturing their imagination and controlling the dialogue?

Traditionally, the progressive agenda has been advanced by the labor movement. Union membership, at an all time low, is not anticipating a renaissance anytime soon. Where are the voices on the left who are speaking to the needs, hopes and dreams of the people who, by all rights, should be our natural allies?

Anyway, my friend - the activist - and I talked over lunch. We agreed: an awful lot of people in the suburbs are desperate. And desperately lack knowledge about how to survive in this economy. How do you feed your kids when all your money went to pay the rent? How do you keep your lights on? Where can you go when the pain from that cavity is getting blinding and you can't possibly afford a dentist? If we, as progressives, are going to organize in the suburbs, we need to offer more than the hope of an eventual jobs bill passing Congress in a few years' time - if we're lucky. We need to talk peace, bread, and land, as another activist once put it; we need to offer solidarity and solutions, one starfish at a time.

There must be, we agreed, some way to try to create a clearinghouse for the unemployed and the underemployed, for those facing foreclosure or in desperate need of other help. Those of us who have traversed the atrocious social service network that passes for a "safety net" need to reach out and help those facing it for the first time. We can't provide everything that is needed, obviously. But we need to do what can be done; we need to remember how the Unemployed Councils gathered support and provided real aid to those in need during the 30s.

Too many of us attend meeting after meeeting with the same 200 people. We're all great people, of course - but a mass movement we are not. And that, historically speaking, is what we are going to need to see real change.

So we're going to focus on that, my friend and I. There are great groups out there already in place, peace groups, justice groups, living wage groups, labor groups, faith based groups. We all share common values. We were all discouraged by the November election results, but with a little effort, we can take Joe Hill's words to heart and "Dont mourn - organize!"

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Comment Preferences

  •  two words (9+ / 0-)
    Why is the right capturing their imagination and controlling the dialogue?

    Fox News

    Ok, it's a gross oversimplification, but when every tweet of Sarah Palin's reverberates through the media--its veracity challenged only in outlets whose listeners/viewers already are disinclined to believe her, how do we get our message out?

    Who is the countervailing voice--the left-wing antidote to the right's constant barrage of pro-corporate, anti-labor, blame-the-victim nonsense?  And if there is such a person, how does he or she get any kind of traction with the corporate media?

    There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

    by puzzled on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 02:41:51 PM PST

    •  I agree (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      flatford39, puzzled, JeffW, BlueJessamine, trs

      and that is something my friend noted today also.  Fox news is providing a "populist" (albeit right wing populist) spin (which obviously really disguises raw corporatism) and it speaks to people.  

      "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

      by KibbutzAmiad on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 02:52:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KibbutzAmiad, puzzled

      They're the ones getting the microphone.  90% of talk radio is the screeching right wing.

      The way to combat noxious ideas is with other ideas. The way to combat falsehoods is with truth. - William O. Douglas

      by PSzymeczek on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 05:06:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Right wing (0+ / 0-)

        anti-intellectualism or faux populism is particularly suited to talk radio.  You can present things in a kind of binary fantasy world:  Right / wrong; black / white; evil versus good.  You can point to a handful of scapegoats and mock.

        It's a lot more suitable to the shrill sound bite nature of talk radio than talking about the importance of working class solidarity, the values of economic justice.  It CAN be done - imagine a talk network with, say, Studs Terkel and Woody Guthrie and people who knew how to connect.  Ed Schulz tries.  But it's harder.  

        "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

        by KibbutzAmiad on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 06:33:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Holy Crow, (6+ / 0-)

    you found an another activist in DuPage County?

    That's only a partially snarky question - I personally avoid DuPage to the extent that I'll drive around it rather than through it . . .

    But I applaud your stick-to-it attitude.

    Listen, I'm on the mailing lists for a number of employment services.  Some of them require registration with a city (Chicago) based agency, but some of them are good jobs offered by a security company.  

    My e-mail is in my profile (or at least it was!)  If you're interested, shoot me a message and I'll forward some stuff over to you.

    BTW, I now live in extreme northern Lake County, and the happiest day of my life (well almost the happiest) was the day DuPage County and I parted company.

    Our promises are made in proportion to our hopes, but kept in proportion to our fears.-LaRouchefoucauld

    by luvsathoroughbred on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 02:46:56 PM PST

    •  I understand (5+ / 0-)

      your point of view : )  I'll email you.

      There are lots of us in DuPage county, though!  There is the whole "Turn DuPage Blue" movement, the Immigrant Solidarity DuPage group, DuPage Peace through Justice Coalition, People's Resource Center, The West Suburban faith based Peace Coalition - it's not a complete desert!

      "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

      by KibbutzAmiad on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 02:54:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'll look forward (4+ / 0-)

        to hearing from you.  

        I am in awe of you!  Trying to turn DuPage blue?  

        I'd rather give a pootie a bath!  :)

        Our promises are made in proportion to our hopes, but kept in proportion to our fears.-LaRouchefoucauld

        by luvsathoroughbred on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 03:02:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I work (6+ / 0-)

          in a cat shelter so pootie baths are nothing!   I've Frontlined 40 in a day : )

          Operation Turn DuPage Blue was the name of the movement to "reorganize" the DuPage Democrats along slightly more progressive lines.  It was quite successful, and was the brainchild, in part, of the co-founder of DAWN (DuPage Against War Now, still operational and still doing great voter registration work).

          Activist Cristobal Cavezos is doing a brilliant job organizing the Hispanic community ( a fast growing group) out of Glendale Heights and they are planning a faith based forum in March.  I may or may not be a speaker on the panel, depending on the date.

          And we regularly show up at Peter Roskam's office (Roskam - Fascist - IL6) to "discuss" things with him.   His charming staffers attempted to throw out one of the developmentally disabled men we brought to discuss Medicaid cuts with him.  The man didn't want to shake Roskam's hand.

          "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

          by KibbutzAmiad on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 03:15:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Charming behavior (5+ / 0-)

            Let me know the date of the forum and I'll try to make it.

            We dumped our blue dog Dem, Melissa Bean in exchange for the worst tea-bagging trash currently available, Joe Walsh.  (Il-8).  

            doG help us!

            I knew things would improve your way, when you finally got rid of that corrupt hairdo that masqueraded as a State's Attorney.

            Our promises are made in proportion to our hopes, but kept in proportion to our fears.-LaRouchefoucauld

            by luvsathoroughbred on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 03:40:25 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, I am (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              joynow, lilsky, luvsathoroughbred, trs

              right next to suburban Cook county and protested outside Bean's office several times.

              On a brighter legislator note, Rep. Michelle Mussman contacted me after seeing my Facebook post on my struggle to bring some justice to my late friend Will, re: his abuse at the hands of the organization (state funded) to "help" persons with disabilities.  I am meeting with her staffer in a few weeks.  She seems like a genuine person, and on the side of the angels.

              "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

              by KibbutzAmiad on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 03:46:06 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Keep up the good work! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            KibbutzAmiad

            I'm a former Illinoisan, and I know what DuPage county is like. I lived in a mostly Dem county, so I was lucky. My hat's off to you folks fighting the good fight in the burbs.

            (-9.25, -6.62) "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both" - Benjamin Franklin

            by trs on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 03:44:22 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  thank you (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Odysseus, joynow, flatford39, trs

              The poverty rate in DuPage and the other collar counties is climbing, unemployment is atrocious, food stamp and food pantry use is at an all time high.  The demographics are changing and so should the politics!

              I am also trying to get the suburbanites into the city more, and the city activists to work more out in the suburbs.  

              "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

              by KibbutzAmiad on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 04:03:16 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Here's a "Save the Date" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joynow, trs, hpchicago

    event:  On April 9, Saturday, the New New Deal Coalition will be bringing Rep. John Conyers and others together to discuss jobs and the way forward.  We'll be meeting at the U of I downtown; I'll post details as they firm up in the next week or two.  

    "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

    by KibbutzAmiad on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 02:57:08 PM PST

  •  If you are (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joynow, lilsky, trs

    in the Aurora area, check out the Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and the Living Wage Coalition group.  Activist Mary Shesgren is doing fantastic work with both of those groups.  John Laesch, who ran for office and was featured on Kos many times, is also active in that area.  

    "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

    by KibbutzAmiad on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 03:18:08 PM PST

  •  Event to Note! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joynow, trs

    West Suburban Faith-based PEACE Coalition (http://www.faithpeace.org/) will host Father John Dear for its Annual Gathering. The event is free and open to the public. Rev. John Dear S.J. is a Jesuit Priest, Peace Activist, Organizer, Lecturer, Retreat leader, and author/editor of 20 books on peace and nonviolence, including Living Peace, published by Doubleday. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. For more information see http://www.fatherjohndear.org/.
    St. Alexander's is located in Villa Park, IL. (Click on link for map). For more information contact Sally Sommers at sallysommers@sbcglobal.net or Coordinator Dave Martin at wsfpc@comcast.net, or post here. Peace!

    "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

    by KibbutzAmiad on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 03:43:24 PM PST

  •  My sister lives (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KibbutzAmiad, flatford39, JeffW, lilsky

    in Oak Park. I'll have to get her to explain DuPage Co. (I live in Rhode Island). Desperate people don't want the fair and reasonable arguments that we on the left mostly offer. They want anger, even if it's incoherent, directed squarely at someone who's to blame for their troubles. So, if you're tempted to say "Republican policies discourage U.S. companies from more domestic hiring," don't.  Say instead, "Boehner is a lying, drunk hypocrite. He's laughing all the way to the bank while he ships our jobs to China!"

    •  A very (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joynow, JeffW, lilsky

      good point.  That is one reason the Teaparty faux populism resonates.  It offers a scapegoat, an ad hominem focus for anger.  We dialetical materialist types don't hit verbal home runs with a lot of people and end up being labeled "elitist" despite having facts on our side.

      I envy your sister living in Oak Park.  A liberal nirvana and amazing architecture.  

      "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

      by KibbutzAmiad on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 04:48:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Dupage county is adjacent to Cook County (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KibbutzAmiad, JeffW, lilsky

      The county was primarily an agricultural county until the late 70's. There was a boom of building and highway construction in the 80's that made Dupage a lot closer to cook. Half of the farmlands had been turned into track housing or corporate campus's. This brought in a new demographic of people to work in these corporate campus's and live in their new homes.

      This was all OK in the booming economy at the time but then the recession hit and hit hard. People were using their homes as ATM machines to stay ahead of their overspending and got under water on their mortgages really quickly. I am in NW  Dupage and I think the foreclosure rate right now is 1 in 4 homes in our community.

      My district was represented by Dennis Hastert and is pretty red but we are trending purple. Some of that has to do with the large Hispanic population that the GOP is ignoring and then the other is the underemployed middle class that is having an impossible time trying to make ends meet.

      Hastert was replaced by Bill Foster(D) and although I didn't support him I was happy with more than the majority of his votes. He got beat out by a "rubber stamp" republican in last years election.

      It was really nice being being represented by a democrat for awhile and we need to regain that seat. Not impossible but it can be done. hope this helps you with a brief snapshot of Dupage County.

      It's important to keep moving forward...no matter what.

      by flatford39 on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 05:11:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  this whole (0+ / 0-)

        are has been hit exceptionally hard by the recession.  Unemployment is very grim here and social services are atrocious.  I wrote a diary about trying to get foodstamps for my friend, Will, who was A) disabled and B) had stage IV melanoma.   It was a joke - the process, not, I hope, the diary.  

        There is a large immigrant community.  Polish, Russian, Indian, Pakistani, and Hispanic - and that is also changing the demographics.  Hindu temples and mosques are common in the burbs now and there is some great progressive work being done in the suburban Hispanic community.  

        We can make this place better.

        "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

        by KibbutzAmiad on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 06:38:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  here is (0+ / 0-)

    a diary I wrote about trying to get, and use, foodstamps in the state of Illinois.... social welfare net or kafka

    "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

    by KibbutzAmiad on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 06:41:16 PM PST

  •  the left and right capture different (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KibbutzAmiad

    strains of anger.  Or that's what I think anyways.  Sure our anger might not always be logical and a little vague (damn bankers! etc) but it seems to me their anger is a selfish anger and some people play to that better (i.e. Palin, Hannity, Limbaugh etc.).  We on the left do need to find a better way to tap into that vein of working-class strife.

    •  To use (0+ / 0-)

      biblical language, there is "righteous" anger and that would be, I think, a good route to take.  I agree, theirs is a selfish or uninformed kind of anger.  It scapegoats and blames victims; it is often racist and xenophobic and ahistorical.  

      It makes a virtue of anti-intellectualism and false patriotism.

      "never trust a rich man when he offers you a truce"

      by KibbutzAmiad on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 04:07:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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