When I was watching (and recording) Donna DeWitt’s takedown of the Nimrata Pinata at the SC Progressive Network’s picknic on Saturday, which followed a day long workshop and meeting I knew the material could be blown up into a sensation. We knew the right, seeing its own tactics used against it, could be provoked into going nuts. We suspected that the gutless left would repudiate the little, lighthearted stunt as well.
The people under that union hall picnic shelter have been fighting for justice and human dignity for 40 years. We understand the deeply conflicted battleground on which we have been engaged. We’re not the slightest bit surprised that the Democratic and comfortable union establishment leaders are aligned with the right and the Governor in criticizing us. Understanding why that happens will explain why they’re losing and how the contest for the future must be waged.
We are fully capable and regularly engaged in the reasoned and fact based debate of public policy in the Palmetto State. We can and do quote the figures about the impact of its regressive system of taxation and the massive report on tax reform which was ignored. We know Joe sixpack pays a higher percentage of sales tax on his Ford Fiesta than the Governor’s friends do on their Mercedes Convertibles. We know about the alarming cancer clusters found around the state which won’t be discovered any longer thanks to the Governor’s decision to end mercury testing of fish from our rivers. We can provide the figures for the tens of millions of dollars in mortgage foreclosure relief obtained by legal action and offered by the Federal Government which will be diverted to subsidies for business or be allowed to gather dust until it’s sent back to Washington. We can provide the lists of federal grants and programs the Governor has forbidden state agencies to apply for. We can show you, page after page and hour after hour why South Carolina does not learn, earn, heal or prosper.
Read on in the extended post to find out where the razor wire will be going.
Two weeks ago over 180 candidates who agreed this state needed to change, Republican and Democrat, were thrown off the primary ballot due to bungled filing procedures coordinated by the State Election Commission and both establishment political parties. Conveniently all the incumbents for those offices were grandfathered in. The outcry from the Republican and Democratic Parties was muted. Noone was disciplined for failing to properly coordinate getting people on their own Party’s primary ballot. Radical Occupy Activists and Tea Party members both found out just how far the system here will go to avoid the inconveniences of Democracy in a state where the voting machines can’t be verified.
Here's a very different view of Donna Dewitt, doing what she's been doing for 15 years here. Note it has had 158 views in two years. The pinata videos have had 30 thousand views in two days. Proof that first you have to get their attention.
We’ve seen our President depicted with a bone in his nose, as Hitler and as the Joker with a bloody grin. We’ve seen rifle scope cross hairs used to target Democratic candidates for the house and later one of those candidates shot and nearly killed, while several bystanders died. We ourselves have been called un-American, communists and bums. We have no illusions about the viciousness of our opposition. We’re regularly informed that Jesus will be sending us to hell from the pulpit and the sidewalk.
The insults and threats don’t bother us, but they scare less determined people from taking a stand and ensure that the line of progressive resistance here stays short and thin. The culture of deference to the overseer and the lash goes back to the Cotton Field and Plantation in South Carolina where the greatest proof of racial equality is that nearly everyone wants to sit on the porch of their Plantation, nursing a julep until they are slightly drunk while someone else does their work. We should remember that the Plantations were run by white overseers and black slave captains, both of whome controlled the fate of the field hands for the favors distributed by the Master. This is a state where the Unions were broken at Honea Path in 1937 by rifle shots fired into picket lines from textile mill windows by the relatives and co-workers of the Union organizers who died. It is the state where four students were shot to death in Orangeburg for attempting to desegregate a bowling alley and over 30 years elapsed before the officials involved apologized for it.
The SC Progressive Network could hold another meeting and put out another press release and study. We no doubt will. However we cannot expect the exhausted workers of this state and their frightened families to raise their resistance in response to that. They work two jobs, often sixty hours a week for minimum wage and merely hope to spend a few weekend hours with their children. They cannot see a doctor. They cannot join a Union to improve their circumstances. They do not know if the water they use is safe to drink. Their children attend run down, understaffed schools their employers would not be willing to visit. They do not believe the leadership of this state, right of left, cares about them. They don’t bother to vote.
I have seen liberals and progressives go to Town Halls presented by the Governor to politely challenger her about our states problems. I have watched the women over a hundreds of thousands of dollars was spent to program efficiently swat the questions away. It’s always someone else’s job. She needs more power. The information we have is inaccurate. When the inescapable reality of a family with aging parents struggling to care for a severely disabled adult child is pushed in front of her, in a wheel chair and the horror of understanding these frail, graying people can no longer bathe their son because the home health assistance once offered by the state has been ended by the Governor and her Republican friends, she advised them to call her office on Tuesday. Maybe the determined and lucky get help that way. Maybe they just get diverted to some overwhelmed charity’s waiting list. Either way, the hundred who couldn’t get to the meeting because their working or don’t have transportation become “costs which get squeezed out of the system,” the Governor’s strategy for meeting real human needs.
The Nimrata Pinata was just a little joke, but it was also an honest attack on the culture of deference and submission which holds South Carolina’s iron grip of oppression here in place. It’s a system wise enough to provide a few crumbs to liberal leaders who will make a little polite noise but never actually encourage popular resistance on a scale which would challenge the power and send crowds of discouraged people back into the polling places. Holding a few safe seats in the legislature and making easy deals with management provides job security for those clever and lucky enough to be in charge. Those with a treasured "seat at the table here" don't fight for hope and change. It damns ordinary people to a declining quality of life here.
The Governor would do well to listen to those cheers in the background of that video. They are the cries of some of the most decent and compassionate people in this state who simply had to relieve some of the stress of getting the endless, desperate phone calls which come into our offices as the middle class here is gradually eaten alive one family at a time. What are we suppose to tell the single parent who’s working for nine dollars an hour when her bus route in Columbia gets cancelled and her neighbors car won’t start to give her a promised ride to work? We could have them sign another petition, but no one notices that. We could take a t ball bat to a Pinata with the Governor’s face on it. We did because that gets noticed.
If that doesn’t work, and it probably won’t, we’ll do some more studies and write some more reports. We’ll do some marches and demonstrations which the media will mostly ignore. We’ll talk economics, ecology and Jesus to whoever will listen and we’ll politely accept their excuses when they fail. We’ll try to get out the vote next November. We’ll try to squeeze some compassion, decency and love back into a system obsessed with Nikkie Haley’s Vogue photo spread and indifferent to that elderly couple steeling themselves for the next struggle to bathe their humiliated fifty year old son. Once in a while we’ll come up with a gimmick which offends or amuses and count that as a win.
Unrelated demonstration in Charleston, SC last year.
Meanwhile the "Democrats" and soft union leaders criticizing Donna about the Pinata online and in the press will be hoping their statements can be leveraged into a favor or crumb from the diminishing heap the Governor's powerful friends choose to keep on hand. At their next meeting with the right wing power strangling this state, they'll be sure to open with a comment about how terrible the Pinata was and how wrong Donna was, noting what they posted online or said to the media, before trying to pry some tiny, temporary concession from the defund, cut and privatize machine run from out of state that the Governor sits on top of. Then they'll turn to their members and talk about what a great job they're doing gaining concessions which are going to be cut next year.
But some day it won’t be a retiring union leader, gray haired ex hippie and liberal lawyer raising the hell. The Governor of South Carolina will look out from his or her window in the Governor’s Mansion on Arsenal Hill at night over rows of razor wire. They will wonder what the shouting in the dark beyond it means. They will wonder if the part time soldiers for whom the National Guard is a second desperately needed job can be trusted to shoot when they’re supposed to. In that long night moving towards an uncertain dawn, that Governor will wish that this one squeezed more taxes out of the wealthy corporations and less out of that couple with the disabled son, the bankrupted public transit bus system and the local Medicaid clinic. That Governor will wish that those angry people out in the dark where at home, enjoying dinner with their children after a school soccer game paid for by taxes and the proceeds of a job which had paid a living wage.
It will be too late to call us then, much less the useless Democratic leaders who are so useful now and eager to criticize a little Nimrata Pinata bashing. It will then be up to the men with the guns to see who stands on Arsenal Hill at dawn.
If you want to know more about the efforts of the SC Progressive Network, now in operation for over 30 years in various forms see their website at http://www.scpronet.com/ Brett Bursey will be happy to either explain policy with facts and figures or talk about punking the Establishment with Pinatas in hopes that fewer children will go to bed sick and hungry here next year, whichever he thinks will work.
9:47 AM PT: This morning we learn that Gov. Haley will be leaving SC to go to Wisconsin for the Scott Walker Recall Campaign, one of many out of state trips shes taken. http://www.thedailybeast.com/...
12:34 PM PT: Donna Dewitt will be on CNN tonight and Brett Bursey will be on Fox with Neil Caputo at 6:30 to talk about a certain piñata.