When I see some of these debates here - I long to participate but sometimes don't.At times it can be hard to articulate ones ideals, thoughts, beliefs, and identity into an easily digestible phrase when speaking in person, let alone in a forum of rigorous ideas where every name is attached to a pseudo identity crafted online. It takes a great persona to be able to effectively communicate and still not alienate a broad swath of people while making your points effectively. We respect posters who source their material, offer valuable insight, political commentary, pootie & woozles, and our ignite our flame wars. Yes, even our flame wars are a valuable asset to this site. Why? Travel to Redstate (if you dare) and notice the level of discourse or participation in the comments section. We as a community highlight what issues are important to us through our participation, our observation of the news, our local and unique coverage and thus help determine what issue/politician/outrages are going to be debated on any given day. We thrive off debate, controversy, and a desire to see good done in this world.
Because it's like debating Auschwitz.
Please join me below the fold.
I've thought a lot of what it means to participate in this forum recently. One of the diaries that stood out to me, and prompted me to pen this was Weathdudes diary titled Stick to the weather, weatherdude In the diary weatherdude talks about his love for the weather and that he intends to continue to blogging about his topic and participate in other ways in spite of the fact that his opinions are not accepted in some circles of Dailykos. I value his opinions and right to engage but besides the weather we have little in common.
In 1998 I was a sophomore at Benjamin Cardozo Highschool in Queens. I was a poor student and ultimately was discharged on my 18th birthday due to truancy. However there are some experiences that help shape you and form lasting opinions about what is right, fair, and just in a modern society.
The Board of Education has installed a filter on its computer system that blocks students in New York City schools from gaining access to any Web sites that include categories like news and sex education, including those of major news organizations, policy groups and scientific and medical organizations, officials acknowledged yesterday.I was one of the students who discovered the filters.
Students, parents and teachers at Benjamin Cardozo High School in Queens, one of the city's most prestigious and competitive schools, said Tuesday that they had complained to the New York Civil Liberties Union, because the blocking program made it almost impossible for them to conduct sophisticated research projects on the Internet.
Jan Shakofsky, a humanities teacher at Cardozo, said her students discovered the filter when they tried to carry out an assignment on "researching the pros and cons of an issue." When they tried to determine how members of Congress had been rated by the National Rifle Association, they received a message saying, "Access Denied."
They were given the same message when they tried to call up sites about breast cancer, anorexia and bulimia, child labor, AIDS and organizations that support abortion -- but not those that oppose it -- because they contained censored words. Even the last chapter of John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" was forbidden, students said Tuesday, because of a passage in which a woman lets a starving man suckle at her breast.
It made me begin to distrust what the Government would do in our name.
Government was one of the few classes that I devoured and read everything that I could get my hands on. I would go in at O period starting at 6:4O am to make up work in Government as I had spent the first month of the class cutting before realizing what an amazing teacher I had. Jan Shakofsky crystallized my concepts and taught me about 4th amendment rights, our personal privacy and asked us probing questions as if challenging our own held notions or beliefs about what the role the government has in filtering our educational experience. She did not preach, but question and encouraged us to debate one another on facts, not emotions.
I will never forget after the USS Cole was bombed and she asked who in the class believed after this attack that we needed more defense spending. Nearly every student raised their hand.
Then she asked how many are against raising defense spending and I raised my hand. When asked why I thought that I said we already spend far to much of our wealth on defense and no amount of money would ever be able to buy complete protection.
When we had discussed the issue more she did another poll and the class became split. I cherished moments like that in school.
I was interviewed by NPR, 1O1O wins and was on several of the local news shows as a "Student" commenter on the evening news. I did not believe that a software company that was designing the filtering software for North Carolina had any right to interfere with what I was allowed to research in "liberal" NYC. I was under the impression that we had a different culture and what politicians thought was right down there had no place up here.
In the end - the filtering software was still pushed forward, however will caveats and "exceptions" being made that the teachers could fill out a form to unblock censored content. It was a defeat and I thought that we morally held the better argument. How could we lose when we had the constitution on our side? I was naive. I thought at the time if the government could do this, and legally do this, what was going to stop them from further censorship?
That summer I read 1984, A Clockwork Orange, Slaves of the Klau, Brave New World, and several other Dystopian tomes that painted a very frightening picture of the world if the surveillance state was allowed to go forward. I thought that educational internet censorship of academic searches was a very real first step forward in making those books, reality. It was the first time I understood the phrase "Orwellian" and had the personal context in which to frame the experience.
On September 11th 2OO1 I got off a night shift from the local CVS I was working in. I had been discharged from Highschool and was attending GED classes to get my diploma. It was early in the morning after spending a nigh unpacking a truck full of crated supplies I took the Q12 bus to Flushing Main Street. Tired, but awake I paid my fare and boarded the above ground train to head into Manhattan.
If you have ever ridden this train you would know that it outlines a complete view of the Manhattan skyline, including lower Manhattan at some points. It was from that vantage that I saw the two planes strike the Twin Towers. When the first one struck a man pulled the emergency rip cord and brought the train to a screeching halt. I was now a captive audience to the terrorist attack unfolding before me.
You could not look away. People began to cry and crane for a better perspective as the bloom of smoke rose slowly into the air. Everyone's cell phones had stopped working, and people were trying to figure out exactly what happened. The second plane hit and there was chaos in our train. People began crying and frantically trying to dial numbers that did not work. My thoughts went instantly to my mother who worked in lower Manhattan as a secretary in a bank and my Uncle who worked as a messenger for the same bank.
I remember the conductor trying to speak over the loudspeaker but to me it was a garbled mishmash. We were not moving, and and when the towers finally fell in a great rush downward I knew then that my generation, as I had just turned 18 that year was going to war.
The next several years I would see the protests against Iraq and Afghanistan (When I found Dailykos) and participate in a great many actions such as the march on Washington. I was against the war when it was unpopular to be against the war. I was against it on September 12th, 2OO1 and am still against it today. My entire adult life this country has been at war and it has been my generation that has paid a great deal in blood and sacrifice for our wars of choice.
When 2OO4 came around, I was an avid Dean supporter and thought that this website was going to be a fantastic way to change the field of how liberal politics are reported on in the MSM.
The Republicans in their infinite wisdom decided to hold their convention in NYC. I joined over a million people in protesting their convention. I helped organize, made signs, and learned a great deal of what it means to take politics to the street that day when it does not align with the interests of the state.
I had just gotten off the 59th street station in Manhattan and was going to walk further downtown to join the protest march. I had a guitar strapped to my back, Birkenstock sandals, tight pants and a Che shirt on. I was the caricature of what many republicans make fun of as being a tee-shirt revolutionary.
As I was crossing the street a motorcade of police motorcycles pulled up to the crosswalk. I crossed in front, paying them little mind but as I stepped in front of them one of the guys in the front leaped forward with his machine and it nearly hit me. I shot back "Watch where the hell you're going man." With that phrase the officer told me to stop, get down on my knees. I looked at him and said "What?" With that he drew his gun and I got down on my knees instantly. He placed it by my head and said "What do you think you're doing fucktard?" In between blinking and being in a state of shock two other officers had dismounted from their bikes and was asking what the hell was going on. Horns were blaring all around us and I couldn't think, imagining myself getting arrested before even making it to the protest.
After what seemed like an eternity but in reality was only a minute the officer sheathed his gun at the command of someone I presumed to be his commanding officer. I remained kneeling, frozen in place, and awaiting what would come next. Instead another officer pulled me on my feet and told me to "Get the hell outta here".
I moved on and headed downtown to the protest. We all know how that turned out with Bush being elected for the first time.
That was my third such experience with the police in which my appearance dictated a violent response and I learned then that not all police are good or will uphold the law.
Fast forward the next several years of working for NYPIRG campaigns, working with developmentally disabled children, and managing a hectic social life full of divorce & bad relationships and facing an eviction when I met Jesse LaGreca and began the Occupation of lower Manhattan.
We all know what happened during Occupy. I lived it in a real visceral sense of experiencing firsthand how a state could squash a social justice movement. I was pepper sprayed, had my phone hacked, had my emails hacked and now feel guilty about even writing about what Occupy was going to doing here considering how much the NSA was trolling this site. For those who would call me paranoid. On Nov 17th I apparently ordered an online magazine subscription from South Africa to have Forbes, Mens Fitness, and the Economist delivered/two at a time/ to my house for a year. When I finally figured out where these magazines were coming from and after the debt had gone unpaid after I canceled the charge and requested the voice information considering the Debt collectors said I had verbally agreed to the contract. I indeed heard my voice say "Yes" but I have no recollection of ever signing up for anything.
Now for context..On Nov 17th I was busy in a Mass demonstration and was shooting this:
We are the sum of our total experiences. They shape us. We learn from them and hope that our voices will be enough to change things for the better.
It is with that -
I no longer have patience for "two sides of the debate"
I no longer have patience for "false equivalencies"
I no longer have patience for "Anyone but Republicans"
I no longer have patience for "lack of action on climate change"
I no longer have patience for "incremental draw downs"
I no longer have patience for "retroactively making illegal things legal"
I no longer have patience for "two wars my generation can believe in"
I no longer have patience for "warrant-less wireless surveillance of domestic communications"
I no longer have patience for "Anybody but Bush"
I no longer have patience for "lack of prosecution of war criminals"
I no longer have patience for "lack of prosecution of banksters"
I no longer have patience that President Obama will do the right thing for this country or that any politician will act in the interest of the general public and not the 1%.
My experiences have taught me to question, to think critically, and attempt to understand why we could allow all these injustices to continue within our country. For those who would say that all I want is my "pony" and I'm being selfish for not having patience. Consider this - my generation was raised with the expectation that things should be instant. We have instant messaging now, instant video, instant music, instant food, instant love, instant sex, instant polls, instant live feeds, instant coffee, and an expectation that our wants and desires will be addressed immediately.
But instant change?
Instant readdress to our grievances?
Instant justice for social inequality?
Instant action on climate change?
No. We are told that we have to be patient and that incremental third-way pragmatism of moving to the center and hopefully taking back Congress will be our path that we long for.
Can you blame me for being impatient? Can you blame anyone for being impatient really?
To me we have long past debating the merits of Climate change. We have long past debated the merits of if the war on Iraq is just. We have long past debated the merits of if the government has a right to collectively spy on all its citizens. We have long past debated the problems of income inequality. We have long past debated the merits of pro-choice vs anti-choice. We have long past debated if nation building is in our interest, if paying a worker a fair wage is the right thing to do.
There comes a time to draw a line in the sand in what you stand for and what you want to see happen. Even though I don't have much patience anymore I'll work to help better democrats get elected. I'll continue to be an activist and protest in the streets. When I see some of these debates here - I long to participate but sometimes don't.
Because it's like debating Auschwitz.
3:55 PM PT: Rec list? Thank you! I will be around for comments for a bit longer & then I am off to Shakespeare in the Park with my lady. I wrote most of this today when I was waiting in line to get the free tickets.
8:28 PM PT: I'm back from watching "A Comedy of Errors" in Central Park and will now be around to answer comments for a bit before bed. I promise I will read everything in the morning if I don't get to it tonight.