It may be self-evident, but I'll say it anyway. It's really about my perceptions versus the wider, sometimes more profound nature of reality that I miss. I mean, I either know something about the bigger picture and just look past it or completely don't understand what is or that there is a bigger picture. Is that what coming to greater awareness is about, admitting to the limits of my mental acuity, or even my ability to encapsulate the big, overarching truth in words that will strike the bell? "Ding, ding, ding, ding. You're absolutely right. Johnny, tell our contestant what he's won..." That, of course, just ain't going to happen for real.
Perhaps it's now OK to admit that it was in fact I who peed on the fender of one of several Chicago Police cars parked in front of my high school, during one of several "walk-outs" to protest some "police state" violation of civil rights in the early 1970s. Pretty stupid and juvenile when I look back on that one. In those days, 40+ years ago, we might have walked out (so we thought) to honor the Kent State dead, the ongoing Vietnam War, or the fact that Richard Nixon still occupied the Oval Office. The fact that there was a free concert at the local forest preserve sponsored by Rising Up Angry and that it was an unseasonably warm day in May, and that one of our gang had recently "copped" some reportedly "clean" acid might also have influenced our collective decision to walk out as well. I'm just sayin'. Hard to tell now, but I'm leaning toward the latter motive these days.
We were blue collar kids, hippie wanna-bes, maybe, I don't know, confused kids for sure, but certainly not politically astute. I do remember that. Most of those I hung with were not college-bound, even distrusted formal education. Maybe suspecting we'd never get to college anyway, we'd already given up. Who knows? The point for me was that, with few prospects other than the factory, loading dock, and restaurant jobs I'd already worked as a work-study student through high school, I joined the Army while the Vietnam War was, technically, still going on. For some folks who render opinions here I guess that makes me just another stooge of the police state/proto-facist/MIC. Whatever. Through the whims of circumstance, time's caprice, I did not become a combat veteran either. In April of 1975, the war truly ended and I was still in basic training. I've since been told, sometimes sternly, sometimes gently, but almost always with brotherly love, by war veterans among my family and friends or those with whom and for whom I've worked over the years, that I should not count missing combat as anything but good fortune or a blessing. Those I've spoken to have never put me in "my place" or made me feel "inferior" for not having been in combat (unless we were getting drunk and I tried to inflate my own experiences as a veteran). Had things gone another way and had I been in combat, my life, they've made me realize, were I to have survived, might have become exceedingly more difficult than it became anyway. I tend to believe those wonderful people nowadays.
Whatever I think my experiences have "earned" me, or whatever membership in whatever group I might have hoped those experiences would have gained for me, what I perceive those lessons to be or to have been has changed much over time. I hope I am maturing if nothing else.
I've already said much more than I'd set out to about myself, and apologize for that. I'd like to say something else, that, thanks to that military experience, serving in racially diverse units (in good part because this was the Vietnam era and I was in a combat MOS (military occupational specialty), 11D10 (Cavalry), I built some friendships with Black Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic/Latino Americans. Thanks to that military service, I also came out with the GI Bill, with which I was able to go to college, through which I chose to take courses to learn more about the history and experiences of my fellow Americans with racial/ethnic origins different from my own. I do NOT consider myself some kind of expert in their experiences in this country by any stretch.
I am mentioning this here because in several recent diaries on Daily Kos, I have seen individuals identify current NSA surveillance activities, their actual and potential impact on civil rights, and connect the need to somehow "act" on these civil rights violations by connecting our collective experience with what Black Americans historically experienced in this country under literal slavery and Jim Crow laws. One diary went so far as to offer a lengthy quote from Frederick Douglass, a real former slave and abolitionist who risked life every day by simply being alive, walking along the street, so to speak. Another diary showed a picture of a burning bus during the freedom rides in the early 1960s, suggesting that those informing us about surveillance overreach and calling us to some kind of, as yet, emerging "action" against the police state serve in some capacity similar to those who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives, either by their civil disobedience, or, if they were Black, by simply living and breathing.
The more loudly the abolitionists deplored the interracial relationship, the happier their opponents became. To be sure, since Douglass traveled with both sisters, he could not be accused of sexual impropriety, except by the truly prurient, but simply the sight of a black man escorting white women was enough to raise hackles. Walking along the Battery in New York City after attending the 1850 May meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society, the three were accosted by a gang of white men; shouting obscene epithets, the men dragged Douglass away and beat him, until a policeman, hunted up by the women, drove the attackers off.
The act of walking and talking, for both this man and these women, was inherently a truly "revolutionary" act. One could imagine the impact on the women's reputation, at a time when reputation, within their historical context, was directly related to their social mobility and security. They, too, were in defiance against the status quo simply walking and talking. We can understand the action's revolutionary character by its result, the impact it had, upon them and others around them. I am certain that they were not even acting in a way to intend that this was revolutionary. One might even suggest that they were careless, should have been more careful of the circumstance surrounding their action. Shouldn't they have known that walking and talking in that fashion could have gotten one of them killed? They almost certainly didn't set out to precipitate what occurred. Yet it was revolutionary. By simply being who he was and doing whatever he did, Douglass' life became an ongoing act of rebellion.
So how, I ask you, are my observations here, propounding theories or arguing about perceived actual or potential impacts of electronic surveillance upon civil rights anywhere comparable to what actual fighters for freedom in the eras of slavery or the Civil Rights Movement experienced daily? I just don't see it, I'm sorry. What I see instead is either hyperbole to get attention or naivete among novice (self-appointed?) "activists."
To me, it's something like me posting my "revolutionary" blog entry, grabbing my lap top, putting on my Che Guevarra t-shirt and "skinny jeans" (or hip huggers if you're a geezer like me), heading out to the Starbucks for a double-espresso, no chaser, to share my "radical" thinking, and then calling it rebellion. It seems a tad pretentious to me, like hyping my youthful ways and thinking I was a Yippie or something. In many ways, there's nothing "wrong" with cramming my square, middle-aged white butt into tight pants and a "Che" shirt and thinking I'm voicing solidarity with proletarian revolution, but neither than nor "calling out" the NSA on a blog is in any significant way comparable to a terrified but heroic group of normal individuals marching for freedom against Bull Connor and his fire hose- or baton-wielding thugs.
However, I granted myself the idea that I might have been over-reacting, so I did check myself on this. If there is any consolation to those whose writing I'm going on about here, for the sake of perspective on my emotional response to all of this, I did a very unscientific poll. I asked one person, a dear friend whom I love, who also happens to be a Black American woman who is 60 years old, what she thinks about what I saw as this hyperventilating hijack of true civil rights battles to whip up some kind of faux revolutionary posse against the police state. My friend's name is Rosa Hodge. She's a retired DC Public School science teacher. She's very active in her Southeast, DC, community, and has been politically active for most of her life.
After listening to me rant, she told me to relax ("Breathe," she said). It's just an example of folks "trying to identify" with what others have gone through in the best way they can. Be patient, she said. Go easy on them, she said. Maybe they're just young or maybe they're just trying to make a difference in the best way they know how. Let it go, she said. I will try to follow that advice. Alas, there's a contingent around here who would dismiss Rosa's sage advice out-of-hand since, as a Christian, she represents that superstitious, non-reality-based community I hear folks railing against here on Dkos occasionally. Oh, well.
Still, I can't this conflict totally out of my head. See, thinking about Frederick Douglass got me thinking about Trayvon Martin, someone who, by simply walking out of the house while Black, in some ways just like Frederick Douglass, risked his life. In Trayvon Martin's case, he lost his life by simply living. For some people in our country, simply living still seems to be an act of rebellion at any given time or place. I still think that reality (this young man was truly killed) takes precedence over someone else's notion of emerging NSA-fueled police state. See, I already grew up in a perceived police state, 40+ years ago. I have since come to realize that my limited perceptions often cause me to miss much more than I am able to understand at any given time. Honestly, though, I still wish all of us true peace, real friendship and love along this path. I really do.
3:03 PM PT: Thank you Rescue Rangers. d