I opened my ACLUmagazine, recently, to read a young woman’s statement: “I realized that I didn’t want to work within the system anymore. I wanted to help reform it.” (Activists in Conservative Country,” by Tim Murphy, ACLUmagazine, Winter 2019, pg. .) I understood her words but not her message. Was this young African-American advocating violent overthrow of the government? In her picture, she hugged her two children by her side. It made me suppose she wasn’t advocating violence. Probably, she meant activism.
Saul Alinsky is said to be the first American to codify organizing strategies for activism. Over
the years, he’s had many acolytes, Hillary Clinton among them. Radical in his thinking, one of his tenets was to accept a certain degree of hostility as a force for change. In my view, we should examine this male paradigm.
I admit, the course of human events is a chronology of communities being torn down to build others. Want to keep America great? Keep out immigrants. Want to make Germany great? Eradicate the Jews.
For me, this coupling of building a community while defeating another is a curious juxtaposition. Nonetheless, it does explain why people who join a movement often think of themselves as revolutionaries. And while movements may come and go, the strategy remains: point fingers, charge others with being too old, too stupid, too corrupt, or too jaded to understand. How satisfying. It’s like scratching an itch. Unfortunately, I’ve never known bullying to win permanent converts.
The December issue of Bloomberg Businessweek offered a heartening story of women entrepreneurs who have built a community to aid the business ventures of other young women. (The Fellowship of the Wing,” by Riley Griffin, pgs. 68-71) I couldn’t help smiling. Yes. Yes. Inclusion. That’s the way women work. My smile faded, however, when my gaze fell upon the words of one young aspirant. Having tried and failed with previous venture capitalists, she described them as “pale, male and stale.” (Ibid, pg. 69.) I understood her anger, but if we women can’t change the paradigm of division within ourselves, how are we to effect a lasting and positive change?
Strategies that divide the world into “them” and “us” represent an ancient mindset, possibly preceding Hammurabi. I’m not certain. I do know that in the 20th Century, Martin Luther
King promoted a different way. Though he rose to defend the rights of African-Americans, his strategy was inclusive, believing that by peacefully correcting a wrong, he could begin to heal the nation’s wound. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.*
King’s dream is a work in progress. The road is long but the destination is clear. We have his compass. Those of us who honor him strive, first, not to make America great again, but to make it whole.
*I Have A Dream