Gay Dads for Equality

The fight for marriage equality from the viewpoint of gay parents

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Needed: Community Reorganizer for a still fired-up bunch

How an inspiring leader can use the campaign infrastructure to harness our motivation and solidarity to counteract change-resisting interests; bring about an ongoing process of renewal; and encourage creative counter-recession, pro-community and environmentally healing policies and behaviors.

Only when they called Ohio I finally allowed myself to believe the victory, the feasibility of which I felt so confident about since early in the primary season. Like millions in this movement, this time politics for me was definitely not a spectator’s sport. The candidate and the change that we thought were necessary were only inevitable if we were to act on it. In doing so we rejected not just the policies of the Bush area, but also its underlying ideology and culture. We are not an atomized collection of individuals, hoping that everything will be fine if we each concentrated on maximizing our own economic well being. Obama’s candidacy involved intelligence, oratory talent, character, symbolism, smart use of technology (internet, SMS), and skillfully harnessing people's desire to be part of a community again. The awesome mobilizing organization put in place for the campaign should not be dismantled, but instead continue to inspire and coordinate a bottom-up effort to supplement and reinforce policies from above. As an organized and empowered community we can now watch the president’s back as entrenched powerful interests resist the change he will try to bring about.

For eight years Bush was happy being the sole “decider,” encouraging the rest of us to do little more than shop in the face the 9-11 attacks, and continue driving the large gas guzzlers as part of an inalienable “American way of life” in the face of a global climate catastrophe. In Barack Obama we saw the promise of not just more sensible and responsible decision making, but an invitation to take responsibility and share the burden of bringing about change. It was a sense of duty and solidarity that drove millions to donate money to the campaign and show up for canvassing and voter registration drives. We rejected the free ridership culture, and embraced the leadership of a bottom-up organizer and motivator. Obama embodied our desires for a more just society, and our need for a leader to harness and channel our discontent, to help coordinate our spontaneous enthusiasm and orchestrate a cooperative effort. If short, while I want our next president to be ethical, smart, decisive and knowledgeable, his community organizing background may be the best assurance for an evolving and ongoing process of renewal.

Yes, we know change will not happen overnight, and the economic recession is barely stating. President Obama will make mistakes - but that is not the point. Much will depend on the ability to move beyond the zero-sum choices (e.g. job creation versus environmental responsibility) by changing widespread behaviors. With some guidance and inspiration, we can turn the imminent recession into a much less painful and even somewhat corrective process. For instance, instead of blindly injecting money into the economy to stimulate spending, we need leadership to advocate how this spending should be done to get more stimulation mileage for local economies, and avoid consumption of energy-heavy goods that travel thousands of miles to get here and will soon end up in dumps anyhow. I can envision a 21st century version of FDR’s fireside chats encouraging us to prefer spending on local services, give each other gifts like theater tickets, vouchers for a massage, piano lessons, or even home-repair services. A recession is a tragedy for many families, but can also be a wake-up call about waste, and opportunity to re-examine how we live. Look around your houses - do you really need all this junk? However, money spent on local services is multiplied endlessly in the economy to provide support and jobs to more and more people.

I can even envision finding ways to ease the pain of those who may lose their jobs while increasing leisure time for the overworked. How about using the opportunity to advocate shorter work week, less over-time, longer paid family and paternity / maternity leaves – while avoiding or limiting layoffs? How many of us would be willing to take a 2-5% cut in our pay in return for more leisure time, if we also saw it as a patriotic act to avoid widespread unemployment, deeper recession and growing crime rates? Well balanced, out-of-the box and fair policies, couples with good motivational talks, can changes the rules of the game. How many of us who still have well paid jobs would be willing to hire more help in household chores, home improvement or recreational services, if we felt it was part of a collective effort to help others in our community? We will gain quality time in our lives, by employing people who temporarily have too much free time and are desperate for gainful work.

These are just examples of what we can expect to be called upon to do. So here we are, cleaning up after our well deserved victory parties, waiting for our next marching orders. Because after all both Hillary and Barack were right: it takes an organized village!


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