Tuesday, May 20, 2008

the choir

Broadsides hide nothing, as their name implies. Meant to induce action or rekindle loyalty to one specific cause or another, they dispense with subtlety and appeal to the strong emotions people have already developed about the subject. They do not induce analytical thinking. A performance, say, of political speeches and songs curated under the auspices of Howard Zinn in Portland, OR, would be unlikely to change anyone's mind because such a performance, naturally, attracts like-minded thinkers.

Carrie Brownstein writes about this event in her NPR blog, Monitor Mix. She cites "a brief excerpt from Eugene Debs' incredible 1918 court speech" as a highlight. Here is an excerpt of the excerpt:
And here let me emphasize the fact-and it cannot be repeated too often-that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace.

There is nothing wrong Eugene V. Debs or what he has to say here. It just seems so obvious. Later, she says that she was "happy to think that in exchange for a picture with the actor after the show, these fans had to sit through two hours of fiery speeches." Perhaps, she thinks, "this should always be the price we pay for frivolity."

But how would wading through two hours of stuff like this help anyone think for themselves? It wouldn't. They would just become zombies, riding their bikes to rallies.
Lastly, on Sunday, Barack Obama held a rally at Portland's waterfront. Over 70,000 people attended, a record number for his campaign. I rode my bike downtown and merged with a crowd of unfamiliars. My friends were far behind me in the audience or way towards the front and I floated in the middle, feeling perfectly content to experience the event on my own, mostly because I was hardly alone at all. I admit to getting chills when the Obama family took the stage, the crowd surging and cheering and allowing ourselves to imagine a new set of possibilities. Certainly that's been the part of me, of us, that needs rebooting when it comes to politics: optimism, and the will to fight.

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