Friday, September 5, 2008

So now community organizing = communism??

Red S Tater is shocked...SHOCKED...that the Communist Party has endorsed Barack Obama, and he's absolutely TERRIFIED about this particular tidbit:

The Obama campaign, drawing upon the candidate’s community organizing experience, is also looking toward the grassroots. Unity for Change house parties across the country on June 28 will bring neighbors together for voter registration and getting out the vote.

The emphasis is the original author's.

So, apparently, according to Mr. Stater, now community organizing = communism.

This attack on community organizers is just bizarre and insulting. Thousands of people spend countless hours every week working to bring their neighbors together to improve their communities, reduce crime, and empower citizens to take charge of their neighborhoods. These folks are not well paid, their jobs are difficult, thankless, and sometimes downright dangerous. But they do it because they care about serving their community. I would think that service to one's community would be a good thing.

How do I know this?

I used to be a community organizer.

I worked in run down neighborhoods in Minneapolis, Dallas, and Fort Worth. I knocked on doors, got neighbors together, and got them working to improve their neighborhoods. I helped people realize that together they had a better chance of making a real difference, even if it was something as simple as getting a stop sign installed at a dangerous intersection, or closing down a crack house.

None of us were calling for the overthrow of capitalism. Nobody cared about class struggle. Nobody wanted to establish a proletarian regime. The "c" word was never a part of any of it. Joseph McCarthy himself would have felt perfectly at home in these all-American neighborhoods.

All these folks wanted was to improve their neighborhoods - neighborhoods that had been overlooked and ignored by public officials and indifferent police departments for years. They had tried to raise their voices individually, only to have doors shut in their faces. But together, working as a community, as a neighborhood, they had a shot.

Conservatives seem to have a problem with the very idea that people would work together to do anything. The kind of radical individualism that conservatives favor would lead to a very cold, very harsh, very unpleasant society, made up of walls, guns, and suspicious looks.

Are conservatives now saying that programs like your local Neighborhood Watch are a step towards communism? Is that the level of ridiculousness that we've reached? Should we abolish community pools? Food banks? Church youth groups? Many of these things start out because of grassroots community organizing.

Community organizing also brought us a few other perks: the right of women to vote, the right to fair play in the workplace, the weekend, and civil rights, to name a few. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, and, in many ways, Jesus himself, were all community organizers.

Look, conservatives. I understand that what you'd really like is to live in a gated community, own a gun, drive a Hummer, and never have to interact with any of your neighbors. In my mind, that's a sad, empty, attitude toward life.

We all live in a community. It's called America. And since we all have to live in America together, let's try to get along and treat each other civilly, shall we? Sometimes that means that we have to work together to make our community better. That's community organizing.

Also, to address the issue of the Communist Party endorsing Barack Obama (which is not at all connected to community organizing).

The CPUSA has been endorsing Democrats for quite some time. It hasn't run a Presidential ticket on its own since 1984. In the last 20 years, it has really transformed itself from a party that runs candidates into an activist organization dedicated to improving conditions for American workers. Sure, it's still a Marxist-Leninist political party, and sure, it still calls for overthrowing capitalism. However, of the radical leftist parties, the CPUSA is probably the most reasonable and pragmatic.

Now, I will make a prediction.

Conservatives will take this post, which contains two separate and distinct subjects: community organizing and communism, and conflate them to make me look like a radical communist who hates America.