Monday, March 23, 2009

Same Script, Different Cast?: A New Frontier in Organizing

Some, well, MANY have criticized the Obama campaign as being a commercial production, staring hope, change and your local, average Joe. The people and events were real, but something was so intangible that people were reticent to give it much credit, that is, until we WON AN ELECTION :-) For many of us who were there, it was, as I've explained countless times, so much more. Yet there's still much talk about this thing called a movement and whether the Obama campaign fits the bill. I'd say yes, and here's why. Organizing for America (OFA 2.0)

Not to say that the main characteristic of a movement is a structured vehicle to affect change. It is to say that the desire of people to organize and engage in their communities long after the immediate goal(electing Barack) has been reached is still there. I think that this is the one defining characteristic of the movement.....The civil rights movement, for example, had a huge victory in ending segregation on buses, but the people still wanted more. There was still a righteous indignance (my favorite phrase) stirring in their souls. But just like them, people want to know that there are still others that feel the same way. Such a feeling is why I have taken a great deal of ownership in organizing in my community, Cobb County, Georiga.

So Cobb Co, a county of close to 700,000 is its own beast, a mixture of legitimate, however disturbing Republicanism (conservatism....whatever) and deep racial divides that keep Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western parts of the county on distant ideological hemispheres. I suppose that real work of an organizer in a place like this is to do what organizers do best, build bridges between young and old; poor and rich; grass roots thinkers and high minded politicians. The good news is that I've been in far scarier places politically. Where a friendly face is hard to come by when your talk about being a Democrat.

This weekend's Pledge Project Canvass showed me a lot about my community and the work that we have ahead of us. For starters, there are no leftover campaign organizers from the general election, just one that returned, me. This is not to say, thankfully, that there are no organizers here. There are plenty (well, a handful) of folks who know a turf map like the back or their hand and a few 70 year old canvassers that could walk a whole neighborhood without so much a drink of water. These are the folks that make me believe that what we are now apart of is, in fact, a movement. And for every person that I had the opportunity to talk to this weekend that said " Obama's in, my job is done" I questioned whether folks, even those who,during the general election, canvassed diligently, registered voters and raised money actually understood what a movement was. Because these things are only a part of it. Or had they forgotten? That's what folks who oppose a movement for change want us to do. They want us to roll over like dogs, donkeys even, after a great big meal. They want us to dine at the table of change, digest our food and refuse to take home doggy bags. That's what they are counting on. And another thing, let's stop calling everyone who opposes this idea of community organizing a conservative or a Republican. Please. There are plenty of card carrying Democrats who think the idea of a MOVEMENT is completely unnecessary and outdated. Like we've upgraded to round table discussions or something. Movements, they think, are jugs of spoiled milk, stinking up the refrigerator of democracy.

So, what's this "Same Script, Different Cast" idea all about? The organizing that got Barack elected and the organizing that will sustainably change the world must intermarry, incestuously. in a "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" kind of way. For me, the process is the same, prepping for a canvass and recruiting vols is the same, but the cast is different. The issues are different. The community is different. And I have to pay close attention. In this new frontier of organizing, I can't make any snap judgments. I can't assume that the energy generated by the general election will automatically harness itself. We've work to do, always have. This revelation, I'm sure, is occuring in the mind of anyone who is going through the same thing...especially my organizer friends. So in response to this "new frontier" of organizing idea, I started another, yes another :-) blog. Organized Noise. Keep up. You might find something that propels you to be apart of the Movement.

So I've decided, no snap judgments. Just a careful and dilligent approach to this community, my community. After all, in Southwest Missouri, 8 months ago, I was that brown girl with big hair, an organizer that folks were itching to make snap judments about. In then end, I changed their minds, they changed my life and WE changed the world. :-)

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