The practice of politics - Page 3

It isn't just about issues and ideology; it's about the way we fight

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Supporters of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi sometimes cross an important line during his Oct. 9 removal proceedings.
PHOTO BY LUKE THOMAS

At first, I supported Davis because I saw in him a progressive warrior. But most progressives know in our hearts that nobody wins wars. We are all diminished just for fighting them, and their fallout can be felt in unexpected ways for years to come. Even though I agreed with the Board of Supervisors decision to reinstate Mirkarimi, I felt sad and sick watching the celebrations that followed, and I understood that winning that battle might do real damage to the progressive movement.

So I'm proposing that we just stop fighting. We need to stop demonizing those we don't agree with. "We are not the enemy," Domestic Violence Consortium head Beverly Upton told supervisors at the Mirkarimi hearing, and she's right. We can still disagree with her position, and we can say so publicly and call for her to talk to Lopez or take other steps, but we shouldn't make her an enemy.

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Having written this essay before the Nov. 6 election, I don't know the outcome, but I do know progressive power is waning just as we need it most. Landlords and Realtors are intent on rolling back renter protections, while technology titans and other corporate leaders will keep pushing the idea that city government must serve their interests, something the mayor and most supervisors already believe. And they're all overtly hostile to progressives and our movement.

Against this onslaught, and with so much at stake, the temptation is to fight back with all our remaining strength and hope that's enough to change the dynamics. But it won't. Now is the time to organize and expand our movement, to reach out to communities of color and the younger generations. We need to grow our ability to counter those who see San Francisco as merely a place to make money, and who are increasingly hostile to those of us standing in their way.

It may sound trite, but we need to meet their hate with our love, we need to counter their greed with our generosity of spirit. In the year 2012, with all the signs we see in the world that the dominant economic and political systems are dying, we need to work on building our capacity to create new systems to replace them. If they want to build a condo for a billionaire, we should find a way to build two apartments for workers. If they want to bend the campaign rules and dump millions of dollars into one of their candidates, we should use free media and bodies on the street to stand up for someone with more integrity.

Our heroes are people like MLK and Gandhi, and — and most recently and perhaps more relevantly, Arundhati Roy, Amy Goodman, and Aung San Suu Kyi — and we should heed their examples now more than ever. I'm not going to presume to lay out a specific agenda or new tactics, leaving that leadership to those who embody the new approaches and visions that I'm willing to learn and lend my energies and experience to supporting.

But the one essential truth that I've come to embrace is that our current struggles and paradigms are as unsustainable as the system that we're critiquing. It's time to embrace a new way of doing things, and to join the vast majority of people around the world in creating a new era.

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