Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Why we fight.

In the wake of what feels like a crushing defeat, I think we need to step away for a moment and look at why we, internet activists, bloggers, or whatever we are to be called, do what we do in the first place.

What is it that drives us to research, write, discuss, organize, or take action? Why do we gather by the thousands in virtual communities daily to hear news and opinion? Why do we spend endless hours discussing issues and strategies? Why do we, in times of defeat and despair find comfort in each others company … and eventually, dust ourselves off and rejoin the battle?

Although each of us could probably list scores of different reasons why we do what we do, in the end of the day it would all come down to one thing; we are all here because in spite of all our cynicism and jaded rhetoric, we really do believe that we have the power to provoke change.

We all know, in some sort of an almost primal, subconscious way, that we are at the epicenter of one of the great seismic shifts in the way our society will be governed.

On one hand, we recognize the enormous potential influence of the internet and internet activism to give voice and power to the American people. We can imagine a not so distant future where average citizens will have their voices heard in the halls of power and their concerns addressed as they have never been addressed before.

On the other, we see our democracy threatened in ways it's never been threatened before. We see those in power disregard many of the tenets on which our nation was founded and hold them in near contempt. We watch as our leaders dismantle our Constitution and Bill of Rights piece by piece in an attempt to maintain power. We see those whom we elect to represent us either taking part in this rape of democracy, or standing by impotently, unable to stop them.

It is this dichotomy that compels us … it is the reason why we fight.

This is why when things like the 2004 election, or the Alito confirmation occur we take our defeats so hard. The stakes are so important, and our potential to effect change so great, we have a hard time reconciling the fact that we do not yet have the power to attain our goals.

But this should be no mystery to us. We learned this lesson in Junior High science. There is a great difference between potential energy and kinetic energy.

We have massive amounts of potential energy … we are yet to figure out a way to harness and release it. In physics, there is often a device or tool that transforms potential energy into kinetic. We are still just starting the process of building those tools. Organizational tools, communication tools, networking tools, strategy tools are all being tested and refined with each grand campaign we engage in.

We have learned many lessons so far … and have many more to learn

But … we should not take the knowledge we have gained thus far and it only on the "grand campaigns," the Gannons, the Downing Street Memos and Alitos. We must take what we learn from each of these battles and transfer that knowledge to the small battles that will eventually help lead us to victory.

When there is no "grand campaign" to fight we need to still remain focused. Congressional races, Senatorial races, Governorships, State Assemblies , City Councils, all the way down to the local schools board, should all be of concern. We should refine the tools we have acquired thus far and work on new ones. Eventually, through trial and error in these "skirmishes" we will figure out new ways to harness the enormous potential we have, and we will turn it into the energy needed to effect change.

We need to focus on helping those who support our beliefs and policies. Conversely, it is even more important to oppose those who don't share our concerns … no matter what their party. Some of our greatest enemies right now are not those who we clearly recognize, but those who claim to be our allies yet fail to stand up and be counted.

Each time we retreat in defeat, lose focus, start to squabble amongst ourselves or play the blame game we're just losing valuable time.

Our opponents do not waver in their quest. Scandals, indictments, falling poll numbers, unfavorable world opinion, a failed foreign policy, losing a war, losing a major city, and losing the lives of thousand of US soldiers, these things do not deter them.

That is why we fight.

cross posted at Booman Tribune
Veiw more from Manning the Barricades


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