Former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers says the experience of being made a political prop during the recently completed American presidential campaign was not unlike a vivid LSD trip. In the current issue of the left-progressive publication In These Times, his suggestions on what those swept up in the current wave of hope following Obama's election might do to harness that excitement. Snip:
In a robust and sophisticated democracy, political leaders–and all of us–ought to seek ways to talk with many people who hold dissenting, or even radical, ideas. Lacking that simple and yet essential capacity to question authority, we might still be burning witches and enslaving our fellow human beings today. Maybe we could welcome our current situation–torn by another illegal war, as it was in the '60s–as an opportunity to search for the new.
Perhaps we might think of ourselves not as passive consumers of politics but as fully mobilized political actors. Perhaps we might think of our various efforts now, as we did then, as more than a single campaign, but rather as our movement-in-the-making.
We might find hope in the growth of opposition to war and occupation worldwide. Or we might be inspired by the growing movements for reparations and prison abolition, or the rising immigrant rights movement and the stirrings of working people everywhere, or by gay and lesbian and transgender people courageously pressing for full recognition.
Yet hope–my hope, our hope–resides in a simple self-evident truth: the future is unknown, and it is also entirely unknowable.
History is always in the making. It's up to us. It is up to me and to you. Nothing is predetermined. That makes our moment on this earth both hopeful and all the more urgent–we must find ways to become real actors, to become authentic subjects in our own history.
We may not be able to will a movement into being, but neither can we sit idly for a movement to spring full-grown, as from the head of Zeus.
We have to agitate for democracy and egalitarianism, press harder for human rights, learn to build a new society through our self-transformations and our limited everyday struggles.
At the turn of the last century, Eugene Debs, the great Socialist Party leader from Terre Haute, Ind., told a group of workers in Chicago, "If I could lead you into the Promised Land, I would not do it, because someone else would come along and lead you out."
In this time of new beginnings and rising expectations, it is even more urgent that we figure out how to become the people we have been waiting to be.
Looking back on a surreal campaign season (In These Times, thanks Ned Sublette)