Thursday, August 2, 2007

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

It isn't often that one gets to be in the front row of the revolution, but tonight, from my perspective at the far left of the first pew of Trinity United Methodist Church, it felt as though history was in the making. An overflow crowd turned out in Ballard in response to Rev. Rich Lang's call to action against the growing unconstitutionality of our government and the mounting evidence that America is one precipitating event away from martial law and a grave curtailment of political liberties.

The meeting was nicely managed. There was a group sing of Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a warm-up speech from Linda Boyd of Washington for Impeachment who argued that impeachment "is the legal, peaceful way to regain our constitution," and then, Rich Lang delivered what might be the fifteen minute speech of his life (download here).

"The most important thing we have is each other," he began. "Remember that."

After a brief disclaimer "for the benefit of Caeser" that tonight was not a function of the church, but an opening of their space to the community, he began. Here is Seattle, we are in a bubble. We do not appreciate the urgency or the danger of the moment. The nation is possessed by a demon spirit that is doing great harm. We ourselves are in a trance. "We now know the answer to the question, 'How could good citizens allow the Nazis to come to power.'"

"The urgency of multiple crises is upon us," said Lang. "But tonight, the focus is on one crisis: breaking the trance and finding our voice. Not just the voice of Seattle. The voice of a nation."

Then, to the roaring approval of the capacity crowd, Rev. Lang offered his plan. On Tuesday, September 11, 2007, we all call in sick to work to perform nonviolent Acts of Democracy. We make 9/11 a day of the people. And then, we have a party.

"The empire steals and controls our voice, so we will take our voice to them. To the graveyard of our public media. We will hold direct actions at each of the major corporate media locations in our city. In groups of tens, hundreds, and thousands, all without permits of any kind."

"The authorities want to bind us with chains in the graveyards of silence," he said, "but we are a free people in a free land. So act like it!"

As I left to get home to my kids, the crowd of several hundred was breaking up into groups of six to consider creative acts of revolution. And so it begins. There will be a follow-up meeting at TUMC on August 6, at 7 p.m.

1 comment:

Robert Struble said...

Democratic it was – this heady meeting in Ballard Wednesday evening. A gathering of citizens who manifest the democratic spirit is not, however, quite the same as democracy.

Democracy is a way for the people to rule. It includes letting the people be heard, but it is more. Free speech is a requisite to democracy, and so is popular action. But without a popular decision that gets actually enforced, we may have democratic manifestations but we do not enjoy genuine democracy.

It was a heartening experience to hear fine talk yesterday about finding imaginative and courageous ways for “we the people” to express our frustration with the war, with a proto-fascist Administration, with a corrupt Congress, and with a compliant and quiescent mainstream media. But an idea that found its way to the whole group via at least one small group meeting (my own) was as follows:

We need more than protest. We need a course of action that offers real hope of changing things for the better. Our group advocated such a course by way of the people's assembly set forth in the fifth article of the U.S. Constitution, namely the “convention for proposing amendments.” Such an assembly would be elected in the states. The convention be much simpler than the bicameral Congress with its homesteading professional politicians, and its cumbersome, undemocratic rules, like the filibuster or the power of committee chairman to block bills from coming to the floor for debate and decision. Instead the convention would be a temporary assembly of citizens, simple in its unicameral structure, and free of rules accumulated over decades and resulting in intra-House, intra-Senate oligarchies. The first national convention since the 18th century would be, in the words of Thomas Brennan, former chief justice of the Michigan state supreme court, “an awesome and august assemblage.” Here is the extended quote from Brennan:

In an Article V amendatory convention the people of the states are brought together in their most sovereign capacity. Such a convention would be an awesome and august assemblage. It would bring a new, responsible dimension to American politics. [“Return to Philadelphia,” Cooley Law Review, vol. 1 (1982), page 72].
Bob Struble