Here’s a hypothetical situation.
You work in a town with one factory. You need your job. Moving to another town, starting your own business, or getting some other means of survival is not an option at the moment.
One of your coworkers (let’s call him Bob) is a racist, sexist, homophobic SOB. You are a black lesbian (let’s call you Michelle) who, for obvious reasons, does not get along with Bob.
You and Bob have found yourself in a situation. Your employer (let’s call him Dick) is planning on cutting your salaries in half and doubling your work load. Dick is counting on the animosity between you and Bob preventing any collaboration to thwart his plan. Dick has his eye on a lovely yacht that he will be buying with your recouped wages.
What do you do here? Take the cut in pay? Move into your car? Live on Ramen noodles? Or do you find a way to work with Bob to fight Dick?
I make up this hypothetical situation because I think this is where we are stuck. This is why, even when the majority of Americans want the wars to end or a public option or whatever else, we can never get what we want. Yes, there is a lot of money and power blocking our way. But that money and power would be no match for an organized and united population.
The other day on twitter, one of the people I follow retweeted the following:
Jane Hamsher on MSNBC just endorsed certain aspects of Tea Party. I for one want nothing 2 do w/teabaggers or firebaggers.
So I asked my twitter-friend, “If the libertarian wing of the teabaggers got behind a massive anti-war movement (which they are talking about), you wouldn’t consider working together?”
The rest of the conversation went like this:
Him: No. Just because ppl who want to undermine us support 1 thing I do is no reason to break bread with them
Me: So you would rather have war continue and people die?
Him: No, id rather the war end and not enable ppl who want the countrys destruction
Me: You are stereotyping a whole lot of ppl you don’t know based on impressions from TV. Really think you can trust TV impressions?
Him: Stereotyping, no, just listen to what they say
Me: U mean that you have talked to them 1:1 or you listen to the ppl the tv likes to quote?
He never answered my last question.
I understand where he is coming from. The tea party movement is, at best, blind to the racism underlying their movement. And the movement has undoubtedly attracted many white supremacists and Christian conservatives whose views of the world are everything I would die in opposition to.
I do not believe that every person who is skeptical of government or resentful of government’s power over our lives is a neo-nazi. And I definitely don’t believe that I can trust the media’s portrayals of who is at those gatherings.
I know that when thousands of average-looking people gather for a liberal anti-war demonstration, the media will find the one group of naked hippies with “Fuck the Gap” spray painted on their asses and present them as representative. I know that thousands of preppy families could show up for a gay rights march and the news will find the two guys in bondage gear and present them as representative. And so I must assume that they do that with everyone.
I don’t believe, as a Jew, I could ever work with a neo-nazi. I don’t think, as a woman, I could ever work with a misogynist who believes he should have the right to beat his wife. So I understand that there are some people that a person could not work with because of their extreme views.
However, I believe that people are called “extremists” for a reason. And if we decide that we cannot work with anyone who is ignorant, fearful, distrustful, prejudiced, or angry – who would we work with? Aren’t all of us struggling with those things to some extent? Isn’t that part of being human?
The entirety of U.S. history is the story of elites fueling our prejudices and playing us against one another to their advantage. If we have any hope of making things better, everything needs to be seen through that lens.