[by David Van Thournout]
I want to talk to my democrat friends who are in the fight to help Obama win in 2012. One person, even if he’s the president, can’t really change things in America. But I still believe the work you’re doing is important to do. I also want to talk to my friends in Occupy Wall Street, this involves everyone. We’ve been dealing with a lot of issues lately, particularly the question of whether the 99% spring is a co-opting of the movement, moveon.org, etc. which has pushed people to having that conversation so I think all this is relevant to the movement as well.
Regardless of the fact I no longer consider myself a democrat and that I think it is important to work outside the system, I am still proud of the fact that I was a significant part of Obama’s election in 2008. I was the head organizer of the Indianapolis ACORN office at that time, I found and trained all the initial people and together we built a GOTV operation that in the end employed almost 400 registrars and registered 24,500 new voters in Indianapolis. The last time Indiana went blue was 1967 and it’s only done that three times. So that isn’t something that I’m going to look back on and think; “What a waste of time…” Organizing is what it is and politics is the art of the possible. I do not think it was foolish. I did what I thought was the right thing. I would do it again because at the time, it seemed like the right choice and in fact I still believe it was.
I want you to know, that I hope Barack Obama wins if the alternative is Mitt Romney if for no other reason than the fact that Mitt will appoint terrible supreme court justices. I think I and many other people will prefer Obama’s pick for the highest court in the nation.
I look at the long haul. I’m willing to fight all your fights with you, I always vote for who I think will be best for the country, not just my own personal views.
On the issue of health care, I’m hopeful and grateful for the work that has been done by everyone but I know there is much more to do. I have serious health issues, reforming this system matters to me personally. I’m of the belief that “some disassembly may be required”, but that doesn’t mean I think we can’t save some parts of the world as we know it. We just have to sort through it all together and see what’s important to us.
So please don’t treat me like a dirty hippie pariah for saying that I’m not happy with Obama. I’m not an “herbal tea bagger”, I don’t think he’s evil, I’m just justifiably dismayed and righteously angry at the failure of so many of his campaign promises. The system seems to have absorbed him.
I’m just sick of being marginalized in my own country for having chosen the safer alternative recreational drugs over alcohol .
Obama made a campaign promise he’s not keeping. He promised to leave states alone when it came to medical marijuana . He needs to stop siding with the special interests on the drug war  and start listening to his people . We need to end the racism that the war on drugs has become. It is the modern version of jim crow  as well as a monumental failure of public policy. Not to mention the fact that the last three presidents have all done drugs.
If I could have $10 dollars for every time I lost a job, was driven from an activist group, driven from the leadership council, or denied medical care for my being a “dirty hippie”, I would have enough to take all my close friends out to dinner. I’ve known I lived in a police state since I was 12 years old. I realized then that I would eventually be in prison for my beliefs.
It’s time to stop demonizing weed heads as well as addicts, self medicators and responsible users, and recognize these rights and stop the prohibition and demonization of things that should be regarded as either health care issues or protected rights.
And this isn’t limited to just the democrats, it’s happening within Occupy as well. People are using either our beliefs or politics against us in an effort to “purify” occupy so this isn’t a behavior that is at all uncommon, it is in fact the root of our problem. This bullying behavior and taking advantage of the natural lines of marginalization (society’s scapegoats) almost completely without hesitation instead of democratically reaching an inclusive consensus regarding the issue or issues is just the way we do things in America. We’ve forgotten how to even function as a people within a democratic framework. The same things that happen to any group inevitably happens to occupations. Infighting and factioning over the same old tired lines of societal division. The real argument within Occupy now is reform or revolution. Which naturally, depending upon where you are in the world (economically or geographically), is a very good question. I’ve been saying for some time that the answer is both. We need you inside the system and we need us outside the system. I believe that whatever anyone says about the right / left dichotomy, the truth is that this is a battle between compassion and fear. I’m always going to fall on the side of love and inclusiveness and empowering everyone rather than building an economy based upon hoarding and manufactured scarcity.
Let’s stop pretending that this is all just the silly talk of a burned out, weed head, acid casualty, unless you want to apply that same label to the spate of Latin American and Mexican leaders calling for legalization of drugs. Being thrown under the bus for 35 years, working in social justice for decades, and fighting the real war on poverty all this time, I know the difference between something important, and something we can negotiate away in a compromise. Ending the failed drug war isn’t one of them. Obama’s dismissal of the recent call to begin negotiating the de-escalation of the drug war is a huge failure of statesmanship on his part . Not to mention his refusal to consider pushing to change marijuana from schedule 1 (dangerous drug with no medicinal value) to schedule 2 (having medical uses), a patently false statement. We’ve known for a long time cannabis has many health benefits as well as anti cancer properties. One of the problems politically is that it is inconvenient in that big pharma won’t make much of a profit from legalizing marijuana, farmers will. So they’re against legalization naturally. Obviously the states see it differently, since it is the largest cash crop in California as well as many other states in America.
I’d like to lay to rest the idea that I think the dems and the repubs are the same. They’re not. There is a huge difference between the left / right, brain structures, our ideas, our morality, all of it, very different . But it’s just not enough. So please understand; I’ve just reached the place where I know that voting will never get the job done.
Will I vote for Obama in November? Probably. Because of the SCOTUS thing… we need more than ever to impeach several activist judges and I do believe that Obama will appoint more impartial judges than Mitt would. That’s pretty important. Does this make me not really an occupier? No. I believe that participating only during presidential or state elections is a way to keep things the same. A fine adjustment upon politics, not entirely useless, just not “sweeping” enough. We won’t change the nearly complete capturing of our government and its agencies by corporations by voting. As Emma Goldman said; “If voting changed anything, they’d make that illegal”. Only a real movement can save us now.
Change is the nature of life
Humans have quite simply, sped the world up just a bit. Its rate of change is increasing to the point that our institutions and maybe even our bodies are unable to keep up . Our bureaucracies, suffering from entrenchment and already painfully slow, are now hopelessly mired in obstructionism, greed and corruption. No one single person is to blame and it pretty nearly doesn’t really matter who is president. Our system of government is just not representative enough, responsive enough, distributed enough. We’ve lived mostly authoritarian lives even though we all believe we’ve been free, it really amounts to a facade. We don’t teach democracy in school. And our workplaces do not foster it. Even our college degrees prepare us to work and live in a mostly authoritarian environment. The attempted purification of occupy of it’s radical’s, weedheads, homeless people, etc. was not surprising really, most of us have no actual experience with democracy or decentralization and so the intolerance at the root of American culture naturally dominates us at a level I would call subconscious. The only way to avoid the “purge” as I like to call it is to stay vigilant. We are prone to witch hunts.
The real truth
We’re all to blame for what is happening and no one person can stop and heal the damage to our earth and our communities. In fact, aside from death, stop is about the only thing we seem unable to do. Life goes on as they say.
But we all know the 1% do not want change. You and I and our children need things to change desperately and quickly and we know that voting is not going to save us from this calamity borne ironically of our viral success. The only thing that has a chance to deliver the change we need is a global movement towards democracy that protects the rights of all people everywhere. In the words of the international workers of the world: “An injury to one, is an injury to all”.
In the future, understand that when I criticize Obama for things like his deplorable record on bringing Wall Street to justice for the mortgage fraud and collapse of the world’s economy in 2008, or not closing Guantanamo, or signing the NDAA legislation, I’m not a hater, I love my freedom but no more than anyone elses. I’m just trying to give the president and all our “elected” officials the vocal majority they need to move further towards the center and really change things. Do I think that will be enough? No. Building a movement, Occupy Wall Street, or the American Spring (or whatever we choose to call this movement) is a critical step we need to take in order to move our society back toward our values. Our organizing and protests have already improved the national conversation and turned our country’s political discussion towards what really matters and this has already helped Obama and will likely continue to do so. And while I think good rhetoric is important, our problem is that it seems that Democrats pay the lip service but have no spine and don’t fight for the policies needed to implement our shared values. But most of us think that the system is hopelessly broken and only a structure built outside the system can ever have any hope of influencing it. Can you see how many decentralized groups working for change will only help?
The current system of wealth extraction the 1% like to call capitalism is fatally flawed without the concept of debt forgiveness. We need a modern equivalent of the biblical jubilee which was specifically designed to prevent the concentration of lands and wealth into a few hands. Even slaves were freed after 7 years. Any president that tries to change this will either not succeed, be absorbed, or be killed trying to do the right thing. Thus the need for a leaderless, decentralized movement . Thus the need for all of us to pitch in. No single person has ever made the difference, the system needs to change and I still believe a better world really is possible. To achieve fundamental change it has always taken many of us working together for a long time to move things in the right direction . But there is no doubt in my mind, we can take our lives back from corporate control and guarantee at least the possibility of freedom and prosperity for our children in the future if we work together. It just seems to many of us like there is nothing to do but build alternative ways forward that work. Locally. Outside the “system”. You should help us do that when you’re done working on the election of 2012. It will help all of us recapture the community that we lost quite a while ago.
When November has come and gone and we know who Wall Street voted for and Obama has the bully pulpit for another four years, the work to save our world will remain there for us to do. While you’re doing that, I and many others will be building power at the grassroots in our communities working to take this fight past november. I hope to see you there working with us for the rights that we all know that we have, not by legal decree, but by the fact we are alive. After November the roots of our problem will remain greed, corruption and inequity. No justice? No peace.
Obama can’t do anything without active, vocal, citizens pushing him in the right direction. So let us heal the rift in the left that the war on drugs really is, and join the middle and the moderates on the right in civil debate. Don’t let the vitriol of the far right invade our conversations too. Let’s stop marginalizing people throwing the weed issue and every other important issue under the bus and what ever you do, don’t stop working for a better world in November.
Supporting documents and opinions:
 – Obama’s War on Pot
 – ExileNation.org
 – Jubilee (biblical)