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Saturday, December 04, 2004

THE LONG JOURNEY 

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES: DISSEMINATE FREELY.


THE LONG JOURNEY
THREE ROADS TO THE WHITE HOUSE
By Jack Random


In the late sixties to mid seventies, a caravan of wisdom seekers set out from the east in VW vans, bound for glory and enlightenment on the golden west coast. Some reached their destiny in a testament to ingenuity, perseverance and will. Countless others stalled, broke down, and either settled in the places where they came to rest, creating islands of resistance to middle American thought and values, or they found their way back home. Some would retool, regenerate, and try again and again, reluctant to accept the cold reality that their vehicles were not designed for the long journey and their destiny was to settle for something less than the land of their dreams.

As a long-standing advocate of independent and third party politics, like the idealistic pilgrims of the late sixties, I have grown weary of the road. I am no longer satisfied with symbolic protest or movements that will never reach their destiny because, in fact, they were never designed to do so. Unlike the many who have walked this path before, I am not ready to settle in an island of resistance. I am not prepared to erect the walls of isolation, if only to shield myself from complicity in the crimes my nation will unleash upon the world.

After the profoundly disturbing experience of the recent election, which I am compelled to write about in the past tense despite the ongoing recount effort in Ohio which has the potential to shock and awe all Americans into recognizing the patent absurdity of our system, I am more convinced than ever that real change can only come when we have broken the monopoly of two parties controlled by the same corporate interests and shattered it into a thousand pieces.

What we desperately need now are leaders that recognize the long-term nature of the political journey. What we need now are movements that do not sleep for three years after a presidential election. What we need now is an acknowledgement that the age of symbolic struggle is over. It has only allowed the power elite to point at us with mocking glee as proof positive that we are a free society, free to speak (though our words will never be heard), free to assemble (in concrete pens surrounded by barbed wire), free to organize and participate as long as we are removed from real influence and remote from exerting our influence on the policies of governance.

At this stage in our history, I am uncertain which is more self-defeating: those who believe we can accomplish our goals by working within the system or those who believe we can exert our influence by staging yet another symbolic campaign.

As Karl Rove can attest, the road to the White House is long and hard. It requires decades of planning and work. By my reckoning, there are only three paths to a viable presidential candidacy. No matter how we might wish it otherwise, a viable candidate must either have won statewide election or risen to the rank of a military commander.

Like it or not, these are the criteria that qualify a candidate for a run at the nation’s highest office. Any candidate that does not fulfill them is a dreamer, an influence broker, or a charlatan. The words may be harsh but the reality is no less severe. If the intention of the last two Nader campaigns was to influence the major parties toward a more progressive or populist stance, all indications are they have failed. Indeed, both parties have moved in the opposite direction and the only discernable change is that both parties have expended time and resources facilitating or obstructing third party efforts for strategic purposes. It is difficult at best to see how these efforts have forwarded the cause of independence; to the contrary, they appear to have done considerable harm.

Given these parameters of legitimacy, there are few viable candidates on the independent horizon for the next presidential campaign. Former Governor Jesse Ventura may have alienated some within and without his own state but he is the only candidate to have demonstrated the methodology of third party success: divide and conquer. Ventura aside, there is no independent or third party governors (former or current) and the only independent senator, Jim Jeffords of Vermont, is seventy years old. Former Senator Bill Bradley has been virtually silent in this time of crisis and former Governor Mario Cuomo, even if he were to awaken from a long slumber, is too entrenched in the Democratic Party.

The most viable candidates for 2008 may come from the military realm: Former Generals Wesley Clarke and Colin Powell. For different reasons, both are distinctly unsatisfactory at present but nothing is broken that could not be mended by breaking free from the yoke of party constraints.

Barring the unforeseen and unlikely, the candidates we should be scouting, encouraging and supporting now are those that are relatively young and dedicated to the long haul. Matt Gonzalez, the Green Party candidate who should have been mayor of San Francisco and would have been if not for the ironic intervention of the Democratic big wigs (ironic because the party’s choice, Gavin Newsom, is now being blamed for tipping the national election to the evangelical right) is a clear and uncompromising choice. Another is Amy Goodman, a well-spoken and passionate voice who has made her mark with Democracy Now! Still another is Winona LaDuke, the Green Party vice-presidential candidate whom we did not hear enough from during the 2000 campaign but when we did, we listened.

The black community must also answer the call. We have heard much of their discontent. They have finally begun to wonder if their allegiance to one party has rendered them powerless. The consideration is valid but the inference that blacks should align themselves with the party that has developed tokenism to an artform and given rebirth to Jim Crow is worse than absurd. All minorities, by color and philosophy, are disenfranchised by the two-party system. When the black community is serious about real change, they will join the Independence Movement and their leaders (Kweisi Mfume, Jesse Jackson, Barbara Lee, Al Sharpton, Carol Mosley-Braun, et al) should begin with a run at statewide office.

While I am not yet aware of any suitable candidates from the Libertarian position, I am open to them and hope they emerge in the days and months ahead. As the outsiders trying to crack the system open, we must be inclusive and able to embrace a variety of philosophical perspectives. It is often observed that the traditional left-right divide no longer applies in American politics. There is nothing conservative about the war in Iraq, the Bush Doctrine or inane economic policies that exponentially multiply the national debt. Legislating morality is antithetical to traditional conservatism. Similarly, there is little liberal left in a Democratic Party built on the Clinton legacy of free trade and welfare reform.

Our arms must be open to the possibilities but they can never again be open so wide as to embrace the great compromise of 2004: A war candidate who forced us all to hold our collective nose as he promised to be tougher, stronger and even more brutal than our obscenely brutal incumbent president.

The most important message we can take to heart now is that we must keep moving. We need candidates at every level of the political spectrum and we must deliver for them as we did for Dean and Kerry in the Anybody but Bush campaign.

As Barrack Obama can attest, success in politics is being prepared for the unexpected. Our nation faces potential catastrophe on all fronts, foreign and domestic. The parties in power have no satisfactory solutions to the systemic failures we must soon confront. They have built their empires by catering to the elite and, therefore, they cannot offer initiatives beyond the limits of their power base.

When disaster strikes, as it must, a window of opportunity will open wide. If we have done our work and properly positioned our candidates, our destiny will beckon and success will be within reach.

The war is not over. Indeed, it has only just begun.

Jazz.

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). HIS COMMENTARIES ARE WIDELY DISSEMINATED. WWW.JACKRANDOM.COM.

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Sunday, November 28, 2004

THE DISSIDENT 

TAPPING THE LOWER DEPTHS
By Jack Random

It was not the rage or the sorrow that ripped his life apart. It was humiliation.

John Christianson had abandoned his cause, the cause of independence, the cause he had worked for tirelessly and selflessly for more than a decade. He had built an organization that operated in twenty seven states. They were a force on the political landscape. His was an important voice, one that demanded to be heard.
It would have been easier if he had been seduced in the traditional manner of political operatives but he was immune to the temptations of influence, power or money. He could not be bought and he could not be corrupted. He was secure in his life. He was committed and responsible. There was nothing outside the cause that he desired or needed. For the first time in his life, he had everything. Most importantly, he was engaged in a relationship of mutual trust, respect and affection. If Maggie was not the center of his life, she was at the center. She centered John, bringing together his diversity of thought, interests and dreams. She balanced his ambitions with a firm grasp of the earth. She satisfied his animal need as he satisfied hers.

Everything changed on the morning the towers fell.

Looking out the high-perched windows over Puget Sound, he imagined the devastation of a war come home. He saw the plumes of magnificent bombs rising from Farmer’s Marker. He saw the Space Needle buckle and collapse. He witnessed the beautiful horror of the Sound on fire. He saw chaos in swarms of unbridled humanity and the birth of anarchy. The orchestra was tuned to cacophony and the smell of degradation was palpable as smoke. He secretly desired to experience it all.

He knew at once his cause was dead. With the swiftness of Louisiana lightning, the answer to every question had become war. The only response that mattered now was No! No! to the end of an age of civil liberties! No! to the blackmail of international communities! No! to the wars and the lies that justified them! No! to lawlessness and the occupation of foreign lands!

He understood at once that a window of opportunity had slammed shut. No one cared about the politics of independence now. It didn’t matter that any cause would eventually come face to face in opposition to the two-party system. Now was not the time. Now there was only the matter of war.

With the blessings of his allies and comrades, he redirected his political campaign to defeat the administration in power, a presidency that promised to conduct forty years of war, an administration infused with the leaders of the oil industry, an administration incapable of responding to any crisis without a jerk of the knee.

Come October it all seemed worthwhile. The president was poised to lose his bid for a second term. Karl Rove and his band of dirty tricksters, however, were not done. They had brought Reagan back from the edge of disgrace in the Iran-Contra affair. They had resurrected Dick Nixon as an elder statesman. They had orchestrated a Supreme Court decision on the presidency of the United States of America. It was a gang that would never give up.

In retrospect, it was hard to tell how long they held their trump cards but they played them brilliantly and in tandem with a double slam to steal a second term. Irrationally, John blamed himself. How could he have been so naïve? He anticipated the last minute capture of Osama bin Laden and was prepared to counter it by going to the source and documenting the truth: that Pervez Musharef of Pakistan had captured Osama long ago and held him until the prescribed time as a favor to the American president. He did not, however, anticipate the profound effect of the evangelical movement. He anticipated the usual disenfranchisement, voter intimidation and selective fraud but he did not anticipate the lengths they would go to exploit electronic voting machines. Literally tens of thousands of votes were created and deleted by machines designed and coded by Republican operatives. Without a paper trail, it would be years before they could expose the fraud and by then a corporate media would have absolutely no interest. It would be recorded under the heading Conspiracy Theories, most of which would be validated half a century hence.

It was particularly disarming because John had at his disposal an army of hackers, the kind politicos can only dream of. It would have been easy to tilt the election the other way had they so chosen but an allegiance to the principles of democracy held them back. Now, in light of what had transpired, he would not have hesitated.

John was unprepared to counter the post 9-11 atmosphere of irrational support. Even if he had been able to prove that those in power had knowingly failed to prevent the attack for political purposes, it was lost on a mob that no longer bothered with fact.

Now, it was only academic. The reality that confronted him now was the undeniable failure of his life. He had squandered his years of labor. He was outplayed when it counted most and the cost of his failure would be measured in blood.

Maggie stood by him. She knew he was a man of many moods and she had guided him through many crises. She understood his struggles with the duality of his father. She was with him through the death of loved ones. She expected flaws, failures and disappointments but she was unprepared for how profoundly this defeated wounded him. She was a member of Congress. She had her own life. She could only spend so much of her time nursing him back to himself before he would turn his darkness against her. Even her understanding, patience and compassion would become daggers to his fragile psyche.

When John made a decision to withdraw from the world, Maggie was relieved. She went back to Washington and hoped that he would find a way to climb out of the hole he was digging for his own burial. She was surprised when he sent her the papers outlining the terms of divorce but she was not devastated. She understood. She would still be there if he returned to the world in one piece.

John went to his cabin on the Olympic Peninsula. It was a secluded location overlooking the ragged cliffs of the northern Pacific. This was where he had always felt alive. This was where he had discovered the spirit of the raven, conversed with ancient voices, and heard his first call to arms. This was the place that fed his soul and healed his wounds. This granite mountain and ocean air would breathe him back to life if there were any more to live.

John knew it would be long, hard road. He would descend ever deeper into the void before he could even begin to see the light. He knew he would come to hate everyone and everything he valued. He would turn that hatred against himself and, if he survived, he would emerge from the hole a man reborn with newly discovered purpose.

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