Just the other night, I was talking to a friend about the Democratic Convention, and I said that I was happy for these kids that they had a movement to be part of, recalling how connected and productive and grown-up I felt as part of the movements of the 60s and 70s. But as I learned when I volunteered for the McCarthy for President campaign, the rules change once you start working the big room, the White House. That’s just how it is. Working within the system means just that.
I sincerely believe three things: (1) Obama is a politician who is also a genuine leader, one of the first we’ve had in a long time; (2) Obama indeed wants to bring a fresh approach to American governance, but he has to get elected first; (3) Obama cannot win without the efforts of his young, brave army for change. He needs his Movement to hang in with him in order to make it. Let me say that again: Obama cannot win without the efforts of his young, brave army for change. He needs his Movement to hang in with him in order to make it.
If you’re serious about wanting to effect meaningful change in this country, you cannot afford to be impatient or over-sensitive or self-involved, let alone petulant. Being truly connected, productive and grown-up requires drawing strength from within yourself and from each other, as well as the object of your adoration. And you have to trust your leader to know what’s necessary as well as what’s good, and stick with him for the entire process.
It’s much easier, much less frustrating, to not care and to not be involved in making change. It’s hard work and the fun part is small – but the larger, ultimate victory can be thrilling. Can you imagine how differently the country might have developed if, in the wake of the King and Kennedy assassinations in 1968, people had engaged in unprecedented mass expressions of non-violence and commitment to peaceful change, instead of rioting or walking away, and letting McGovern lose to Nixon?