Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Gap

As I have wandered around the internet, I have seen plenty of post primary pie fights that are not about candidates but about differences in thinking. Some of the most vehement lingering anti-Obama sentiment seems to be expressed in outrage directed at "cultural creatives" or internet activists, or those naïve young people that bought into the Obama campaign.

I have been thinking about this since one particular angry thread in a previous piece here about Ivo Daadler. The thread became something more about a perception (I believe an incorrect one) of anti-intellectualism and at the same time anti-blue collar. These opposing angers came from some of the same commentors—which is what kind of tipped me off to the fact that there might be something else going on.

The anger that was expressed seemed beyond the subject matter being discussed and I have been thinking about it ever since.

I am sure I am not going to be able to get to the heart of this on my first try. But here is some of what I have been thinking.

What people really fear, or hate, or lash out against—is not differences of thinking or ideas, or even core belief disagreements, we seem to be able to have those without resorting to angry name calling (trolls not included) and ranting. But what gets people really going is the idea of being left-out, left behind, disregarded or not taken seriously.

This is important as we go forward. The bitterness-bs, the angry women over 50, the poor in the Appalachia region—the older activists who cut their teeth during the 50's and 60's—what makes them angry and frustrated is the thought that they will be left behind in the new political and economic constructs being discussed and also that they have been left behind for so long already and we need to fix that.

The Netroots needs to take this very seriously. We need to learn to talk about stuff better, include more people, reach out, listen and learn from people that have historical knowledge. We can't go arrogantly forward without doing this or we will certainly pay a price. We need to pay attention to what people are feeling, not just what they are saying. Technology divides, and economic paradigms are going to be the new divide, not unlike what immigrant families in the 20's-50's felt when they came here and their children learned to speak a different language and understand a different reality. That generational divide might be a good model to consider as we face this political divide.

The folks that feel the fear of being left out also need to meet us halfway. Many already are. They are reading and posting and interacting here on the internet. For some that is a big step.

For the 60's activists many are just beginning to come back into politics after being disappointed and disillusioned that their first efforts did not change the world's ills as they had hoped. But we still need to ask them to do more.

Meet in the middle. Look at your own anger and think about what might really be going on. And be patient with newer netroots types. Be understanding that some of what fuels cultural creatives is the same optimism and hope that fueled great change in the 60's and 70's. That hope helped end the Vietnam war, and pass the civil rights legislation.

We need that kind of hope now because the odds are always against positive change and the people on the front lines need to believe it can happen in order to keep their courage. Don't stand behind us and whisper in our ears that we are foolish and it will never work. Give your knowledge and your advice but don't be angry that we willingly believe that maybe this time things can be at least a bit different.

How can we work across these various ideas, histories, and economic realities? I don't know-- but I bet many of you have some strong ideas.