The United States is in the middle of multiple turmoils. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have devastated the South. North Korea is testing nuclear missiles, in an attempt to show the United States that they are willing to launch on us should the need or impulse arise. Nazis are driving their cars through crowds of protesters and our country’s “president” is signaling to hate-groups that he approves of their behavior.
Conversely, Bernie Sanders is fighting for Universal Healthcare with his right arm, while trying to reform the Democratic Party with his left. Bernie could have spent his last year on the talk-show circuit, complaining about how he got shafted in the “Democratic” primary. But instead he is using his newfound notoriety, not to whine, complain or sell books, but rather to attempt to ease the burden of his fellow Americans.
You would think that Hillary Clinton would use this opportunity to stand side by side with Bernie, as sort of a half-apology to the millions of people she shafted by spending the entirety of her campaign in hiding, while working hand in hand with her party to “elevate” Donald Trump, a problem we all have to deal with on a daily basis, thanks to their failed game-plan.
We all know how Hillary loves to come in on the coattails of Progressive ideas, once they become mainstream and attempt to take credit for them. So it seems like this would be a perfect opportunity for typical Hillary grandstanding. The Hillary of old would have stood next to Bernie and continually referred to Bernie’s Medicare for All bill as “her bill.” Bernie would have looked sideways at her, smiled and allowed her to take the spotlight. As long as the bill passed, Sanders would have been content.
But Hillary cannot even be bothered to pretend to represent the best interests of The People any longer. After a year and a half of listless, half-conscious speeches to three-quarters empty high-school gymnasiums, Hillary can not even bother to be bothered to pretend to care about what happens to the poor and disenfranchised Americans who cannot afford to go to the doctor or to buy the medications they need to keep themselves alive. “Oh, stage four cancer and opioid addiction? Let them eat cake.”
Hillary and the Democratic Party are busy pointing their fingers at anyone and everyone, in their never-ending attempts to deflect blame from their catastrophic 2016 campaign, that was so poorly handled, that even with blatant cheating and massive media manipulation, they still found a way to lose to the Pipe-piper candidate that Bill and Hillary cajoled into running.
But of course, logic is not the strong suit of the corporatist Democrats. In their twisted minds, the fact that Orange Julius Caesar now has control of our country’s nukes has nothing to do with their own corrupt methods. According to Hillary’s new book, What Happened was that Bernie Sanders did “lasting damage” to her campaign and that’s why she lost. Hillary’s book release is conspicuously timed to coincide with a barrage of corporate media reports claiming that many Bernie Sanders’ supporters, actually voted for Trump in the general election, thereby costing Hillary her promised coronation.
Spinning information to form mind viruses is still a very effective way to manipulate public sentiment, so of course, the Democrats choose that path instead of actual party reformation. The Democrats have no intention of becoming more Progressive. Their plan is the same failed plan that gave away the White House, Senate, Congress and The Supreme Court in 2016. Their plan is as boring as watching paint dray and as predictable as the fall of the Roman empire. Their plan is triangulation. In other words, to stay just a click to the left of the GOP so they can collect disenfranchised Republicans while simultaneously attempting to guilt progressives into supporting lesser-evilism.
As if 2016 wasn’t enough of example of how disenchanted our country has become with “say anything and change nothing” D.I.N.O.s (Democrat In Name Only). As our country stands on the brink of fascism, with Climate Change threatening to end all life on the planet, instead of heeding the loudest wake-up call in political history, these Democrats, are looking to play the blame-game and the people they are blaming are the very people who are attempting to save their dying party and breathe new life into it.
Instead of blaming Sanders, who went out on the campaign trail to beg his recently cheated voters to swallow their collective pride and vote for Clinton, perhaps Hillary might want to explain why she never campaigned in traditionally blue Wisconsin, a state which she lost to Trump by a single point in 2016. Instead of blaming Sanders’ supporters, many of whom entered the party exclusively to vote for the Vermont Senator, perhaps Hillary might want to explain why her campaign made multiple trips to campaign in Texas, a place where the Democrats had no chance of winning, instead of making extra stops in Florida and Pennsylvania, states where Clinton lost by a combined three points. When Hillary points her finger out at independents and progressives, she is forgetting the three fingers that point back at her, in digits tattooed with her hawkish war record, big donor money and mysterious disappearing Wall Street transcripts. Even in the political afterlife, Hillary Clinton is still her own worst enemy.
It seems that blame is the only thing the Democrats are excelling at these days. Perhaps it would be better for them to answer questions regarding their strict voting laws that discriminate against independent voters in closed primary states such as Florida and Pennsylvania. If all the Democrats needed in the aforementioned states was a few thousands votes to swing the election, it seems abundantly clear that opening up those state primaries to independent voters would have made the difference for Clinton a few months later when a little good will with voters would have went a long way.
Hillary Clinton is a self-proclaimed feminist, but in addition to literally playing her woman card in place of actually policy discussion during her campaign, her incessant whining about how she was cheated by Bernie Sanders, James Comey, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and all the “basement dwelling” Bernie Bros, comes across as sounding a lot more like victim-hood than feminism.
It is no wonder that Hillary Clinton was the undisputed choice of the completely out of touch Democratic Party. They don’t get it. She doesn’t get it.
The People don’t like you Hillary. They didn’t like you in 2008 and they liked you even less in 2016. The only people that voted for you were the leftover remnants of now-defunct Oprah book-clubs and people who were afraid of Donald Trump. It’s 2017 and the rest of us have moved on to fighting this fascist you hoisted upon us.
If you really want to know who cost Hillary Clinton the election, I suggest you find a nice full-length mirror to stare into. When you’re done feeling sorry for yourself, wipe those tears off your pantsuit and start trying to make up for the huge mess you created.
“When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”
-Ancient Kikuyu proverb
Yesterday, I made a post on social media which stated
“The alt-right was born in reaction to hateful, liberal PC police, who degrade anyone who has a belief that does not align with widely accepted cultural norms.”
I did not make this post cavalierly. It was the result of several months of intense study on the alt-right movement, where it stems from and what fuels it. Of course, knee-jerk liberals attacked the post immediately without even attempting to understand its meaning or the irony of their attacks. I had said something different, something nuanced, something that didn’t jibe with their “Donald Trump is the cause of all my problems!!” mantra. So they attacked. That’s what liberals do in 2017. They attack.
I received the typical hate-mail that I usually receive for stepping out of line, along with promises to “block my hateful racist ass.” One man even told me that “racism has always existed.” and that maybe I should go “read a book.” I particularly delighted in the “read a book” insult. Liberals love to find ways to let you know that they are intellectually superior to anyone who doesn’t agree with them. “Do your research.” is another popular liberal taunt. The message is always loud and clear. I’m right. You’re wrong. I’m smarter than you.
While I’d love to believe that these liberals were just being ironic, as they made my point for me, by attacking me and attempting to shame me on a post that was about how liberals attack and shame anyone who challenges them. But subtlety and irony are lost on these types. While missing the irony in their own knee-jerk reactions, the modern liberal is the epitome of irony, using hate and intolerance to silence hate and intolerance.
While it can certainly be said that Conservatives engage in the exact same types of degrading ad-hominem attacks, I’m not sure that liberals can continue to take the moral high-ground if their primary defense is “Hey, Conservatives are just as bad!!” It would be a good start if all people could universally agree that the moment someone uses name-calling or character assassination against someone’s argument, that they have automatically lost said argument. This type of behavior is an indictment on the perpetrator and really has nothing to do with the person on the receiving end.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As the white-hot rage of the left intensifies, the alt-right becomes more polarized. As is often the case, the outermost extremes have more in common than different. Each side empowers the other, while weakening the middle. In the age of social media, nuance and skepticism are replaced with eye-catching extremes. Attention gravitates towards those desperate enough to literally say or do anything to garner the spotlight. In fact, many alt-right groups exist solely as a reaction to what their members see as extremist liberal culture gone mad. It may be important to understand the mindset of those who think differently than you do if you are to have any hope of changing that mindset. It may be important to understand the disease you are attempting to cure, as degrading and shaming it away have lead us to the point where we have a White Supremacist president who is constantly signaling approval to these groups.
Liberals who attack people this way hinder our march towards equality. If your method of dealing with those who have differing viewpoints is to attack them and then block them, then you are nothing more than a tool for all that you claim to be against. These liberal attacks are born out of a desire to gratify one’s ego through downgrading someone else. The liberal knows that they are right and that they will have others who will agree with them, as they have carefully constructed their echo-chamber to eliminate all opposing views. Should someone have a question or viewpoint that is unpopular, this is the liberal’s chance to pounce and denigrate someone for all the anger they have been forced to carry around as a result of the world not conforming to their view. Over time, these constant attacks take someone who was simply racist through easily cured ignorance and hardens them into an alt-right warrior ready to take up arms and die for what they now view as martyrdom against liberals who they perceive to be hostile to their very existence.
Liberals have stopped answering questions. They can no longer be bothered to educate. Their answer to everything is to shout it down and shame it. This is not only born out of a desire to feel superior, but also out of the pathetic laziness that comes from believing wholeheartedly that you are always right. For example, the hypothetical question above regarding “White Lives Matter”, most liberals simply cannot answer it. They know what they believe, but their beliefs are typically fueled by emotion over reason. When someone asks a question that they do not have the answer to, attacking and signaling to their echo-chamber that they are indignant to the idea of racism and thereby less racist than others. Each attack signals to their cohorts that they are actually even less racist than their allies. Liberals, in their constant game of one-upping each other, have created an equal and opposite reaction of white-straight-males who feel so intimidated and marginalized that they actually believe the ridiculous notion that there is a genocide against their people.
I’m not asking you to feel sorry for the poor white man. Nothing is more disgusting and worthy of bile and hatred than the giant toddler engulfed in full white-privilege temper tantrum, while chanting something as seriously out of touch with reality as “The Jews Will Not Replace Us.” Nothing makes me puke a little in my mouth quicker than dudes in camo shorts prancing around with Tiki-torches showing off their weak grasp of monosyllabics by chanting “White Power” ad nauseam.
All I’m saying is that dehumanizing people with language has the effect of making them act inhuman. There has to be a step beyond PC culture where a compassionate dialogue is created, where it is safe to say something that others disagree with, because the intelligent, scientific, logical exchange of ideas is valued above childish name-calling.
Finally, to the white males who ask why it is not okay to say or display White Lives Matter or All Lives Matter, when black people can say Black Lives Matter…
The answer is that it’s totally okay to display something that says that. Because this is America and hundreds of thousands of people have fought and died for your right to say whatever uniformed, insensitive thing that you want to say. Black Lives Matter is not a way of saying that other lives don’t matter. It is a movement to draw attention to the fact that black people are targeted disproportionately by the system. The key word here is “disproportionate.” It means “not in fair measure to.” Yes, the system more than likely discriminates against you as well. But not in the same ways. You enjoy certain privileges that may be invisible to you. It is likely, if you are a poor, white, male who has worked hard to get where he is, that you may have trouble seeing your privilege. Privilege is an odd thing. One can be completely blinded to it, but once one begins to see it, they notice it all the time. We do not say Black Lives Matter to marginalize other races, but to draw attention to the fact that blacks are incarcerated at five times the rate of white Americans. We do not say Black Lives Matter as a way to invalidate anyone else’s struggle, but instead to draw attention to the fact that black people are 2.5 times more likely to be shot by police than white people are. I understand fully that many white people may believe that black people are shot more than white people, because they commit more crimes than white people do and you may be resistant to statistics that I can present that will attempt to show how socioeconomic struggles disproportionately affect black Americans. I understand that to someone, like yourself, who has worked hard their entire life, that these things may come across sounding like excuses. I assure you that they are not, but I am also confident that without a long-term dialogue, where I treat you with respect, than it is unlikely that I will achieve the level of respect from you required to get you to listen to my viewpoints. I can promise you that in the meantime you probably don’t want to display anything that says White Lives Matter or All Lives Matter on it, because once you get the whole purpose behind Black Lives Matter, you will probably be embarrassed that you ever displayed something like that. It’s your prerogative to do as you wish. I’m open to talk about it, but it’s going to take a while.
Wow, this is hard.
I’m starting to think that just insulting everyone’s intelligence and blocking everyone who disagrees with me might be easier.
This is a chapter from my new book My Bernie Journey – An Inside Look at the 2016 “Democratic” Primary Through the Eyes of a Bernie Sanders Volunteer. In the book, we discuss en depth what the Progressive movement is all about and why it is alive and well even in the era of Trump’s alt-right fascism.
The book is deeply personal, but everyone who has read it has stated that it echoes their own experiences and has inspired them to increase their activism while bringing them renewed hope.
Right now we all need to band together to take on the corruption, not only in the GOP, but also in the “Democratic” Party that cheated Bernie Sanders out of the nomination in 2016.
I’m incredibly proud of the book. I worked very hard on it for two years and traveled to more than 50 cities, getting down in the trenches to make it real and authentic. It’s funny. It’s sad. And yes, it will make you angry. But more than anything it will remind you that we are actually winning this fight.
After reading the chapter, scroll down to the bottom of this page and you can order a FREE electronic copy of the book. Or if you prefer a signed copy delivered to your door, with a FREE second book, The Independent Thinker Chronicles, there are links for you to order that and I as long as you order before 12/20 it will be delivered by Christmas.
Happy reading!! 🙂
Chapter 18 – The Vermont Bernie Sanders Write-In
In which the author proves his absolute insanity by trying to hack into an exploit in the United States presidential race at the risk of pissing off the very person he is trying to help
Bernie had been very clear about the plan. We all vote for Hillary and then Bernie would use the leveraging power of millions of die-hard supporters to push Clinton to endorse Progressive policies. The plan was simple enough. The problem was that this plan involved Hillary Clinton becoming president and that just seemed too much to bear for people like myself who had given everything to Sanders’ campaign. There had to be a better way.
Many noted that Hillary seemed ill. “Perhaps she will die.” people would say, but then because they were good liberals they would add “Not that I would ever wish death on anyone.” There was also a looming indictment, but none of us really believed that the courts could touch someone so powerful. But there had to be a way. Looking back now I accept that I was simply in denial. But I kept looking. “There has to be a way.” Carrie would catch me saying aloud while I tore through article after article.
Then one day, while traveling, I pulled over to get coffee. While standing in line, reading The Inquisitr, I stumbled across an article by Dawn Papple called Could Just Thousands In Wyoming or Vermont Hold the Key to a Surprise Bernie Sanders Presidency? The article spoke of a ludicrous idea that people had been discussing on Twitter. In a nutshell, the idea was that we could focus in on seven states that allow write-in voting and canvass those states, Sanders could win those states, depriving Trump and Clinton of the 270 electoral votes needed to attain the presidency. This would force the House of Representatives to choose the President, as is the law. In short, there would be a slim chance of a Sanders presidency.
One who is informed on political matters would quickly note that The House was controlled by Republicans and therefore Trump would be the obvious choice between Sanders, Clinton and Trump. This was more than likely true, but my counterpoint was that establishment Republicans hated Trump and that there was a slim chance that some may step out on both sides of the aisle to support Sanders, especially after the Democrats had blackballed him in the primary. Granted this was a Hail Mary, but when that’s all you got, you throw it deep and hope for a miracle.
To Dawn’s credit, she kept her sanity and journalistic integrity. She wrote the article with a whimsical “wouldn’t it be nice” folly. I, on the other hand, being completely desperate and insane, took the words far too seriously and began to research. I started calling into the seven states asking them about their write-in laws. I began reading obscure passages in each state’s law, getting stuck and making phone calls and asking odd questions that no one knew the answers to. I would get referred to someone who had spent their entire life studying voter law, who probably hadn’t been asked a question in twenty years. These people would be so grateful for my query that they would want to talk forever, discussing the finer points of said law and its origins. I did not have that kind of time. “Thanks!! Gotta go!!” I’d say, hanging up and heading off to the next challenge. My desk was a mess of printouts and sketches. I felt like a mad scientist who had discovered time travel and only needed a single equation to bring the whole thing together. Sleep became a distant memory. I researched and researched and researched until it was all very clear.
OH MY GOD!!! WE CAN DO THIS!!!
I’ve spent my entire life intentionally pursuing delusion. I’m not insane. I get it. I know how things work. I know statistical probabilities. But I also know that all great things are done by people who decide to do something that everyone around them thinks is completely crazy. After all, my hero is a man from Vermont who decided to run against the Clinton empire when it had already been preordained that Hillary Clinton was going to be the candidate. Bernie knew that the deck was stacked against him. He ran anyway. And now I’m sitting here writing this book and your life, just like mine, has been forever changed by him making this completely irrational decision.
When I started the Vermont Bernie Sanders Write-In Campaign someone said “This has a one in a million chance of succeeding.”
I replied “The odds of success are actually much lower, but the chances of Sanders becoming president if we don’t try this is actually zero in a million.”
So I got to work. The first thing I did was to write an article about it. I needed every volunteer I could get so I wrote an article that explained every aspect of how the plan would work. I wrote it in a question and answer style that was fairly easy to understand. Sanders’ supporters are generally pretty intelligent and this was necessary as I was attempting to explain a loophole in our electoral process and most Americans have no idea how that process even works. I didn’t either when I started the movement. People think that I’m some sort of expert on politics. Honestly, I don’t know a damned thing. I just have a burning desire for The Truth, so I read a million articles on every subject I’m passionate about. I don’t seek out articles that reinforce what I believe. I am not lured in by this appeal to my ego, nor am I seduced by extreme opinions on an issue. I seek only the illusive reality that can be found only when one is able to anesthetize their confirmation bias and enjoy the pleasant feeling of accepting that they had been previously wrong. For much of humanity’s time here on Earth, those in power kept the serfs ignorant as a means of control. Now, for this brief time in history, we have access to the entire wealth of human knowledge, yet the serfs keep themselves ignorant by diving into toxic rabbit-holes filled with rhetoric and hyperbole. It’s very sad. I suspect if you are reading this, you are as frustrated with this trend as I am.
The article exploded. Its blatant insanity inspired people to action. My email box was overflowing. I simply could not keep up. I live my life by a saying, “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” The first mighty force that came to my aid was Shannon Blosser-Salisbury. She became my assistant and quickly recruited others to assist her and just like that, before I knew what was happening, the Vermont Bernie Sanders Write-In Campaign was off and running.
I made several attempts to get phone lists for Vermont so that we would be able to phone-bank into the state. Everyone I asked for assistance with this project told me that I was insane, that only legitimate political campaigns had access to this information and that I was wasting my time trying. This information seemed to be accurate. I was making zero headway and time was the one thing we did not have as we had started our desperate campaign just six weeks before the general election. Finally Shannon had the idea that we would simply call through the Vermont phone-book. I wrote out a script and began training phone-bankers and then heroically, Terje Oseberg came in with the actual phone-bank info for every single person in Vermont!! He even used his own money to pay for it!! Mighty forces were coming to my aid so fast that my head was spinning!!
I had done the math and knew that we needed to convert one out of every four voters that we spoke with. Expecting this kind of result in normal phone-banking is just delusional, but we were calling into Bernie’s backyard. The people of Vermont absolutely love Bernie Sanders. The key was having an effective script. Explaining a plan to usurp the United States general election in just a few seconds in a way that sounded fun and was easy to understand was one of my greatest writing challenges to date. I must have nailed it because we were converting 75% of voters!! Even though we were angry revolutionaries who wanted to right a great wrong perpetrated by the Democratic Party, I knew that the people of Vermont would not want to hear anything like that. Instead we framed it as a “celebration of Sanders lifetime of service to the people of Vermont.”
The people of Vermont loved our idea and most everyone hung up the phone saying that they would write in Sanders name on their ballot. The problem we were running into was that we had to call 625,000 people and we only had about 20 people volunteering to phone-bank. This was incredibly frustrating. I knew that I had built a successful model, but as determined as our volunteers were, we just didn’t have the bodies to make this work. It was at this point that I promised myself that I would build a political organization that was able to generate enough funds to support worthwhile projects in the future. Had I been financially prepared for this opportunity, I could have hired a bunch of kids who needed jobs, paid them $15 an hour, rented a call-center and flooded Vermont. I can tell you with extreme certainty that Bernie Sanders would have won Vermont if only I had had the money to pour into this project. Our phone-bankers were amazing, but we just didn’t have enough of them.
I called every major newspaper in Vermont. My goal was to run full page ads alerting the population of Vermont to our plan, but I simply could not afford it. To run these ads for six weeks would have been about $20,000. I was too proud to crowdfund the project. I was used to paying for everything myself. In retrospect I was just being selfish, letting my pride get in the way like that. I should have open the conduit and let others pool their resources. We would have won Vermont if we could have raised $40,000 dollars. Of course, we know now that it wouldn’t have made any difference. In order for our plan to work, Trump and Hillary would have had to be incredibly close in the electoral college. It wasn’t close at all. Trump won the electoral college handily. Still our movement taught me a lot and I realized that in order to get anything done in politics, great ideas and determination were a great starting point, but in reality, money is required.
For such a small group, we made a lot of noise. We even had people travel to Vermont to canvass. One family came all the way across the country from Colorado, with two small children, and were greeted with smiling faces at nearly every door they knocked on. Vermont resident Claudia Pringles did the same in her own backyard. All reports were that the residents of Vermont were incredibly receptive to our initiative. Phish drummer, Jon Fishman, even wrote an open letter to Vermont residents encouraging them to write-in Bernie Sanders. Before we knew it, Vermont news stations were covering our movement and The Washington Post contacted me and asked me to do an interview on what we were doing. A similar movement even popped up in Utah, as upstart Evan McMullin decided to throw his name in the electoral college lottery by trying to win that state. Another movement, OpDeny270, sprung up to focus on the other six write-in states. It was abundantly clear that the people were not happy with the “choice” between Clinton and Trump and would grasp at any and all attempts to be able to vote for an honest candidate who represented The People.
Just when I thought my Bernie Journey was over, I found myself planning a trip to Vermont to canvass, one last time, for this great man. I scraped together a few hundred dollars and told Carrie and the kids that I was headed off to knock on doors. They had dealt with me darting off to different cities so many times at this point that they didn’t even bat an eye.
But I was scared. One thing that I had been incredibly concerned about during the entire process was the fact that I was trying to get Bernie Sanders elected president, even though he had already stated very clearly that he was endorsing Hillary Clinton. I knew that if we contacted him directly about our movement that he would be forced to denounce it, as per his agreement with the Democratic Party, so basically my goal was to keep it hidden from Bernie until we had already canvassed all 600,000 Vermont residents. In the back of my mind this always nagged at me. What if Bernie didn’t want to be the president any longer? What if he was just exhausted and relieved that he didn’t have to take the job? Would Bernie be angry at me when he learned that I was going against what he had asked me to do? Was I deceiving Bernie Sanders with all my hard work?
In addition to keeping our movement a secret from Bernie, we also needed to keep it a secret from the Democratic Party, who had become well-known for using underhanded tactics against anyone who became a threat to their agenda. Vermont was an easy win for Clinton. What would they try to do to us if they found out we were trying to steal electoral votes from her? As it turned out, we did have a political campaign attack and sabotage us, but it wasn’t the Clinton’s.
I had to get a few things lined up on the home-front before I could head out. It would be two weeks before I could touch down in Vermont. I put out an advertisement looking for a canvassing coordinator to train incoming volunteers until I could get there. This is where the wheels came off the entire operation.
The most qualified applicant was a woman named Lisa (changing her name to protect her). Lisa was not only an experienced canvasser for Bernie Sanders, but had even been canvassing for Jill Stein after Bernie was cheated in the primary. Lisa said that she lived close to the Sanders’ residence and that in Vermont, Bernie and Jane were just normal people. She added that she remembered swimming in their pool when she was a little kid. In retrospect, I should have realized that this was too good to be true, but remember, I was desperate for help and as a result I was really susceptible to believing what I wanted to believe. I forgot to anesthetize my confirmation bias and it cost me dearly. Hiring Lisa proved to be a complete fiasco.
Lisa was supposed to go to college campuses to explain our initiative and recruit canvassers, but instead each day she would tell me about how busy she had been dealing with kids, work, etc.. While I certainly understood how life can place incredible demands on us, I still reminded her that we had to get our canvassers on the ground immediately. She agreed each time and then the following day came at me with a variation on the same excuses. When I told her that I would need to hire a different canvassing coordinator, Lisa told me that her busy schedule wasn’t the real reason why she had been dragging her feet. Lisa told me that the real reason was that she felt like she was betraying her lifetime friends, Bernie and Jane Sanders.
I had to do some deep soul-searching. In my desire to see Sanders elected president I had not only started a major movement behind his back, but now I was asking his friends and neighbors to keep a secret from him. I messaged Lisa back and told her that if Bernie knows then he will have to denounce the movement or risk his position with the Democratic Party. I asked her if she would be willing to compromise and ask Jane Sanders. Lisa agreed and I waited on pins and needles for the entire day. The following morning Lisa messaged me and told me that Jane was incredibly moved by what we were trying to do, but that she wanted us to stop it. Jane said that Bernie didn’t want to be president and pleaded with us to stop doing what we were doing and to “vote for someone who is actually on the ballot.”
I was devastated. I went to our volunteers and told them that I was walking away from the movement. To their credit they told me that they were going ahead without me. I loved them for that, but I simply could not bring myself to force something on Bernie that he didn’t even want. I felt so sick and foolish. I contacted The Washington Post and told them that I was canceling my trip to Vermont. That night I wrote an addendum to the article that had started our movement that simply said that Jane Sanders had asked us to stop and that I would no longer support a movement that went against the wishes of the person it was intending to honor.
The following morning I awoke to chaos. Someone had shown my article to Jane Sanders and Jane had tweeted that my article was a lie. Jane said that no such conversation with Lisa had ever taken place and that she would never advise someone to not vote for Bernie. Also someone sent me a video of Bernie Sanders being asked about our movement and Bernie laughed and said something to the effect that it would probably be okay due to the fact that Vermont only had three electoral votes.
This was incredibly scary. Bernie and Jane knew about our movement and had both given it a pseudo-endorsement. On the other hand, I had spread misinformation about the Jane Sanders. I immediately went into damage control mode. I released a statement saying that the write-in initiative was still in effect and apologized for the confusion I had caused, even though I still really had no idea what was going on.
Sifting through thousands of messages I found a series of screen shots from a conversation that Lisa had had with someone who worked very closely with Jill Stein. I’m not going to say this person’s name either, but the gist of the conversation was that Lisa was supposed to infiltrate our group and convince us to stop our initiative. It turns out that Lisa was telling the truth about one thing. She was a huge fan of Jill Stein. Apparently some of Jill’s loyalists had come up with the naive notion that our progress in Vermont was somehow threatening Jill’s chances of attaining 5% of the nationwide vote. At 5% The Green Party would qualify for federal funding in the next presidential election cycle. Some people, close to Jill Stein, had decided that we were a threat to their federal funding and hatched a plan to sabotage our campaign. If this sounds ridiculous it’s because it absolutely is. Jill Stein was not a serious candidate in the state of Vermont or any other state for that matter, so I have no idea why her people would think that 175,000 votes (our target goal) would affect her either way. While I don’t hold Jill personally responsible for the sabotaging efforts against our campaign, it is hard to believe that she didn’t know about what was happening, considering her proximity to the person who initiated the sabotage.
In the end we didn’t win, but I took some personal satisfaction in the fact that we managed to get more people to write-in Bernie Sanders than all those who voted for Jill Stein, Gary Johnson and the other two small-party candidates combined. Our campaign for a man who wasn’t even on the ballot managed to get three and a half times as many votes as the campaign that attempted to sabotage us.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish something. With a little more time and money, we would have accomplished our goal and Bernie Sanders would have been the first write-in candidate in American history to actually win a state. We were a lot closer to achieving this than most people realize.
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Consider it a nice way to give the gift of Political Revolution to a stranger.
Anyway, I hope you love the book regardless of rather you pay for it or get the free copy.
I wanted to let everyone know what’s going on with various projects I’m working on. Honestly, some of this stuff is going to bring a lot of joy to a lot of people and have a pretty major impact on the world.
The book, My Bernie Journey will be out in October. I really wanted to have it out by August 28, but it wouldn’t have been as good as it could be. I’m just adding a couple of chapters and tidying a few things up. Am I allowed to say that I’m incredibly proud of it? Or I am supposed to just spout modest cliches? Either way, I’m damn proud of the book. I really just wrote it for my friends, you guys. But anytime you start doing something for others, it always rewards you a hundred fold. Writing the book put me in touch with some things. It evolved me a bit. I think it will make some people happy. If you donated and thereby got the book to press, thank you so damned much. That’s seriously like the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. I hope when you read the book you feel the love that I have for you.
I started this company, basically from nothingness (isn’t that where everything starts?). I’ve dubbed it Activist Media. There may already be a company out there with that name. So if that’s an issue, I will call it Resist/Revolt Activist Media. We are the tiniest of businesses at this time. Through kind people donating to our mission we were able to purchase a basic mobile film kit and we went on the road recording interviews with activists, basically just trying to listen to people and get a pulse for what our movement is doing.
That was an incredible experience. Carrie and I emptied our meager bank accounts to do it and it was incredibly freeing. Carrie and I have an ongoing conversation regarding manifesting and our relationship has been an exercise in helping each other to remove the obstacles that cloud the path towards that manifestation. And if that sounds like crazy hippie talk to anyone, just let me say that I completely understand how you feel. I used to feel the exact same way. It’s all good.
As to what we are manifesting, well it remains to be seen. I am Steve Jobs tinkering in my garage. All I have is a vision. In time Activist Media will define itself. I just know that there are viewpoints that aren’t being represented on all sides of the political spectrum. I’m going to assist in that process. I’m not going to be competitive or cut-throat with other content creators. I’m going to help them. There is no time for petty squabbles among allies. Fascism is afoot. We must take control of the media.
With that in mind, I have been turning a room of our house into a television studio. It’s our dining room, so it can’t just stay that way all the time. So I’ve been setting up a ten minute room conversion with infinity green screen that I built from materials I got at the Dollar Tree and Ace Hardward that were paid for with Catherine Harris’s donation and then Karin Heinley, Susan Simonsen and Marcia Stewart sent in donations that bought the editing software that we are using with it. Thanks to those incredibly compassionate people Activist Media will be producing a series of shorts, premiering in September that focus on topics ranging from effective political debating to creative activism. We’ve spent a ton of time preparing these projects and shooting them and editing them is laborious, but I know once Activist Media finds it’s stride then we will be able to bring on people who share our vision for a better America. In fact, I’m just declaring right now, that, in a year, I am going to have a personal assistant. I never thought I’d say anything like that, but it’s for the greater good. I’ll create a job. Starting pay $15, which is about $14 more an hour than I am currently making. I am wearing way too many hats to be as effective as I need to be, but it’s important that I learn what each of those hats feels like. That way, later, when I have someone else doing editing or whatever roles I sacrifice, I will be able to have a real dialogue with that person. Right now, it’s pretty exciting and challenging. I’m working twelve hour days and wanting to work longer. I’m inspired.
I’m also enjoying the last time in my life where I don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills. I know this may sound crazy, but I’m trying to cherish that. Once Activist Media gets off the ground, I’ll take some money and hire a lawyer and figure out the smartest way to set it up to be the most effective. Once the company is successful, I probably won’t be below the poverty line for the first time in my life. At that point, I’ll go hardcore into philanthropy. I don’t have anything against money. But my only motivation to have money is to promote positive change. I don’t understand how people can horde money when there are people starving in the world. It will take a couple of years to really get it off the ground, but I’m completely dedicated to it and human beings can mostly accomplish anything they put their minds to. They can do this, because when people are extremely dedicated others come and join to help them.
In closing, I wanted to tell you that in October (that’s Mr Optimist talking…he means NOVEMBER) we have an interactive music video that is actually an open letter to Bernie Sanders encouraging him to run in 2020. This is going to be epic and I’m just putting it out there, right now, that I’m going to ask my kid’s hero, Kimya Dawson, who is a super Sanders supporter, to be part of it. I’m actually working right now to get the demo prepped to send to her. If you’re reading this, you’re going to be part of this epic project. I can’t even go into all the nuances of it now, but for real, the word epic was made for this project.
Anyway, back to work. Thanks for letting me rant. 🙂
This is not an article and will not be edited for punctuation or grammar. It is a stream of consciousness and will not be reviewed or rewritten. I will sometimes use this space to just blog out to my friends, so that we might feel more connected. Things move at a certain pace on social media and people do a lot of talking past one another. I am suspicious of a medium that expects that we consolidate the essence of ourselves and our thoughts into fragments that people can absorb and be moved by, before their finger can flick the screen to the next message. I’m wondering if this method of methadoning for loneliness isn’t somehow detrimental to our wellbeing. I’m wondering if the nuances of what makes us human are getting lost in corporate algorithms that decide that you should see a picture of someone’s cat and then someone else’s food as substitution for actual human contact.
I wonder if Bernie Sanders ever just thinks “Fuck it! Fuck these apathetic people!! Let them have what they fucking deserve!!!”
I don’t think he ever thinks that. I’ve been watching the man very closely for a couple of years now. I was never moved like this before. I usually meet people and think “Man, if it wasn’t for (insert personality disorder here) they’d be really amazing.” But Bernie, he’s a better person than me. I try to be like him and fail, but I get closer with practice. It’s a zen thing. You can’t pretend to be Bernie. You just have to let go of outcomes and march towards what you know is right. You have to forget about ego and accolades and just act out of love. It’s hard sometimes. I’ve been watching him. All I see is strength.
I’m aware that there are those who do not get it and would say that those who do get it are basically cult members. Sure, that’s fair. I like belonging to a cult that’s about love and servitude. I believe we can make a beautiful world that way. When I feel down, I think of Bernie Sanders and how he doesn’t give up and I don’t give up and I don’t feel as down.
My friend texted me after the rally, Monday, and asked how it was. I replied
“I feel renewed. Bernie rallies are like church for us secularists.”
Can I tell you something amazing that happened at rally? First off, I am close friends with the keynote speaker at the thing, as well as having worked with most of the people who were standing behind Bernie on one political action or another, so if I wanted to be standing up there next to him I could be opportunistic and make that happen. But fuck that. That just makes me sick to even think about being that way. Bernie Sanders is a busy motherfucker. I’ve been within a few feet of him on several occasions. I just watch him and observe how kind he is to everyone. It’s incredibly genuine. I try to absorb that attitude and model it in my own life. I’m not even close, but now I know what it looks like.
When I was a little kid, I used to watch Little House on the Prairie. I’d watch Michael Landon’s character. He was such a good man. Not at all like my father or the junkies I had met in our home. Had I never watched that show, I wouldn’t have known what a good father was like. And I wouldn’t have known that the way I was being treated was abnormal. I’ve always modeled strong men since then. Bernie Sanders was the first man I’d seen in a while that really inspired me to try to improve some of my rougher edges. I want to be kind like he is. I’m pretty difficult to get along with sometimes.
Monday I saw Bernie fall backwards over some steps and my heart sank, but some heroic people caught him and stood him upright. I was imagining that the news might have caught that and that it may be used against him, should he announce he is running for president again, some nasty spin on the poor man’s stumble to try to make him look old. I hate that the world has come to that, but if they caught it, you know they put a pin in it to refer back to later.
Anyway, the rally ends and I’m standing next to the barrier with my friend Colt Silvers (badass name, right?), talking to my friend Michael Torres, the final speaker that day, telling him how amazing his speech was. Michael is such a humble man. He is beautiful and kind. He is a labor leader and he works very hard locally to advance the cause of the working man. Michael is a small, Hispanic man and I know that he is afraid to speak in public, especially after Bernie Sanders had just spoke. But he grabbed the microphone and rocked it. I watched him standing next to Bernie on the stage. I watched as everyone came over and took selfies with Bernie. I knew that Michael wanted to do the same, but I know he is not the type to bother someone for such things. He was standing right next to Bernie the entire evening and he never once bothered him. I was blown away by that.
BUT THEN SUDDENLY, as I was talking with Michael and Colt, Bernie Sanders starts walking towards us Colt says “I want you to meet Bernie!” at the same time Michael Torres, from inside the barrier says “I’m going to direct Bernie to you.”
I did not want to meet Bernie Sanders. I do not want to bother the man. I want him to go rest and spend time with his grandchildren. I do not want to exalt myself above others. But still, I was absolutely blown away by the selflessness of these two men. I stood there, accepting their offer of kindness, feeling awkward.
A mob converged on Senator Sanders and I wanted to tell him that we would start a fund to have guards protect him at all times because we just don’t like him walking around like this out in the open. That’s all I wanted to say to him. I always ask people what they said to Bernie when they met him and they always say that they cried and said “Thank you.”, which is probably what I would have actually said, had I met him, but what I wanted to say to him was that we were going to start a fund to protect him and ask him if he would accept the guards if we paid for them. But of course he would have said “No.” That’s just not how Bernie rolls. He isn’t afraid of anything. He knows his ideology is already unstoppable so he doesn’t fear for his mortality.
But I didn’t meet him…
Something better happened..
Michael Torres, who is so meek, bravely stepped right in front of Bernie Sanders and directed him to me. Bernie was overwhelmed, smiling and trying to listen to everyone at once. It looked extremely hard to be Bernie Sanders.
Michael Torres said “This is Michael E Sparks. He is writing a book about you.”
Michael Torres doing that, was about the most beautiful act of kindness I have ever seen. I would have been mortified to do that. I’m sure Michael was too. I had to pay this kindness immediately forward.
Bernie reached his hand through the crowd, right at me. Everything moved in slow motion, I looked at my friend Colt, who is an amazing man, who loves Bernie Sanders every bit as much as I do. I live loudly, so people know how I feel. Colt lives in a quieter way, but he is every bit the man I am. I knew instantly what needed to happen. I’m not sure if I actually grabbed Colt’s arm or if I just Jedi mind controlled his arm with my eyes, but either way, his hand grabbed Bernie’s and I got to watch my friend Colt Silvers shake the hand of his hero, Bernie Sanders. And if there’s one thing better than meeting Bernie, it’s watching that happen.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks, but that happened.
(WRITER’S NOTE: After writing this I thought more about the title and decided that it was important to remind everyone to be careful taking things at face value (face value…masks…get it?) For example, this title, while catchy, is not 100% accurate. Surgeons wear masks. Nurses wear masks. Fire-fighters wear masks. And Batman, the most bad-ass of all superheroes, wears a mask. So be skeptical of everything you read. Now onward.)
“The extreme always seems to make an impression.” – J.D., from the movie Heathers
We live in an extreme world. Even though great leaders have long espoused the power of moderation, over the long term, as a path towards permanent change, Americans often lack patience and prefer extreme measures to rational ones. The word extreme has been reduced to little more than a marketing tool. Your deodorant offers EXTREME protection. Your toothpaste offers EXTREME whitening. Even your snack foods are EXTREME. Why would anyone waste their time on normal when you can have an extreme? Americans love extremes. They want the immediate outcome promised from extreme actions.
It is interesting to note that when we look at things that are at opposite extremes, we often see that they have more in common than they have differences. For example, a devout atheist and a Christian fundamentalist may seem to be at extreme opposites, but often times share much in common. Both sides are often intolerant of differing views to the point of feeling compelled to constantly lecture those naive enough to believe differently than they do. Both sides often believe that the world would be a better place if everyone shared their views. Both sides believe that they know something that is scientifically unknowable. The list of similarities between opposing extremes is usually greater than the differences. Thus is the nature of extremism.
One extremist group that has been working overtime in the United States since the election of Donald Trump, are the White Nationalists/White Supremecists/Nazi fringe hate groups. While these groups may differentiate themselves in degrees and goals, they still represent roughly the same agenda, which is the exaltation of white people and their culture above other races. Some of these groups are particularly problematic, because they are well-armed and believe in using any means necessary to achieve their agenda.
Seemingly, at the opposite extreme is Antifa (ANTI-FAscist). Like the KKK these extremists hide behind masks and believe in using “any means necessary” to further their agenda.
While I am in absolute agreement with Antifa that fascism must be battled wherever it is found, I also believe that there is a blueprint for fighting White Supremacy that has been employed with great success by people such as Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. That path, of course, is not extreme and therefore does not necessarily appeal to people who desire the instant ego-gratification achieved through violence. It is a path that exalts strength of character above physical strength. It is the path chosen by Rosa Parks, Gautama Buddha, Bob Marley and John Lennon. I am speaking, of course, of non-violent resistance.
Using violence against White Nationalists elevates their cause. White Nationalist rallies like the one in Virginia last week occur on a regular basis. You don’t hear about them, because there is nothing newsworthy about morons yelling and holding Tiki-torches. The Nazis show up, hoping to elicit a reaction from counter-protesters. When they fail at their goal, they go home feeling further marginalized. The only reason why you are hearing so much about what happened in Charlottesville is because, in this case, the Nazis were able to achieve their goal of finding a counter-force that was willing to use violence. This offers them free media exposure which helps them to recruit others to their cause. It is for this reason that some have speculated that Antifa is actually an alt-right organization designed to help White Nationalists with recruiting.
Antifa members use their own form of hate-speech against those who do not believe in using violence to elevate the White Nationalist movement. They call those who disagree with their tactics “Nazi sympathizers”, a term designed to put peaceful Progressives in the same group as the fascists Antifa claim to be fighting. These tactics weaken non-violent resistance and allow Antifa members to attack peaceful leftists. Similar tactics have been used throughout history to divide movements.
An extreme type of black and white thinking pervades Antifa. Their very name is set up to divide with black and white thinking. If you are against Antifa’s tactics, then you must be pro-fascist, right? Extremist groups often seek to divide by eliminating the gray area of an issue. Extreme black and white thinking is a cornerstone of nearly every personality disorder in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychologists to evaluate mental disorders). One could make the case that Antifa is a cult that preys on people with violent personality disorders. Like any cult they believe that they are doing righteous work. Attempting to debate someone who suffers from extreme black and white thinking is difficult at best and usually resembles the following conversation.
Progressive: I hate Nazis, but I’m not sure that using violence is the best way to go about it?
Antifa: So you are a Nazi-sympathizer?!
Progressive: No. Like I said I hate Nazis but..
Antifa: Pick a side!! You are either FOR Nazis or you are AGAINST them!! Which is it?!
Progressive: I’m against Nazi-ism, but like I was saying..
Antifa: What?! What are you saying?! You’re going to make excuses for Nazis?! Then YOU’RE a Nazi!!
Now you find yourself one step away from being attacked by a violent extremist who believes that they are righteous in attacking you, because they have now labeled you as a fascist. In the Antifa extremist worldview, a fascist is anyone who does not agree 100% with their violent ideology. In their extreme black and white thinking you are either part of their myopic solution or you are part of the problem and Antifa believes fully in solving any and all problems with violence and destruction.
It is easy enough to pick an unpopular stance and name your group after the opposite of that stance. For example we could start a group against hate and call it Antiha (ANTI-HAte). This catchy name would allow us to use “any and all means necessary” to counteract hate. We could even use hate to counteract hate. If anyone opposed our hateful measures we could accuse them of being pro-hate and marginalize their voice. If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it absolutely is.
Life is not black and white. There’s more than one way to fight Nazi-ism. Breaking windows of local businesses like Antifa did in Seattle or destroying University property as they did at Berkeley does nothing to stop White Nationalism and unfortunately moves us closer to the right-wing police state that the elites have been trying to thrust on us since the Orwellian days of Richard Nixon. Simply put, Antifa’s tactics are counterproductive to our movement. If you are a Republican governor trying to get anti-protest laws passed in your state, having Antifa smashing in the windows of local businesses and starting fires in the streets is a quick and dirty way to scare the locals into agreeing with your Draconian law.
I certainly identify with the anger felt by Antifa and even admit to feeling schadenfreude at the sight of seeing Richard Spencer getting punched in his stupid, racist face. But this punch did nothing to change Spencer’s ideology. In fact, getting punched while expressing his views, however unpopular, made him into a sympathetic character in the eyes of those not particularly schooled on the finer details of Spencer’s creed. Most people had never heard of Spencer before the infamous sucker-punch. Antifa’s attack expanded Spencer’s base greatly and as Spencer is a deceptive and articulate speaker, this new broader base has allowed him to recruit new members to his disgusting cause.
White Nationalists are always seeking to recruit from the millions of white Americans who use the phrase “I’m not racist, but…” Many white Americans do not call themselves racist and would be appalled to be part of a group that openly and blatantly hated any minority group. White Nationalists like Richard Spencer and David Duke know this, so instead they seek to paint themselves as patriotic Americans who are simply trying to preserve American heritage. When a group that is dressed like Isis shows up and engages in violence against these “patriotic” Americans, it allows them to use their sympathetic position to recruit the “I’m not racist, but…” white Americans, who now begin to see themselves as fellow patriots who are simply trying to defend white heritage against an extremist group. In this way, “Antifa is a major gift to the right.” as Noam Chomsky has been pointing out recently.
I cannot stress enough that Antifa is the absolute best recruiting tool that alt-right White Nationalists have at their disposal. Without Antifa, these clowns are exposed for exactly what they are, or they are ignored, which is the very thing they fear the most. The Nazi movement in America is small and fringe. You can equate it roughly to a toddler who has been put in timeout. It will kick and scream and throw anything it can get its hands on in order to try to gain your attention. Antifa is the equivalent of smacking the toddler in the face. Their extreme actions give these Nazis EXACTLY what they are seeking. Listen to the disgraceful words of their White Supremacist President, Donald Trump. Over and over again he says “What about the actions of the alt-left?!” in his attempts to normalize the behavior of these Nazis while simultaneously marginalizing our powerful leftist voice. Antifa pushes us closer to the second civil war the White Nationalists has been courting for decades. Antifa makes the White Nationalist movement sympathetic to those who otherwise would not have aligned themselves with it.
Antifa says that they believe in the use of physical violence as to “make racism so unpalatable as to discourage anyone from practicing it.” If only humans were actually wired this way, then I would fully support this use of force. But we know intuitively that violence only causes those on the receiving end to double-down on their belief, while simultaneously recruiting others to feel sympathy for the victim and their cause.
Imagine that you were exercising your First Amendment Right to free speech on the subject of pro-choice, for example. You believe very strongly in a woman’s right to choose and you are peacefully demonstrating, using your voice, when suddenly someone in a black mask comes up and punches you in the face. How hard would the person have to punch you to turn you pro-life? Of course the question is ludicrous. Violence will never change your mind on that subject or any other. All it will do is to cause you to be more locked into your belief than ever. Now you have been assaulted for your belief. Before you were simply a single voice. Now you are a martyr. It will be much easier to recruit people to your side for future rallies. People who normally could not care less about your politics will suddenly want to be by your side. Violence against you has made you more effective at spreading your ideology. It has had the opposite effect of its intention. Enduring a punch is a small price to pay for the ability to effectively spread one’s philosophy. If I were Richard Spencer, I would pay someone to dress up in all black and punch me. My jaw would feel better with a few aspirin, but my message would be heard by millions of people I couldn’t have reached previously.
Let us not dismiss violent resistance entirely. For example, during World War II violence against Nazis was absolutely necessary. But let’s not make ourselves look foolish by comparing hate-mongering idiot, Milo Yiannopoulos, to Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich. To do so would be to give him entirely too much credit. Milo Yiannopoulos was a virtual unknown before Antifa burned the Berkeley campus. Overnight he became a household name. Once again Antifa had the effect of elevating the alt-right cause. Their antics canceled one speech that would have only been heard by a handful of people. But as a result of their violence, millions who had never heard of Milo Yiannopoulos before, became interested in what he had to say and as Milo is a deceptive and persuasive speaker, surely he was able to sway some of this newfound audience over to his garbage ideology. If I were Milo Yiannopoulos, I might even consider hiring people to dress up like Isis and burn down the place where I was suppose to be speaking as a publicity stunt.
As much as I would like personally to slap Milo Yiannopoulos in his little bitch mouth, I simply cannot reward him by turning him into a martyr. Nor can I make the claim that his rhetoric is somehow violent, simply because it leads others to inaccurate viewpoints that can lead to violence. The most proactive thing I could do to counteract hate-speech is to educate others as to their methods, so they will not fall victim to them. If I really want to silence Nazis I can use The First Amendment and apply a variety of different political pressures to the venues that allow them a place to speak, reminding venue operators of the peril they are putting themselves in as hate-speech is not protected under The First Amendment. I can threaten to publicize their position and this will undoubtedly cost them future revenue. This is the strength that the left has long been known for, the strength of creativity and relentless political pressure.
We have these Nazis outnumbered 10,000 to 1. Let’s not help them grow their numbers. If a Nazi puts his hands on you, then knock his stupid-ass back into the dark ages he crawled out of. But don’t allow yourself to be provoked to violence with words.
Because that is EXACTLY the reaction they are looking for.
Just some rambling thoughts to whomever might follow my exploits. We are currently in the middle of dealing with a family tragedy. I am not going to get deep into my personal life in this forum, but I wanted to tell anyone worried about us that no one is dead. I am pretty much in a state of shock right now, so do not expect good grammar, punctuation or stellar prose. I do however consider my extended family, you, the ones who are reading this, to be of the utmost importance, so I wanted to keep you abreast of what’s been going on.
The last few weeks have been pretty insane. As some of you may know, out of complete frustration with the corporate media, I decided to start my own media company, Activist Media. I did this by, well, I’m not sure. We didn’t have any money except the money we had for bills. We spent that money on film equipment, borrowed a car (both ours broke down in July) and hit the road, recording interviews with Progressive activists in 24 cities. It was magical and it turns out I have a knack for it. And when I say “I”, I am completely discounting Carrie, my partner, and now First-Assistant Director of our rag-tag film team. I literally could not do anything without her. But with her, we turned out to be okay as a film team, learning a lot as we went, with a better idea of what we need to learn before we go back on the road again in December. We’d love to have just staid on the road doing interviews, but we ran out of money and also we had to get home to our parental duties as a new school year was starting.
Why did we go out on the road like that, two non-filmmakers suddenly dubbing themselves as filmmakers and then just going out and interviewing people?
Mental illness is the obvious answer. I say that only half-joking. Someone could make the claim that I often choose passionate choices over logical ones, but what are you going to do? Work in a fucking cubicle until you die? I’d rather do my best to make the world a better place and be broke, than to be rich and unfulfilled. Thankfully these are not the only two choices we have and I imagine that at some point, money will not be as big of an issue as it currently is, once I get Activist Media off the ground. I have big plans for it and I am highly motivated to have it become an important part of the Progressive movement. I’m sure if I create enough value in enough people’s lives then I will not have to worry about where my next meal is coming from. I’ve been well below the poverty line my entire life and I’ve been just fine. I’m done judging myself for not working some empty corporate job. My kids work hard and understand the value of money, yet aren’t greedy and love to help others. Perhaps if they had been raised with lots of money they would have turned out differently. I can’t really know how things would have been, but I’m incredibly proud of my children, so I can’t feel too bad about raising them poor. We never acted poor and we never thought or felt poor. When an added expense came up, we’d always find a way. That’s what people do. I know you can relate.
One thing that I am really proud of in my life is that for 12 years I was a single dad. I never received any child support from the mother. I have no anger towards her for that. She had her own challenges. I was always just super-happy that she left me with these two incredible people. They made me who I am today. I go to play both roles, which was kind of perfect for me, because I’m nurturing in ways that might surprise some people who look at me and see some big crazy looking guy. I liked being both Mom and Dad. It was challenging, but a lot of fun. I didn’t really have any extended family so I asked my friends if they would help. We made them honorary Aunts and Uncles and we built a tiny little family. It’s been pretty great. I’d love to do it all again.
The Virginia Nazi rally has been kind of rough on everyone. Carrie and I were actually fairly close geographically when it happened and I kept the news from her until we got home, because I knew it would scare her. When we arrived home I sat down and wrote out a transcript of a conversation I had with one of my teenagers. Basically it was just a conversation where I talked to him about passive resistance and how the majority of the time it is the best path to long-term change. I didn’t really think it was that important of an article and it certainly didn’t think it was hard-hitting or controversial. But I guess I was wrong, because I got a ton of hate-mail from people identifying themselves as Alt-Left Nazi Hunters, Marxist and Antifa members. I find it odd that people on the political left hate me, because most of the time when people hate me they are centrist who think I am too far to the left. Oh well, a bunch of angry violent people hate me. That’s nothing new. I try not to let shit like that bother me. I figure doing what I do, that if I do it long enough and well enough, then one of these crazy people will shoot me dead in the street some day. My last words will be “Which of my pieces inspired you to kill me?” and then “Oh yeah. I really enjoyed making that.”
I say these things only joking a little bit, because the political landscape has become extremely toxic. The constant knee-jerk reactions of people are embarrassing. I think about the billions of years of evolution that got us to this point where we have highly-advanced monkeys with handheld devices that have access to the entire history of human knowledge and all these monkeys want to do is jerk-off and insult people’s character pseudo-anonymously. It makes me pretty sad if I let it.
Oh so, anyway, Virginia really shook me up. Coming off such an inspirational road-trip to return home to the anger and sadness surrounding that event, where everyone has a strongly-held opinion, but none of us really know the facts or nuances of the event. It has been incredibly polarizing. Militant members of The Left have began using the term “Nazi-sympathizer” to degrade anyone who believes that meeting violence with violence is not the answer. That makes me incredibly sad. By this definition Martin Luther King, Buddha, Gandhi and pretty much every great person who ever believed in peace would be a Nazi-sympathizer. For every thing there is a season and yes there absolutely is a time when war is the answer, but I am not so cavalier with human life to declare war without exhausting all potentially peaceful options.
I asked myself if it were possible to take a compassionate act that was directly related to what had happened in Virginia. I didn’t have to look too far. There is a man in my city who displays Nazi flags and Confederate flags side-by-side on his property. It has caused quite a stir in our community. Corporate media outlets have come out to interview him and photograph his property, but I notice that none of the outlets ever really posted anything that he said or when they did, it looked like maybe they had twisted it to fit their narrative. As a Progressive who always seems to have a microphone in my face, I know how frustrating it is talking to corporate media outlets. So I approached him for an interview. He accepted. And the hate from The Left intensified. I really don’t know what people are so afraid of. I’m just going to listen to the dude and record it. Do people think that he is going to be so radically convincing that soon Nazi flags will be popping up even more frequently than they currently are? It just doesn’t make any sense to me that people who are supposed to stand for love and peace hide behind the same tactics as those whom they oppose. Human being’s capacity for self-deception never ceases to amaze me.
So anyway, Virginia + Hate From the Left + Personal Tragedy = Challenging Week.
But I won’t stop working.
This book is almost finished and I’m editing footage and recording new interviews.
Soon we will have a documentary and a new Progressive YouTube Show and Podcast.
This morning my teenage son came into the kitchen fuming. As I was pouring my first cup of coffee he was talking about throwing Molotov cocktails at White Supremacists.
Me: That doesn’t work.
My Son: They are running our people down!! It’s time to fight back!!
Me: It’s natural to feel that way. I think we all feel that way, right now. But it doesn’t work. That’s all I’m saying.
For a while he played with his phone and looked annoyed. I sipped my coffee. Then suddenly my son looked up, righteous anger in his eyes.
My Son: So what works?
Me: The same thing that always works, compassion.
My Son: So just love hatemongers?!! So just hug away the problems?!! Are you serious?!! I thought you loved Bernie Sanders!! Now’s the time for revolution!!
Me: This, as painful as it is, is part of our Revolution. There are very real battles happening in America. People died in this one. We can’t disgrace what they stood for by murdering people, as much as we may want to.
My Son: How does love beat hate? I mean how, actually, using this situation, can you imagine that happening. They will just kill us. They have no souls.
Me: They think the same about us. And if you go throwing Molotov cocktails into their “pride” celebration then they will return home to their communities and some will see them as martyrs. Some as patriots and heroes. And this will make them sympathetic to some. And they will meet in the shadows and whisper to each other about how “it’s illegal to be white in this country.” And they will feel empowered to attack innocent people, because they will be doing exactly what you’re doing. Through your desire to protect the innocent, you are allowing your anger to distort your viewpoint. You keep saying us and them. I used to think this was all just hippie bullshit, but the truth of the matter is that those men are not as different from us as you might think. They are just misguided. They are the victims of Fox News and Breitbart. They believe a lie and that lie makes them afraid. It’s like Yoda in Star Wars, when he says that “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And hate leads to suffering.” That’s what you’re feeling now. It’s the same thing those guys in Virginia feel, because they believe a lie. That’s not fun to hear, because you are hurting and your ego wants gratification, but if someone uses violence against these people, it will embolden their cause. If you don’t react, it exposes them for exactly what they are. And people who normally don’t even care about politics will wake up and be angry. And we can invite them in and they will become brothers and sisters in our cause.
My Son: Our cause? Back to Bernie Sanders? What does Bernie Sanders have to do with White Supremacists murdering innocent people?
Me: Not Bernie Sanders, but his message. We could just as soon say Martin Luther King or John Lennon or Siddhartha Gautama. But yeah, Bernie has a message and it’s to love one another. And it’s a message of Revolution through peaceful means. And I know that seems weak when all you want to do is load up your gun and go exact revenge, but history has shown us that we win through love and peace. These guys, these dudes holding their stupid Tiki-torches, looking like they just walked off the sex-offender registry website already make themselves look bad to almost everyone who observes them. Many of these guys have little kids and they try to train them to be hateful just like they are. If Daddy comes home with third degree burns because “some libtard threw a Molotov cocktail” at him then those children will be indoctrinated into that thinking. Their Daddy will be a victim, a hero, a patriot. Not reacting is the hardest thing to do in times like these. It is literally the one thing that has furthered our cause throughout history. When you are being attacked you have the right to defend yourself. But long-term change has always come from peaceful protest. It’s Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus. It’s Gandhi refusing to eat. And sometimes it’s dying. It takes a type of courage that these wannabe patriots cannot even comprehend. They act out of fear. We act out of love. That’s how we win.
My Son: Okay, well I’m going over to that Nazi’s house on the next block and I’m going to steal his fucking Nazi flags right off his front porch.
Me: And what will that solve?
My Son: I don’t know.
Me: It will make you feel better for a minute, right? Let’s not talk about all the shit that can go wrong, like you getting shot or arrested or both. Let’s assume you get away with it. What does it accomplish?
My Son: So you think it’s okay that that dude just sits out there with his symbols of hatred?! You think it’s okay that people have to walk by and see that shit?!
Me: I think it’s more than okay. I think it’s necessary and helpful.
My Son: Helpful HOW!!??
Me: Does he look like he’s happy sitting out there? Does he look powerful? Do you think little kids walking down the street see him sitting there with that Nazi flag and want to grow up to be like him?
My Son: No.
Me: He’s a fucking monument dude. He’s a warning to everyone of what will happen to them if they don’t open up their hearts. They will end up old and alone and bitter and watching their world slip away. And the sad thing is that the world isn’t slipping by. It’s getting better. And that man with the Nazi flag is scared and that fear is keeping him from taking part in this beautiful new world we are creating. Besides I like my racists labeled, so I can see them coming.
My Son: I never thought of it like that.
Me: And that symbol of hatred causes little kids to ask their parents what it means and parents can explain to their babies and teach them the importance of love from an early age.
My Son: I didn’t think about that either.
Me: Can I tell you one more reason why we would never steal his flag? Because all it would do would be to prove his point about how evil the world is and make him feel more justified in his hate. You can knock down a building, but they will just build it stronger the next time. You can steal his flag and he’ll go on eBay and buy two. Because, in his mind, he will be fighting the oppressor. The way you eliminate an enemy is by making them your friend.
My Son: Okay, I feel better.
Me: I love your anger. You will need it. Just direct it properly is all. If we go around silencing those we disagree with, then we violate The First Amendment and if The First Amendment goes, the whole thing goes and that document is very wise. It was basically an exact copy of The French Constitution. They saw that it was working there and knew that these principles were universal and would work here. And they do. It’s not pretty, but they end up working out in spite of the inherent foolishness of man.
My Son: Yeah, but the French also had to go and chop off a bunch of heads to get shit done, too.
Me: Yeah, well it may yet come to that. But we’re not there yet. And as long as we have means to exercise peace than we do that. We win this war through peace and love. Civil war isn’t as glamorous as you think it is.
My Son: I know it’s not. You said that you would make the Nazi guy into your friend. How do you do that?
Me: Well, I noticed that in the paper he said that he flies his Nazi flag “because the liberals are trying to take away his First Amendment rights.” And that was literally the only line that the newspaper gave him. An entire article written about the dude and they only quoted him one time. Kind of ironic. I want to give him an opportunity to speak. I’m going to listen to him. And I’m going to film it so others can hear him too. And I’m not going to be mean. And I’m not going to attack him. I’m going to compassionately listen. My goal isn’t to make him look foolish.
My Son: No, he’ll do that all by himself.
Me: I suspect he might. Or maybe while he is talking he might notice some inconsistencies in his thinking. We all tend to do that when we find someone who actually cares enough to listen. But that’s not for me to decide or to attempt to manipulate the situation in that manner. I sincerely want to listen to him and I sincerely want to hear him. And when you do those things, you would be surprised at how small the distances between humans actually are.
My Son: And everybody sees the interview and they see how foolish those antiquated views are.
(Note: Michael E Sparks is currently on the road interviewing Progressives while finishing up a self-published book entitle My Bernie Journey – A Behind the Scenes Look at the 2016 “Democratic” Primary and Beyond. He is also in the pre-production phase of filming a documentary on the subject.)
I am sitting somewhere in the hills of Asheville, North Carolina, having just met MJ Taylor. Even though we had never met before, I feel like I have known this amazing person my entire life.
Perhaps we became friends so quickly because we were able to skip the usual checks that humans subconsciously do upon meeting to insure that the new being before them is actually someone whom is safe and worthy of further exploration. Such scans are unneccessary, for my new friend is an avid Bernie Sanders supporter. And with this one distinction I know that I can rest assured that this is someone who I have many amazing things in common with. For merely by their love of Bernie Sanders, I can conclude that my new friend believes that all human beings are entitled to healthcare when they are sick and compassion at all times. I can safely assume that my new friend believes that it is better to pay extra to educate a child now than to incarcerate that child later. I know that my friend believes that there is hope for this damaged country and fragile world. And I know that my friend is hopeful, full of fight and has no intention of ever giving up.
By making the usual butt-sniffing obsolete, we hit the ground running and it feels like we have been friends for years. It feels like we haven’t seen each other for a while and that we are just catching up. This is a phenomenon I have experienced so often over the past couple of years that I have come to take it completely for granted. Even though I cannot tell you where I am exactly, having relied on GPS to guide me to my latest oasis in between long meditations of seemingly endless highways, I know exactly where I am.
I am home.
I was home two days ago when I pulled into Sam Ronan’s driveway outside Dayton and found that the man who created Our Voice and challenged the establishment to compete for the chair position of the DNC, was also a fellow nerd who shared many of my interests in geek-culture including PC gaming and hand painted Warhammer 40K figurines.
I was home on the streets of Columbus, Ohio where I got to speak with Maria Ferrara about our shared love of virtuoso guitar playing, before she outlined her well-educated views on the steps we need to take to reclaim our country from the corporations that control it. And yet again, I felt at home when Steve Steinmetz shared with me his observations regarding how the United States military commonly violates the very Constitution it is sworn to protect and then at the end of the interview casually mentioned that it happened to be his birthday.
The following morning, in Newark, Ohio, I found home in the words of Jen Kanagy who informed me that Bernie Sanders had inspired her to run for city council, because she recognized this as the best way to serve those in her community. And then again I was at home in the mountains of West Virginia as I listened to Erica Rusmisell tell me how Bernie Sanders had inspired her to overcome her anxiety and set up a support group for people in her community with mood-disorders.
And I was at home when a Facebook message popped up from Mia Irizarry that simply said “Gas money” and when I clicked the link $20 appeared on my debit card (I didn’t even know that was possible!!) and I choked back tears when Jim Cook, a man I’ve never met before, sent me $27 and said “This is to help you on your trip.” Those two messages literally paid for our journey from Ohio to North Carolina.
I have never known such kindness.
Everywhere we go the stories are the same, yet different. There is so much beauty and inspiration in the words and deeds of these heroic people that I find my own desire to make the world a better place refreshed and renewed.
One might ask what I hope to accomplish by driving from town to town and listening to people’s stories. On the surface it is to insure that when I finish my book, My Bernie Journey, that no viewpoints are left unspoken. Also, when I return home, I plan to practice some basic film-editing techniques on the footage that I have and I’ll make a couple of short films in preparation to make a full-length documentary later in the year.
But the deeper reasons I decided to pursue this project are gradually revealing themselves to me. I know that our movement suffered a terrible setback around this time last year and I have been watching some aspects of it push against the seams that were holding it together. The powers that be, in their subtle and pervasive ways, have been successful in getting us to take our eyes off the prize. The sideshow of our current “representation” in Washington produces enough tabloid garbage on a daily basis to provide a convenient distraction for disgruntled activists, while the corporate media bombards us with news that isn’t news in an attempt to convince us that what we experienced just a year ago was merely an anomaly and that we have no real power.
All they do is lie.
Back in Indiana, my heart raged against the dissolution of a movement that we put our literal blood, sweat and tears into, while my body sat still, feeling helpless, not knowing what to do next. So we decided to go speak with the people, not knowing what would be revealed in the process.
And we were scared.
We were scared of not having enough money to make the trip. We were scared of being stranded on the road. We were scared of people who were not sympathetic to our political ideology. And most of all we were scared to speak with people who are quite honestly heroes to us.
We were overwhelmed with fear.
Carrie and I took turns leaning on each other, reminding the other that there was something out there, something greater than what we could envision and telling each other that we need only to take the first step and things would fall in line.
And they have.
I do not know all that we will find on this journey, but I know that there is a brilliant and amazing story here. Upon returning home I will finish my book and listen carefully as to know what the next step is. Goals are in concrete. Plans are in sand. But I have a script. And it’s really good. I also have some crude drawings that I will have animated to fit into at least one documentary that begins at Occupy Wall Street and continues on into the current day Progressive movement. I believe that this is possibly the path that this will take, but every documentary film-maker I have had the pleasure of speaking with tells me that the story will write itself as long as you listen and pursue the journey.
I know of no other response but abject horror to describe my feelings towards the chants of “USA!! USA!!” emitting from The Boy Scouts of America Jamboree this past week. My thoughts panned to Hitler youth rallies as I watched young white males chanting with something considerably more dangerous than simple anger in their pubescent crackling voices.
The Scouts were moved to spontaneous incantation by a racist white billionaire saying that he was going to crush the black man’s legacy. The billionaire had a better way of doing things. Even though, by most accounts, he had no plan at all or a plan that was much worse, this was of no consequence. The black man’s legacy had to be erased and the emperor’s complete lack of clothing was of no consequence.
There were many layers in that impassioned mantra of “USA!! USA!!” There was something greater than anger in the voices of the young men as they chanted the indoctrination. There was something in those young men’s voices long forgotten by most of us. There was patriotism, loyalty and pride. And it chilled me to my bones.
Implicit in this impromptu chant is Manifest Destiny. Hidden beneath the smiles of future lawyers, Senators and CEOs, covered in shiny merit badges, proving that they are prepared for the fight ahead, there is a doctrine of white nationalism that is as old as the country itself, but has been growing in strength and numbers radically since the dawn of the Internet. Not your grandfather’s KKK, the doctrine of white supremacy is all polished up and ready for public consumption. The idea that America is somehow destined to be a white Christian nation is very much alive and well. When the billionaire white man stands up in front of a group of 12-16 year old young men in uniforms and says that he is going to stop the black man’s healthcare bill and by extension punish our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, and those same young men raise their fists, without prompting and begin proudly chanting the name of their country, then you have more than a rally, you have a movement and in this particular case, a very dangerous one.
We have seen this movie before.
There is a white nationalist movement in every backyard in America. It’s in your neighborhood. It’s in your police force. It’s in your White House. It may even be in your home. It’s organized, heavily armed and ready to fight and die for it’s country. The most daunting aspect of this movement is that it’s members see themselves as patriots. They believe that they are defending the doctrines of our country’s founding fathers. While the rest of us are running around, working our asses off to build a world of science, technology and equality, there’s a growing contingency of Americans who believe that we should be focused on God, guns and government.
We cannot pretend this rift does not exist. There is a fundamental difference in values at work here. While we are all in agreement on fundamental truths that all Americans are entitled the basic freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we all know that these freedoms cease once they begin stepping on the freedoms of others. Therein lies the problem. Decades of irresponsible rhetoric spewed forth by politicians and their cohorts in the corporate media have resulted in millions of Americans actually believing the lie that their poverty and struggle is the result of the brown man. A friend of mine recently said “Michael, when you are used to privilege, equality seems like oppression.” And this is exactly what is going on. Add in the fact that the wealth siphoning to the 1% is destroying the middle-class, while automation combined with sending American jobs overseas has made it incredibly difficult for hard working Americans to make ends meet. And when people are poor, desperate and angry, they look for someone to blame. So when the billionaire, “self made”, American dream in a suit stands up and says that he’s going to kill the black man’s health bill and the young white men start chanting “USA!! USA!!”, well, we just might have a problem.
And the problem compounds upon itself, because there IS a fundamental value difference. We want to push things forward and they want things to be the way they used to be. We want Star Trek and they want Leave it to Fucking Beaver. We want equality for all and they want a world where the white man is special. The left knows that they are right and they don’t have time to bother with explaining the real truth as to why our country is falling apart at the seams. The left’s superior ideology causes them to look down their noses and become exasperated with anyone who sees things differently. Hardworking Conservatives have grown tired of being treated
The left may have the moral high-ground, but the right has all the guns. If those on the left are planning to continue in their roles as judge and jury to the lesser enlightened, then perhaps they should begin making frequent trips to the shooting range, because the they are exacerbating a very dangerous rift with a growing portion of our society. There is a not-so-civil war of ideologies happening in America right now. And as always, where blood is boiling, there are those who seek to profit off the strife caused by such misunderstanding.
The solution, is as it always is, compassion and communication. For the smug liberal this means putting away our sense of superiority to realize that those who seek comfort in old ways are not our enemies, but in fact want the same basic freedoms that you and I desire. In the common ground between us is the once-fertile soil of a now fledgling nation where we all want to plant seeds so that our children will be able to thrive in a new world that is scary to all of us. The antiquated notions that gender, skin-tone and sexual preference somehow make one greater or lesser is fueled by the corporate fear machine that seeks only to keep us divided so they can profit from our strife.
If our ideas are based in truth, if indeed it is better to move forward into a world where science reigns over superstition and equality wins out over division and hatred, then we must stop looking at those whom believe differently as mere obstacles to progress and start actively engaging these people in compassionate communication. We must come down from our ivory towers and become curious as to why those young men at the Boy Scout Jamboree felt moved to horrifying patriotism by the rich white man promising to destroy the black man’s legacy. Because pushing this mentality into the corner, shaming it and hoping that it goes away has proven to be a completely ineffective strategy.