Physical Democracy as Catharsis

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The most intimate moments in life are shared.

The recent election is troubling for many reasons; but as a sociologist I am especially troubled by what it means for justice reform, police brutality, health insurance, domestic civil liberties and foreign policy.

The American people have spoken.

The political machine that many of us have become so jaded or downright apathetic about has shaken the shit out of us.

So many questions, on so many levels, rise like a fog of confusion. The one question that is both clear and concise reminds us of the complexity of social thought.

How did this happen?

That question will generate metric tons of over-simplistic and spuriously complex debates. My classes were colonized with this consideration. It appeared as grief. I was no exception.

Following Wednesday’s class, some students and I had a conversation that spilled out into the hallway. A student handed me a handbill that read, “Emergency Protest at 5 pm.” The action was to take place around Trump Hotel, in downtown Chicago. I naively imagined a few dozen students and old democrats, LGBT & Black Lives Matter activists and a few other folks to be standing on the corner of the square.

I raced from work to go participate. I began hearing the action, saw a helicopter overhead, then saw the lightning-like effect created by barricades of blue lights.

My heart then began its own race.

I have no idea how many people were there (10, 15, 20 thousand people?). I filed into the parade, was handed a sign by a Wobbly, and fell in chanting, “Oh, oh—no, no Donald Trump has got to go! Oh, oh—no, no Donald Trump has got to go!”

For the next hour and a half, I cried, I marched, I chanted…we protested the failure of the left. The hubris of the corporate confidence, rooted in moneyed, consumer-distracted politics had effectively fragmented what should be the populist party. Instead of saying that we chose Hillary over Sanders, which did happen, we should reflect on how passive our commitment to all working class Americans has become.

What was clear was that the quickness with which the fragmented left galvanized to protest Trump’s election indicates [hopefully] what the next four years has in store.

Perhaps we should bring the left back to populist leadership rather than leave populism to corporatists like we the people did in this election. While one could discuss what topics were rooted in voter suppression and ultimately exclusionary politics—we cannot afford to wait for congressional elections in two years to organize.

I suggest if you are really disgusted, get active. Join one of your local groups and—you guessed it—hit the street.

There are also many people outraged about protesting a democratic election. But historically democracy has been the most effective when it is physical.

I, like most folks, imagined the democrats had this election. But imagining justice is different than the actions of hate—one is both material and real.

If you are concerned about the direction of the country—then get your pants dirty and fortify. It may also help with the grief that you may be feeling.


Written by Edward Green, Ph.D., Roosevelt University

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