“You can’t change the world without conflict,” Kos once wrote.
"Freedom,” Dr. King once wrote, “Is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
Henry Thoreau, too, knew that systems defend themselves at all costs, until even the truth itself is perceived as a threat to its survival.
“As a snow-drift is formed where there is a lull in the wind,” he wrote, “So, one would say, where there is a lull of truth, an institution springs up.”
That’s really good, right? Thoreau, like Whitman, could write a line that would knock you over like the first time you listened to Blood on the Tracks.
Crashing the gates takes time, effort, and persistence. It can’t be done without addressing the ways the establishment serves its own interests at the expense of the commonwealth. It can’t be done meekly.
And it can rarely be done politely.
One candidate, a strong campaigner, has every type of institutional support imaginable. Yet, some of us have serious concerns about her record. We wonder how her election will be a win for progressive politics given her record of far too often favoring war over peace, regime change over the rule of law, and corporate interests over unions and working people.
We wonder, some of us, how it will be a win for feminism when so many women and children around the world have suffered and died for the policies she has pursued.
But even naming these things invites attack. We’re told we are rude and divisive for simply describing the moral (and electoral!) deficiencies in her record, told we are turning her into a monster.
The establishment inoculates itself from attack, and one of the ways it does that is through demands for decorum. Pick any one of your progressive heroes, from Margaret Sanger to Bree Newsome, and you will find someone who was told to stop making such a fuss, to stop using such strong language, to stop challenging the integrity of those in power.
Thoreau knew these establishment concern trolls. Here, from his wonderful essay, “Life Without Principle:”
I hardly know an intellectual man, even, who is so broad and truly liberal that you can think aloud in his society. Most with whom you endeavor to talk soon come to a stand against some institution in which they appear to hold stock, — that is, some particular, not universal, way of viewing things. They will continually thrust their own low roof, with its narrow skylight, between you and the sky, when it is the unobstructed heavens you would view. Get out of the way with your cobwebs; wash your windows, I say!
His response: “As the time is short, I will leave out all the flattery, and retain all the criticism.”
That’s what George McGovern did when he spoke in the Senate in 1970:
Every Senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave. This chamber reeks of blood. Every Senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval and all across our land—young men without legs, or arms, or genitals, or faces or hopes. There are not very many of these blasted and broken boys who think this war is a glorious adventure. Do not talk to them about bugging out, or national honor or courage. It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed.
And that’s what Bernie Sanders does when he is speaking for those without power. Which, by the way, is all the time.
Thirty-two years after George McGovern lambasted his colleagues, Hillary Clinton was in those same Senate chambers as the distinguished Senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd, spoke these words:
To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war.
Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing….
On what is possibly the eve of horrific infliction of death and destruction on the population of the nation of Iraq -- a population, I might add, of which over 50% is under age 15 -- this chamber is silent. On what is possibly only days before we send thousands of our own citizens to face unimagined horrors of chemical and biological warfare -- this chamber is silent.
But she voted for that war, knowing, as we all did, that the administration was lying about the weapons of mass destruction. And last week was endorsed by a man who thinks we don’t go to war enough.
Yet we are told to be polite. We’re told it’s wrong to point out that Hillary Clinton knowingly voted for cluster bombs, knowingly voted for the goddamn war in Iraq, and knowingly pursued a reckless, feckless lust for regime change in Libya that has created the clusterfuck of all clusterfucks.
Here we are, the once-proud Democratic party, and the site that once represented the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, about to embrace a pro-war, big business, pro-arms sales, pro-death penalty, anti-union, weak-on-climate candidate with ties to the private prison industry, a record of increasing poverty through welfare reform, a disastrous record on war, a fondness for domestic spying, and an addiction to regime change.
And while I am seeing a lot of articles posted about how Hillary Clinton is a victim of outrageous sexism (and that's true!), I am not seeing a single Clinton supporter speaking for the other victims — the poor and powerless men, women, and children who have suffered and died for these policies she has so carelessly and selfishly pursued.
The Definitive, Encyclopedic Case for Why Hillary Clinton is the Wrong Choice has now been shared on Facebook more than 50,000 times. Also available in new PDF form and in the Sanders v Clinton chart.