America's Longest Night
Statement given at a Veterans for Peace Solstice Concert, Gainesville,
Florida, December 22, 2003 by Doris "Granny D" Haddock (http://www.grannyd.com/)
Greetings to you all, Brave Veterans for Peace and Friends!
We now come to the longest night of the year. In ancient times people
worried that the sun would just keep falling further on the horizon
until the world turned to one long, cold night.
But we have come to understand that there is a rhythm to life, and that
the dark is followed by the light, and the sun halts its retreat and
begins its way back to us. And so it is in the history of our nation,
for there is some natural gravitational pull that provides for a return
of human warmth after the frightening chill of dark times.
America, politically, is in one of the darkest nights of its history.
There is a way forward, and the forces of nature are with us.
Although many of us hesitated to think it as such, America suffered
something very much like a coup three and a half years ago. A radical
faction took over the institutions of government after sending thugs to
physically stop a vote that was not going their way. That sounds harsh
to say, but history now shows it to be the simple truth, and every day's
news plays out the brutal changes sought by this usurping faction. If
American values are for the growth of the middle class, the
equality of the races, the projection of peace and justice in the world,
and for the preservation and advance of our own rights and freedoms,
then this coup is so radically against the values of the
nation that it may be called a kind of treason. But it is different in
that it is a legal treason, just as the large campaign donations from
business interests are legal bribery. This complication has put many to
sleep, but also it has caused many others to awaken from long political
In the years since the 2000 election, this coup, which was launched on
behalf of a wealthy elite, has destroyed or damaged our ability to care
for each other now and for decades to come, has redefined American
policy abroad in a unilateral new and bloody garment, has ruthlessly
ravaged the environment, and has coldly undermined the personal
liberties and rights formerly granted to all Americans through our Bill
of Rights. It is indeed an overthrow of some sort, though it is
sophisticated and the old institutions remain functioning and appear to
be little changed--though they are propped-up corpses. The same wealthy
elite who yet engineer this American nightmare, thanks to corporate
deregulation they paid for with awesome bribes legalized as campaign
contributions, own our largest news organizations, which they have
silenced on all but issues of films and celebrities and celebrity crimes
and foreign danger and the bright young heroes and martyrs of America's
New Imperial Army. The corporate radio stations, and much of the cable
spectrum, is filled with the mind-poisoning lies of this big lie
If brave courts and a bare handful of elected Members of Congress who
are not corporate whores nip at the heels of this coup, they do not long
deflect the cruel trajectory of this overthrow. We worry now for our
very elections. We know we cannot endure another four years of it--and
yet we will have to do just that, if a fair election decides in that
Those of us who are awake to the villainy, who wonder why the few good
newspapers do not call it the treason it is, who despair sometimes at
the comatose intoxication of our neighbors, have to now work an
important miracle for our nation and its future.
And on this solstice night let us know that the cycles of nature do
favor our work and they doom our greedy and hatemongering enemies.
Our strength rises from the gentle and fair aspect of the American
character, which is indeed mighty. There are other aspects of our
character, as our violent history shows. But at heart, Americans have
an idea of America as a good and fair and caring place. It is the
America they cherish.
We who are awake must become circles of influence in our families,
neighborhoods and workplaces, so that the next election will be the
counter-coup. Republicans, Democrats, Greens and Independents must unite
to elect people who will destroy the goose-stepping advance of this
un-American invasion that now is destroying our moderate and rational
nation. Our enemies are not Republicans or their party, which has been
hijacked away from its values of moderation, fiscal conservatism,
American jobs, American family businesses, and individual rights and
privacies. Good Republicans must be tough against this takeover, and
Democrats must help them by offering useful candidates for this moment
of historic intervention and correction. These candidates must be able
to not only offer a strong and wide bridge, but--and here is the
trick--they must be able to inspire the half of the citizenry who do not
vote, for their services are needed if we are to come into November with
overwhelming strength, so that no villainy by election officials or
voting machine makers can have enough effect.
After the November election, if it is a fair election, we must live with
the result. All our energies are required now, in these months before
the election, if we believe in democracy as we say we do.
And democracy is indeed what it is about. Democracy is the welling-up of
power from the hearts and minds of free and equal citizens. It is a
conceptual framework that the radical right abhors. It is why they
insist upon the strict hierarchy of a creationist view, where orders are
all given from yet higher above and there is no creativity or power
below--only servants, only slaves, who need no rights or protections or
health care or overtime, nor life itself. It is a power-mad mindset that
invades every aspect of their thinking. It is a neurotic -and in some
cases psychotic-- illness that now threatens the peace and health of the
Many of our neighbors are mentally disposed to look to political,
cultural or religious leaders for the formation of their own opinions,
and they do not see what is in front of them or how their own lives are
being destroyed. While these many are authority-friendly, others of us
are not that at all. We the authority-averse have had our smoke alarms
blaring in our heads for three and a half years now, and we offer our
services to those who have fallen asleep in the smoke and who need
waking or dragging from the building.
When America has good, decent and creative leaders again, those
neighbors of ours who only take their cues from leaders will be singing
friendlier tunes again. But for now, we have a massive rescue effort
ahead of us, and we had better know what this struggle is all about.
It is a culture war. Remarkably, it is not as much about issues as you
might think. We met a fellow in a West Virginia coffee shop who thinks
Bush may not be able to win, so he is thinking about moving his support
to Kerry. "He's a vet and he seems like a person of moral strength,
like Bush," he said. White fraternity boys at Ole Miss in Oxford,
Mississippi watched a Dem debate and came out impressed with Dean,
according to a TV pundit. Why? "He seemed like the strongest
the group agreement. And of course Arnie won in California. An
African-American college student in Philadelphia said he would support
Arnie for President if he could. Why? "You know, man, the
Terminator!" he said--as if that said it all.
The common thread in these examples is this: it isn't about issues; In a
dumbed-down political environment, it's about the personal strength or,
more truly, the perception of personal strength. It is to be a battle of
comic book heroes, and issues are not important, except as weapons of
So when one democrat criticizes the issue position of another democrat,
it doesn't do much damage except to the accuser, who looks weak to be
making criticisms about things that no one really cares about. A culture
of fear has been shaped, and the voters demand a strong leader to lead
them through it. Issues are only important to the political junkies like
A culture war cannot be won if it is fought like a regular political
campaign. It is about the creation of images and the framing of futures
and the posterization of complex candidates into comic book colors. It
is more like professional sports promotion. Until all the candidates
understand this -Bush and Rove certainly do--they won't stand much of a
chance. If Dean has a head start, it is because he does get it. If you
want another candidate to beat him and Bush, you had better send him or
her to comic book school.
And while the campaigns do all that, we the people have to use the
issues to get to our friends, family members, coworkers and neighbors,
and open their eyes to where their self-interest resides in this battle
of dumbed-down warriors. They will not get this information from the
As I say when I rap it to students, "It's not just a game for your
Matrix mind: It's a culture war--you're on the front line." And so
we are this war's foot soldiers, and foot soldiers are all about shoe
leather, not email.
The Democratic Party seems not yet up to this challenge of fighting and
winning a culture war. The moderate wing of the Republican Party, as we
know, is in chains. That leaves you and me and the temporary
institutions of the counter coup that we may devise.
It will require discipline if we are to succeed--not the strong suit of
we the authority averse. But we will do it.
The MeetUps of the candidate campaigns, the email-based progressive
organizations, and the local groups that have formed around peace and
Bill of Rights issues must coordinate their efforts in prosecuting a
simple and well-understood strategy.
In terms of logistics, I hope the Dean people, who are so very good at
websites and email, can use their talent to turn "Dean Space,"
as they call the environment where hundreds of local Dean websites
communicate, into "Team Space," where the volunteers of all
the campaigns can coordinate voter registration and issue education
I hope MoveOn and the other e-orgs will be the communications committee
for such an effort.
And we must remember that much of what is done on the web and through
email is preaching to our choir. Victory is to be had in shoe leather,
not in emails. The email lists, of course, can raise the money to
finance the shoe leather, and finance advertising.
Ads, however, will be ineffective unless we realize that those many
people who only believe authority figures need to hear from cultural
authority figures if they are to change their minds. Millions of dollars
have already been wasted for lack of that understanding.
For myself, I hope to recruit as many people as possible for shoe
leather work. We are standing in front of stores, getting into local
newspaper and television stories, and visiting music clubs on campuses
to recruit volunteers ( I have learned to rap, as one can convey a lot
of message in a short time, and they do pay attention and get
emotionally involved). I hope to use these volunteers to get to many
others--specifically, to help tens of thousands of working women to set
up voter registration offices on their desks and to become circles of
influence within their workplaces, so that everyone will be registered,
well-informed about issues, candidates and voting procedures, and so
that they will indeed vote on election day.
Let us take courage on this dark night. Let us know that we have the
wisdom and the courage and the aggressive love to do this, to manage
this counter coup, to save our country. It isn't enough to know what we
don't want, by the way. We must hold in our imaginations an America and
a world where people are decent to one another, where they live in
harmony with the earth that sustains them, and where the potential of
each person is respected and developed in freedom. It is not an
authoritarian world. It is not a world of harshly divided good and evil.
It is a world of reasonable people, living with manners, forgiveness,
and joy. If we are to be an underground of rebels who
struggle for the cause of love, then that, too, is a joy, and we have
already won. But we struggle also for the lives of others, and for a
future of the world's children and their children, and this struggle is
So take your part. Sign up for duty if you have not already done so.
Work for a candidate, work for a party. If you can spare the time, work
with me by signing up at GrannyD.com. We know that dark times go away.
But here is a hard fact: they only go away because brave people make
them do so. Let us do so.