Are Progressives Wimps?

Do Progressives need to learn how to fight? Progressives (and I count myself among them) do fight, it’s just that too often the fight is among ourselves.


Meanwhile, the opposition goes to town. Whether it’s the birthers, tea parties, or disrupting town hall meetings, the Right acts…and we react.

I’ve seen a lot of media about why progressives, liberals, whatever…always seem to be on the back foot. All I know is, it’s time for that to change.

Progressives in the US stand to lose the battle over healthcare reform because there was no unified game plan ahead of time to fight for what we wanted (single payer, universal care). And I guarantee you, whether reform is passed or not, conservatives will claim victory. And well they should. They were better organized.

It’s true they hijacked the discussion on healthcare with half truths, faulty rhetoric, and straight up lies.

And no one, least of all me, wants to match them lie for lie. I don’t think progressives have to go that way. Yet the infrastructure they’ve built to spread their doctrine on a number of issues (the stimulus will bankrupt America, Obama was born in Kenya, the death panels) merits some scrutiny.

Believe it or not, I receive some of their stuff via e-mail. One thing you realize right off the bat. Conservatives never admit defeat. When the stimulus bill passed, they didn’t waste time with recriminations or blame passing. They told their followers, “you made a difference”. And then prepared them for the next battle. Sure, there may be some behind the scenes finger pointing, but when you’re fighting and fundraising at the same time, it pays to give the rank and file a sense of purpose.

Progressives can learn from this. The most important lesson, in my humble judgment, is to act rather than react. We can make fun of birthers and hostile healthcare reform opponents, but our message gets lost. The fact that, with few exceptions, there was little vocal presence in favor of single payer at most town halls to date points up the depth of the problem.



That means fighting to win, and fighting not with fists, but ideas for the long term health of the nation. We are engaging in battle on the enemy’s terms when we don’t stake out clear positions and act on them before they do.

We also need to fight with every means at our disposal. That means, and I’ve said this many times before, engaging progressive people of color on a level we don’t now see. We have groups of white progressives, black progressives, Latino progressives, etc.

How about groups of integrated progressives? They are out here, believe me. If Barack Obama’s election is to mean anything in the long run, more groups of integrated progressive Americans need to be formed, and plans to take the fight to our opposition put in place.

Or am I just nuts? You tell me.


Can a 10-year-old Beat Down the “N” Word?

Being a man of a certain age, I have a long history with the “N” word. I have heard it used in every way imaginable. That would be as a derogatory, ugly reference to my race (by wither black or white people), as a term of endearment (mostly but not exclusively by black people), and as a throwaway utterance (I didn’t mean nothin’ by it).

It’s always made me wince, no matter what the context, because I know its history.

That means no matter how rappers tried to rationalize their use of the “N” word, it rang hollow for me. Even gifted hip hop artists seem to just throw it into their lyrics as a means of gaining “street credibility”.

Now, all this having been said, it seems to me that use of the “N” word is starting to decline, at least among black people. Maybe it’s the election of President Barack Obama, or maybe linguistic fashion is changing, but I don’t hear it quite as much in ordinary conversation among young black people.

Some might argue that, as a black man of a certain age, I just don’t hear as much conversation among young black folks as I used to?

It’s possible that my perception is wrong, and that groups like Ban the “N” Word have had no impact at all.


However, a friend sent me one of those Funspace videos on Facebook the other day. Normally, I play about 10 seconds of it and then move on, but this one was different. It’s really only after the first 10 seconds that it gets interesting.

It’s a young man named Johnathan McCoy, winner of an oratorical contest at Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple, and his words about moving the “N” word from the vocabulary of black America might just have an impact.

So, instead of continuing with this rant, I give you  10-year-old Johnathan McCoy, whose voice hasn’t even changed yet, dispensing wisdom that should command all our attention.

Many thanks to my old friend Curtis Waller for sending this to me on Facebook.

But bottom line, you tell me. Can the words of this child make people think before they use the “N” word?