For the first time in my life, I found myself with a sizeable group of political activists willing to be open and honest about personal failings and mistakes and committed to ongoing self-development as well as pragmatic and visionary political action. I felt like I had found a home. It was last night at a #LoveArmy forum convened by Anjali Sawhney in San Francisco.
Some Thrive East Bay events I’ve been to recently have also been rewarding. But this one seemed to hit even closer to the center of my heart.
The fifteen participants included:
- An African-American man who said he can have civil conversations with racists.
- An African-American man who said he aims to handle troublesome behavior like water off a duck’s back, while saying “That’s his problem.”
- A white mediator who convened a number of virtual dialogues between liberals and conservatives prior to the last Presidential election.
- A white social-service worker who decided after struggling with it not to label Trump supporters “irredeemable” and “deplorable” but still believes it’s important to “call them out” for noxious behavior.
- A white man from Iowa struggling with trying to understand his friends and relatives back home who have troubling opinions.
- An African-American man who’s helping to organize a “million-man” march on Washington of formerly incarcerated individuals in three years.
During introductions, when I expressed my passion, Anjali responded, “Wow. That’s really in line with our mission.” That felt good. As I left, she said she hopes to participate in my November 9 book club discussion of the new book by the #LoveArmy founder, Van Jones. I left with a warm glow and a free copy of his book, Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together.
My main reservation about the forum was a feeling that some of the participants may worship Van too much. He’s very compassionate, charismatic, wise, sharp, articulate, and quick. Partly because I’ve had some good connections with him in the past, I trust him and hold him in very high regard, though I haven’t agreed with everything’s he’s said. But our experience with Barack should remind us: no one will be our Savior. No one is perfect. Submission is always problematic. We, the people, must be leader-full.
The experience with Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition illustrates another point: structure matters. How to organize a democratic grassroots movement is not easy. A balance between centralization and decentralization is essential. Representatives from the grassroots need to have a real voice with the national office, without paralyzing it. I look forward to hearing what Van and his team think about this issue.
In the meantime, I’ll read Van’s book quickly and take note of points with which I disagree. It’ll be interesting to see how many there are. Reading it may prompt me to modify extensively the booklet I’m writing, Transform the World with Holistic Politics: Grow Supportive Communities . But I suspect his book will only help me improve my work.