By Rick Janhkow
Below is a recent NYT News Service article that illustrates a point I have tried to make in the past about why progressive activism in this country is so weak and ineffective, and why counter-recruitment and school demilitarization work is an antidote to that weakness.
In general, peace and other progressive movement organizations in the U.S. focus on electoral campaigns, legislative lobbying and street protests that are immediate responses to crises, while they fail to simultaneously pursue long-term strategies that are necessary to make the general public willing to embrace and actively seek progressive social change. The key to such a long-term strategy is mounting strong efforts that focus on institutions of socialization, especially the K-12 school system (an approach that IS central to the few of us doing counter-recruitment work).
Notice in the report below that tea party elements are implementing exactly this kind of long-term strategy to spread their ideology: they are pushing schools to teach a conservative interpretation of the Constitution where, as the article puts it, “the federal government is a creeping and unwelcome presence in the lives of freedom-loving Americans.” This phenomenon is really nothing new: conservative groups have been actively using schools to extend their influence over society for a long time (pushing for religion in schools, opposing sex education, etc.), and during the last 20 years corporations and the military have gone all out to implement the same strategy.
The article below describes the response by progressive groups to the tea party effort. One could reasonably expect them to focus on countering the tea party’s invasion of schools with their own introduction of lesson plans and coloring books, right? But no, they are still focusing on the here-and-now and are instead asking lawmakers and others to sign a symbolic statement about the Constitution. And while they are circulating this statement to lawmakers, children are being embedded with an entirely different view of the Constitution that will ensure that the tea party movement continues to grow and grow in the next decade.
Once again, while all eyes are on the front door, the burglar enters the open back door and steals all the silver.
TEA PARTY MAKES THE FRAMEWORK OF U.S. LAW SEXY AGAIN
On the day devoted to the Constitution, there’s a fight over it
Kate Zernike / NYT News Service/ 9-17-11
In the 100 years since Constitution Day was established, most Americans have lumped it with holidays like Grandparents’ Day and Administrative Assistants’ day — a noble cause, lightly observed.
But this year, with the tea party making the Constitution sexy again, the holiday (which is today) has become occasion for battle.
Tea party groups, armed with lesson plans and coloring books, have been pushing schools to use the day to teach a conservative interpretation of the Constitution, where the federal government is a creeping and unwelcome presence in the lives of freedom-loving Americans.
Progressive groups, accusing the tea party of selectively reading the founding document, have responded with a campaign to “take back the Constitution.” They’re urging Americans and lawmakers to sign a pledge to honor the entire Constitution, even the parts many Tea Party supporters would prefer to ignore — say, the amendments allowing an income tax and granting birthright citizenship. And they’re trying to get people to see the Constitution not as a limit on federal power but as the spirit behind many progressive laws.
The struggle over the holiday is another proxy in the fight over the proper role of government. On one side are those who embrace an “originalist” view of the Constitution, where New Deal judicial activism started the country down the path to ruin. On the other are those who say its language — allowing Congress to levy taxes to provide “for the general welfare,” to regulate commerce, and to do what is “necessary and proper” to carry out its role — affirms the broad role of the federal government that has developed over the past 100 years.
“It has evolved to the point where it seems many in the tea party believe the entire 20th century is unconstitutional,” said Doug Kendall, the president of the Constitutional Accountability Center. Tea Party Patriots, a large umbrella for groups across the country, began encouraging its members this year to “adopt a school” for Constitution Week, next week.