Queens’ Reader’s Forum

Today’s Reader’s Forum features commentary from two P4P members from Queens.

Photo on 9-24-15 at 12.03 AM

RICHARD RONNER

RATF**KED: The True Story Behind The Secret Plan To Steal America’s Democracy, by David Daley, reads like a sophisticated political thriller, with great characters, suspenseful strategizing, and brilliant, offensive (in both senses of the word) tactics. What’s jarring, though, is that it’s a true story – about us, the American people, and the ongoing assault and trampling of our democracy. I found reading this book an emotional experience – initially disheartening and infuriating, at the level of corruption and moral bankruptcy of large parts of our governing class. I repeatedly reminded myself that all this is not a surprise, that I have known about this in theory and in its broad outlines, but it still packs a punch, being confronted with the details and calculating methods, and the personalities involved.

But the second, more considered emotion, was one of optimism and hope – there are great exposings going on these days; we need to know how these things work, we need to know sensually why and precisely how our votes don’t translate to our power. It reminds me of the experience following Hurricane Katrina, when the effects of the racism in the fabric of our society was visible for all to see in the coverage of the storm’s aftermath in New Orleans. Of course, I also believe that without ways of acting on this information, it will not remain in our consciousness for long. But the exposing, the pulling back of the curtain to reveal the inner mechanisms, is a good, if sobering, thing.

An overall reservation I have about the book, is that I find it still partisan, in the distinctions made between the two parties. Whether the Democrats were too busy partying, or caught sleeping after Obama’s election in 2008 while Redmap was being hatched, or whether they were calculating on whole other level, I don’t know, and we may have to wait for another book to discover. I don’t really buy that one party is a whole lot smarter than the other. In some respects, I attribute the success of some agendas over others to the more creative and practical activism of some segments of the population compared with others. But this is a book about the parties and how they work. Others will have to write on the role of the grassroots in this effort.

Richard Ronner is a nurse practitioner and a long time independent activist. He is active with the NYC Independence Clubs.

 

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NANCY HANKS

“America has got to be more than its Parties and Americans have got to be more than party pawns,” says Natesha Oliver in her review of Dave Daley’s book, RATF**KED: The True Story Behind The Secret Plan To Steal America’s Democracy.  I agree — Americans must be more than party pawns. But will we? And how? We’re Ratfucked — or we develop.

I was a kid when  they did away with the poll tax, born and raised in the mid-1950s-early ’60s in northeast Arkansas. I cast my first vote in 1972 at age 18 in Richmond VA (the US Supreme Court had just lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 through the 26th Amendment to the Constitution) for George McGovern.

My first vote was a hopeful, if youthful, and defiant anti-war vote. Little did I suspect that I would spend my whole adult life working at the grassroots for ordinary people on behalf of voting rights, with Cathy Stewart, Fred Newman, Lenora Fulani and many many others.

Dave Daley’s RATF**KED led me to my bookcase to leaf through an earlier book with a similar theme: Indispensable Enemies: The Politics of Misrule in America (1973) by Walter Karp. Writing of Lyndon Johnson’s failed Great Society, Karp says

 “… there is a political reason for a reform President frustrating his own pledged reforms. It is none other than the ruling political principle in modern American politics-the preservation of party power, that power whose sole foundation is organization control of the political parties…. the essential and inherent danger to party power is independent political ambition, the presence in public life and public office of men who ignore the interests and defy the dictates of party bosses and oligarchies. To preserve their power, party organizations must try constantly to eliminate the political condition that breeds independent ambition. That condition, in general, is the free political activity of the citizens themselves, their own efforts to act in their own behalf, to bring into the public arena issues that interest them and to encourage their activity the independent ambition of public men. The political activity of the citizenry, whether within or without the major parties, whether it be as local as a village election, is always a danger to organization control of parties, and precisely because it strengthens independent ambition. There is in this Republic, however, one great wellspring animating citizens to act in their own behalf: their own understanding that by means of politics and government what is wrong can be righted and what is ill can be cured. In a word, political hope.”

I’m grateful to Dave Daley for his current insight and spotting the Bullsh*t  that serves the powers that be. We don’t need them. We the American people don’t need this kind of political supervision. We need to develop.

Independently yours,

Nancy Hanks.

PS – Our next Queens Quarterly Gathering is this Sunday, June 4th, 6-9PM, the Politics for the People conference call.

Nancy Hanks is an independent activist and the coordinator of the Queens Independence Club.

*Reminder*

Conference Call with David Daley

Author of RATF**KED

Sunday, June 4th at 7 pm EST

Call: 641-715-3605
Pass code: 767775#

Ratfucked book image

Roque Dalton

Nancy Hanks sent us two poems by Roque Dalton, the Salvadoran poet and revolutionary.

 

Nancy writes:

I love our struggle. The struggle of people — of all of us — for fairness and democracy, for bread and roses, for the power of the people. I love poetry. I love Roque Dalton’s poetry and appreciate him for bringing these human values together for us, and for putting his activity where his poetry was. I also love Roque Dalton because he was the progeny of American outlaws.”

 

roque dalton

Ars Poetica 1974

Poetry
pardon me for having helped you to understand
that you are not made of words alone.

 

And this second poem for all of the young people living through this awful and hopeful transition:”

 

You’ve Beaten Me

You’ve beaten me badly
your brutal fist in my face
(naked and chaste
as a flower where spring
dawns)

You’ve locked me up even more
with your furious eyes
my heart dying of cold
under the avalanche of hate

You’ve scorned my love
laughing at its small, bashful gift
not wanting to understand the labyrinths
of my tenderness

Now it’s my turn
turn of the offended after years of silence
in spite of the screams

Be quiet
be quiet

Listen

Nancy Hanks has been a longstanding builder of the independent movement. She is the founder of the Queens Independence Club.

Tomorrow we will be wrapping up our celebration of National Poetry month.  Stay tuned.

A selection from Nancy Hanks

Nancy Hanks,  the chair of the Queens County Independence Party and author of the popular blog THE HANKSTER has submitted a poem for us by Hart Crane.

Hart Crane, New York Times, 1930

 

By Hart Crane

We make our meek adjustments,
Contented with such random consolations
As the wind deposits
In slithered and too ample pockets.
For we can still love the world, who find
A famished kitten on the step, and know
Recesses for it from the fury of the street,
Or warm torn elbow coverts.
We will sidestep, and to the final smirk
Dally the doom of that inevitable thumb
That slowly chafes its puckered index toward us,
Facing the dull squint with what innocence
And what surprise!
And yet these fine collapses are not lies
More than the pirouettes of any pliant cane;
Our obsequies are, in a way, no enterprise.
We can evade you, and all else but the heart:
What blame to us if the heart live on.
The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
The moon in lonely alleys make
A grail of laughter of an empty ash can,
And through all sound of gaiety and quest
Have heard a kitten in the wilderness.
***
Hart Crane is a significant, some say pivotal, American poet. He was born in 1899 in Garrettsville, Ohio (the same year that Charlie Chaplin was born, in London) to middle class parents who, incidentally, were Christian Scientists. Crane moved to New York City in 1916 and spent some time in Paris. He lived a gay life from the time he was a teenager. (Also see Hart Crane and the Homosexual Text (1992) by Thomas Yingling. “Chaplinesque” was written in 1922 as a response to Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid, released in 1921. (Charlie Chaplin was an internationally recognized filmmaker by 1921.) Hart Crane is probably best known for his epic “The Bridge”, an ambitious ode to his Romantic inheritance from Walt Whitman (b. 1819, Brooklyn NY) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (b. 1803 in Boston – during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency), as well as a more “optimistic” view as a response to T.S. Eliot’s (b. 1888, St. Louis) “The Waste Land” (1922). Crane was not considered to be particularly successful during his life — “an imprecise and confused artist” as one critic put it; his major work “The Bridge” fell short of its task of exploring and giving poetic expression to the “whole American experience.” Crane was “schizophrenic” in a sense, constantly working to be optimistic in his poetry, but giving in to depression in his personal life. He committed suicide at age 32.From The Poetry Foundation: “Allen Tate, writing in his Essays of Four Decades, assessed Crane’s artistic achievement as an admirable, but unavoidable, failure. Tate noted that Crane, like the earlier Romantics, attempted the overwhelming imposition of his own will in his poetry, and in so doing reached the point at which his will, and thus his art, became self-reflexive, and thus self-destructive. “By attempting an extreme solution to the romantic problem,” Tate contended, “Crane proved that it cannot be solved.”
In that spirit, Hart Crane, for me, is the Kurt Gödel of (American) poetry. A game-changer, a fellow traveler of mine.
In his essay “General Aims and Theories” (which I cannot find online, but which is published in The Complete Poems and Selected Letters and Prose of Hart Crane, Doubleday Anchor Books, 1966), Crane writes:
“I am concerned with the future of America, but not because I think that America has any so-called par value as a state or as a group of people… It is only because I feel persuaded that here are destined to be discovered certain as yet undefined spiritual quantities, perhaps a new hierarchy of faith not to be developed so completely elsewhere. And in this process I like to feel myself as a potential factor; certainly I must speak in its terms and what discoveries I may make are situated in its experience.”
I have always been touched by this passage. In the same essay, writing about “technical considerations” of his poetry, he talks about the “organic principle of a ‘logic of metaphor,’ and says, as a post-impressionist modernist:
“It is my hope to go through the combined materials of the poem, using our “real” world somewhat as a spring-board, and to give the poem as a whole an orbit or predetermined direction of its own… It is as though a poem gave the reader as he left it a single, new word, never before spoken and impossible to actually enunciate, but self-evident as an active principle in the reader’s consciousness henceforward.”

I like this poem because of its humanity.

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