[The following is an email sent by James H. Romer introducing himself to "Occupy the Upper Valey" December 14, 2011--editor]
James Romer Reflects on his Lifetime of Political Activism
I have been to two meetings of a new group in the Hanover NH / Norwich VT area. We call ourselves "Occupy the Upper Valley," although our only "occupation" has been of the meeting room of the Norwich public library for a few hours on two successive Sunday evenings. I volunteered to be on the "Goals and Strategies" working group and sent the message below to the other members of the group prior to our first meeting, in response to a suggestion that we send "a short paragraph to introduce ourselves" and "a concise paragraph of how we see the Occupy Movement." For what it's worth here's what I sent (which is neither short nor concise):
I've lived my whole life in New England with a few forays south to such exotic places as Washington DC and Philadelphia in the 1960s. I was drafted into the Army in the mid 50s and spent part of that two years in Germany.
I have worked at a bewildering variety of jobs over the years, including regional planner, map librarian, carpenter, apple picker, and wooden boat builder. I started a "radical" bookstore (which became a worker/customer collective) in Providence RI in the 1970s.
My political activism over the years has been somewhat sporadic. Active in protests against the Seabrook NH nuke in the late 80s and 90s and against the Vernon VT nuke from the early 90s to date. Protester against the Vietnam war in the 60s and 70s. With regard to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I was out there protesting when Bush Senior started the Iraq war in 1991 but then disappeared when Clinton kept it going through the 90s. Since about 2002 I've been to just about all of the big "marches" in DC and elsewhere. For most of the last nine years I've spent an hour every Saturday at the anti-war vigil on Washington Street in Claremont.
I've been a member of Veterans for Peace for the last twenty years. I was active in the NH Greens and the Left Greens in the 90s and helped organize the short-lived Ascutney Greens. Way back when I believed that involvement in electoral politics made sense I was a Democrat. When I was working my ass off for Ralph Nader back in 2000 I described myself as a "recovering Democrat" but three years later I had sadly fallen off the wagon and was doing the same thing for Dennis Kucinich in the NH Democratic presidential primary,
In light of all the activism listed above, it's embarrassing to have to confess that I have only recently started to think strategically about my political activism. I've been trying to move beyond outrage and protest and figure out how we can take the offensive. I believe that it's important not only to recognize that "another world is possible" but also to think creatively about what it might be like and how we might move towards its creation. I was the guy who suggested "Goals" and "Strategies" as agenda items and who's been distributing copies of the pamphlet "Thinking About Revolution" and the essay "From Occupation to Revolution."
I believe that our focus should be on the issue of democracy and specifically on the fact that we live in a "dictatorship of the rich" (to quote page 7 of "Thinking About Revolution") where even the nominal political democracy of voting is completely corrupted by the power of money, where there is no democracy whatsoever in the workplace, and where the ruling elite continually tries to convince us that its moneygrubbing values are right and proper.
I feel strongly that we need to be much more than just a discussion group, clearing house, or "rallying point" for people working on various "issues." This is especially true if "working on" the issue means begging the people in power (our rulers) to do what we want them to do (or implicitly threatening not to vote for them if they don't). We need to be talking to our fellow citizens about what needs to be done to build a world in which their voice really counts. Even though I feel passionately about the dangers of nuclear power, about the insanity of war, about specific issues of corporate malfeasance, and about many other issues, I believe that the prospect of achieving anything other than minor and fleeting reforms in any of these areas by begging is so small that it makes more sense to put our energies into the long, hard job of building a movement to create the better world that is possible.
-- James H. Romer, 232 Quaker City Road, Unity, New Hampshire 03603-7429
Eugene V. Debs, Utah, 1910: If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out.
Frederick Douglass, Canandaigua, 1857: Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
William O. Douglas: As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such a twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air--however slight---lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.
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