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Dedicated to the incomparable Sylvie… who introduced me to Rose Dunn and Poco’s song about the fifteen-year-old last night

“You’re the one they’d turn to, the only one they knew who’d do
All her best to be around when the chips were down” — from Rose of Cimmaron

“Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences; open the gate
It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you, before it’s too late” — from Desperado

Special note: I have radical credentials, but unlike ALL revolutionary souls I cross paths with, I easily get along — cooperate — with folks all along the political spectrum, as I am naturally nonviolent, and seek to make advances in solidarity with people who think very differently than I do. When I was fund raising for UFW, Teatro Campesino and other “radical” groups in the 60s and 70s at least half of my funds were secured from folks who disagreed with my politics intensely, and those financial contributions were not only of great value, the bonding that went on — in underscoring what I did have in common with others was of immeasurable value.

With the gang members of San Joaquiin County… folks have either given up on them, or are focusing mainly on treatment, rehabilitation… saving  them. Some, yes, are turning their backs coldly, glad to pay others who will boldly confront them and, hopefully (they pray), eliminate them… like so many creatures from outer space without a soul.

But they not only do have souls, and deserve our compassion, they can serve as the foundation of a highly “progressive” (radical?) LEGAL and NONVIOLENT effort to secure decision-making power in the state of California. For the purpose of catering to the needs of the most marginalized citizens among them. The poor elderly, the formerly incarcerated, the disabled… I trust you know where I’m going. [Pause.] To the realm of common people, that’s where I’m headed.

Not to head a movement, but to inspire, respecting belief. Belief that relief is within one’s grasp. Among people whose health is most damaged at present because of environmental racism. Focusing on the youth, who — at present — are at best being taught to acclimate, if they aren’t totally ignored.

I’m talking about taking over the reins of decision-making authority in California. With the immiserated upfront. Anyone who wants to secure some of the nuts and bolts of the game plan can check out what’s delineated under the umbrella of TOSCA in a 2016 interview conducted with me. Toward the end of the exchange.

I was tempted to say, “You can keep the change.” ‘Cause I just love rhymes. But, truth is, the CHANGE — the Grand Relief I believe is possible — is for everyone. The kids being poisoned in the farm fields of my backyard of Lodi, the incarcerated in Stockton… for the most desperate desperado on the killing fields of Oakland, Vallejo, Compton and ALL the hot spots. All. One and all… even the wealthy who imagine they can dance while the marginalized are  molded into motionless props, popping up as they see fit, cleaning rooms and cutting wood when needed only. Fact is, the well-off citizens are in the same boat as those who inhabit the dangerous margins.  Just yesterday I tuned into how well-paid firefighters are succumbing to cancer in record numbers courtesy of the materials they’re given to use by their employers. And the employers and the manufacturers of those products — truth be told — are ALSO in danger from a score of environmental abominations which impact on EVERYONE.  All getting worse by the day. Virtually no attention being paid in the most prestigious academic circles to the proliferating public health dangers.

So much for having one’s exclusive focus be to helping a ghetto youth to secure a highly desirable gig with the local Fire Department, or settling for simply getting into college… to graduate… and then play a part for, say, some manufacturer engaged in bringing everyone down.  [Pause.] Gang members’ atrocities cannot be condoned, but a Big Picture POV demands that we take a MUCH broader view.

“Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches
I’ll recruit my army from the orphanages” — Thunder on the Mountain

I’m intentionally leaving out many details here — as I did in the interview (link above) — for the element of surprise is crucially important with regard to what I’m proposing. But interested parties can get down with me for omitted specifics in confidence.

The bottom line is that things can’t go on the way they are at present, with the sweetest people on earth fighting the good fight in tiny little corners serving the sweetest people on earth, while the most mean-spirited, frightening corporate business leaders in the world (and their governmental counterparts, and self-serving middle men in academia, law enforcement and elsewhere, and ignorant minions) continue to characterize criminals (who would LOVE, in their heart of hearts, catch a simple break from our proliferating oppression)… incorrectly. Bringing down the whole shebang.

Gang banging? A horror. But small potatoes when juxtaposed with the likes of what is being brought about courtesy of Monsanto and Bechtel. And I believe I’ll be able to walk right into the most dangerous neighborhoods of California at midnight and recruit the so-called “bad guys” into a force that will be… a force to be reckoned with, providing the very relief that the powers that be — by design — find abhorrent, PREVENT.

Gonna make a dent in the status quo.  Must. But it cannot be done by primarily relying on high tech gadgetry and social media outreach. The  foundation for forging new movement in meaningful solidarity has to involve one-on-one bonding at the very beginning. Like yesterday, when I crossed paths with Luis.

Luis — seems to me — he must be a teen or in his early twenties. He was working at Fathers & Families San Joaquin, where I was waiting to be interviewed for a gig with the non-profit. I noticed a hand-written question on a giant piece of paper that had been placed on a television screen in the lobby, close to where he was working.

“What do you think your community needs to improve?”

The question was something like that. I introduced myself to Luis, and asked about it. It was particularly intriguing to me ’cause the question was placed just a few feet from a memorial of sorts, an alter honoring dead young fathers from the local community. Souls prematurely cut down courtesy of gang violence, I gathered.

Luis explained that the giant paper and screen had been left over from a meeting that had taken place a day earlier. I asked him what HE thought was needed; thought I might bring up his answer during my interview, but I was truly interested in what his take was. “Love” was the first word out of his mouth. He told me how close our quarters were to a Trauma Center that his non-profit supported, and how he himself had survived being shot twice. And the role that LOVE played in recovering. [Pause.] That sort of thing. I don’t have it down exactly, the specific words of our exchange or the sequence, but I do believe I’m giving you the thrust of what transpired here.

I want the reader to see the importance of this planting of a loving seed.

Nothing on earth can replace what I believe will follow from this chance encounter. Securing the participation of millions in a march cannot compare with what might unfold down the road from such a seed blooming. For the usual “bond” involved in organizing and participating in mass demonstrations of protest — while very much needed  from one point of view, in a limited context — cannot stir up the commitment and passion and focus required to honor God on earth. Not during these days of little faith. Faith in oneself. Faith in anything outside of one’s ego.

What I envision with Luis and the gentle folks I imagine he will introduce me to –trusting me once we bond — is a glorious connection pregnant with promise. One which will — no hyperbole here — create the watershed in history which is now necessary. What I see oh so clearly ’round the clock, in my dreams, when awakening, when I hit the sack each night. When I am playing, working… interacting with anyone, doing anything.

 

Joan: I hear voices telling me what to do. They come from God.
Robert: They come from your imagination.
Joan: Of course. That is how the messages of God come to us.

I will — yes, of course, help youth with their GED and SAT prep. I will wait in the wings while my new friend Juan (an older colleague of Luis’ engaged in helping the loved ones of the incarcerated navigate the troubled waters imposed on them by our troubling legal system), but I will do more. For MORE is necessary. Yesterday.  And anyone who doubts what my talk about “deadlines” is all about — my sense of unsettling urgency, — can contact me to be enlightened… if they dare get off of the treadmill they’re on long enough to hear what’s new under the Sun.

Hey, I’ve come across plenty of firefighters just within the last 24 hours who have no time to clue into how their jobs are killing them and their dearest buddies. Everyone’s on the run. Everyone’s too busy with too much on their plate to… pause… long enough to consider any new ideas. Fresh paradigms, then, are doomed. And those folks — so many so very decent — are doomed to — go over and over — obsolete ground.

Me? I’m dying to ground out what has to be done that hasn’t been attempted before. I believe, I believe that the creative juices in Juan and Luis will give birth to what’s unprecedented. You’ll notice, though, that first personal seeds must be planted with individuals, not large groups. Juan must introduce me and others to trustworthy souls. Ditto for Luis. And that cannot be accomplished at a distance through social media networks. Trusted soul to trust soul to trusted soul slowly, but moving expeditiously, is the template.

One reason that’s all so very important is that without singular revolutionary bonding participants in any movement these days are prone to get burned out and/or to drop out to tend to personal agendas and/or to be bought out by the powers that be.

There must be a core group that knows why they’re here on earth. That sees the importance of the Collective Good. That can distinguish between getting headlines and making spiritual headway. Without which absolutely nothing worth our heartbeats will be secured.

Back in the day when I was raising money for the efforts of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta preparing to strike against the Di Giorgio Corporation with their Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee colleagues… on behalf of Filipino farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley (1965), I never dreamed that half a century down the road Dolores would be reduced to hawking for the likes of Hillary Clinton, or that there would be more segregation in America than there was during MLK’s time.

Things have gotten infinitely worse on many counts, and the environmental threats alone which envelop my “new colleagues” and those they serve… in the form of Tanks and Spills,  multiple Super Fund sites, unaddressed Brown Fields,  and out-of-control, unaccountable polluters demand  immediate, fresh attention.

 

The issue which is dearest to Juan’s heart is EDUCATION. That’s understandable, considering what he’s up against, what he’s seen daily for a long time. Ditto for Luis. I can easily relate to anyone in Stockton, California saying that a diploma or degree or employment for survival is important. Thing is, it’s not enough these days.

And since NO ONE — contrary to popular misconception — is actually dealing with the source of our collective bleeding, I submit that it’s time for the tough guys and gals to get together along new lines. What I’m proposing might only be one of many possible approaches, but until someone actually takes out the time to delineate viable options to taking over the Golden State’s gubernatorial office, I’m sticking with my claim that my plan for action is the ONLY way to proceed.

The Latino Party? The New Gang Party? The Women’s Party? The People of Color Party? The Party of the Immiserated? [Pause.] I don’t care what you call it, I don’t even care what the platform is. Fact is, we’ve got to come up with an alternative to what the so-called choices are, as a rule, on election days for there to be a future worth living for.

And rocking the vote by simply getting more numbers to register and show up won’t cut the muster now. Do you know that? Or are you not fully aware of the deadlines associated with our collective crises?

Going on seventy-six this year, one might say that this is a last gasp of belief that relief is within the grasp of youngsters like Luis and decent folks like Juan. A push come to shove moment for the two darling “new colleagues” who interviewed me yesterday, Lori and Hannah.

The non-profit sponsors who support Friends & Families will initially recoil in horror a the thought that someone is urging them to influence the electoral arena. For the very clever parameters imposed on them by the government — a trade off for their desired tax status — are designed to preclude dealing with the sources of bleeding… and they’ve bought into that… as all non-profits have… understandably.

BUT… one and all need to understand that that recipe for disaster can be circumvented. It CAN be averted. By a select core group of activists willing to — for starters — embracing the role that was played by Rose Dunn in history, trying to provide relief to gangsters. Gangs in which a mighty will stands paralyzed, potential which begs to be released for the Collective Good. The role of Rose Dunn can be played out of the public light. Offering relief underground, if necessary.

Deserving relief in the context of the horror we are inflicting on ourselves. Relief once given… which will give us a shot at moving in solidarity with ALL the marginalized in our midst. Mindful of stakes which are not talked about in academia, not acknowledged in governmental realms, not considered important whatsoever for fat cats who fancy they’re not vulnerable to what’s coming down as I write.

In such a way as to not be cut off at the knees prematurely, as MLK was once he connected the dots between poverty, racism and war.

[Pause.]

This is all presented with the greatest sense of hope, holding dear the belief that relief is within the grasp of sweet souls like Lori, Luis, Juan and Hannah and the citizens they serve.

Spring is around the corner.

Let’s all be done with it and become Rose Dunn… for those done in.

Richard Martin Oxman, Director of Flannery O’Connor Academy, has been an educator on all levels for over half a century, and an activist for longer than that. He can be reached at aptosnews@gmail.com. Next up for the author will be saving the lovely life of Kevin Cooper; he’s hoping that readers will contact him to be on board with that.

 

 

 

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