Heat can be a good thing. Therapeutic heat can ease muscle soreness. That warm sun we all enjoy in Fall, Winter and Spring is so welcome on our skin (Summer not so much). Sitting around a bonfire, fireplace or wood stove adds a soothing feeling that goes way back in our ancestral memory, keeping the cold at bay. Even the warmth of a nice sweater, a scarf, or the warm embrace of another human is a great comfort.
Heat can also be used as a metaphor for things political, and on many levels things are heating up. Writing this column last month was a breeze, the fired-up students of Stoneman Douglas turned up the heat on the NRA and the insane availability of assault weapons to the wrong people like nothing had ever before.
Watching the big rally in DC, and our local version of the March For Our Lives was powerful and heartwarming to see what could be a generation of young folks waking up and raising their voices. Their inclusiveness of other manifestations of gun violence, in Chicago, in LA, was quite important, too, as are the demonstrations in Sacramento over the killing of Stephon Clark headed up by Black Lives Matter, which has seen the Sacramento Kings basketball team lend their support.
The heat is also rising among another group, and a group not unrelated to students; the teachers. Walkouts and pressure in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona see underpaid educators joining together with unprecedented power, They are bravely coming forward and demanding their due, and exposing the realities of their lives, the need to put their own money into classroom supplies, the need for second and third jobs, and the scam of privatization draining money from public schools to private schools. (Locally our Graduate Assistants United and United Faculty of Florida have been quite active, as is the Alachua County Labor Coalition.)
Yet another source of welcome heat is flaring up, and that is women. The #MeToo movement has rattled the halls of power in corporations, the entertainment industry, and into every level of society. Women began speaking out to each other, and in finding each other, grew in strength. That strength may very well make a difference in the upcoming election cycle, with formidable women candidates stepping up and running for office, and women voters realizing their collective power, joining and/or forming organizations. The challenge to Male Supremacy has been picked up worldwide.
These are good beginnings of a resistance to the policies and practices of our current government. Small pressure points on a rather monstrous amalgam of horrors. The perpetual problem of the military-industrial complex spewing weapons and conflict remains unchecked. There seems to be small movement on combating environmental problems with the exception of the valiant efforts around pipeline projects and more generalized efforts at raising awareness about climate change, meanwhile the Dept. of Environmental Protection has been turned over to industry hacks. International relations are deteriorating, diplomatic posts are vacant, and with the adults sent home (Tillerson and McMaster) and war hawks like Bolton and Pompeo replacing them, the potential for escalating conflicts loom large.
The 2018 elections are a major tool we have to try and turn this horror show around, but we need much much more. We need citizen awareness, pressure on elected officials, and the readiness to organize for what we really want. As much as the above mentioned sources of heat give me optimism, I am also worried that the general population remain detached, playing it cool through denial, misinformed by Fox, Sinclair and talk radio, ignoring what’s happening due to harried lives, distracted by irrelevancies, or just a childish faith that things will work out without them being involved.
No, sorry, this is a real slide to a stage-managed authoritarian government, deftly using the technological tools to play us, shape us, and suppress our dissent. This is real; be ready to do what you can.