By any measure the On Nation Rally that was held in Washington on October 2nd was a great success as far as numbers go. Perhaps a many as 250,000 people at the low end attended this event that ran for four hours on the same spot and area that Civil Rights champion the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech that galvanized the nation over 60 years ago.
But that was then and sadly the Black and Brown communities, the poor, disenfranchised and angry of today do not have a King to lead them. And so the One Nation Rally was long very long on rhetoric, big on noise, lots of noise and short, very short, on substance. For me, the very character and national importance of this rally had, ultimately, to be determined by the demands that it was prepared to make on the United States power establishment and in particular on the White House.
Aside from noble and lofty calls to "take back America" and tried and tired acknowledgements that "we need to bail out main street and save the so-called middle class" there was very little that emerged from the four hour event that would persuade or compel President Barack Obama or the US Congress to start fulfilling their promises to all Americans. We have heard this all before.
Of course, from the onset this rally, based on a "one nation" concept, by its very nature was incapable of forming a common platform given the different and opposed ideological, political and world views expressed by the many and varied organizations that came together to make the rally the numerical success that it undoubtedly was. So perhaps it was easier not to narrow or change the public debate down to a specific set of issues because of disagreements with prioritization. Thus, broad themes that all could agree upon without becoming disagreeable was the way to go.
The risk, and I am sure organizers were aware of this, was that the message would become diluted and weak when spread so thin and using so broad a set of strokes. Participating organizations included nearly the entire spectrum of labor, social justice and peace formations in the United States. Speaker after speaker, from youth from Los Angeles to well-known national figures like Rev. Al Sharpton, singer/activist Harry Belafonte and Rev. Jesse Jackson proved to be more jaded when it came to the message of the day and their winded presentations, with worn out cliches and all, exposed the real lack of militant, focused and energetic Black leadership for today.
Certainly, in evoking the memory and message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the One Nation Rally missed the very significance of the King event that happpened more than a half a century ago. MLK made demands of the system and held the occupant of the White House accountable. By contrast, the One Nation Rally was an organized and tame gathering that was more of a pep rally for the Democrats and the November 2 mid term elections. It lacked the one essential element that made MLK's March on Washington so effective righteous objective protest. By not making specific demands on Presient Barack Obama, the Democratic Party and the Congress the rally amounted to a capitulation to the status quo no matter the more than 250,000 or 450,000 t-shirt wearing, chanting, coumbiah singing, teary eyed people who converged on Washington.
I hate to sound so cynical but it is time that we call a spade a spade and to call out those well-meaning friends of democracy and fairness when they fall short. This rally was nothing more than a pep rally in support of Preisdent Obama and the Democratic Party that accomplished little by way of "speaking truth to power." It was a well-organized side show that demonstrated that a real movement for economic change, social justice and fairness does not today exist in the United States. Maybe the rally was a first step in their process.
By not making demands on the power status quo and especially the present occupant of the White House in his capacity as the leader of this nation and the so-called free world; who holds the most influentuial and powerful position in the world and commands the strongest military force in history the One Nation Rally helped, unconsciously, people to escape from the real horrid conditions of their present circumstances if only for four hours and allowed them to vent their feelings of anger at the Republican Party and a few Democrats in Congress. It's the groupie tendency only this time from the Democratic center-left the anti-group manifestation against the ultra-right Tea Party Movement.
The present condition of the American worker is dire. Unemployment, especially among Black people, is in the double digits. More Blacks and Latinos now live in poverty than ever before. Attacks on civil liberties, deportation of immigrants, and the fact that the rich has gotten richer in two years under President Obama are all undisputed facts. As is the fact that today even with the declaration that the worst recession in over 50 years has ended - more and more working families are losing their homes and there has been no bailout for small and mediumsized businesses.
Therefore it is pointless to demonstrate and rally agsinst these social and economic ills that are affecting the vast majority of Americans not the protected, privileged 1.5% - without making concrete and substantive demands. It is not working and middle class Americans that is benifiting from two overseas wars of aggression that has now cost this country over two trillion dollars and counting. And President Obama who always claims to be in the process of ending these wars continues to escalate them - just as did George Bush.
Me? I am tired of marching and burning out good shoe leather in the process. In the end a bunch of people had a great outing, chanted, sung and listened to a bevy of speakers making the same points over and over again. The One Nation Rally was and is a great idea but it needs work. Instead of just pushing for large turn out numbers important though that is the movement must offer up a set of immediate demands and a long-term plan to lift all boats. In that it failed.