"A group of young black students in Harlem, just a few days ago, asked me what, at this point in my life, was I looking for. And I said, 'What I've always been looking for: Where resides the rebel heart?' Without the rebellious heart, without people who understand that there's no sacrifice we can make that is too great to retrieve that which we've lost, we will forever be distracted with possessions and trinkets and title."
-- Harry Belafonte
What with the craziness in the US empire: the untruthfulness in the media, the political circus, and even much corporate-bought 'science,' it is time to figure out what to do. Well-meaning people are going in every direction--even in circles--trying to do something to bring back a semblance of civilization and caring behavior. Moles, spooks, and agent provocateurs guide the well-meaning into dead ends and prisons and onto useless paths. What are we to do? I do not have any definitive answers, but step one is to understand the problem and then avoid all the clown-circus fire teams with squirting hoses and foaming fire extinguishers who are deciding what passes for news. Only then will we have the ability to act in a potentially useful way. I see absolutely no solution as long as we have corrupt political parties and dishonest elections. So, what does the past teach us about making change? For one, as part of my attempt to understand what comes next I am looking at previous revolutionaries. Perhaps we can learn from them; maybe we can call on their spirits for strength, courage and wisdom.
During the dark days of last autumn, around the Day of the Dead, I asked for wisdom from people no longer living who made a difference. One of my long-time heroes, Muhammad Ali, first came to mind. Recently, as Standing Rock progressed, I thought of Crazy Horse. As the days darkened in November, my life complement and I decided we would call on the spirits of the revolutionaries to help bring back the light. To actualize our call, we have been painting pieces of cedar with the names of people who made a difference fighting their oppressors, many giving their lives in the bargain. It is a continuing project as our friends suggest names we have missed.
I have found it enlightening to work on piecing together what these people had in common and found it invigorating to my hope for the future. None of these people was perfect; the only saint in the running, Mother Teresa, did not make the cut. It's even possible that one of the folks, Ned Ludd, was not even real; however, Ned's legendary spirit lives on as one of my favorites. For another, Guy Fawkes, his fame seems different from the actual actions even though his legend grew to encompass the very spirit of revolution.
Here is our current 'revolutionary roster,' with a short comment on why they were chosen:
Emma Goldman, an outspoken anarchist, a riveting orator, champion of women's and workers' rights, was deported because she encouraged draft resistance and is buried alongside the Chicago Haymarket Martyrs.
Hugo Chavez, the 'anti-imperialist' president of Venezuela, survived all the economic and political unrest the US could throw at him even including an attempted coup.
Che Guevara, a doctor, philosopher and revolutionary with a contentious life and legacy, but whose legend world-wide is undeniably associated with the revolutionary spirit.
Fidel Castro, the anti-capitalist revolutionary, 'man of the people,' who forcibly took Cuba from the brutal, US-backed dictator Batista and installed a communist system. Although being continually undermined by the US, including hundreds of CIA schemes and assassination attempts, Castro greatly improved the health and literacy of the Cuban people while the rest of Latin America languished under heavy American corporate and military control.