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US Social Forum: Damn, America's Got a Lot of Issues

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Welcome to the US Social Forum. There are so many issues being discussed, so many stories being told. And, in the past day or two, I have realized if I rest for one hour, one minute, or even one second, I am missing out on something amazing that should be reported and shared with everyone.

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Allow me to provide a brief glimpse into what life has been like for me over the past few days (It's really only been a few days?). It's a story about how I have taken in the US Social Forum so far, but it's also much more than that. It's an ode to all the media makers in the People's Media Center who have committed to covering the biggest progressive event of the year. (Hell, why not talk like the corporate media and sensationalize it? It's the largest progressive event in the US in the 21st Century.)

My perspective is one of an independent freelance passionate, ambitious and driven citizen journalist who has been writing and publishing online for over two years. I have been attending grassroots events and actions outside of conventions and at conferences throughout that period. I am used to covering events like this and understand the value of covering movement activity and organizing. But, this is overwhelming.

I knew America had issues. I knew we the people needed to rise up and take action but at this forum, not only have the organizers given a voice to people who are not regularly given voices in media and the greater society but they have also magnified the reality that the Earth and all of humanity is facing a tremendously bleak and dismal future.

Unemployment. The unemployment benefits not extended by Congress. End to industrial economy, less and less need for people in work force. Continued erosion of workers rights. Less unions. Harder and harder to organize labor. Teachers blamed for education problems. States cutting budgets for education. A poisonous agenda of privatization. Safety nets like Medicare and Social Security under threat. Cars continue to be used instead of taking the leap and building a mass transit system in America. Failure to admit the role America plays in climate change. Raining oil in the Gulf. Gulf oil leak, gusher. BP. Corporate power. Corporate welfare. Military defense contractors like Blackwater. Robotic warfare like drones tearing communities in Afghanistan apart. Occupations and military campaigns in the name of so-called liberation, as rescue operations when people in their neighborhoods need rescue. Support for Israeli apartheid, the occupation of Gaza. The isolation of Iran and sanctions that will impact a real grassroots movement for liberation. Support for UN and other corporations to come in and rewrite laws in Haiti so that corporations can further colonize the country of Haiti. IMF, World Bank schemes concerning vulture funds in Africa. The rise of China as a superpower who is stepping on America's turf making it become ever more vigilant, turning its citizens more and more competitive each day. The fear. The fear used to control and take away civil liberties. Checks at airports. Show me your papers laws, racial profiling laws in Arizona. ICE raids and targeted attacks and intimidation of people video taping police or law enforcement activities in public places. Surveillance state. Racism. Utter disregard for law, inability to hold those guilty and responsible for torture and abuse of detainees at Gitmo accountable. Continued use of secret prisons. Bagram remaining open. The wars continuing. Afghan war drones on (literally) with Gen. Petraeus replacing McChrystal. Health care "reformed" instead of removing some of the trillions of dollars going to the military and opting to set up a Medicare for All system, single-payer. And, many of the people of this nation going along with all of this, feeling the need to pacify their anger and be happy and positive and thinking it's not necessary to confront the toxic rot that continues to spread in the country and world.

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So many think the president will deal with it--it's his job--and sooner or later something will have to be done so why should I take responsibility and ownership of the problems and form a bond with members of my community and begin to create meaningful and lasting change.

As Grace Lee Boggs might say, why should I undergo an evolution through revolution in my community? Why should I struggle? What for? Why for? And, how will I benefit and can I win?

The questions. The questions. The questions. The justifying away. The justifying away. While people die all over the world, thousands, millions and in fact billions dying as a result of US policies that the American people have an obligation to stand up and oppose.

The world is facing a worst case scenario that no word cloud, no soundbites, no television news pundit, and no political campaign will be able to address without threatening the very interests that allow him or her to produce incessant word clouds, vacuous soundbites, meaningless commentary, slick rhetorical speeches that woo and pacify supporters, etc.

With all that needs to be challenged, is it any wonder that I've over-extended myself? I have failed the US Social forum twice--once when I was called upon to write a short article on the march to Cobo Hall and when when I volunteered to help film a People's Movement Assembly called, "Plant Occupations and Other Strategies for Organizing and Defending Workers Rights." Now, when labor wonders why more people aren't in tune with their struggle to have decent workers' rights for all, they can point to me as one reason there isn't video to promote their cause.

Is it any wonder that I stay up late studying this program and feel like I am testing myself, like if I pick the wrong workshops to go to or the wrong PMAs or go to the wrong building, I will make someone upset or be in the wrong place at the wrong time?

That question doesn't have an answer because, as media makers in the People's Media Center know (whether they work for a press or media organization or not), there is no enjoying of workshops, there is no casual walk in the breaks to just mingle with people, there's little time to socialize, there's even less time to eat, and don't even think of going to the bathroom just yet because if you do you're going to miss Danny Glover or a spontaneous act of civil disobedience/direct action.

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To the media makers and especially the US Social Forum organizers who are working together to make sure all of this is properly documented for further consumption and enjoyment by individuals after this massive convergence is over, you are the ones who will ensure organizers involved in struggle will continue to feel empowered and validated after this Forum is over. You are the ones who will make certain that thousands more in the US who didn't want to give attention to this event and the people involved click and scroll and peruse material that must at least be skimmed through by millions of people.

The party is still underway. I wish I could have just hopped on the #ussfendlesswar or #ussfmedia or #ussfboggs track but I have been monitoring the blogosphere and the so-called progressive media. They are behaving like the herd that they often are--shifting attention to comment on whatever the corporate media or politicians provide them opportunity to comment on (McChrystal, Gulf and BP, Supreme Court, midterm elections, etc) rather than being the independent media agenda-setters they should be and tuning into this golden opportunity to build relationships with community and further ignite struggles and movements all over the country and the world.

I'm off to line up more interviews, shoot more video, send more tweets, and put the US Social Forum and the many organizations and movements on the map. And don't worry. It may sound like a chore but I really enjoy what I am doing (however that enjoyment is most likely not the same enjoyment you have been experiencing).


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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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