For more information on the book, please visit: RedStateRebels.org
Much has been written during the Bush years about the Red State/Blue State dichotomy that is the United States of America. This faux-populist analysis of politics is seriously inadequate, but since it fits well into the sound bite news media discussion, it is repeated over and over again.
If you are looking for a different read on this country and not wanting to rely on FOX News pundits or CNN experts, then Red State Rebels might be what you need. Co-editor of the excellent online news site CounterPunch, Jeffrey St. Clair has teamed up with Joshua Frank (the author of Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Re-elect George W. Bush) to bring us a fabulous collection of essays that demolishes the checkerboard world of Red States and Blue States.
The focus of this collection is on the lively grassroots activism that is currently taking place in what are generally deemed Red States, but by no means does this book suggest that this grassroots activism is connected to the Democratic Party. In fact, there are numerous stories shared in Red State Rebels of grassroots resistance in GOP territory that is also in opposition to the Democrats. In one essay by St. Clair entitled "The Origin of Western Greens," the co-editor states that during the Clinton years there was tremendous erosion of environmental standards, including:
"relaxed pesticide standards, weakening regulations for the Endangered Species Act, a plan for the Everglades tailored to meet the demands of sugar barons and real estate moguls of South Florida; failure to take decisive action to protect Colombia River salmon due to opposition from the Speaker of the House Tom Foley and the aluminum companies; and the political firing of Jim Baca from his position as director of the Bureau of Land Management for his determination to reform grazing practices on federal lands."
It is the disillusion from these kinds of policies that many of the grassroots efforts described in this book are born. These are individuals and groups who, even though they live in what is labeled a Red State and have contempt for the current administration, do not gravitate towards the Democrats.
The essays are arranged by region, such as Midwest, the Rocky Mountain States, the Southwest, the South, and Indian Country. The topics that are addressed are even more diverse. You might be reading about Native people fighting mining companies in the southwest and a few pages later African Americans are taking a stand against the use of the Confederate Flag in South Carolina. People employ all kinds of tactics in these battle stories, tactics that range from banner drops to direct action and civil disobedience. More importantly, what Red State Rebels provides us with is the message that there are plenty of committed and courageous people in this country who do not put their faith in partisan politics. They rely on critical thinking, organizing and action on behalf of justice. An important message that can keep us motivated while the Red State/Blue State madness is upon us.
Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank, eds., Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, (AK Press, 2008).
This review was originally published at Media Mouse.