By Katrina Wilcox on 9/28/2005, 11:45am PT  
Special BRAD BLOG / Velvet Revolution coverage
of the Sep 24-26 Rally in D.C.
Guest blogged by Katrina Wilcox

Well ... we are back home - working on the last few articles about our trip to DC. While I try to make coherent sense out of the notes I took, here's the last interview. Stan Goff's essay The Butterfly Effect --- Katrina and Occupation helped me to see that we are all living under occupation.

1. What caused you to become an activist and when was this?

My first activism was being thrown out of high school in my junior year for refusing to cut my hair. Not a huge issue, and ironically I ended up in the army not long after. Then a lot of things interrupted that so-called activism - which was unfocused rebelliousness - like the military, chemical dependency, a psychotic marriage, stuff like that.

Seriously, however, the military was a direct, if lengthy, route into political work for me. My experience as a kind of globetrotting tool for imperialism was my education and informs everything I think and do now. How could it not? I often wonder if I had not been in the military if I might have ended up being a libertarian or a drug dealer or something.

I had doubts and role conflicts all through my career, but that is really no different then anyone else who is partially awake. There is a tendency to be drawn into notions of the military as more unique than it is. People who work for IBM or Citibank or Food Lion probably experience role conflicts, too. Our notions of basic morality are in deep conflict with the necessities of our daily lives in a patriarchal and imperialist society.

But Haiti was the straw that finally broke the proverbial camel's back for me. I was in such close and sustained contact with the population during that invasion, without a little artificial American refuge, that I couldn't find any respite from the contradictions. When I came back, I sought out political people and began my more conscious activism then.

2. What compelled you to write The Butterfly Effect - Katrina and Occupation?

Love and rage, to steal a phrase. I was already so busy I could hardly see straight, and I was telling myself that I would not get drawn into writing anything about this --- that plenty of people would see the system clearly with the mask ripped off as it was. Then I was hypnotically watching the horror unfold on television, when I saw a young African American woman with a child around the same age as my grandson --- maybe two and a half --- and the child was draped over his mother's shoulder lethargically, and she was saying that he hadn't had any water for two days... he was growing more and more lifeless with each passing hour. She was raging and she was loving that child, and found myself unable to escape from the nightmare she was living, unable to separate her from me, her child from my grandchild. So I wrote the piece as an alternative to finding the first lowlife white politician I could identify and running over him with my car.

3. What message would you like every American to hear at this crucial time?

I don't know about every American. But if we are talking about those who had the capacity for outrage, then I want to say that this has been going on all along. That's what the Katrina piece was about. People all around us have been living in hell for a long time, and we are all living in the last stage of imperialism - an age of extermination through debt, disease, poverty, neglect, and war. I want to say that we can not change it through individual effort, and that the time for half-measures is already past. We are living in an age of emergency, and what is at stake is what life will mean for people like that child, like my grandson, like all our children. I want to say that we cannot change what needs changing in time, unless we are willing to go beyond playing by the dominant class's rules. We don't need elections now.

We need much much more. We need general strikes, street blockades, and popular assemblies, but we are not mentally prepared for that yet. I want to say that the clock is ticking, and it has already run out for many. Katrina showed us our future if we don't fight back.

4. Given the chance to address Congress and the administration, what would you say to them?

Go straight to hell. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. With only a handful of exceptions.

5. What do you consider to be the most important problem facing America at this point? Do you have a solution?

There is no hierarchy of problems. They are all interwoven with each other. Capitalism, patriarchy, national oppression. I would be very suspicious of anyone who claimed to have THE solution. Sounds pretty messiah-like to me.

6. Bringing about change in the government through letter writing, signing petitions, and making phone calls is not working. Do you have any thoughts or ideas on ways to accomplish real change?

Learn, teach, organize, and struggle. There is no one size fits all. I am pretty confident, however, of the importance of erasing illusions about electoralism. Elections are only one tiny aspect of struggle, but they have turned into a vortex that sucks up all our resources. I am also confident that the social movements have to get stronger, and that they have to wean themselves from the Internal Revenue Service's non-profit system, which has pluralized us and set us against each other. The other things that remain critically important, and require very hard work, are stopping the imperial occupation, fighting racism and national oppression at home, and struggling against patriarchy.

7. One such idea is for everyone that attends this weekend's rally to stay in Washington until the government is forced to change and bring the troops home, etc. Do you think that idea would work?

It happened. Over a quarter million showed, and it was very important. One thing that happened there were repeated references to the links between Iraq and Katrina. Now we have to go back to our communities and lock in our gains. One thing I would say is that we cannot let Katrina be the flavor-of-the-day issue. We have to unite with those who were most affected, and by that I mean African America. White progressives should feel obliged to do two things: accept local, Black leadership and organize around the priorities set by that leadership. And share resources. Making statements of solidarity is not even close to enough. Organizations like Community Labor United in and around New Orleans deserve our undivided attention and support.

8. Do you have any thoughts or ideas on ways to get the corporate media to get our message out?

The corporate media gets involved when there are fractures within the ruling class. We don't control that dynamic, but we can exploit it. When new questions are raised, as they were around Katrina, we have to be prepared to bypass the capitalist media in innovative ways to take advantage of the breakup of ideological inertia. CNN and MSNBC are asking "What went wrong?" during and after Katrina and Rita. So the political bosses are vulnerable. They are suffering a crisis of legitimacy. Now we have to cite that illegitimacy, expand the question beyond what went wrong to how the system failed the people, and to recite the list of illegitimacy surrounding the war, cronyism, debt, everything. We have to implant some new categories to destabilize earlier ideas about how the system works.

Independent media, and the creative use of the internet are important for this. I hear all the stuff about everyone doesn't have access or skills for the internet, but that is not a reason not to use it. And combine it with printed material, CDs, documentary films, and community-based popular education.

9. Are there any further comments you would like to make?