THE BLOG
09/15/2010 12:50 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Taking it to the Streets

Reactionaries grasp a crucial truth: no dialogue, no democratic process. They seek to silence us by shouting, by blustering, by disparaging, by threatening, by changing the subject, by changing the meaning of words, and, by lying.

Their behavior is unacceptable! And, I don't. So I'm again wearing my "Obama For President" t-shirts. It creates chances to say, "America chose well. Now we must elect a decent Congress." I also listen with interest when someone responds, whether with a smile or a frown: It takes two to dialogue.

I also know reactionaries win when we reduce people and places to "hostile territory." So I make it a point to wear these conversation-starters when I'm pretty sure I'm NOT "singing with the choir." This past weekend, there was no mistaking my MoveOn.org "OBAMA" shirt as I drove from Atlanta to northern Kentucky and back for a family wedding.

Lots of different perspectives were voiced, but no one ranted.

When people agree with me and my president, I remind them to vote in November and to talk to their friends. If they disagree, sometimes I get a chance to enrich their understanding of how profoundly wrong-wingers are exploiting them.

The big payoff this trip: Ordinary people repeatedly told me how much they LIKE this president. AND his politics. They want him to succeed. And too often, they said they're afraid to say so.

These walk-around people have NOT forgotten who destroyed our economy. They're angry that Republicans look out only for themselves and their paymasters in big business. These folks have not changed their minds about President Obama. Yet, a whole lot are genuinely confused. And frustrated.

"Why hasn't Obama done what he's promised?" they venture. I keep the answer simple: Republicans and too many Democrats DO NOT WANT things to change. They are paid to resist. That's why they keep throwing obstacles in front of everything we elected Obama to do. We got him to the White House. Next we have to clean house in Congress. Go vote! Replace the diehards, the sycophants, the bagmen for the rich. Elect Representatives and Senators ready to work WITH our duly elected president, to engage in genuine dialogue.

The wedding was a celebration, the union of two families, and we reflected on what the future holds for this lovely couple. The occasion also proved a good chance to encourage goodhearted progressives in the group who are disappointed that Obama hasn't done more.

I reminded them -- and myself -- that electing Obama was the BEGINNING, not the end. This President, unlike the Dick Cheneys of the world, actually believes in democracy. The establishment is real. The wealthy and big business have had things their way in America since before the beginning and are deeply attached to their privileges. They are not going away. We will always have to push-back against reactionaries. And we can never give up. Never!

My own confidence was renewed as I listened to family members from across the nation, regular people working for progressive candidates in some very unlikely places. Win or lose, these candidates are making real inroads in spite of fires stoked by bigots, the ill-informed, and the narrow-minded.

I particularly enjoyed exchanges with the motel and hotel desk clerks, on both sides of the Ohio River, eager to talk politics. I was surprised by their hunger to engage. The saddest, but maybe the most important question asked, was, "So whose side is this "Tea Party" on, Democrats or Republicans?" Shame on us that she had to ask! And shame on the media which prefers now to inflame rather than to inform.

My simple public display of support for the president also induced other conversations. I got to explain why I crossed the river into Ohio every night for my accommodations: I refuse to spend money in Kentucky while they keep Mitch McConnell in power. (I was richly rewarded with sightings of "BeatBoehner.com" billboards.)

Even a Prius needs to stop occasionally for fuel. Gas station patrons and attendants alike often wanted a quick word. It was the perfect opportunity to speak out against Big Oil, secretive oil barons like the Koch brothers, and greedy media, particularly Rupert Murdoch, and poisonous talk-radio buffoons. We cannot say it too often -- only VOTERS can reclaim Congress so President Obama can deliver on his promises.

Dr. Cornel West was spot-on with his keen observation: DI-A-LOGUE is the soul of democracy. So whether in Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky or the district in southern Ohio which John Boehner ill-serves, I am a full-fledged citizen. The noise of media drivel has almost drowned our voices. I continue to be amazed that my presence and my simple statements seem to give people permission to reengage, to start thinking again and to start acting.

Ordinary people talking to each other is only one antidote to Republican lies and profit-bloated cheats. But it's a strong one. It's one more path toward detoxifying our badly abused and carefully misinformed electorate. Who knows the consequences? Every voice counts when people make the crucial choice to vote and to choose which candidate gets that vote.

Even when no words are exchanged, the extremists and reactionaries have failed on at least one count. I am not silenced. That opens up a world of possibilities for my fellow sovereigns, too.

We know how the McConnells, Boehners and Kochs operate. We know only money and self-serving ideology motivate the Murdocks, Becks and Limbaughs. What we do not know is what will happen on Nov. 2.

Our actions -- or failures to act -- are crucial to that outcome. Yes, they will contribute to the phrasing of headlines on November 3, 2010. Of inestimably more consequence, they will determine the kind of a nation we are choosing to become.