progressive indignation

in·dig·na·tion/ˌindigˈnāSHən/

Noun: Anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment.

I spend last week at Netroots Nation in Minneapolis Minnesota, along with close to 2500 progressive writers, bloggers, and communications people. One of the more interesting events, of course, was when Andrew Breitbart, author of the book “Righteous Indignation” who runs websites like Big Government, Big Journalism, and Big Peace (really?), entered the convention center with an entourage, ready for a standoff. My favorite thing about Breitbart is that according to his Wikipedia page, he was adopted by a Jewish family, raised in a secular, liberal household with a Latina sister. Yet somehow none of that mattered, and in his 20’s he became “Reagan conservative with libertarian sympathies” (sort of like Arianna Huffington making a switch from being a conservative commentator to well, Arianna Huffington).

We had been warned about Andrew Breitbart before he came. His tactic: shove a flip cam in your face, feed on your ego about feeling special that someone cares about your opinion, blind side you, ask you questions, edits the crap out of the material, and make you look like a fool. Unfortunately, I think he succeeded this time. What we should have done was ignore him. What we did was use his own tactics against him. Cathartic? Yes. Constructive? No. Sean Hannity said it this way: “Now shockingly, the left-wingers and attendants did not treat him with the same civility that they seem to expect of others. Take a look at their shocking attacks.” Fine. Hannity is not the best source…for anything really…but he has a point. Watch the video I took of the altercation below:

After the scuffle I ended up talking to one of the young women who’s experience was the catalyst of separating the two media events, one progressive (Netroots Nation) and one conservative (RightOnline) in  the future. While the two evenst existed simultaneously for the passed 4 years, next year they will be separated to avoid further run-ins.  The young woman, wearing a hijab, was verbally assaulted by a man on the street who was shouting racist and bigoted things. She told me, that as the perpetrator was being removed from  the scene, he repeated Breitbart’s name over and over again. Of course, Breitbart is trying to remove himself from that situation calling it a “mythical event” and that “there was no such incident” (just for journalism sake I will link to the interview). As I see it, he is not trying to separate himself from the event, but instead calling the event itself false, and the young woman a liar.

Breitbart was actually not the only liberal turned conservative I met while being in Minneapolis. A man in a cowboy hat named Stacy accosted me at a local bar (conveniently called the Local) and asked me what I did. I responded with “Farmworker advocacy” His response? “What like Cesar Chavez and shit?” Yes like Cesar Chavez and shit. He continued on a tirrade about why all of us were wrong, explaining that he himself was liberal…until Bill Clinton. After a good 5 minutes of this, I put my hand on his shoulder and simply said “You are not being very nice” and walked away.

Sure we are angry. Sure we want the world to be different. But lets no use their negative rhetoric, because it will not get us anywhere. Van Jones mentioned MLK during his keynote and said “never let anybody drive you so low that you hate them,” because we also fight for our opponents. Let’s instead take their rhetoric about America and Americaness, and make it our own. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”? That’s us! “Liberty and Justice for all?” That’s us too!

So check out Van Jones “American Dream Movement” because I think this is what he is getting at.

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