Do Your Duty
How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office(Soft Skull · paper · $12.95)
Many feel that, with the aid of the corporate media, American politics has become so corrupt that it's not worth participating in. Since 2000, it's only gotten worse, and there is even less reason to bother in 2004, right?
In association with The League of Pissed Off Voters, among the 23 nationwide contributions to this book, UNM student Marisol Enyart penned "Sweatshops, Hip-Hop, and a Whole Lot of People for Grijalva," documenting the door-knocking and word-of-mouth campaign that placed progressive Arizona congressman Raul Grijalva into office. One of the candidates he defeated had twice the campaign money. Grijalva's victory was a display of bona fide democracy that went down in Bush's America in 2002.
Back in the day, racist Selma, Ala., mayor Joe Smitherman ordered police to beat marchers on "Bloody Sunday," which resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Co-editor William Upski Wimsatt writes about the campaign that finally ended Smitherman's reign. "In August 2000, he was still mayor of Selma. In November, he wasn't anymore."
The Oglala Sioux of South Dakota are not famous for their interest in electoral politics, and politicians are not famous for their interest in the Oglala Sioux. Kari Lydersen writes about the campaign of Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, a middle-aged white man who displayed more interest in life on the rez than any other candidate. "The increase in Indian turnout had clearly accounted for Johnson's margin of victory," writes Lydersen. This, again, happened in 2002.
As reported by Seth Donley, Malia Lazu started the organization Boston Vote with two of her friends to register and motivate potential voters. Working with similar organizations, voter participation increased by 34 percent, and, in 2003, Felix Arroyo was the first Latino elected to the City Council in Boston's history.
In "Dirty Politics and Tai Chi," Albuquerque's Eli Il Yong Lee reports on the ongoing battle to protect the petroglyphs from developers, and refers to Martin Chavez as "the mini-me of Manifest Destiny."
Slam poet and activist, Aya de Leon, a native Californian of Puerto Rican descent, gives a report on visiting family in Puerto Rico, where voting is met with the sort of fervor Americans reserve for events like the Super Bowl and the World Series.
Among the array of contributions, D.J. and hip-hop activist Davey D. give some damned good "Free Advice for the Democrats," and Mattie Weiss documents the struggles people have endured in places like South Africa and Brazil simply for the right to vote.
As William Upski Wimsatt points out in the introduction for this book, the number of votes which put Bush into office was 537. In other words, the many who, like myself, abstained entirely from the anemic 2000 election, helped put us where we are today. I suggest that you reserve your television viewing for such matters as the Super Bowl and the World Series, and read How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office to decide whether your participation in the electoral process can really make a difference.
(Answer: It can.)