Political Follies

Written By: Charles - Apr• 24•23

Spring and the Mesa View Moon

Monday gratefuls: Israel. Korea. My son and his wife. Travels in the future. Taking the Mesa view. Dismantling Racism. Anti-semitism. Racism. Justice. Love. Compassion. Paul and Sarah Strickland. Gary Stern. Luke and Leo. CBE. Shadow Mountain. The end of the endings. A beginning. The threshold. The Ancient Brothers, a family. Falling loons in Wisconsin. Mary. Mark in Saudi Arabia. Arabian Nights, my next long read.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Serious wrangling with Racism

One brief, shining moment: Radicals often mistake boldness for victory, stubbornness for analysis, and often confuse fantasy for reality, leaving themselves open to dismissal by history and bemusement from their contemporaries.


As I’ve delved deeper into the American far right, I’ve had to confront my own follies when acting while radical. I want to give  you a few examples because I see some of myself in those exercising the right to exit mainstream American culture.


In the early seventies, not long after I had moved to Minnesota for seminary, I joined a group called the Wild Goose Collective. There were twelve of us, if memory serves. Two lawyers, one of whom would become a close friend, Howard Vogel, the leaders of Clergy and Laity Concerned about the War, two strong women whose names I don’t recall, two local guys Paul Anderson, who would go on to become an abbot in a Buddhist Monastery, and a fellow Scandinavian whose name is on the tip of my neurons but won’t release. He ended up in California as a therapist. And others whom I don’t remember. This was a long time ago.

We conducted guerilla theater actions throughout the Twin Cities. One instance. A pro-war (Vietnam) rally along the Mississippi would be visited by a boat made to look like the aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise. Howard and Rebecca and the Clergy and Laity women would set off in canoes to intercept the boat and prevent it from landing. This was to draw press.

Meanwhile those of us on the shore passed out press releases about the number of Vietnamese killed by bombing sorties from the Enterprise. In this instance we called ourselves P.U.K.E. People Upset about the Killing Enterprise.

I do not consider this action a folly. It got press action and allowed us to get our message out. The point.

The folly came as the Wild Goose Collective began to imagine bigger plans. Specifically, and how very Marjorie Taylor Greene of us, we began to imagine a balkinization of the U.S. Why? Because the United States, when acting as a hegemon, proposed to police the world. Couldn’t do that if it had become, say, broken up into different nations. Texas. California. The Upper Midwest. The grain and corn and cattle Belt. The South. The Northeast. Something like that.

Not much different from imagining Christian Nationalism in northern Idaho or a takeover of all the Federal lands in the West.


Second instance. After a bunch of us Minnesota progressives had helped get Paul Wellstone elected to the Senate, we also knocked off a twenty year Hennepin County commissioner and got our guy elected. We decided to form the FLA. The Farmer-Labor Association. Our motto: put the FL back in the DFL.

Again. This was not the folly. We did elect other progressives to city council seats, the legislature, and helped set the Twin Cities on a progressive path.

However. As we began to succeed, we got ambitious. And decided to push for state level progressive programs to build affordable housing, make health care available for all, free job training, and expand a state version of food assistance. The best became the enemy of the good. We ignored the political realities of our situation and tried to get the whole pie all at once rather than accept the incremental change that is how policy changes get made in a democracy.

We failed. Energy sank. And, like the Wild Goose Collective, we all went our separate ways. Some of us, of course, remained politically active, but the cohesion and energy we had dissipated because we wanted too much, too fast. Look at the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives.


Third instance. Judy Merritt and I bought a farm in northern Minnesota. Near Park Rapids and Lake Itasca. We named it the Peaceable Kingdom. It would be a place of refuge and later training for those wanting to dismantle the system. Except. Judy and I weren’t getting along.

She took off with the guy who farmed our land as a renter. I sold the farm and moved back to the Twin Cities to finish seminary. We had exercised our right to exit without realizing how important personal relationships are when executing big plans.


My point here is that a lot of the Far Right action I’ve seen and read about suffers from similar problems. It’s in the realm of political fantasy. And, it doesn’t reckon with the facts of human relationships or how change gets made in a democracy. Not all of it. But a substantial portion. Like the Christian Nationalists. Like the folks who believe they can force the Federal Government to turn over lands to the states. Who, BTW, don’t want them.

Might be cold comfort, but I can see the same seeds of self destruction sown in the West today that my colleagues and I sowed in those oh so remarkable days of the early seventies in Minnesota.


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