american revolutionary

i assert my solutions as the living embodiment of my nationality…

i’m testing that statement out.

for a long time, most of my conscious political life, i have not thought of myself as an american (and not a nationalist at all, especially not of a colonial empire). i have been a world traveller. a future ex-pat. a staunch critic of the ways america is failing at everything from dreams to execution of values, from founding to present. and i hold these critiques to be self-evident – how can anyone with a mind and a heart not see the failure, the epic moral failure of the country i was born into?

recently, 3 things have made me reconsider my relationship to america.

one thing is sitting with the words of the late james boggs and being with grace lee boggs, and their clear belief that we have to understand the context of where we are, that there is a real place in which we have the right to be revolutionary. jimmy said, “i don’t believe no one can run this country better than me,” and he said that as a worker. now i feel challenged by grace’s latest thinking, that a new “more perfect union” is ours to envision and embody, and i think we have to believe that no one can run this country, community by community, better than those of us with clear visions and practices of justice and sustainability. if we believe that, then we must take on the responsibility of bringing our visions into existence – through our actions, not just our words.

the second thing that has made me reconsider this is a conversation that happened at web of change. it was hosted by anasa troutman and angel kyodo williams, and i wasn’t even there, just got to debrief how powerful it was with several participants afterwards. one of the key components was the idea of being able to say that those things that offend us at the deepest level, which seem inhumane, which give us feelings of shame by association – we have to step up to say “that is not our America.” leaving the space open for american identity to be defined only by those who are driven by fear leaves us with what we have now – policies of walls and borders instead of open arms and visions, prisons and penalties instead of communities that hold each other accountable and safe, poverty and joblessness instead of meaningful roles in communities where we each feel our worth and get honored for our contributions. america holds an international role which we who have citizenship here can’t shake off – unsolicited and violent judge, oppressor, manipulator of resources and relationships, bringer of trash/waste/dehumanizing work. what we are within our colonized borders is amplified in our external actions. and there are enough of us who know a better way that if we truly took on the responsibility, the practice of being american revolutionaries, it would have a worldwide impact. scaling up, yes, but only by going deep in accepting the privilege and responsibility of being american at this moment in time and taking up new practices wherever we are.

the third piece for me is looking at my family in light of recent stories i have heard from immigrant families living and dying to get a hold of a status i have taken for granted. my sisters and i were born in texas, in el paso. folks who are brown like me and whose ancestors’ blood still bakes in the earth of my birthplace, folks who were born 10 miles away from me, they have died because of long-term impacts of our foreign policy, trade policy, drug habits. on a fundamental level, being an american means being responsible for the human cost of our way of living, our mistakes, our policies. i may not agree with the policies, but that doesn’t much matter to the people impacted by them if i do nothing to change the ways of this country. my family has had a chance at happiness that was made possible because of american military endeavors and i have to attend to that reality. can i face it completely and instead of feeling shame, think of what can bring justice to my family, to my nephew and niece as they begin their young political journeys? this feels like huge work for me.

i see more and more that my path is not necessarily an organizing path, be it electoral or community. this is not simply because i am disappointed in our movements, though i feel, viscerally, that we/they are mostly practicing what i could call the old american ethic: spread, grow, mainstream yourself, prosper in competition, value new ideas over ancient wisdom, colonize by spreading as many chapters with cookie cutter action plans as far and wide as you can, don’t apologize, pitch first and listen later, etc.

all of that is there, but my calling is underneath that critique, and it feels like yearning, it feels like a budding set of solutions. i am interested in connecting with, building with, and supporting folks who are interested in the next american revolution – in holding space for a new american ethic that speaks to the experience of masses of people within these hyper-enforced borders: we start by seeking indigenous wisdom for how to be in this place and honor those who have been here the longest. we stand with the world in calling for america to evolve as we practice these new-old ways of being here. we build our economy of relationships, not dollars. we see ourselves as part of a global network of citizens of one shared planet who have a collective responsibility towards home. we respect each other and the land, we practice restorative justice, we begin by listening, we accept the responsibility of where we are. instead of being known for our critique, we embody the revolution wherever we are, in whatever work we are called to.

i know i can’t change the past, not even the very recent past, our actions of yesterday and even this morning. but i am also more and more aware that i can’t put off this being of a place for even one more day. i have lived in many places, and i have loved many places, but i have papers for one place, voting power for one place, family all rooted in one place. it is this place where i will make my stand.

in a way this is another coming out, full of terror and bravado…and pumping out of me like blood. i will test this out, here, as a truth and an invitation: i am an american revolutionary.

2 Responses to “american revolutionary”


  1. 1 angel Kyodo williams

    this is brilliant, timely, powerful and necessary.

    as are you.

    bravo!

  2. 2 Autumn Brown

    this is really beautiful. i think as our society continues to see itself as global and globalized (and i tend to disagree that this is the case, rather seeing our society as increasingly narcissistic and voyeuristic), it is easy for left-bearing folks to want to throw off the chains of bondage that come in the form of our national birthright. I like that you are challenging that tendency.

    a lot of the anarchist rhetoric that i really agree with challenges the idea of massification and calls for localization as much as possible in our organizing work. what many anarcho-radical folks miss, though, is that the local-er you get, the more entrenched you become in a sense of place that is attached to a long complicated history. that history includes the indigenous folks who were/are here, the colonial folks who came, the citizens they became, the slaves and servants they forced along for the journey, and everything that ALL of them had to survive in order to bring us where we are now, all of the dreams and desires and sheer dailiness of it. like anything, we shy away from the complexity of this, because complexity inevitably means inclusion and inclusion inevitably means having to be uncomfortable sometimes. :)

    so yeah, I am with it. AND at the same time I firmly believe that solutions we propose have to go beyond being connected with one another and with our ancestors. there is a lot of that rhetoric too on the left, and it has resulted in beautiful new practices around process, but it has also resulted in serious issues of language and access – like any community, the left creates its own, ever-excluding language, even when we are discussing concepts that otherwise would be easily amenable to most americans. how do we take our values and visions out of the space of process and infect them in the space of building real systems that represent that new world? this is a question i am bringing to the institute i will be participating in…how do we make this work truly accessible, so that doing it doesn’t depend on access to resources or on someone else coming along and empowering you or “developing” you as a leader? That empowerment/leader development paradigm is part of the capitalist mindset i think we have to unlearn. I want to figure out how. .

    i love you and yr brain -autumn

  1. 1 stay in the game : transform.
  2. 2 stay in the game « new Dharma
  3. 3 stay in the game
  4. 4 standing with: an election call from my body at adrienne maree, the luscious satyagraha
  5. 5 stay in the game

Leave a Reply