Friday, March 03, 2017

Organizing for Social Change: A Bibliography

In college, I played Ultimate frisbee. It was a relatively young sport, so this meant we mostly organized ad hoc sessions on the gorgeous Luther College library lawn. At the time, Ultimate frisbee players were precisely who you imagine them to be. Long hair, bandanas, bare feet, counter-cultural, unshaven and sometimes unwashed.

Then the college organized an intramural league, and our team, made up of the regulars from the lawn, would win most games, until it came time to play the cross-country team. We'd show up Saturday morning for a match with them, and they'd arrive hung-over, their breath distillable into martinis.

But they'd still smear us, because we were loosely organized, relied primarily on our individual skills with the disc, and though we'd score more in the first half, by the second half they would have completely outrun us. Exhausted, we'd watch them score point after point as they glided, still hung-over, across a field that for them was quite tiny compared to their races.

Then, one year, we traveled for a couple of competitions. We learned about offensive stacks, and the box defense. We came back, and absolutely trounced the cross-country team, who didn't know what had hit them. Suddenly, their marathon endurance and lanky legs weren't sufficient. They lost, and they lost bad.

Somehow, I feel like this is analogous to our moment. Those of us who love strangers and diversity and equality and our country have found ourselves outrun by a team playing the long game. Some of them, like Bannon, look perpetually hung-over. But they still beat us, and now hold the field and the disc.

But the game is still on, and there are some box defenses and stack offenses to learn. There are some great teachers out there. And some of the new methods are working. Do not under-estimate how powerful civil resistance, organizing and protests, are in this long game. We have pros who have gone before, pros working in the present, from whom we can learn and with whom we can align.

Winning isn't bad. It's a good thing, if sought for the right reason. It's even better if you win the game while also maintaining all the beauty you already valued. The open field, the green grass, the flight of that disc, the sheer pleasure of a leap and catch. These are why we play to win. In this game, it's not that we win so that the conservatives, or this president, or this congress, will be defeated. We play to win for the planet, for women, for children, for the hungry and homeless, for the sick, for Muslims and atheists and Jews, for immigrants, for refugees, for the poor.

They're on the field with us. We are them. We're on the ponytail and bandana team. And not that I have anything against long-distance runners. But in this instance, given that it's Donald Trump and dark money and Republican gerrymandering that has surprised us with the long game, I've got to say: We're coming for you.

The Bibliography:

No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age by Jane McAlevey

Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution by Andrew Boyd

Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World by Srdja Popovic

Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict by Erica Chenoweth

The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear by Rev. William Barber II

Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America by Tamara Draut

Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World by Alexia Salvatierra

Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community by Leah Gunning Francis

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