Labor/Progressive Coalition in San Diego ? Will It Change a Damn Thing?

author: 
Rocky Neptun

I have watched power liberals, strut, posture and be awash in their aura as “the loyal opposition.” Their hierarchical, self-serving, activism (many are paid professionals) has long ago abandoned organizing in the neighborhoods, the hoods and barrios. Their liberalism, weak, shallow; it tinkers rather than confronts, compromises rather than challenges, sends you to “break-out sessions” rather than to the streets.

As a high-classed, sassy, male hustler in Hollywood, I used to be bustled off, half-clad, to the homes of some of the biggest names in Tinseltown in the 1970's. As a poor boy, from the other side of the tracks – white trash – some would call us; I would have, gliding along Sunset Strip, such tremendous excitement, a burgeoning sense of expectation at dating such famous people and a great hope that the hopes and dreams I had would be furthered by these encounters.

What I usually found were frantic luminaries, desperate for any kind of affection and support. Their movie and television images of courage and prowess, from which I would draw macho nectar, like a bee from a flower, for days before the date, would create in me an inflated ego, a sense of being somebody, of being accepted within the recognized elite. Only to crash amid the reality of who these people really were.

It was interesting last Saturday that some of these same experiences kept me from attending the Labor/Community Forum. I was on my way from my lover’s house in Rosarito Beach, sitting in my car at the border, when an image of one of my old tricks, Robert Reed from the Brady Bunch television series, burst forth, It was the day he cried on my shoulder and said the danger of creating an image of oneself, an illusion of action, is that the shadow becomes more real and we become trapped by who we think we are based on who we want others to think we are.

“We build glass houses, malls and even restaurants because we need for others to look in….to define and validate who we are by where we are, who our chummies are and how much we posture,” he had whimpered. He died alone, bitter and wretched.

For many years I have attended left-wing, progressive forums in San Diego. From the 2000 Ruckus Society training at the Che Café at UCSD to the 20002 grand convergence of the Cultural Creatives at Springfield College to the 2004 Affordable Housing Forum at Golden Hall where several thousand attended. And for just as long, I have watched power liberals, strut, posture and be awash in their aura as “the loyal opposition.” Their hierarchical, self-serving, activism (many are paid professionals) has long ago abandoned organizing in the neighborhoods, the hoods and barrios. Their liberalism, weak, shallow; it tinkers rather than confronts, compromises rather than challenges, sends you to “break-out sessions” rather than to the streets.

I attended a meeting of Activist San Diego recently on nuclear power and it was so disgusting, I went away in anger and refused to even write an article about the event. Power liberals, seeped in their agendas, like putrid tea bags left in the water for too many years, rambled on about their projects, theories and personal philosophy, talking, as my grandmother used to say “to hear their heads rattle.” Very few of the new people there, mostly young, were allowed an opportunity to express their questions, concerns and fears, much less their opinions and went away disappointed and turned off by our progressive movement here in San Diego.

Saturday’s so-called labor/community forum was, indeed, as Frank Gormie pointed out in his article at the Ocean Beach Rag website, the first time that organized labor has come to the progressive community for back-up. So…..where has the political power of the labor unions been all these years? Feathering their nests? Furthering the interests of the Democratic Party, while it’s career politicians, from the President on down, have abandoned the working people and the poor. Now the unions, weakened and under attack, seek allies.

Where was the AFL-CIO Labor Council in 2001 when a small group of activists, known as the HOPES Committee, later expanded into the Affordable Housing Coalition of San Diego County, picketed Mayor Murphy’s first State of the City speech for decent, reasonably priced housing? Where was organized labor when whole families, some third generation, in the last decade, were being displaced from City Heights, then other neighborhoods like Barrio Logan, by gentrification? Where was labor all these years that the Renters Union has been trying to get rent control on the agenda or ballot?

Where has the labor council been all these years while ill San Diegans and their safe, legal access to their medicine has been under attack by a vicious District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis?

Where was union leadership during the first decade of 2000 when the homeless were being hammered with beatings, arrests and harassment? And, to come down to the nitty gritty, why haven’t the unions tried to organize one big union for the city which would cover all those stressed out AM/PM clerks, service workers, gardeners and all the rest of us who work by the hour?

I do hope something concrete and confrontational comes out last Saturday’s event; that it just wasn’t another episode of diversion theatre with the usual cast of activist actors, like Daddy Brady, spinning shadows, an illusion of what could be. Only time will tell us, but the record in our city has not been great.

rockyneptun [at] gmail.com