By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Book Review
On November 15, Bernie Sanders published a memoir chronicling his upbringing in Brooklyn, his primary campaign against Hillary Clinton and his strategies for changing the future of the United States. The book, appropriately, is called Our Revolution, immediately drawing a stark contrast between his politics and those of Donald Trump: the "we" versus the "I"; the idealistic movement forward versus the plan to drive the country in reverse. Sanders champions a collective sense of social and political responsibility. Compare that with Trump, who represents the "I got mine and you're on your own" perspective -- in other words, the deconstruction of "our" social contract.
The first section of the book, written in Sanders' candid voice, will intrigue readers interested in learning about his early years, spent in a "three-and-a-half room rent-controlled apartment" in Flatbush. The hardscrabble life that he describes as the son of immigrant parents who escaped the Holocaust, pushed him toward a belief that individuals in a society are mutually responsible for each other. In fact, he partially attributes the evolution of his understanding to his childhood friends, who organized activities like street baseball games on their own, without the availability of parental supervision or adult umpires (due to their parents' long work hours). He writes:
Nobody coached us. Nobody refereed our games. We were on our own. Everything was organized by the kids themselves.
The "we" superseded the "I" -- and there was a sense of fairness and playing by the collectively determined rules.
Particularly interesting is the 265-page section entitled, "An Agenda for a New America: How We Transform Our Country."
Bernie Sanders urges people to keep pushing for transformation, and emphasizes that it is possible. As he observes in his conclusion:
I hope very much that my campaign for president will not endlessly be discussed from an historical perspective, looking back. I hope that my efforts, and the incredibly hard work of hundreds of thousands of grassroots volunteers in every state in our country, will be seen as a turning point in American politics and a blueprint for the future.
Sanders may be 75 years of age, but he is tenacious in seeking economic and social justice -- and in attempting to eliminate the privileges and arrogance of wealth, white privilege and gender bias. This was clear in 2010: In December of that year, Sanders delivered an eight-and-a-half-hour mini-filibuster in the Senate, which became known as "The Speech." Standing undaunted and in full indignation, Sanders used the time to provide an analysis of a society that had been corrupted by corporations and personal greed -- a society that had abandoned the poor and working classes.
I had the good fortune to get to know Sanders a bit between 2000 and 2005, when he was a self-described socialist congressman from one of the nation's smallest states, and the corporate media wouldn't give him the time of day. We interviewed him, and he read BuzzFlash. The role of the profit-driven media in enabling our current oligarchy was never lost on Sanders, who would attend media reform conferences with tousled hair and a bulky briefcase that looked like it was about to burst open. That is why he writes in his current book:
As A.J. Liebling wrote: "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." Today, a handful of multinational corporations own much of the media and control what the American people, see, hear and read. This is a direct threat to American democracy. It is an issue we cannot continue to ignore.
Sanders devotes a section of his book to "the impacts of institutional and structural racism." When he was first interrupted by #BlackLivesMatter protesters, one got the feeling that he did not really have the experience or understanding to meet the challenge of intersectional social and political challenges head-on. After all, his focus was on the economic structural deficiencies of the United States. Yet the uncompromising campaign for racial justice clearly expanded his horizons, and he began to more fully understand the interrelationships of injustices in the US. Even at 75, he was learning and broadening his vision. He was, unlike most politicians, listening and absorbing and not just sticking to a script, and Sanders was not shy about saying that he still had more to learn.
Although Sanders was, like so many in the US, consternated by the electoral college triumph victory of the white nationalist vulgarian Donald Trump, Sanders indicates by his formidable wish list for America in Our Revolution that Trump's horrors will not stop his drive for structural change. Sanders has his own agenda and, he points out, it's not going to be achieved unless he and his followers continue fight hard for it.
Sanders is already excoriating Trump for proposing a deceptive infrastructure plan for the nation, as reported the other day on Medium:
The plan he [Trump] offered is a scam that gives massive tax breaks to large companies and billionaires on Wall Street who are already doing phenomenally well.
In the same publication, Sanders wrote a letter to President Obama appealing to him to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. For Sanders, the pursuit of "our revolution" seems to involve interrogating and challenging powerful forces, no matter what party they are affiliated with.
With the publication of Our Revolution, Sanders has reconfirmed that he will continue serving as a leader toward "a future we can believe in." However, he is well aware that he is not a prophet or sage. He emphasizes that the road to a just future is ours to walk in collaboration with each other. This is what movement advocacy and truly progressive politics are all about.
The 2016 primary gave Bernie Sanders a following and a megaphone. No, he's not strictly a socialist, but his openness in calling himself a socialist is testament to his gumption.
Bernie Sanders isn't going quietly into the night -- not by a long shot.