-- Joni Mitchell, "Don't Interrupt the Sorrow"
Readers of this newsletter are probably pondering how to vote for Secretary of State in November. Those who refuse to vote, on the sound anarchist principle that it only encourages them, are at least pondering the desired outcome of that race.
Would the pleasure of seeing John Fernandez' political career crash and burn outweigh the pain of two more years of watching him sell himself and our town to the monied interests? Some have argued that a new mayor might help stop the I-69 juggernaut. But when you really think about strategy, defeating Fernandez is a possible key to our salvation.
It's sad about John Fernandez, really. He could have ridden the crest of populism and environmentalism that grows stronger every day, provided some decent leadership and enjoyed a perfectly respectable career as Bloomington's long-term mayor.
Instead, we have endured the grotesque Faustian spectacle of John's mercurial descent to those nether regions reserved for soulless politicians (i.e., almost all of them) who have squandered all integrity in the thieves' market of political opportunism.
No need to detail for this readership John's rightward freefall -- the treacherous I-69 boosterism, the creeping police state he has fostered, the endless shady deals with the developers on whom he counts to bankroll his political climb. He has hardly bothered to conceal his eagerness to use our town as a stepping stone to higher office."
Fernandez and his retinue personify a political type that emerged in the 80s -- the Ex-Liberal. These folks cling to a hazy, nostalgic image of themselves as progressives, having marched against the War, and/or for abortion rights in the 60s and 70s. Their youthful activism or counterculturalism bathes them in a lifelong halo of enlightenment, they believe, as they turn into their parents, or worse.
Our Sensitive New Age Mayor weeps in public. He surely cherishes the Indy Star's references to him as "Bloomington's progressive young mayor." After all, he traveled to Nicaragua in the time of the Sandinistas, in keeping with his cool ethnic surname.
The schizophrenic tug is powerful. Above all, Ex-Liberals must avoid the glare of scrutiny that might expose their festering hypocrisy. So they continue to posture as the Enlightened Class, while turning every screw of social control at their disposal to mute the revelation that Bloomington's Emperor, for example, wears no clothes.
'You be polite!'
Which brings us to all the yammering about civility, the crusade for which is transparently designed to silence dissent. Civility flows one way: be polite, don't criticize us, or we will break your faces.
Take John's Czarina of Civility, Marsha Bradford, a former hipster and legal services lawyer who now professionally flaks for Fernandez. After Bloomington's Finest had scrubbed the pavement with our friends' faces for their heinous offense of biking up Walnut in symbolic protest, she was confronted with whether this is what the City means by safe and civil. She sputtered and whined that the police had reacted to "provocation." Jeez, even the lowly H-T never stooped to that whopper. (BTW: did anyone else note the crowning irony that, soon after the Critical Mass bikers were arrested for occupying a lane of traffic for about 15 seconds, upscale Lockerbie condo construction tore the very same lane of Walnut right out of the ground for at least 15 weeks? I must have missed the part where the cops beat the shit out of the Lockerbie developers.)
Consider also the Czarina's sidekick, The Great Zionist, Jeff Isaac, whose civility credentials include disrupting Edward Said's literary lecture on "Cosi Fan Tutti" with a good five minutes of the vilest anti-Palestinian invective. Clearly, none of this rhetoric is really about Being Nice.
The point was brought home most dramatically at the recent "public comment" meetings on I-69. This correspondent was greeted with typical INDOT civility upon quietly entering the Terre Haute meeting with a simple poster reading, "Save Our Farms." Immediately, 8-10 INDOTs and their state trooper goons descended, hulking and intimidating with the unlawful demand that I either give them the sign or leave. When I graciously declined, they threatened me with arrest. Borrowing a page from Orwell, they harangued that I was the one "disrupting the meeting."
The next night in Bloomington, not at all shamed by having made monkeys of themselves on television the night before, the INDOTs stationed their 400-lb gorillas at the door to search everyone for "signs or props of any kind." INDOT admitted to Tom Tokarski that they knew they had no legal right to do so, but smugly insisted that they would enforce their rule anyway.
So INDOT suspends the First Amendment, yawns at our community's passionate outcry against their proposed devastation of our region, makes it plain that they continue to ignore the will of the people as they have done for over a decade now -- and we get tarred in the press for being "rude."
No mystery why these "public servants" want us to be polite. If we fall into line and sit with folded hands while protesting with meek middle-class whispers, they will win. I-69 will be blazing its destructive swath through the beautiful fields, forests, and farmlands of Southern Indiana. All of Bloomington will look like Jerry Gates' monstrosity on the west side of town (just get off I-69 in Anderson sometime, and behold our possible future). The town and countrysides we have loved will be dim memories.
If we are to stop all this, we have to refuse to be polite to the profiteers who would pillage our communities, destroy our quality of life and leave a defiled rubbish heap for our children. Act up, get mad as hell and don't take it anymore! Each in his or her own particular idiom, of course.
As for Fernandez, let's defeat the scoundrel resoundingly. He'll be a lame duck locally and a three-legged dog on the state political scene. He couldn't get re-elected dogcatcher here, but nevertheless, his challengers will have to commit themselves to positions that distinguish them from Mayor Clinton, rather than simply waltzing into a vacuum.
Most importantly, Fernandez' defeat will send a message to Indianapolis that the Democrats cannot persist with their new-terrain boondoggle and have any hopes of winning elections. That's a message in language these primordial plutocrats can understand.
And remember, if we weren't starting to seriously threaten them, INDOT and Fernandez' corporate constituency would not be squawking so loudly. We are poised to make some real changes, and they know it. This is a time for boldness and solidarity -- and an awful lot hinges on whether we have it in us.