On Friday, January 20, 2017 AK_47 Presents co-Founder Kelsey Goldberg gave an abridged version of this speech. We're posting the full version here.
Today we woke up to a new world, in many ways it’s an uncertain world but the election and the transition process have given us insight into what we can expect and I’m not going to lie: it’s not great guys. I had fully expected to wake up feeling devastated, terrified, and angry, as I’d been feeling when I woke up almost every morning since November 9th, but I didn’t. I felt galvanized. See, when I had initially set out to write this speech I wasn’t sure where to start, November 9th seemed like the logical place to start.
I woke up that day and immediately started searching the Internet for active socialist groups. It was the day I found the Democratic Socialists of America. What it wasn’t, was the day my dissatisfaction with our political system started. I lived in Canada for eight years and when I moved home after the Canadian government very politely volun-told me I would be returning, the two party system inherently upset me. I think my feeble attempt at a prescient metaphor went something like this: “You can’t offer me a choice between an apple and an orange and call it the greatest fruit salad in the world.”
The fact is in too many ways when it comes to the most important aspects of our lives we are provided with false choices. A choice between Republicans or Democrats is not a choice when the country can’t opt out of both of them. This concept of bringing “choice over healthcare back to the people” is not a real choice because if your child is sick you can’t just say “well all of the options are bad, so let’s not get care.” The lie that there are choices that our country's African Americans can make that can opt them out of a system of police brutality or even the prison industrial system, is exactly that- a lie. Immigration is often callously reduced to a choice as if instead of moving here immigrants could have just vacationed in the Bahamas for a week. Being LGBTQ is not a lifestyle choice that can be electrocuted away. They talk as if it is a choice to work at a job that does not pay you living wages.
The DSA woke me up to the idea that we should have a choice in these areas of our lives. Being part of an organization that is actually structured in a democratic way was eye-opening. I get to vote on who we endorse, I was given a choice of what sub-committees to join: Socialism and racial justice, socialist feminism, politics, agit-prop, none, all? Which is why I didn’t feel upset or angry today.
I woke up knowing I was going to spend my day surrounded by people who don’t see resistance as a choice but a necessity. It is. Now more than ever we need to stand in solidarity with and when necessary stand up for the most vulnerable members of our society. This is not a choice but an obligation.
But choice will come into it. We are facing a very long four years. There will be issue after issue after issue. We need to choose to stay involved. We need to choose not to get demonstration fatigue. We need to choose to stay angry, or active, or inspired or whatever you need to feel to keep you in these streets fighting, because when we don’t- that’s when tyranny becomes normalized.
We also have the opportunity now to demand a better world than has ever been offered to us. All of us here today were brought here by various causes or rallying cries but by banding together we can change the narrative. We can demand radical democracy.
Not only do we reject the baseless notion that the working class should fear the immigrant who will do this job for less pay but we demand to know why we shouldn’t be mad at the boss who is willing to underpay their workers in the name of profit? Or why we shouldn’t rail against a society that will replace us with robots without a giving us a social safety net before they’ll entertain the idea of a $15 minimum wage? When the media turns it’s back on America’s First we shine our cameras on them and we do not shut up about Trump’s financial ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline until the pipeline is stopped for good. We double down and we demand that all treaties made with America's First be respected! When environmental regulations start to erode we are incessant in reminding everyone that if current environmental regulations didn’t protect the Sioux at Standing Rock or the people of Flint from environmental terrorism then not only should they not be paired back but they should expanded. When pundits politely ask each other “why should I have to pay more taxes so that someone I don’t know can have healthcare?” We scream that poverty should not be punishable by death! When they come for DACA we demand to know how paying your taxes but being born somewhere else makes you ineligible to live here but being born here and evading taxes makes you eligible to be commander in chief of this nation. When they come after Planned Parenthood, and gay rights, and freedom of religion we will be there: a thousand, then a hundred thousand, than millions of thorns in their side until they are reminded who it is their job to care about.
If any politicians out there are listening here’s a hint: It’s not your corporate donors.
The DSA was a place that made concrete some ideas that I had been grappling with for a while, but especially during this election. I have always worked hard, and I was fortunate to receive an excellent education that was paid for by my parents before I was old enough to have earned it. That’s why I never understood how politicians could stand there and sell this myth that a good education and hard work will fix class issues and racial tensions when they aren't also fighting to remove the road blocks to that education and ensure that we have a system where all hard work is rewarded justly. The economics of oppression have become abundantly clear to me.
This election cycle I witnessed a lot of what I had nicknamed trickle-down feminism. This is not something I think is unique to feminism nor is it meant to undervalue the importance of representation for any under-represented group. It is important, but on it’s own it’s not enough. I don’t think the daily life of the cleaning lady is bettered if the women in the boardroom start leaning in. We need to expect that those representing us at the top are fighting for what will benefit those at the bottom first, and that starts by helping us build a world where we represent our own damn selves.
Where our tax dollars are put to use to provide us with health care, childcare, education, shelter, transportation, and a universal basic income, instead of going to another bloated weapons contract. We will have a say in how our neighbourhoods are organized, how our workplaces are organized, how our democracy is organized because we the people were promised life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and we will become independent of any system that denies us those unalienable rights.