NATIVO LOPEZ RETIRES FROM PUBLIC POLITICAL LIFE TO PRIVATE CITIZEN
Trying to get up that great big hill of hope
For a destination
And I realized quickly when I knew I should
That the world was made up of this brotherhood of
man For whatever that means
And so I cry sometimes
When I'm lying in bed
Just to get it all out
What's in my head
And I am feeling a little peculiar
And so I wake in the morning
And I step outside
And I take a deep breath and I get real high
And I scream at the top of my lungs
What's going on?
And I say, hey hey hey hey
I said hey, what's going on
and I try, oh my god do I try
I try all the time, in this institution
And I pray, oh my god do I pray
I pray every single day
For a revolution"
These are the lyrics of the song "What's Up" interpreted by the 4 Non Blondes, a 1990s musical pop group, which sums up for me, as I interpreted the lyrics, to have much meaning for where I find myself after literally 44 years of active political activism in the struggle for social justice. I don't consider myself to be at all old. My physical appearance may belie my true age. I became a fellow-traveler at a very young age of sixteen in the secondary school fight for education reform - the initial phrase of what became known as the Chicano Movement - although my first participation on picket-lines and protests began at thirteen years of age.
This was 1966 and I haven't stopped or rested since. I am not known for taking vacations, celebrating holidays, or resting on my laurels. I have made myself available to the public at the oddest of hours all of my adult life. My family can attest to this. Ironically I was never a follower of the 4 Non Blondes popular appearance, nor am I sure that their interpretation of the lyrics are the same that I have ascribed to them. I attribute this to an example of cultural universality. You don't have to be Mexican or Latino to want real change, to fight from within existing institutions, to pray to one's God, or whatever that means, and to feel tremendous frustration with the lack or slowness of change and the continued existence of gnawing and expanding injustice.
Forty-four years of public service without interruption in numerous organizations - MEChA (as a high school and university student), various trade unions (as a worker), Center for Autonomous Social Action - CASA as a student/community activist (where I came to work closely with the venerated organizer/leader, Bert Corona), and long-time leader, organizer, and servant in Hermandad Mexicana Nacional/Latinoamericana (33 years), and the Mexican American Political Association (25 years, and state/national president since 2003). The number of other affiliations, coalitions, appointments, and boards, are too many to list here.
Grassroots organizing, strikes, walk-outs, picket lines, protests, letter-writing campaigns, petition drives, lobbying of legislators and public officials, mass marches, sit-ins, occupations, teach-ins, voter registration and voter mobilization campaigns, conferences and conventions, rent strikes, class-action and individual law-suits, legalization and U.S. citizenship programs, English language and civic classes, leadership training, and many other tactics have been part of my organizing arsenal over the years. My baptism to politics was attending picket-lines at the age of 13 over funding cutbacks at a popular community center in East Los Angeles. The second experience was attending a rally against the war in Vietnam where draft cards were set on fire and sent into the atmosphere with helium-filled balloons. And, my third experience was protesting police abuse in the city of Norwalk patrolled by Los Angeles County Sheriffs. I was turned on to organizing and politics from then on and haven't stopped since.
What I have learned over close to half a century is that the capacity of capitalism to re-invent itself, to absorb its losses and re-adapt, but most importantly, to beguile, co-opt, and corrupt its opponents and the general citizenry, is truly astonishing. It utilizes its political parties (of differing persuasions), private foundations, tax code, public institutions, corporations of all categories, churches - traditional, new age, and evangelical, - its monopolized media, public and private education, its regulatory agencies, statutes and codes, lawyers, judges, and courts, and the public administrative bureaucracy, etc. to induce consent of the citizenry. And when consent is not secured by voluntary means, it has at its disposal the ever-ready repressive tentacles of the state apparatus to crush any and all opposition and dissent, however miniscule, to thus compel consent, and performance.
Never in the history of human-kind has an imperial power of planetary dimension had available to it the reserve of monetary and human capital resources to induce consent of the governed by voluntary and involuntary means, and even extra-legal measures, as does these United States of America.
Peter Camejo used to remind us, before his untimely death, that over the past thirty years the capital wealth of the U.S. has more than doubled. Yet, today nearly one-half of Americans live in poverty or one small step from it. The wealth and income gap and disparity between the 1% and the 99% of Americans is greater today than a century ago, yet the country enjoys unparalleled abundance.
Well, after so many years of experimenting with different forms and means to change this system, I have found myself (and observe the same of others) doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. It is said that this was Albert Einstein's definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
I've concluded that it is time to change the doing to another, which may have all the potential to reach a different result. This has been my greatest reflection over the past two years of examination of my life. I admit that it is not easy to examine one's life. It tests your integrity and your ability to admit that you were wrong in some or many things, and your commitment to start anew. This is where I find myself today. It would actually be easier to surrender to inertia, stay in the comfort zone, not ruffle feathers of friends and family, not be the odd-man out. But, I have concluded that this would be cowardice and not the role of a truth-seeker.
After great reflection and introspection, it is now time for me to change what I'm doing in order to hopefully secure a much different result.
This includes retiring from public political life in the manner in which I have worked as a public figure, and instead revert to private citizen status.
There is for all of us a public life and a private life. Now it is time for me to work from the private side. Much can be done from this vantage point. Some or many would dispute this, however. I would say that the private side is just so unfamiliar to us. We really don't know much about this because political activists solely operate from the public side, at least most in our community.
As of May 1st, I resign all my positions and posts with any and all public organizations, corporations, boards, and entities for which I currently serve, particularly the Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana (after 33 years of dedicated service) and the Mexican American Political Association, MAPA, (as State/National President since 2003), and retire from public political life to that of private citizen. Retiring from public political life to private citizen does not mean surrender. It only means that real life for me has only begun. I am confident that there are others who will continue where I left off, no doubt more competent than me.
My examination of self really began with a new examination of the economic-political-judicial system under which we live - different than I had done previously. I discovered some very incredible things, which I had not noticed before and had not been exposed to during all my practice and study. Yet, it was all right there in front of my eyes - as it is in front of yours. What can be worse than a man who does not want to see?
A truth's initial commotion is directly proportional to how deeply the lie was believed. It wasn't the world being round that agitated people but that the world wasn't flat. When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.
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