That quote was by Emma Goldman. She was a Russia Jewish immigrant to this country at the end of the 1800s; an anarchist and labor organizer. Feminist and hell-raiser. Also a great thinker and writer. She was deported back to Russia during the era of the Palmer raids, when the director of the FBI was rounding up radicals and sending them anywhere but here. You can read her work widely, and read more about her and her work here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/goldman/
But my point here is not to dwell on the lessons of dead anarchists, though there are many. My point is the idea that Emma put forth in that claim: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” It also reminds me a lot (though it came quite a bit earlier) of Martin Luther King, Jr.’ s concept of “agape”, of the “beloved community. Dr. King, whom we all were taught was heavily influenced by Ghandi’s nonviolent protests, talked a lot about doing things from a place of love, rather than anger. Emma Goldman’s quote reminds me that even though we fight for civil rights, women’s rights, voting rights, workers’ rights, what we are ultimately fighting for are HUMAN rights. The right to live our lives with not just dignity, but joy. That the reason we engage in the process of fighting is not simply to win, to beat the other side for the hell of it, but because we believe that we can Do Better. Because we believe that our work and our worth are connected, but they are not the same thing. We believe that we should have higher pay and better benefits because we have earned them. And why do we want them? Because we have worked hard, and all the children of God deserve to live well and provide when we have worked hard. We believe that the human rights we fight for as a labor movement should extend to all workers. We are not simply trade unionists: At our best, we are HUMANISTS. We believe that human beings have inherent worth, simply by being ourselves. We believe that all workers means all people. For what is the human experience, if not to toil?
I’ve been trying to keep these things in the front of my mind as this Right to Work legislation gets debated, as the Emergency Manager gets put into place, as the Right wing reactionaries get bolder and meaner. But I just remember that Emma & Martin, decades apart, wrote about love & joy. These are the two things that I’m trying to keep highest in my reservoir. It’s not easy, but I know that because I am human, I am granted nearly infinite capacity for both. I am trying, trying, trying to approach the fights ahead with a deep well of both love for my human family and the joy in knowing that the struggles that undertaken are fueled by that love. And I’ve started reading The Art of War, just for good measure. I’ll see you on the picket lines, in the voting lines and at the marches, with all the love in my heart.
Stepchild in the Promised Land