Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Community Organizing, Jesus, and Saul Alinsky

Way back yonder in the election of Aught Eight, there was a wee bit of a kerfuffle about community organizing. You know, back when Miz Sarah got all high and mighty about small town mayorin' bein' real work, and community organizin' being somthin' only them lib'rals do when they cain't find work for the summer and Mumsy isn't opening up the house in the Berkshires until August.

Folks got all riled 'bout that, and so many Priuses and Volvos started sportin' bumper stickers that said: "Jesus Was A Community Organizer."

I saw one of those bumper stickers the other day on the back of a shiny Audi SUV in the well-off, liberal area in which my church is sited. It reminded me that over and over again, I've told myself that I needed to read Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals." Alinsky, in case you don't know him, is the Grandaddy of community organizing. His work to empower and radicalize communities in Chicago has a surprisingly deep impact on the American political system. Hillary Clinton wrote her doctoral thesis on him. Barack Obama cut his political teeth in the crucible of Alinskian organizing. That's made Alinsky a particularly potent boogeyman of the reactionary right.

He's a...commie! A...socialist! Aieeeee!

I figured it was about time to get down to some summer reading, and Alinsky was next in the rotation. So tonight, I'm curling up on the couch with Saul.

I'm wondering, in particular, just how well the thesis underlying that bumper sticker will hold up.