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RESISTANCE or Work Like You Were Living in the Early Days of a Better Nation

Andrew Tonkovich

We offer this issue with the modest, ambitiously, provocatively, and/or celebratory theme of “resistance” and invite readers to pick one, all, or any combination of the above. The March 5 election might encourage or affirm your vote but what inspired this editor was the analysis of a favorite political writer, the historian Rick Perlstein, author of a series of essential and gorgeously written explainers including the helpfully OC-centric Nixonland and Reaganland. Ian Masters of the radio show/podcast Background Briefing recently interviewed Perlstein, and in answering Ian’s familiar Chernyshevsky-esque question (“What is to be done?”) Perlstein went for it, and then some: 

You have to be a political activist, obviously voting but if there's a school board in your town that's being overrun by marauders who are lying you have to show up at the school board meetings. If there's the “least of the among you,” a migrant who's being assaulted or a community of migrants that are being dehumanized you have to show up at the migrant center. I couldn't sleep because that's often the case these days in my line of work and I woke up in the middle of the night a couple days ago and I started writing a column and I said one of the most important things that the political Right accomplished since before the Goldwater election which was the subject of my first book on the election in 1964 was they basically took everyone in America who had a conservative temperament whether it was orthodox preachers --- evangelicals, really any religion, priests whatever --- people in the military, cops, masters of the universe who wanted free rein to be plutocrats --- anyone who kind of had a conservative cast of mind and turned them into a conservative political activist. They made them understand that their way of life was under threat, the things they took for granted were gonna go away unless they showed up. One of the failings of the Democrats, and liberals too, in the last let’s say forty years since the shell-shock of Reaganism is that every person of liberal temperament whether a therapist or a scientist or someone who just loves nature or someone who has a corner cafe and sees it as a pillar of the community, they don't see themselves as political activists. In fact, they might abjure politics. They think it's just too much conflict, that all we need to do is kind of love each other and get along. And that has to change. People have to really understand that the things you kind of take for granted --- that a scientists can say what he says based on his evidence and get his recommendations taken, that people think it's good for America to be diverse, that it’s good for Americans to speak lots of languages --- that these are really what's up for grabs these days, the most basic taken-for-granted stuff. If you're not seeing this as something that's threatened and that you can do something about it maybe you're part of the problem. You know, you can't be neutral on a moving train and this train is moving very far to the right.

Nice shout-out to historian Howard Zinn there, which reminded me that I once met Zinn at, of all places, the Newport Beach Public Library. You don’t need a Perlstein or a Zinn to know which way the wind blows or the train moves. But it sure helps.

Meanwhile, you could read this issue, with two statements of resolve and solidarity, a veteran activist teacher’s autobiography of resistance, a remembrance of the late, loud Mojo Nixon by a great fellow So Cal singer-songwriter, a dispatch from suburban Huntington Beach, a revisionist history of Fullerton public school desegregation, a COVID-themed art show at UCI Irvine, an appreciation of a role-model grandpa, and a dystopian OC short story. There’s more, including poetry from an OC-born poet, a personal essay about colorism in the Mexican American/Latinx community, a comic about fascists at local school board meetings (see Huntington Beach, above, or Yorba Linda), photos documenting one pro-choice Newport Beach woman's brilliant poster activism, and a review of four books by women writers from our region on the theme of abortion.

Here's my favorite recent photo of resistance, a mom chaperoning her child in the rain at the recent CSU Fullerton strike by its teachers’ union.

And, yes, the easiest, most fun, and most reliably encouraging public celebration of civic engagement, creative resistance, and support for what Ralph Nader calls “the civic personality” around here is the annual Women For: Orange County Great American Write-In. On Saturday, March 9 you can join hundreds of others for coffee and donuts, meet representatives of dozens of activist organizations, sit at a table with your fellow non-neutral on a moving train activist friends, comrades, and strangers, and write a letter or ten or fifty (!) on behalf of your favorite causes. It’s so simple, perfect, and grassroots democratic that nobody else except Women For: Orange County is brave enough to just do it. Here’s the flyer.

Finally, there’s a big soundtrack, mixtape, album of anthems out there to which one might sing along, dance to or otherwise be cheered by. One of my favorites songs is from the now 45-year-old Oyster Band, a British folk-punk ensemble on its farewell tour, a song whose title I invoke often and whose lyrics inspire. I may have to create a new Citric Acid business card or at least include its wise and affirming direction on this site!

Play loud. Sing loud. Resist creatively. (Oh, and please throw a few dollars, tax-deductible) our way if you admire the work of Citric Acid, Orange County’s unlikeliest journal. Thanks to Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities, which includes us as one of its programs. Thanks to managing editor Jaime Campbell. And thanks to artist Eric Drooker for sharing our issue image.

I asked a wise man for advice

I told him once and I told him twice;

My life is one long damage limitation

He smacked me hard around the head

He handed me a card that read:

Work like you were

Living in the early days of a better nation

Living in the early days of a better nation.


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