Talking Points #7: And Now, for Something Completely Different…

Talking Points #7: And Now, for Something Completely Different…
There are a huge number of “Schools of Cheerleading '' in which teachers share arcane skills of rousing up a crowd. Image of the Eagles Cheerleaders, 2021. Photo courtesy The Commons

This is the seventh contribution in a series of op-ed pieces that can provide talking points to strengthen the information base and action decisions of those who seek to make others more aware. These are ideas to move fence-sitters.

After the sustained Covid experience—or what will be called “The Covidian Epoch”—I feel a bit like a sixth grader at his first dance. I don’t know how to start, where this is going, or how to get out of it without feeling like I’ve missed something. The only thing I know for sure is that all of us standing nervously around the dance floor as the music begins are feeling the same way.

What are we dancing to?

It is frighteningly clear that the right wing has molted into a creature with no real social agenda. They are bent on a single purpose: holding on to power, because being a “real American” means winning—or looking like you’re winning, at any rate. 

This unholy purpose does not need to be spoken of. In fact, it’s best left as a kind of “secret code thing.” (Wink, wink, nod, nod, “I’m wearing a gun.”) That way, no one has to discuss the wisdom of what it is one is trying to win at. No one has to say what the end result might be, just winning is enough.

Lost causes get them all excited, anything that cannot be challenged with logic. It’s all about spirit. It’s about sacrificing for something to have faith in.

I was struck by the phenomenon of the continued fight over the Civil War. This is an example. It goes deeper than that. This propensity is practically in the DNA of the White working class. Then along comes Don Trump who looks and sounds like the last living Civil War general.

When I taught in the South, I discovered a huge number of “Schools of Cheerleading” in which teachers share arcane skills of rousing up a crowd. These academies in studios and gymnasium-sized facilities operate every day of the week except Sundays when a preacher takes over the squad. There are even national conventions of cheerleading, competitions, superstars and gurus in this world. 

Underneath all of this cheering and prancing, pom-poms, bump and grind, and snappy slogan-shouting there is no actual cause mentioned or discussed. Any cause, lost, fatuous or fabricated, is a chance to get out on the floor and show their spirit. The male counterpart of this is the paramilitary political movement.

Anyone against their ideas is against their spirit. And spirit is what it’s all about. What the Trump machine did was even more clever. He promised to get out of the way and let them do their thing; pompoms, stars and bars, rifles and party down. He put the “party” back in “political party” for them. Jan. 6, 2021, was the granddaddy of cheerleading events.

Our job is to make our ideas more worth cheering for. We have to be winners. We have to take over the squad with ideas that make the whole thing more important.

If we ask questions like, “What are you doing following a known liar?” or “What’s the good of racism generating a war zone culture for the next 50 years?” or “What’s the good of poisoning the planet, ruining the climate and living in seasons of the natural holocaust?”

We will not win if we embarrass them, pointing out their self-destructive acquiescence to manipulation. If we do, they will go into manic face-saving mode. They will support a dictator who promises to make them feel good about themselves.

We need to find a better way. At the moment, we are not the best dancers on the floor. This has to change.

It’s going to mean engagement with some new partners. We need to be loud, sexy cheerleaders for what the left has done for this country and erode the presumption that they have the party going for them. If we can get the ear of the young and cleave them off from their parents, we have a good chance to redirect this country. After all, we and they like the same music and we all have to dance to it. It’s the lyrics we need to fix.

We need to declare that it’s much more important to have something good to cheer for than just to get out there and make noise.


  • Joel Eis

    Joel Eis is a former Draft Resistance organizer and Conscientious Objector. He was an organizer at the Strike at San Francisco State in 1968. He  was a member of El Teatro Campesino,  He was one of the 47 arrested at Fresno State on the march after the Cambodian invasion and the killing of the Kent State and Jackson State students in 1970.He is the author of 4 books published on theatre and politics. Since 2005 he and his wife Toni have run the Rebound Bookstore in San Rafael, California.

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