Discuss the book

Hey everyone,

Discuss the book.

What were your favorite / least favorite parts?

How does it connect with your life?

What does it leave you wanting to do?

What do you see as your role in building a super movement?

8 responses to “Discuss the book

  1. I have been totally hooked on Please Don’t Bomb the Suburbs! It is such a fascinating look at the past 25 years. I have worked really closely with Billy for the past five years but reading this book and seeing his personal view on the history of the movement has made him and the work we have done together make so much more sense!! 🙂

    I just love the parts about him growing up in Chicago and the tales of a sorta tortured kid looking for more in life. Upski has always been so FEARLESS! That fearlessness is so contagious. Thanks for sharing Billy.

    The part that really gets me thinking is this: all the stories of his friends who have died or are in jail that he was in this with through graffiti, organizing or hip hop. It just makes me feel like, what is the point of all this? It’s just hard to keep organizing on a meta level when on a real, circle of friends level we are having such a hard time keeping our friends healthy and by our side – ya know?

  2. So I was REALLY looking forward to Billy Wimsatt coming out with his new book and I couldn’t wait to go to his reading in Berkeley. I had been waiting. I have worked closely with Billy for years and he has taught me almost everything I know about politics and organizing, so I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to support him.

    But three days before his reading I found out my friend, Maggie, who is 29 years old, was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Needless to say I was a total wreck. Between sobs and compulsive google searching for stage four survivor stories I made it to Berkeley. As I sat there and watched Billy try to pump the crowd up about the super movement that will save politics in America I was overcome with the sense that we all just needed to go home and take care of our friends and families, cozy up in our houses and just try to enjoy life while we have it. I didn’t want to talk about spending long nights in a campaign office to fight against tea partiers, I mean why does it really matter if any one of us can wake up in the morning with stage 4 breast cancer? I felt so sad and discouraged but this intense feeling of fear and ‘we are all screwed anyway, let’s just enjoy life’ fit perfectly into my plan to sit out the 2010 election cycle.

    I had decided I wasn’t really going to participate in the 2010 election cycle. I was pondering the idea that politics might be too oppositional for me and I may just bow out completely. In the mean time, I figured I just needed to give myself some time to do joy filled work and focus on the positive in people and not think about the people who act like bigots and put up road blocks on election day. My plan for the Fall was this: work with 350.org on a global day of action (10/10/10) with amazing people across Asia who want to make a positive difference in their communities, meditate everyday to learn more about myself and how to react to all the moving parts of my life with more grace and joy, party with my friends and just continue to love being young and to be a good friend and girlfriend and not being too busy to listen. I like that plan and I am committed to it.

    But on my BART ride to work this morning, while reading Billy’s book Please Don’t Bomb the Suburbs, something clicked, when I read the below excerpt, and I have had to add to my plan.

    The Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling (saying corporations can spend with no limits in campaigns- ugh!) was a HORRIBLE decision. But it was a 5-4 decision split across partisan lines. The five Republicans justices voted for the decision. The four Democratic justices voted against it and wrote a blistering dissent. The real lesson of Citizen United is that we need to stop Republicans from taking over the U.S government and appointing right wing extremists to the Supreme Court.

    There has rarely been a more clear-cut case of the need to stop Republicans at all costs. If a few hundred more of us had voted Democrat in Florida back in 2000, Bush wouldn’t have become president in the first place. Alioto and Roberts wouldn’t be in the Supreme Court. We would have a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court against corporations buying elections.

    Okay, so my core belief, what I guess I would call my religion, is that all people, if they are being their true selves, are good. So the whole Republicans are evil conversation doesn’t sit well with me. I hate US vs THEM. Because truthfully I believe there is just us – people in the world who want to be happy, feel useful, free, loved and appreciated. But the above passage made me realize that holding that belief up as my ticket out of politics will not serve me or the vision I have for the world. I want to live in a world where people are more free, are happier, are more connected to their friends and neighbors, and where decisions that positively affect the people most in need are the ones prioritized by our government.

    I can’t think about it as Democrats vs Republicans, I think about it as people who support community building vs oppose it. I want to move towards a world where regular people, without a lot of money, have the same chance to organize for their vision of the world as a massive corporation or someone with a well stocked bank account. I believe a few basic things need to happen in order to make that possible: we need to be working together to create an accepting country where people have more or less equal access to good schools, good healthcare, good jobs, healthy environments, protection and acknowledgment under the law, fair elections and, by god, we must limit corporate control of our government and elections. I think we can all agree on that one. We are at a pretty uneasy moment in history where a lot of that is at stake this Fall. So no Billy, I guess won’t sit out this 2010 cycle, because I refuse to watch candidates be elected who laugh at jokes like calling our President “Halfrican American”, who support the tea party in denouncing Islam, and who campaign on doing away with medicare, privatizing vets healthcare and further privatizing everyone elses’ healthcare. To me, those things aren’t even Republican or Democrat, those are just bad ideas mixed with extreme ignorance and intolerance. I sat on the BART today and just realized these ideas aren’t going to help me organize for the peaceful world I am determined to live in, they aren’t going to help Maggie get the best healthcare she needs, they aren’t going to help people with different religious views live side by side and they aren’t going to help make our streets safer and our communities stronger. And at this moment in my life those things are the most important things to me.

    So here is what I am going to do, when I finish this blog I am going to call Billy, ask him the closest races in the country where the extremists have the highest likelihood of winning and I will pool my resources, my time and both people connections and money, to help a better candidate win in that district.

    Even writing this blog is hard for me because I don’t like to get all worked up about how people can be so mean and say and do such wrong things. But deep breath Heather, they just need help getting in touch with the real them and tapping into that deep reservoir of love and unity every human is born with. Until they do that, I don’t want them running our government. So I will do what I can this Fall to give them the opportunity to stay out of DC, so they can get to work finding their inner peace and return to the playing field as a candidate ready to support community and help build the beautiful, accepting country we all want to live in, where people thrive on and embrace our differences.

    So this election cycle I will be zen campaigning – staying committed to my own inner peace, being a good friend, girlfriend and listener and having fun while I’m doing it!

    Cross posted from: boxheather.blogspot.com

  3. As an avid reader, I was shocked more so at the title of this book. I’ve read “Bomb the Suburbs” over twenty times and feel as alive as I did when I was twelve years old. “Please DONT Bomb the Suburbs” I hope, will not tell me what the title says. I am a Rebel, a lot of that attitude, yes, comes from being inspired by the adventure and intellect of “BTS” and listening to Wu-Tang, Gang Starr, MF DOOM and The Pharcyde. I have only gotten through the first eleven pages, so I can’t say truly how I feel about this new message and awareness. But I will say It was nice to see props to lots of people I have come up with during this Super Movement. I know what this is and I have recognized its coming for some time now. I’m not just some punk kid from Chicago that had a chip and a spray can, I created options from my Hip Hop and became apart of the movement, I hope that others that are of the same age and time will do the same if they aren’t open yet.

  4. Only a few chapters in, I knew I’d put keeping up with politics on hold too long. What more was there to know? I’d majored in philosophy at Florida State (one of the top departments in the country at the time) under Dr. Donald Clark Hodges, a one-time strategist for the Sandanistas. “When someone asks you to vote for them,” he’d say, “Tell them to go f**k themselves! Vote for yourself!” It was the 90s. I was proud to introduce my one-time political philosophy TA come friend to Adbusters, “No Logo”, etc. I’d been a reporter on an assignment for the Atlanta Indymedia chapter. Years later in the mid-oughts, I was the almost-40 guest in intellectual, high school punk basements where this worldview still held sway. I was also the first one who became disenchanted with the movement for same reason folks often get disenchanted with religion — a few large, bad seed.

    I came to read this book because I’d used Billy’s first two books as texts in a high school Hip Hop history class that I taught, which was really a course on politics, race and social class — things from my past that I am still trying to understand. I screamed too loudly a lot of the time, opened myself too widely leaving myself vulnerable, and then I read that Billy did too. Okay, lesson learned. Won’t do it again. A student who’d taken the class twice (and tried to sign up for a third go-’round) graduated and went on to Oberlin where he met Billy and suggested our friendship on Facebook. It was Billy’s announcement of the book’s fan page that caught my eye. I was excited to be the first fa

    I’ve read PDBTS 2 1/2 times. The first time, I had a twinge of “Oh no, Gen X just got soft. Oh no, Gen X is/I’m gonna have to grow up.” I saw a lot of myself in this book. As I’ve said, I got stuck in my generations’ 90s era view of politics (it’s tenants and timeline outlined very well in PDBTS). But what pushed me away from politics even further was hearing the same *ullsh*t stereotyping whether I was visiting my folks (Jamaican, mixed-race, elementary school graduates, living in exburban Flordia, watching FOX News), or among my ITP liberal friends (American, White, Brown graduates, at over-priced organic salad bars, discussing The Economist.)

    Inter-group communication between these two kinds would never happen for a lot of reasons, but what frustrated me was how little they tried understand one another. My folks don’t have the critical thinking skills to follow ITP arguments, and ITP isn’t charitable enough to sus out the meaning in my folks’ patois. My folks have standards from a different era and aren’t comfortable with experimentation; ITP has a hard time with belief and sometimes conflates it with stupidity. As I read on, Billy addressed a lot of what turned me off — snobbery that comes in hurtful forms. Finally someone saw what I saw, but had the distance to distinguish the good seeds from the bad. If anyone I’d ever read could help me through the anger and disillusionment I felt, it was Bill.

    So I kept reading. I decided, as hard as it is for this idealist to accept, I may not like that only two parties get a voice, but if you want to have some effect you have to work with what you’ve got. Clark was also right when he said, “Don’t dilude yourself thinking you can start a revolution; ride the waves as they come and affect change through them.” When I closed the book the first time, I decided, for only the second time in my life, that I would register to vote again. My TA/friend beat me to this dialectic branch a couple years back. Each one, teach on.

    While I was reading the book 2 1/2 times, my dad was dying of brain cancer. We didn’t see it coming. Monday he was driving to the grocery store. Friday he wasn’t walking. Of course we didn’t agree on Politics, but we did agree on politics. When he was still lucid, we shared a great joke slamming both dominant parties that marked the end of our battles over good vs evil. I think my dad was right about a lot of things. My ITP friends are too. I’ll never get them to talk now, but I want to keep trying. If there’s a resolution for my dad and I it’s that I keep trying. He became stoic near the end, answering in one-word responses, but I think he still has a lot left to say, and I’d love to say it for him. To make the point simple, I’ll vote progressive, but I can also watch FOX News and easily see their point even when I don’t agree. I’m sure I’m not the first or only, but I’d love to help facilitate better, more civil inter-group conversation.

    I grew up several times reading this book and comforting my mum and dad. A hawk pitched on my dad’s roof twice that month. I got messages from the book, my dad, my mom, my extended family and people I’ve never met. Growing was the common theme.

  5. Kelly High Crusader

    This book was the best wake-up call I ever had! As a high school student, it disappoints me that more people my age are not getting involved in stuff like community organizing. Billy does a great job in talking to my generation,telling us that we all need to start doing things ourselves instead of waiting around for the government to do it for us. Yes,we can save the world! Thanks Billy for writing this book and thanks Mr. Cvetkovic for telling me to read it!

  6. As a high school student in a poor neighborhood and as a Latina, I really liked how you touched on people who call themselves liberals being elitist snobs. I am not your typical “dumb high school kid.” I care very much so about issues going on and want very much to change the world as much (or even more) than the next person. However, when I went to a meeting of an organization that I won’t mention,they didn’t take me seriously because I wasn’t white, older, middle class and wasn’t in college. People have all the power to change the world,but seriously, nothing is going to change because we “liberals” can’t even get along and agree with one another let alone begin to change the world. The egos are way too high. Thank you for raising this issue in your book and understanding how us young,poor non-white liberals feel.

  7. Billy,

    I read your first book in 95 when I was living in a rough part of baltimore. I totally related to it at the time mainly because I was a hip hop kid and just about to make my stamp on the hip hop scene in baltimore and what would turn into SF. I remember how I felt reading that book and inspired me to take ownership of my hip hop. Thus I dj’d for the next 10 years and rocked it when I was rockin’ it.

    I remember reading No More Prisons in 2000 and how I started to become more politically minded and how my opinions started to take real shape. I definitely remember liking that book a lot, not that I can remember much from it now, but at the time it helped develop some of my character.

    So now here I am 10 years later, I recently quit drinking, and reverted back to the things that I know make me who I am, one of them being reading. So I go to bookstore to buy a couple of charles bukowski books I hadn’t read and low and behold I see PDBTS. I picked it up immediately really didn’t read the back and started reading when I got home. Now you have to understand I have not even thought of Upski for 10 years nor had any idea what this book was about. So I start reading and am very surprised where it has taken me.

    I’m at a crossroads in my life and am trying to analyze:
    -what is important to me
    -who I want to continue to be part of my life
    -and most importantly where I am going to be star next.

    I’ve done a lot of great things in my life but I haven’t been shit in the last year or two. It’s time to put my passion into constructive mechanisms for social justices that I am drawn to. It’s going to be a natural fit for me.

    I think reading this book has really gotten me to start writing a new chapter in my life. And although today all of this is an idea, I am a very passionate progressive, I just never did anything with it except leave the country when Bush was re-elected. It’s time to not just cheer on the sidelines of you guys but to use my gifts to work with the local communities and actually help make a difference instead of just applauding.

    In conclusion, I’m really proud how you are doing and amazed at how you have inspired me at different points in my life. I hope you continue to lead and inspire others the way you have me.


  8. I discovered your books while living in Eugene, Oregon. I lived down the street from a small independent bookstore named “Hungry Head” and they had posters about the release of “No More Prisons”. Also while living in Eugene I met a ton of people from Chicago even someone you acknowledged in “No More Prisons” or “Bomb the Suburbs”, unfortunately I don’t remember the girl’s name now it has been so long. I wasn’t really into Hip Hop/ Rap and some of the people I met from Chicago helped me develop a new appreciation for Hip Hop/rap. I always used to joke about how many people I’ve met from Chicago and the fact that I have only been there once. One thing I remember from my visit to Chicago is seeing the housing project high rises (the name is escaping me) and what a poor condition they were in. It is kind of ironic that they blew them up a few years back.
    For the past two years I have been working on a MSW at the University of Maryland and empathy is a concept we talk about often. I have read several definitions of empathy some making it this difficult concept to grasp and others making it a relatively simple concept to grasp. Having empathy for clients is considered to be a key component of therapy. Each time while reading your books I have read a passage and felt better similar to how I may feel if someone was truly empathetic to my situation. I am somewhat similar to you in that I went to college in Ohio and dropped out. I went to Antioch College and dropped out after a year and half. After dropping out I traveled around the country and ended up living in Eugene. I had a great time living in Eugene and grew a lot, but always regretted dropping out of college. I eventually was able to go back to school and finish my degree but I continued to beat myself up for making the mistake of dropping out of school. Reading about riding the rails in either “Bomb the Suburbs” or “No More Prisons” really helped me. After living in Eugene I moved back to my hometown and didn’t really stay in touch with people I met. Being really isolated in a community where most of the people didn’t choose the lifestyle I chose it was easy to beat myself up for dropping out of college. I never rode the rails while traveling, but I met kids who did and reading your book really made me feel like I was part of something cool. I also loved the message of “No More Prisons” and not creating prisons for yourself.
    “Please Don’t Bomb the Suburbs” also helped me even though I am somewhat ashamed to admit why. In your discussion of Generations xers you were talking about how we have been accused of being the most apathetic and selfish generation. Even though I have heard a lot about the apathy of my generation I still kind of thought I was the only one. I have come to learn over the years how easy it is to become apathetic while leading a comfortable middle class life. My concern for social justice is one of the reasons I chose to pursue graduate studies in social work, but I still have trouble taking an active part in politics. In one of Al gore’s early books, that he published around the time he became Vice President, he talks about how some of the most powerful movements are “Not in my back yard movements”. “Not in my Backyard Movements” are environmental movements in which ordinary people organized to oppose some form of environmental destruction that was occurring in their community. I was reminded of a similar phenomenon in “Please Don’t Bomb the Suburbs” when you talked about how the organization United Students Against Sweat Shops was formed. Even though the Sweatshops weren’t in the student’s “backyards” per se visiting the sweatshops and seeing the deplorable conditions really motivated them to act. Living a relatively prosperous life and being somewhat insulated from the major problems of the day it is easy to become apathetic and loose track of important issues that do have an impact on your life. The example of the not in my backyard movements not only teaches us how powerful movements are created they also remind us that movements can be successful.
    Studying Social Work and living in Baltimore, Maryland I really understand how development of the automobile and the Suburbs effected cities. Baltimore is a city that has seen a lot revitalization and gentrification, but there are also neighborhoods with rows and rows of boarded up condemned houses. While driving through those neighborhoods I have come to the conclusion they probably should bomb those houses and replace them with high quality affordable housing for the residents of those neighborhoods. When I say bomb I am not referring to graffiti, but am thinking of how they have blown up several public housing projects in recent years. I just read your Op Ed that was in the Washington Post and despite your more favorable opinion of the suburbs I was reminded of another problem suburbs created: Urban Sprawl. In addition, I believe the suburbs may contribute to apathy in some people, an opinion I think we might share. It is easy for residents of suburbs to not care about problems in inner cities for instance because they are so insulated from them. People can watch the news and develop judgmental attitudes because they don’t really witness firsthand what is contributing to the problems.
    So where do I belong in the movement? As a future Social Worker my code of ethics states I am supposed to advocate for vulnerable populations and fight for social justice. I am proud of the code of ethics of my chosen career, but at this point if I don’t do more to get involved I probably won’t have much of a role in the Super Movement. Your books are very inspiring and I applaud you for using your privilege to make positive change in the world. I hope in coming years I am also able to make a positive impact on my community and the world.

    PS: Just for the record there are Social Workers who have power. Barbara Milkulski a senator from Maryland got her MSW at the University of Maryland.

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