[eDebate] Stromboli / MLK / Activism

James E. Radford, Jr. jradford
Tue Jul 4 12:03:42 CDT 2006

You'd be right to suggest that I have better things to do 
that read Jake Stromboli posts and write e-mails to ebebate, 
but the 4th of July holiday has left me with a little time 
on my hands, so, you know...

Dude. You're not being an activist. You're sitting in your 
swivel-chair staring at a computer screen, probably for 
hours, writing messages that probably about 100 people read, 
very few of whom have any influence over the actual war in 
Iraq, the presidency, etc. As much as you may protest, 
you're not posting to edebate because of debate's influence 
over politics, you're posting here because its the only 
place you have any audience. Debaters, I guess, know who you 
are from your crazy debate tournament fashion or whatever, 
so they have a face to connect to the messages. You're a lot 
like that Schiros guy who wore a cape at debate camp and 
posted nasty messages to edebate simply because the debate 
community was the only one that didn't see him as anonymous 
and irrelevant and might actually entertain his antics with 
slightly more than a puzzled expression and a change of 

So, um, don't start comparing yourself or your "project" to 
anything that MLK did. He was revolutionary, but he was also 
pragmatic. White conservatives and moderates couldn't ignore 
his message, because there was something so undeniably moral 
and right about what he was saying, and because he had 
millions and millions of people standing behind him to 
demonstrate the compelling human need for his ideas. MLK put 
on a suit and tie, shook hands with potential recruits, 
marched in the streets, risking imprisonment, and developed 
a reputation of integrity and credibility among average 
Americans, slowly but surely. The sort of reform he brought 
about takes time, energy, elbow grease, risk-taking, and 
pragmatism. If he had spent that time in his boxer shorts, 
posting messages to a website during porno breaks, nobody 
would have ever listened to anything he had to say. 
You're "strategy" is all too safe, all too esoteric.

I guess I'm not writing simply about Stromboli, but am 
expressing a lot of ideas I have about "activism" in debate 
in general. Some members of the debate community tend to 
wrap their arguments about debate in terms of such great 
moral righteousness. They oftentimes express the stakes as 
so high, without any realistic view toward a strategy for 
persuading ordinary everyday Americans to accept their 
ideas. Debaters are often people with big ideas, big hearts 
even, who would love to use their ideas to change the world. 
The problem is, they often lack access to the actual 
channels of change, for a lot of reasons: many start smoking 
too much pot, and lose their motivation; some are still 
dealing with insecurities they developed in younger years, 
when they couldn't fit in with the popular kids; some are 
just socially awkward. I use these examples because they 
have been things that I've personally struggled with in my 
attempts to penetrate mainstream culture, where decisions 
are made and change can be realized. These are real 
challenges, and have to be confronted head-on.

I've written too much. Sorry to clog up your in-boxes. And 
sorry if I'm being too harsh here. Maybe the best approach 
is to live and let live. For this guy, and others like him, 
debate is a meaningful catharsis, a place to get out his 
frustrations and his ideas before an audience, where he 
would otherwise lack one. But seriously, if you really want 
to change anything about the world, you've got a lot of work 
to do, and a lot of shells to break out of.

jamie radford

(PS -- Buy my rap album!! www.jamieradford.com , 
www.myspace.com/travelrecords )

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