Looking back on a decade of activism and organizing in Athens

AuthorHeadshot2
(Krane in August 2008. Photo by Ece Ucoluk Krane)

A conversation with outgoing InterActivist editor Damon Krane

By Crystal Edmunds and Damon Krane
January 2009
The InterActivist Magazine (Athens, Ohio)

***********************

For the past ten years Damon Krane has been among Athens’ most prominent activists fighting to expose corruption, combat injustice, challenge authority and organize for change.

A journalist and organizer, Krane came to Athens in 1999 to launch Free Student Press, an organization that teaches area high school students about basic journalism law and their First Amendment rights to distribute their own publications at school. Within a few months, Krane found himself supporting students at nearby Nelsonville-York High School in a highly publicized battle over a controversial student newspaper. The campaign ended in victory for the students and the resignation of the school’s principal.

In 2002 Krane exposed Ohio University’s violation of the Clery Act, the federal law that mandates schools’ responsibilities for informing students and university employees of campus crime statistics, prevention programs and survivor support services. He also helped organize a student walkout in response to a slew of campus violence against women and LGBT students and the subsequent campaign for university reform that not only succeeded in forcing OU into compliance with the Clery Act but also proved instrumental in convincing OU to establish a campus women’s center.

An accomplished writer, Krane was a weekly columnist for The Post in 2002 and has also worked as a freelance reporter for the Athens News, which in March 2007 published his major investigative cover story on nearby corporate polluter Eramet Marietta. In the past decade local newspapers have published dozens of Krane’s commentaries and his work has also appeared in the Santa Monica Times Mirror, Utah Daily Chronicle, Arbiter (Boise, Idaho), Observer-Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania), the teacher education journal Democracy & Education, The InterActivist magazine, Athens Agenda magazine, Terminal Journal and the Akron-based online indie music and culture zine Bettawreckonize.

Since 2005 Krane has served as editor and project coordinator for The InterActivist magazine, as well as executive director of the activist development center People Might, The InterActivist’s primary publishing organization. In that time, Krane has trained about 80 progressive journalists and media activists on The InterActivist’s staff and delivered skill-building workshops to members of a dozen campus and community activist groups.

In recognition of Krane’s role in organizing local opposition to the US invasion of Iraq, United Campus Ministries: Center for Spiritual Growth and Social Justice presented Krane with its 2003 Social Justice Award “for his commitment to social justice, ongoing anti-war efforts, and overall outstanding progressive student leadership at Ohio University and in Athens.”

In 2006, Athens News readers voted InterAct, the multi-issue progressive activist group that Krane co-founded, “Best Student Group in Athens.”

Most recently, Krane has twice been featured by Soul of Athens, the annual multi-media web project of the OU College of Communications.

DamonOrganize3
(Krane delivers one of People Might’s workshops on grassroots organizing in the spring of 2006. Photo by Ashley Ante)

Yet despite all the recognition of Krane’s work, he has at times been the target of scathing criticism — not only from his adversaries on the Right, but from within the local progressive community as well.

“Damon Krane is a plague that has been crippling Athens County for far too long,” wrote online forum participant “Ginger” (presumably a pseudonym) at the blog Bombs and Shields, an affiliate of Green Anarchy magazine, in January 2007. “He is nothing but the star activist of a piss poor activist community.”

“Ginger’s” comment came in response to an article in The Post (excerpts of which were republished in Green Anarchy #25) that quoted Krane expressing his pleasure at the vandalization of a local military recruitment center, while at the same time criticizing the action as a poor excuse for the kind of organized and sustained counter-recruitment work Krane had tried to drum up local support for in 2005 and 2006. Though another forum participant was quick to respond in Krane’s defense, such vehement denunciations are hardly rare.

In March 2006 journalism professor Bernhard Debatin described an article Krane had written about The Post’s coverage of a local anti-war rally as “plain unethical mudslinging” which “should be beneath a publication that claims to support social justice and progressive values.”

Later in 2006, Krane’s criticism of the group Students for Ethical and Accountable Leadership cost him allies among student power activists at Ohio University. In a column published by The Post and Athens News, Krane criticized SEAL for exhibiting what he saw as a disregard for the concerns of minority students by framing its push for student empowerment and university reform as fundamentally “anti-McDavis” (Roderick McDavis is the first ever African American president of OU and the first to increase black enrollment in decades) and for SEAL’s stated opposition to university-led diversity initiatives that focus on “characteristics such as [students’] race or sexual identification, rather than their common participation in the university community.”

Angered at Krane’s assessment, a leading organizer of SEAL, also a member of InterAct, threatened to retaliate by withholding InterAct’s funding for The InterActivist. The threat didn’t come to fruition but relationships between Krane and some former colleagues were never rebuilt.

DamonPghRally_2003_0001[1]
(Krane at an anti-war rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in January 2003. Photo by Justin Krane)

In 2008 Krane became persona non grata with several local activists affiliated with Athens’ radical infoshop and community resource center, The Wire, after a conflict arose over a fundraising event. The entertainment coordinator for the local bar Casa Cantina had suggested Krane organize an all male revue to benefit The InterActivist. The Wire had originally organized all male revues at Casa in 2005, but the group had failed to do so for more than two years since, and Casa wanted to resurrect the popular event. Krane accepted the offer, and the event was a success, raising $1,500 for The InterActivist. However, posters at Casa advertising the event were defaced with graffiti stating “Damon Krane is a thief” and making derogatory allegations about Krane’s sexual practices.

Eventually Casa returned the event to The Wire organizer Nate Ebert, who billed subsequent all male revues as “the original” and encouraged attendees to “accept no imitations.” [Editor’s note, 1/15/13 – After the Wire dissolved, Ebert retained control of the revues, which subsequently have been held to benefit the nonprofit community efforts Athens Food Co-op and Athens Books to Prisoners.)

Last November Krane announced his resignation from The InterActivist and the dissolution of People Might. After four years coordinating production of the magazine he had spent six years developing, and nearly a decade spent struggling to create a lasting center for progressive organizing in Athens, Krane — whose financial situation had led him to a four-month bout with homelessness in 2007 — said he could no longer afford to work a half-time job for little to no pay.

With The InterActivist’s remaining volunteer staff determined to continue the magazine, Krane has spent the past two months sharing information with the staff to assist our reorganization of the magazine. The issue you now hold is the first produced since Krane’s departure.

In early January I sat down with Krane to reflect on his past work and discuss his plans for the future.

FallStaff2007
(Krane and some of The InterActivist staff from the fall of 2007. Photo by Julie Van Wagenen)

When and how did you become involved in activist work?

The first grassroots organizing I did was in my high school. A group of us created an underground magazine. We did it in a public access format so that, in effect, the entire publication was a letters to the editor section — except there was no editor. It was really just people at my high school writing about things they sincerely cared about, striving to communicate those things to each other. We wanted to create that kind of space for intrinsically motivated, open, public discussion because we didn’t have it anywhere else in our lives, which were overwhelmingly subject to the control of school officials, parents and other authority figures. Also, there was another publication before us that school officials had banned, so we were not only creating a forum for public dialogue, we were also self-consciously working in opposition to some of the major authority figures in our lives.

So in those senses, the magazine was similar to a lot of my activist work since then. And of course it led directly to the work I did with high school students in Athens County, beginning in 1999, which is what brought me here. Also, I should say that this early organizing experience was crucially important because it taught me that intrinsically motivated people could be extremely productive, working cooperatively without a central authority figure dictating their course.

But growing up, I wasn’t very politicized, and it took me a while to find leftist politics.

I come from a county in southwestern Pennsylvania, just southwest of Pittsburgh, that is mostly rural but dotted with a pocket or two of nouveau riche suburbs. It is an overwhelmingly white and very socially conservative county, fairly typical of rural and suburban America. In this past fall’s presidential election, for example, it went to John McCain. In 2006 the parents of a high school classmate of mine hosted a big fundraising dinner in their home for Rick Santorum, the virulently anti-gay former senator from Pennsylvania. The guest of honor at that fundraiser was none other than Vice President Dick Cheney. That gives you some idea of where I come from, but there’s more.

The whole time I was growing up, one of my family’s neighbors was an overtly racist, right-wing militia type who stockpiled machine guns. My parents were always basically liberal Democrats, but it was still acceptable to have this neighbor over for dinner — not what I would have chosen, but basically because he wasn’t that far from the norm where we lived. My best friend all through elementary school, for example, ended up becoming a teenage neo-Nazi and then joined the Marines. The last time I saw him was on the other side of the fence at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Pittsburgh. More recently, one of the soldiers implicated in the rape of an Iraqi girl and the murder of her family had graduated from the same high school as my brother. So, to put it mildly, there weren’t very many visible expressions of progressive thinking where I grew up.

Banner12
(Krane, pictured with former Athens campus activist Rumzi Araj and Free Student Press co-founder Lisa O’Keefe in Seattle, Washington during the 1999 protests against the World Trade Organizations’ ministerial. The three are holding a banner they designed in response to corporate media coverage of the protests. According to Krane, local and national TV stations refused to shoot the banner. However, Tom Hayden — author of the 1960 Port Huron Statement, founding member of Students for a Democratic Society and fellow WTO protester — read the banner’s text aloud during a live on-the-street interview with CNN’s Geraldo Rivera. Krane, Araj and O’Keefe got to meet Hayden afterwards. Krane said that at the time he didn’t know who Hayden was. Photographer unknown)

My parents, however, had some positive influence on me. As I said, my parents are liberals — not leftist radicals, but still people who rejected a great deal of the dominant politics and culture of our area; people who were certainly affected by the social movements of the 1960s and 70s, even if they weren’t themselves participants or even entirely sympathetic. Like my dad had enlisted in the Army. He was in basic training when the Kent State mascacre happened, and he was very disgusted by his military experience. Later my parents had some forays into community organizing, media and electoral politics. In the early 1980s they led a locally significant effort against corruption within the township government, after which my dad was elected township surpervisor. He later ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for the state legislature, as well as for Pittsburgh City Council a few years ago. More recently, my mom served as president of a local watershed protection group.

When it comes to media work, my parents ran a newsletter when they were first married. My dad has done political commentaries for local radio stations and has had a couple public access television shows.

But what I see as the most influential thing they ever did for me, in terms of my political outlook and activism, is something a lot more basic.

My mother had a very strict catholic upbringing, which she very explicitly rejected in developing her own approach to parenting. My father, also, was pretty critical of religion. The result is that I was raised with a lot of freedom and zero religious indoctrination.

I know there are plenty of religious social justice activists, including several whom I personally admire. And I have some sympathy for religious people in general, since life is hard — harder for a lot of other people than it is for me — and mortality is terrifying. So promoting agnosticism or atheism, my own view toward religion, isn’t my top political priority.

Still, the fact remains that I was never taught — at a young, vulnerable and formative age — to suppress my critical faculties and accept a fundamentally irrational belief system. And I think that basically innoculated me against falling for so many other irrational belief systems later in life: arbitrary authority, nationalism, imperialism, tradition for its own sake, racism, patriarchy, militarism, ridiculous notions of capitalist meritocracy and individualism, etc.

So regardless of whatever else I might have done differently than my parents, I really don’t think I can ever thank them enough for saving me from a religious mindset. I’ll take a lot of responsibility for who I am, but I think a lot of it would have been impossible or at least much more difficult if not for their deicions in this area.

I’m sure that’s a big part of why, by the time I was 15 years old, I had come to the conclusion that the world was pretty screwed up. And I don’t just mean the far-right insanity I mentioned, but the liberal side of the mainstream, too — so much of the basic dominant culture, the mainstream values and the institutional structure of our society. That’s what I felt then, even though I didn’t have the vocabulary to say it. Having rejected all of these things, it then became clear to me that if I was going to find a meaningful life, it wasn’t going to be within the boundaries of that instutional structure and culture.

To have an outlook like this is essentially what it means to be a radical, and since I was 15 I’ve considered becoming a radical as the beginning of my adult life. But even with that perspective, given where I was growing up it still took me a few years to discover the more developed leftist politics that would provide me with a detailed and compelling explanation of how and why the world was so screwed up. And from there, of course, even more had to happen before I could become an organizer.

Thoreau’s essay On The Duty of Civil Disobedience gave me some early inspiration, but punk rock music was really my doorway to the rest — especially the Canadian band Propagandhi. It was in the liner notes to one of their albums that I first heard of a guy name Noam Chomsky, who has been as much of a political influence on me as anyone. And the mid to late-90s punk rock scene in Pittsburgh, which is about a 45-minute drive from where I grew up, also included politicized bands like Anti-Flag and Aus Rotten. (I actually saw Anti-Flag play at a roller skating rink when I was 15 and the band members weren’t much older.) There was always a literature table at these shows, and before long I was more interested in the lit than the bands.

From there I attended a few demonstrations, the first couple as an observer and the third as a participant.

Again, to give you an idea of where I grew up, the first demonstration I participated in was an NAACP march in response to a cross-burning that occurred about ten minutes down the road from where I lived — yeah, in 1997! I hadn’t planned to join the march, but a bunch of counter-protesters had showed up: Nazis in masks and KKK folks with Confederate flags — probably neighbors of mine — so I decided to march. I got called a “race traitor,” got death threats. It was an important formative experience.

Claysville_Collage
(Photo collage of November 23, 1997 NAACP rally in Claysville, Pennsylvania published in that year’s November 28 edition of the Claysville Weekly Recorder. Photos by Keith Sparbanie)

ClaysvilleNAACP_Damon
(Krane, in glasses, debates race issues with a masked neo-Nazi protesting the 1997 Claysville NAACP march in which Krane had just participated. According to Krane, after the conversation ended the state trooper turned to Krane and said, “You’re not from around here, are you?” Photo by Keith Sparbanie)

Then, when I went to community college in Pittsburgh, I had a professor who was a Left radical. He exposed me to many more writers, and we watched great documentaries in his classes — including Berkely in the Sixties, which influenced my thinking about schooling and went a long way toward inspiring me to become an organizer. His classes were only an hour long, but I tape recorded every single one and left with about six pages of notes per day.

So was this professor the most influential activist in your younger years?

Well, I didn’t know him as an activist, but as a thinker, a teacher. I came across him when I was just beginning to get exposed to Left politics, and he provided a wealth of exactly the kind of information I was looking for. I think I’ll always be very grateful that I met him.

And when you came to Ohio University, did you become acquainted with more influential professors or community activists?

Yes, and that’s why I fell in love with Athens. When I came here it was just so different from where I grew up, so much more supportive of community organizing, of being involved in progressive politics, and even more basically, just being involved in the public life of your own community. But right from the beginning I think I had a different orientation than a lot of campus activists because I didn’t come here to go to school, I came here to be an organizer. So I didn’t just stumble across the community activists, I sought them out.

Specifically, I came here when I was 19 to launch a project called Free Student Press. I’ve mentioned the underground zine I founded at my high school. A few years after that, I decided that maybe Id be a high school social studies teacher. For one of my introductory teacher education courses at community college I did a research project on students’ rights. I discovered that students at public high schools in the US have the legally protected right to create their own publications and pass them out at school without having to let school officials control the publications’ content. That is, so long as nothing in a publication’s contents or its manner of distribution would likely cause a major disruption of ordinary school proceedings or invade the legal rights of others. So while school officials could, for example, legally prevent students from passing out leaflets advertising a student walkout, school officials could not stop students from handing out a paper criticizing those same officials, or talking about most other things, including controversial topics — and with liberal application of “four-letter words.”

The courts have recognized students to have these First Amendment press rights since 1969. The problem is school officials typically neglect to inform students of this or, as in my case in high school, school officials just lie to students and try to threaten them into silence — just what you’d expect given the way schools are organized, which is in service to the demands of a capitalist economy and other anti-democratic social hierarchies.

Anyway, I discovered this at the same time I was thinking more politically about my own frustrations growing up. I had never read John Dewey’s writings on democracy and education or Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, but it occurred to me that forcing nearly all US citizens to undergo a 12-year training course in submission to arbitrary authority probably didn’t have the best impact on the prospects for achieving a more just and democratic society. So I came up with the idea of forming a group that would give students information on their First Amendment press rights and help students start their own publications. The idea was for the publications to serve as forums for student discussion, through which students could practice critiquing their world, identifying common concerns, and possibly even begin to organize around those concerns. In other words, I hoped the experience would help provide high school students with a practical education for democratic citizenship and grassroots organizing in opposition to the “education” they were receiving at school.

I pitched the idea to some friends, and one of them, Lisa O’Keefe, decided she wanted to start the group with me as a six-month field study for her Community Studies major at the University of California at Santa Cruz. UC was less than enthusiastic about the idea, especially since Lisa and I were both 19 at the time.

The only way Lisa’s professors would agree to approve her proposed field study was if she and I could become affiliated with a more established organization. So, with her back in Santa Cruz and me in Pittsburgh, we drafted a propsal over email and sent it out to a bunch of different groups — basically every one we could find that dealt with student civil liberties, youth activism or progressive education. Everybody rejected us. Then we got a response from Jaylynne Hutchinson, a professor of Cultural Studies in Education at OU and also then the director of the Athens-based Institute for Democracy in Education. Jaylynne, who would end up playing a hugely influential and important role for me as a mentor, she invited Lisa and me to come here to launch Free Student Press.

Neither Lisa nor I had been ever been to Athens, and I hadn’t thought of transferring to OU. But community college doesn’t give you a bachelor’s degree, so I figured as long as I was here I may as well transfer to OU — especially because OU offered an alternative teacher education program based on democratic pedagogy.

So Lisa and I moved to Athens in July of 1999, just before our 20th birthdays. The first thing we did was tape a big piece of paper to the living room wall of the house we moved into together. And with a box of markers we started plotting out our little piece of the revolution. [laughs]

It’s funny to look back on, but I don’t mean to demean our effort. We were right, and we succeeded.

Of course Lisa left after six months, and I spent the next decade of my life here. [laughs] Our working relationship was short and often difficult. But it was also hugely important to me.

FSP

(Krane is pictured here in the foreground alongside students from Nelsonville-York and Athens high schools and other staff members from Free Student Press after an FSP meetingin late 1999. FSP co-founder Lisa O’Keefe is pictured in the back row, second from the left. Photographer unknown )

At the same time Lisa and I were launching Free Student Press, I was eager to dive into all kinds of other left activism. My community college was a commuter campus in a medium sized city. I’m glad I went there for lots of reasons, rather than just starting out at a place like OU, but community college didn’t provide an environment that was very conducive to student activism. So as soon as I got to Athens, I made my rounds to the different group’s meetings and started organizing students to attend a demonstration against the US Army School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. That’s where the US has been training the militaries of brutal right-wing regimes… death squads, assassins… to prevent progressive social change in Latin American — that is, to maintain what’s called “an environment favorable to foreign investment” — since just after World War II.

In November and December of 1999, I joined with several other Athens activists to take part in the historic demonstrations against global corporate capiatlism at the World Trade Organization’s ministerial in Seattle — what’s come to be called “The Battle in Seattle”; basically, the public debut of the contemporary American radical Left.

[laughs] Yeah… those first 6 months after I moved to Athens were pretty intense. I managed to find other groups and activists and, like I say, I just dove right in.

Addressing Ohio University and the student media here, an Ohio resident commented that “The school is nowhere near as progressive as it used to be, and it has largely moved away from its hippie roots.” Have you seen the activism at OU dwindle? What do you think the cause of the decline is?

Campus activism has declined because the student body has become more conservative. In fact, the point about hippies is important. Not that I ever was one, but there were definitely a lot more hippies when I first came here. To a lesser extent there were more punks, too. Imagine if all the indie-rock hipsters you see uptown today were hippies, and add a smattering of black hoodie-wearing punk rockers to the mix, and that would be Athens ten years ago.

So what? Well, maybe I’m wrong about this, but I think the hippie subculture, and definitely the hardcore punk scene — despite largely being about taste in music, superficial fashion and, for the hippies, drug use — nevertheless contain within them a more substantial rejection of capitalist values than the more current youth subcultures. I mean, I like Conor Oberst, but he’s not John Lennon. He’s not Bob Marley. He’s sure as hell not Phil Ochs or Gil Scott Heron. And Bright Eyes and Death Cab sure as hell aren’t Propagandhi, I-Spy or the Dead Kennedys — or Rage Against the Machine, Ani Difranco, Dar Williams… musicians that I know were hugely important sources of early exposure to leftist politics for me and other activists I’ve met.

At the same time, I suspect tuition increases at OU are a lot more important. For most of my years here OU jacked up tuition to the maximum extent it was allowed to by state law. That meant that every year the student body came from more and more affluent families. And prior to McDavis’ arrival, every year the student body became whiter and whiter. These demographic changes translated into political changes, making the student body more privileged and more conservative.

On top of that, another big reason that activism has diminished almost certainly has to be the hopelessness created by eight miserable years of Bush — or, more accurately, Cheney.

I got involved in activism at a time when there was a lot of optimism. The demonstration against the growing power of transnational corporations that took place at the World Trade Organization’s 1999 meetings in Seattle, which I got to take part in when I was barely 20, was a really dramatic, historic occurrence — one that changed a lot of peoples’ senses of what might be possible. For example, there used to be a student group at OU called Positive Action. Basically a bunch of anarchist punk rock kids. Before Seattle, Positive Action organized vegan potlucks, punk and hardcore shows.

So it was more of a social group that wasn’t really doing organizing?

Exactly. But when Seattle happened it just, like, set off all these light bulbs above people’s heads. They could actually do something with their values besides make themselves feel bitter and alienated. And all of the sudden Positive Action became the leading and most militant student activist group in Athens, participating in and organizing all kinds of demonstrations and campaigns, as well as direct actions and civil disobedience, around labor, environmental, LGBT and women’s issues. So 1999 to 2001 was a relatively optimistic time to be a young radical. A massive international movement for economic justice had been born. It was visible, powerful, and we were part of it.

But then all of this crashed into the right-wing backlash of 9/11. If you were a leftist, then on the morning of September 11, 2001 you basically knew what the next eight years were going to look like. And over the course of several years of work you had to learn that there was nothing you could do to change that. That was incredibly painful and demoralizing.

Things didn’t have to be that way. If the US Left had been more organized, or if more activists had been less confused about how positive change happens, then things could have been different. Different, as in hundreds of thousands of people might not be dead or maimed right now, and we wouldn’t be as vulnerable to more terrorist attacks — at least, the kind of terrorist attacks that aren’t carried out by states like the US and Israel. But things didn’t play out that way, and this was an extremely demoralizing thing to go through.

Positive Action, the group I mentioned, eventually reverted back into its former role of maintaining a supportive social scene for anarcho-crusties. Some of its members even argued that radical social change just wasn’t possible; that the most people like us could do was to form “pockets of resistance,” which in practice meant living your life differently among a group of like-minded people — essentially, the kind of do-it-yourself, lifestyle anarchism that Murray Bookchin so effectively demolished in his great essay on the subject. Sadly, that’s where a lot of the people who I came of age with politically ended up.

Of course, there was a new upsurge in progressive activism in the movement against the US invasion and occupation of lraq, the largest anti-war movement this country had seen since 1968. Indeed, the largest global anti-war movement in the history of the world. But given its disorganization and lack of strategy, it has ultimately failed to have much impact.

The failure of small movements is kind of expected, but the failure of such an immense movement is much more depressing. Sadly, I think that the failure of the largest anti-war movement in the history of the world (which I believe did have the potential to be a success) mainly succeeded in making people even more despondent about the possibility of positive change. And there’s a very important lesson here for activsists. People who go to rallies just so they can feel good about themselves, who don’t really care about winning — who aren’t really trying to win or even thinking about what it would take — can actually make things worse.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration wreaked havoc with the environment, the economy, civil liberties — you name it. Thus “progressive” went from striving for liberal and radical alternatives in opposition to the ever right-ward drift of the Democratic Party under Clinton, to desperately trying to hold then line against the burgeoning fascism and more overt imperialism of the Republican Party under Bush.

FA_arrest
(Krane is arrested protesting the US invasion of Iraq at the intersection of Court and Union streets in uptown Athens on the day “Shock and Awe” began: March 19, 2003. Photo by Lindsay Eyink)

For people like me, it was horrifying to watch all of this unfold. But worse yet, for today’s undergraduate students who were in elementary and middle school during much of this, it was probably less horrifying and more normal — because what else have these kids known? And that’s what’s really horrifying. Bush and all the half-assed major anti-war groups that doomed the movement to failure probably managed to dramatically lower the expectations and aspirations of young people today, and that’s going to have a lasting impact. I mean we’re at the point where Hillary Clinton talking about “obliterating Iran” and Barack Obama talking about Israelis’ right to self-defense, as if Palestinians aren’t entitled the same right — we’re at the point where these people are the champions of progressive change. And yes, I voted for Obama. I even campaigned for him. I liked him better than Kerry, and I sure as hell was relieved that he won rather than McCain — or Clinton, for that matter. Plus, he’s the first African American US president — which I see as a positive thing, independent of his policies. But for young progressives to limit their aspirations, or even ideas of minimal decency, to people like this would be beyond pathetic.

What are your plans from here?

I feel like leaving The InterActivist marks the end of a chapter in my life. I’ll be 30 years old this summer. I’ve spent the past decade of my life doing the activism and organizing I felt was needed without any means to support it, or myself, financially. I’m not 21 anymore. I’d like to have a fulfilling life of my own that isn’t only about political activism, and that’s very difficult right now. I’m tens of thousands of dollars in debt, I can’t afford basic health care, and I’ve pretty much got the earning potential of an 18-year-old.

But at the same time, it would be impossible for me to have a meaningful life in which working for radical social change wasn’t a leading priority. So now I’m stepping back and taking stock of some things, reflecting on the experiences of the last ten years, and figuring out how to come back to this work stronger, healthier, more effective, and in a way I can sustain for the long haul.

I used to be afraid that if I took a break, for whatever reason, I might give up, sell out and join the ranks of everything I rejected as a teenager — especially because I’ve had to watch a lot of people around me do just that. But I’ve made it far enough to be confident that this is who I am. And, really, I’m not taking a break so much as I’m just taking the next necessary step.

As for The InterActivist, that’s going to be you and your fellow staffers’ challenge now.

[Editor’s note, 1/14/13 – Krane left Athens in July of 2009, ten years to the month from when he first arrived. He then served a brief stint as Communications Director for the Orgeon Student Association in Portland, Oregon before moving back to Pennsylvania for three years. Although Krane moved to Pittsburgh to avoid the rampant racism of the surrounding rural areas, he still ended up living next door to a man with a gigantic “White Pride Worldwide” flag from the neo-Nazi group Stormfront hanging in his garage. Krane now resides in Atlanta, Georgia. His hiatus from direct action and organizing continues. Currently, he is focusing on returning to writing about progressive and radical politics.

The InterActivist, meanwhile, continues to be published. This fall the magazine will celebrate its 10th anniversary.]

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Interviews with Me. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s