When I close my eyes at night, I see long roots of grass. Sometimes, in my mind’s eye, I locate a node, dig with my spade, and pull up a piece of root a meter long. Sometimes, the white root of quack grass weaves between the brown roots of the raspberry plants.
Each morning I rise at 5:30 to attack the actual grass in my raspberry patch. I am particularly satisfied when I can extract a good root that’s attached to a green blade of grass at each end. Yes, I am still battling the grass.
[tweetthis]All my work digging grass roots got me thinking about grassroots efforts. I’ve always thought of grassroots movements as close to the ground, where we live, by the people.[/tweetthis]
The grass people most often think about is the grass found on their lawns. Yes, it can invade the flower beds, but the roots are shallow and easy to control. Some grassroots movements might be like lawns: The grow densely, are ornamental in nature, and easy to control.
The really successful grassroots efforts are much more like quack grass. They are perineal with root bundles that run underground creating a network of life. They may be at the bottom of the political pyramid, but they are resistant to central control. The people involved in grassroots movements are deeply engaged, they cannot be contained, restrained, or coerced. Digging up one area of quack grass just stimulates the rhizome in another area to spring new growth.
A few examples of grassroots movements are:
- The Tea Party started as a grassroots movement protesting government spending. Some say this was actually a faux grassroots effort funded by established Republicans. Was this a grassroots movement snuffed out by Roundup? Or has it grown so deep it’s now the establishment? Some say they Tea Party movement was hijacked by the religious right. Some say the Koch brothers stepped in and fertilized it. Here’s a tongue-in-cheek 4 minute history of the effort.
- Occupy Wall Street was a grassroots effort to highlight income inequality. According to CNN, Occupy Wall Street became like the Quack grass that got tilled under. It looked like it ended, but rhizomes sprung up and spread to different grassroots movements like Black Lives Matter, the ascent of Bernie Sanders to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s quiet protest against institutional racism.
- Most recently, Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez unseated leading House Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in New York’s deep-blue 14th Congressional District. According to an article in the New York Times, Alexandria’s mother saw this coming, “There was nobody who could shut her up,” said her mother, Blanca Ocasio-Cortez. “I saw the political tendencies since she was very, very young.” Sounds a bit like Quack grass.
I have a whole new respect for grassroots movements as a result of my battle with quack grass. It seems to me that citizens with passion, who are deeply engaged in the issues and can set out rhizomes that will weather any season, can accomplish more than the establishment. As for me, I’m back in the garden. Who knows what metaphors will take root as a attack my nightmare.