I use we liberally, as I always do when referring simultaneously to community and my place in it. In my many delineations of black life in L.A. and in black culture everywhere I am frequently both observer and participant, critic and problem, condemner and the damned: Race is an obvious paradigm of community. The Weekly is a less obvious community, yet it's as critical because it is a community of words and notions in which I can create any paradigm at all. It is the chalk circle in which I can routinely scribble hosannas, doubts and misgivings about communities that might not ordinarily see or welcome them. It is more of a participatory democracy than is the country at large — and I'm talking the country historically, not just post-PATRIOT Act — a little piece of promised land that seems fitting to declare as such now, in the opening weeks of Black History Month.
As a Weeklycitizen I can sound off about the VVM government because it is my ideological right that the alternative-media business and editorial model gave to me — gave to us— in the first place, in the days when the counterculture was years away from looping back on itself. I wish VVM had taken the ironies of its position more seriously, and that we, its people, had employed the power of our pen more self-critically on the topic of the antitrust case in the last month or so, but I am the first to say that I didn't exactly take that initiative myself. You know, too much to do — Christmas, post-holiday recuperation, enough racial and social-justice frays (the final resuscitation of the affirmative-action fight, for starters) to consume my community energy for at least the next year. But it's worth pausing to note the state of the union between the Weekly and me, because without us there's nothing. The upshot is that I will hold the VVM contradictions in my head for as long as it makes sense to, and continue to write my dispatches knowing that our largest editorial aims — heading a Bush-driven disaster off at the pass — are perfectly in sync. Like the alternative media that have become my lifeline, I am foolish enough to believe that I am charged with being something greater than a cog in the wheel, and if I do not assail the wheel I have not done my job or brought honor to my community. In the theater of the battle for spirit and sanity, the Weeklyis in the foxhole with me. It's the wisdom of the higher command that, like any good soldier, I wonder about.