Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Keep... HOPE... Alive... Keep... HOPE... Alive"

by RW Spisak Jr.

Reverend Jesse Jackson pulled up in front of the Central Presbyterian Church in NE Denver on a beautiful sunlit morning. The Sherman street church had been home to "Progressive Central" an event created by the Progressive Democrats of America, running the week of the Democratic National Convention.

This beautiful Church, was clearly the home to more than just this weeks political activism. This was a church that was an active participant in compassionate future building. I wandered a bit, in this cornucopia of activism. It's entire lobby witness to a wide variety of causes and activist opportunities. There were tables spread around the room like a glorious smorgasbord of activism. Impeachment, Anti-War, Peace and Justice, Code Pink, book-publishers, "Got Spine?" activists, Health Care not Warfare campaigners, and more, all filling a lobby that rang with activism.

Reverend Jackson walked across the street into the church and was greeted by one after another happy activists. He walked down toward the front of the chapel to speak, this battle scarred veteran of the human rights movement striding purposefully with the firm knowledge of battles won and good progress made. His legacy will long be remembered as one in which although not without travail, certainly as one who spent his life deeply committed to human rights and dignity.

He started out with a discussion of the long slow arc of progress on the human rights front. He spoke of those who through the decades of history have made a begrudged place for the disenfranchised. He spoke of the civil rights marches and the freedom rides, and of all those many brave hearts who gave their blood and lives so that later others could stand on those powerful shoulders. He explained it was because of these freedom fighters Rosa Parks could take her seat, and Senator Obama could find his place at the table of American politics.

He reminded us that the contemporary glow surrounding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"I have a dream" speech often obscures the ugliness that surrounded it. The reality of it's surroundings should not be completely lost from sight. He explained he'd come from jail, to stand beside Dr. King as the "I have a dream" speech was etched in the hearts of America. He described how as they traveled across the south, reaching out to communities, the forces that opposed them, extracted a heavy price for the temerity of these dreams.

Even the indignities of not being able to use motels or restaurants as they made their slow dangerous path across an apartheid ravaged America. The beautiful glow of the march on Washington and its power as a vision of a future America, all too often obscures the reality of that painful desperate time. Our progress today, was so dependent on those who gave all, with no sure sense into what future they were delivering their own lives and those of their families. We do those heroes no favors, failing to remember what that slow, painful, and brutal birthing cost.

Reverend Jackson, the activist and speaker knows how to reach past the despair into those deep wells of resolve that must feed the struggle for dignity. He called upon us and asked us to repeat along with him, "KEEP" he intoned... making the acoustic space for our echo. "Keep" we would respond, with fervor, faith and certainty. "Hope" he challenged pausing again, building a rhythm. "Hope" we agreed. Smiles all around the great stained glass lined chapel, "Alive" he insisted. Feeling all history leaning it’s heavy presence into our midst, "Alive", we agreed.

"Keep" he urged again, "Keep" we promised. "Hope" he called, speaking with, and yet beyond us, to that larger often brutal world. "HOPE" we promised, each catching a small part of that historic flame. That had stood in Selma, that had marched into an unknown future beside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. While they drafted a revised history for our divided America. "ALIVE" he proclaimed. "ALIVE" we spoke, knowing what world we faced beyond these dream-etched walls. That America has made progress, is indisputable, that we have succeeded in bringing this country further toward an understanding of the basic humanity of every child of these shores is true. And as true as that is, the work continues. That Senator Barak Obama has achieved the leadership of the Democratic party ticket is now a historic fact.

In today's America we face as in no previous time, an opportunity to make a small down payment on that sacrifice by freedom fighters from the past. We can stand with them an oppose the remaining poisonous vestiges of that brutal time. We stood that day in the chapel of Central Presbyterian Church and said with Reverend Jackson. "Keep" he demanded. "KEEP" we responded. "HOPE" he urged. "HOPE" we agreed. "ALIVE" he insisted. There, in that church, in the hearts of these activists, and outside in the sunny streets of Denver, where a few blocks away history will report that 45 years after Dr. King and the bearers of a brighter banner for humanity called out.... the "I have a dream" speech defying the haters... "Alive" we promised. Standing as we did that morning in the colored light falling through those beautiful golden hued stain-glass windows these hundred passionate souls poised on the surface of a planet spinning through the great void of space. We promised... "KEEP"...against time... against hatred... "HOPE" in the face of corporatism... "ALIVE" in the face of the simple fact of grey-haired feeble mortality.

Reverend Jackson included one final anecdote, revealing another glimpse of the shimmering illusions that obscure the truth.

He spoke of visiting the ailing Governor George Wallace, who had been one of the staunchest proponents of American Apartheid. He was in the final time of his life succumbing to both the effects of the failed assassination attempt, and the cancer that would end his days. Reverend Jackson had gone to pray with him and hoped to better understand the heart of the man who had done much to stop the march of human freedom in America. "I asked him, why was it, that he set the dogs and the police on horse back on the Freedom marchers?" Wallace said, "I did it to protect them". Reverend Jackson paused, showing that the response he hadn't understood the answer. It didn't make any sense. He asked Wallace, "what did he mean, he set the dogs and police on the marchers, to protect them?" Wallace replied, "there was a mob on the other side of the bridge, and if the marchers had crossed the bridge, they would have all been murdered."

Like him, we understood, that many things are not what they seemed. "KEEP" he said, "KEEP" we vowed. "HOPE" he insisted. "HOPE" we promised. "ALIVE", he insisted. Energized and inspired as we were, yes, "ALIVE" we affirmed. And we will take his message along with us.

Friday, August 29, 2008

REPORT from Invesco Stadium

On the dramatic conclusion of the Democratic National Convention

by RW Spisak Jr.

Democrats can be proud and happy, about the message from the Mile High City! The Democratic Convention spoke in voices that represent the best in us all, veteran, rancher, students, artists and government servants. Proud because our party doesn't just talk about diversity we actually inhabit a wide diversity of experience. We heard from a broad spectrum of Americans and it was good.

If you sat with me high in the stands at Invesco stadium among the eighty thousand democrats, you would have seen, as I did the toddler with Grandma and Grandpa behind me, the Illinois State Senator with his sister and cousin to the right in front of me, the young women in the row in front of me to my left and the two retired seniors at the end of our row. The Healthcare advocate from Chicago and the ex-pat Dubliner who took turns in the seat on my left, and the grad-student to my right. Many shades of the beautiful multi-hued palette of America all sitting in just these 12 seats in section 530.

Faces of children, faces lined with experience, faces pierced and tattooed. T-Shirts, work-shirts and elegant suits, most decorated with Obama/Biden buttons, or emblazoned with the images of the Democratic candidate, Senator Barak Obama. Faces decorated with smiles, grins punctuated by laughter, as hopeful Americans climbed those steep stairs expectantly to the heights of the mile high stadium. It seemed a truly fitting launching site for a team that will take all Americans to new heights.

I asked the state senator from Illinois, what can you tell me about Senator Obama from the Illinois Legislature. He said, "I know him very well. He played poker at my house many a night. My father was one of his early supporters since his time in our legislature". He explained "Its not easy for a freshman legislator to be taken seriously. Barak asked to be given a difficult task. He was offered campaign reform, which had languished for decades in our legislature. He agreed to undertake the thankless task of campaign reform. This freshman legislator, actually built a coalition of democrats and republicans and passed serious campaign reform." He then offered, "That anyone would call him an elitist is ridiculous to anyone back home who knows him. He's a real family man, and the most down home guy, you'd ever want to know."

I asked "what else should I know about Senator Obama? Well, he thought a minute and said, "I played poker with him, on many Saturday nights, and he's a very conservative poker player". "He will make an excellent president, and Michelle will be an excellent first lady. She is one, classy woman." I thanked him, and promised I would, pass the word.

The audience slowly grew, half filled when I arrived at 3pm. As the crowd grew I watched young men and women, all shapes and sizes, young families and grandparents with multi-hued grandkids in-tow all climbing into this huge stadium. All these Americans every shape, size and color all prepared to wait from 3 o'clock to 9pm, enduring 90 degree Denver afternoon heat. Each ready to turn away from fear and despair, ready to listen to new ideas about the challenges facing America.

We heard from Iraq war veterans and unemployed factory workers, we saw party leaders and entertainers, children and former candidates. The entire spectrum of America was there, on stage and off and it sure looked like, we were happy to see US! After all the wonderful speeches and thought-provoking discussions and beautiful firework tribute we began to "take it home". The crowd made it's slow happy progress chanting and singing.

There was a look of brotherhood on every brow, worn proud, like a hero's laurel. Fear and hopelessness had been dismissed. Every man, and woman knew they were equal, citizens and participants in this great American Drama. There was a joy in our diverse yet common heritage. I haven't felt such a palpable sense of unity in years. Imagine just for a moment what we felt, walking among 100,000 happy hopeful homeward bound people.

Yes, there was the occasional inevitable bumping, jostling or the odd toe-smash as will happen in a dense walking crowd, but what you heard again and again, was a nod, a wink, an exchange of simple courtesies. I heard not one angry, fretful, hasty or uncivil word as 100,000 left through the circuitous route laid out by the Secret Service. Not many were sure where they were going and it was late, (Just three exits one officer told me, for all 100,000 visitors) yet the streaming crowd was all smiles as they made their inching progress, a slow river of happy humanity.

It would have done your heart good, to see so many happy hopeful people leaving the final night of the convention. Walking toward an election that will change the direction of this great country.

If you saw that crowd, you would say with me... YES WE CAN!

Solidarity & Peace

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

All the plates stayed in the air

by RW Spisak

Hillary proved what kind of stuff she was made of in the Pepsi Center August 26th. Like a skilled politician or Chinese acrobat she kept three plates spinning and the crowd ate it up.

Emotions were at a peak last night and everyone held their breath to discover would she, could she? The three plates were kept aloft, the dreams she served, her core constituency and the hopes for electoral victory in November. Like any good acrobat there were moments when the balance looked precarious. But with a theatrical flourish at the top she gave us a glimpse of the goal she saw ahead.

She pointed out that it wasn't anyone person who could bring the American people the future they so richly deserve but instead it would take each of us working as hard as we can through November and beyond.

She walked out the issues one by one, the past, those brave ones we've lost, and those powerful shoulders we stand on. She reminded us of the important battle for national healthcare that will mean a remarkable landmark for the health of every American young and old.

She spoke of the hopes of children across America who once again can believe that any American from the humblest home, black or white, male or female, does have a chance to lead America to a better future.

And she spoke about what an Obama - Biden presidency can accomplish. What a better world it can bring. What hopes of peace can finally be nourished again. How America can begin to salvage it's lost dignity on the world's stage. That being said, we can build the future that respects and serves every American, not just the wealthy, and not just the subsidized global corporations, that have been the sole constituency of the disastrous Bush - McCain years.

Some no doubt hoped to see the plates crash to the floor but the consumate acrobat with a great heart, who put America's future first gave us again another reason to hope! She said it herself - Yes, we can. A great woman, a great American leader, Hillary Clinton.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"The work begins anew... the dream lives on!"

Senator Kennedy spoke powerful and prophetic words as he concluded his remarks in a standing room only coliseum last night. He prepared the way for a new generation of party leadership with character, fresh vision and renewed hope.

"The work begins anew, hope rises again, and the dream lives on!" Senator Kennedy's words connected in a direct line from the promises of the New Deal to the party's multi-decade struggle for a better life for all Americans. His words reached back to the promise of Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson who both strove those many decades ago to fight poverty, and do the often arduous work of improving opportunities for all Americans. He called upon the new generation of democratic leadership to make the promise of a fair deal, available to every American child.

What better embodiment of that American dream than the keynote speaker Mrs. Michelle Obama. She grew up the daughter of a working class family who slept in the same room as her big brother on the South-side of Chicago. After a heart felt introduction by her big brother, Michelle told us about her childhood, her mother and father. She spoke of her father's hard work and dreams for his children. She spoke about her introduction to a young man with an unusual name and an excellent legal education. She discovered he was a person like herself, also drawn to community work.

They had both chosen not big expense accounts and prestigious commercial law, but community work. They chose community. You could not help but be moved by the character of a young woman, who with more than ample opportunity to rise above her family and her neighborhood, who instead turned her face toward a commitment to community. Michelle came to love a young lawyer who like her, sought out an opportunity to serve a working class neighborhood.

Michelle and Barak brought character, education and heart to their working life. They chose work not in a glamorous steel tower, but in the nitty gritty, of the neighborhood. No one could have expected her to return to her neighborhood, roll up her sleeves and give her life and her heart to Southside Chicago.

I hope America deserves a woman the caliber of Michelle Obama. I know America will benefit from her grace and character.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Either your inside or your not!

by RW Spisak

"Either your inside or your not!"
"They're so cynical!"
" I just want to know why there shouldn't be a vote!"

Talking with delegates enroute to Denver.

Sitting next to a DNC SUPER delegate from North Carolina, who has been very active in democratic party politics since the Viet Nam War. Unsolicited he offered this, "the thing that bothers me about the blogosphere is that they are HOT! They are interested and motivated but they are cynical. I see them involved at a white hot fervor and then they drop out! I've been trying to get them out, get them involved and have them come to party events and meet people. But many of them aren't comfortable meeting people. I just wish they weren't so damn cynical. Either your inside or your not, and If your inside, then you are the enemy!"

Waiting in Fort Worth, where American Airlines, had us change gates five times, we started talking about the convention with a Massachusetts Hillary delegate. I asked her if she thought a vote for Hillary would be a good idea or would it be divisive as some suggest? She looked at me with a look that said, I've made this speech before.

"I want someone to explain to me why we are having a Convention if not to establish by a VOTE who is the democratic candidate for the 2008 election. We voted for our nominee for as long as I've been going to conventions. I've been coming since 1960. I want someone to explain to me why there shouldn't be a vote. And then if she loses, then she loses."

I said "there are those who believe we should use the whole convention as a celebration of unity and not have a divisive vote for competitors." Then why are we even having a convention if not to select our candidate?" She shot right back.

I explained I have no dog in that fight because the progressive candidate I supported weren't selelected by the Primary process. I just want to see our Constitution restored and the OLIGARCHS out of 1600. I want to see an end to American Torture and and International Policy of WAR FIRST and diplomacy maybe later.

I asked the DNC delegate from North Carolina why had impeachment been taken off the table right out of the gate, by Pelosi? He said "because the quality of the candidates and the necessity of constant fund-raising means that there is no stomach for taking strong stands"

And besides "IMPEACHMENT is a horrible idea!" "It was the solution of the founders," I offered.

He said "the problem in Washington is that its all about the MONEY. It's horrible everyone must constantly be searching for money, doing business to obtain money. Who would want to do that? Who would want to take their family to Washington, and do that. The best and brightest do not want to be involved."

I said, "I thought you said the blogosphere was cynical?"