Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"We regard men as infinitely precious and possessed of unfulfilled capacities for reason, freedom, and love.

In affirming these principles we are aware of countering perhaps the dominant conceptions of man in the twentieth century: that he is a thing to be manipulated, and that he is inherently incapable of directing his own affairs. We oppose the depersonalization that reduces human beings to the status of things -- if anything, the brutalities of the twentieth century teach that means and ends are intimately related, that vague appeals to 'posterity' cannot justify the mutilations of the present. We oppose, too, the doctrine of human incompetence because it rests essentially on the modern fact that men have been 'competently' manipulated into incompetence -- we see little reason why men cannot meet with increasing skill the complexities and responsibilities of their situation, if society is organized not for minority, but for majority, participation in decision-making."

Don't laugh, but when I first read that passage of The Port Huron Statement, I immediately began dreaming of stitching at least some of it into a sampler.

And when I first learned that the primary author of the document had long been thought to be one Tom Hayden, I'll admit I was a little bit smitten. At least intellectually. He may not have been a gay, dead, French structuralist philosopher like Roland Barthes, but he sure could write.

I remember wanting so badly to join the Students for a Democratic Society and protest the war in loafers and pearls. Some of my classmates in grad school even thought about starting a chapter of the revived organization, but two things stopped us: we had to graduate. And then we had to do what we could to help make John Kerry President of the United States.

Two years have gone by since I got my MA, and in that time, I am sorry to say, the Port Huron Statement has become even more relevant. I still haven't joined SDS, but I do blog in loafers and pearls... for whatever that's worth.

Tom Hayden blogs, too, and all this is really to say that I CAN'T say how much kinship and gratitude I felt tonight when I saw that Tom Hayden had posted a rebuttal to George Packer's mischaracterization of John Kerry's Iraq withdrawal plan - the same plan for which I am encouraging endorsements.

Hayden writes at the HuffPo: "[Packer] cleverly alters Kerry's proposal by leaving out the international summit Kerry has proposed to address peacekeeping, reconstruction and other issues concerning the transition to a post-war period. Kerry thus is categorized as an uncaring advocate of 'out now', unlike Packer who at least cares about the killing he seems to support forever."

You may have to read the whole post to get the quote above. If not, I hope you'll read the whole post, because it's a heck of a lot better than anything I've got here.

So I'll leave you to that, except for this: We don't JUST love John Kerry - although, to tell the truth, just that takes up more than a little of my day. We also regard men as infinitely precious and possessed of unfulfilled capacities for reason, freedom, and love.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Rights and Obligations

Today I came unglued (haha) from C-SPAN 2 around lunch time, or, in my left-coast case, breakfast time, when the Senate was adjourned for the Republican party lunch.

Now, I don't know what mad genius at Encore decided to broadcast Mr. Smith Goes to Washington while the majority party Senators were secretly plotting to invade Greenland or whatever it is they do, but it sure got me thinking.

As Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said in the chamber yesterday, "Today, our country marks an unfortunate anniversary - the three year anniversary of President Bush donning a flight suit to declare "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.

President Bush's dramatic landing on the aircraft carrier the Abraham Lincoln will be marked historically as a public relations stunt gone horribly wrong."

Since yesterday morning, Senator Reid's sentiments have been echoed by a number of his Democratic colleagues, including Senators Kennedy, Boxer, Lautenberg and Durbin, whose statement was entered into the Congressional Record, and whose words articulate the feelings of many Americans:

"I have been both inspired and shaken by the broken bodies but unbroken spirits of soldiers, Marines and corpsmen returning from this war. The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood. The willingness of our forces to shoulder such a load should make it a sacred obligation for civilian and military leaders to get our defense policy right. They must be absolutely sure that the commitment is for a cause as honorable as the sacrifice."

Now, I don't want to disagree with the statements of these excellent public servants, particularly not when I think they're largely correct, but I did wish they'd followed the example of Senator Feingold, former Senators Cleland and Hart, and others in endorsing John Kerry's Iraq Resolution.

In an email dated yesterday, Monday, May 1, 2006 - a day the Senate Minority Leader has appropriately labeled "a sad anniversary of a sorry public relations stunt" - former Senator Bob Kerrey wrote, "Half of the names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall are the names of Americans who died after the policy makers knew our nation was on the wrong course, after both political parties called for expeditious withdrawal. And yet the war dragged on for five more years."

Call me difficult to please, but, much as Senator Kerrey's email was great to read, it's still bugging me that most of the endorsements are coming from former Senators. Other than Mr. Feingold of Wisconsin, the actual Senators who work for us and decide how to spend our tax dollars have been silent on John Kerry's efforts to end the war in Iraq.

I think we should do something about that.

Blame Frank Capra, the Boy Rangers, or the Republican caucus for going to lunch today. But really, I think we should do something.

So I urge you to call, write, or fax your Democratic Senators and ask them to speak out against the war and support Senator Kerry's resolution to provide a strategy for successfully empowering a new unity government in Iraq.

Find their contact info here. Use crayons, colored paper, whatever you think will get their attention. Make a collage if you feel like it. Heck, make a collage if you DON'T feel like it - you'll probably be glad you did. No one person can stop this war, and very few have stepped up to even move the debate in that direction.

Senator Kerry has taken a real leadership role in proposing legislative solutions. Let's ask our other elected officials to join him in that role. Rock and roll.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Our Priorities, Ourselves

Today people all over the country attended rallies to protest the genocide in Darfur. Kudos to everybody who took the time to participate in an event today.

It would be really unseemly for me to post about how John Kerry was speaking out against the crisis even before the Save Darfur Coalition was founded, but I can't speak to my own interest in the region without referring to the first time I remember anyone speaking out about Darfur: a little over a year ago on April 21, 2005.

I was glued to C-SPAN 2, waiting to see if the Senate was going to erupt into the nuclear option, when I saw Senator Kerry make these remarks.

The threat of the nuclear option was never realized, and I think we're the better for it, but the speech John Kerry gave that day still sticks out in my mind because of passages like this one:

"It's not up to any one of us to tell another colleague what to believe as a matter of faith. But I can tell you what I believe: When tens of thousands of innocent souls have perished in Darfur-when 11 million children are without health insurance-when our colossal debt subjects our economic future to the whims of Asian bankers-no one can tell me that faith demands this Senate spend its time arguing over a handful of judges. No one with those priorities can use my faith to intimidate me."

When John Kerry ran for president in 2004, I remember feeling really fortunate that I could vote for someone who shared so many of my priorities. Unfortunately, Republican hegemony prevails in the White House, the courts, and in both houses of Congress, and priorities of all three branches of government are, sadly, missing the moral component Senator Kerry spoke of last April.

I sincerely hope that every American who is so passionately committed to ending the suffering in Darfur will remember to register and vote in the midterm elections this November. The progressive, compassionate citizens of the world can make a difference in global diplomacy if we do our part to band together to elect the government we deserve.