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Wed Dec 12, 2012, 01:42 PM

A Ring Walk

“ I count no sacrifice too great for seeing God face to face. The whole of my activity, whether it be called social, political, humanitarian, or ethical, is directed to that end. And as I know that God is found more often in the lowliest of his creatures than in the high and mighty, I am struggling to reach the status of these. I cannot do so without their service. Hence, my passion for the service of the suppressed classes. And as I cannot render this service without entering politics, I find myself in them. “
-- Mohandas K. Gandhi


Last week, I secured the funding necessary for the epidemiological study of a village in upstate New York. Although the actual “work” is being done on a voluntary basis, this project entails extensive “material” costs. Fund-raising has always been my least favorite part of social - political activism, but this is one of the projects that I could not cover on my own.

In the past, I’ve done grant writing for a non-profit human service agency; for a historical society; and for a “neighborhood” environmental group. All told, I secured hundreds of thousands of dollars that way. That, of course, required tax-exempt status, and tons of detailed reports and documentation of where every penny would be spent. Old habits die hard: I had prepared data for the two area businessmen who agreed to fund the health study. I was pleased when they both said that they didn’t need to see the information. Although we have only recently become acquainted, they said that my word was all that they required.

Among the volunteers we have ready to go door-to-door to deliver the health survey are high school and college students. When they ask me for estimates on how much time it will consume, I tell them that this depends upon if they stop to talk to people. By nature, I tend to take longer than anyone else I know, because I view the chance to listen to people as an opportunity to get them to become more involved politically.

Take, for example, the poor. This community has the largest “non-city” low-income neighborhood in rural upstate New York. It was where I lived until I was four, and again as a teenager. In my first job in human services, working with family violence, over half of my caseload was in that neighborhood. To a large extend, among a population that does not trust “the system,” people there trusted me. I had a job to do, but parents and grandparents understood that I was going to put their children’s well-being and safety first. I dare say that the majority of people there -- especially those from families that remembered my family from living there, or who knew me as an angry teen -- took me at my word.

There is a toxic industrial waste dump site at the edge of what used to be a neighborhood play ground there. It’s where I played as a child, and partied as a teen. The numerous dump sites in and around the village contain some of the same toxic chemicals used in hydrofracking. Hence, the epidemiology will document some of the effects of these poisons, and serve to illustrate, in human terms, what impact fracking will have.

I will enjoy the opportunity to go door-to-door in this neighborhood. As a general rule, although the residents there may be equally informed about fracking as folks in the middle- and upper-income neighborhoods, their life experiences have resulted in their viewing such issues differently. They might read the newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch the news on television, but they have too often convinced that their opinions don’t count. This is true among most of this nation’s poor.

In the 1980s and ‘89s, I had -- on my own time and dime -- organized the residents there on three projects. First, we got out the vote on school board elections, and helped elect two good and decent individuals who were interested in working to help all of the children of the school district. Second, we petitioned the village board to fix the neighborhood’s playground; when the board ignored the petition, we began attending their monthly meetings to demand they do their job. And third, when local interests sought to misuse a large HUD grant intended to improve the neighborhood, by evicting 120 families to make space for expensive “town houses,” we formed a tenant’s union. The media attention reached a university professor who is among the nation’s leading experts on poverty in the United States. No one was evicted.

In order to organize a movement from the grass roots up, we must involve high school and college students, as well as the poor. In doing so, we change the dynamics in everything from local elections on up. I am certain that it will also result in a change in tactics from our opposition. And in a case like this, our opposition isn’t limited to the republicans from the village, as they huddle at the bar of their country club. It includes the energy corporations that seek to exploit our region’s natural resources, no matter what the impact on the local people’s health and well-being may be.

When I was a young man, I loved that period of time spent in the locker room, getting sure enough ready to walk down that isle to the ring to fight. I loved that warm feeling of loosening up and shadow-boxing, and feeling fully confident that no opponent could possibly match my skills. These days, I’m an old man, looking forward to walking the streets of the village I once lived in. The only thing that I’m really confident about is that I will try to do my best.

Peace,
H2O Man

11 replies, 1325 views

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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 11 replies Author Time Post
Reply A Ring Walk (Original post)
H2O Man Dec 2012 OP
CaliforniaPeggy Dec 2012 #1
H2O Man Dec 2012 #2
immoderate Dec 2012 #3
H2O Man Dec 2012 #5
CrazyOrangeCat Dec 2012 #4
H2O Man Dec 2012 #6
mmonk Dec 2012 #7
H2O Man Dec 2012 #9
mmonk Dec 2012 #11
Me. Dec 2012 #8
H2O Man Dec 2012 #10

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 01:49 PM

1. My dear H20 Man...

And you will do your best. You have that in you, and you are compelled.

Blessings on you, for this excellent work! Your writing is a pleasure to read, as always.

Thank you for everything...

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Response to CaliforniaPeggy (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 02:05 PM

2. Thank you.

Much appreciated. And I'm honored, not only in having the opportunity to do that small bit of work that is my contribution to the Good Fight, but in having people who are confident that this old scruft has something worth contributing.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 02:09 PM

3. Inspiring -- and a kick!

Sounds like you love it.

--imm

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Response to immoderate (Reply #3)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 04:12 PM

5. Yeah, I do.

It's funny, I recall at one public meeting years ago, the mayor thought he could embarass me by pointing out that my family used to live in this neighborhood. More, one of my sisters who works at that community's school will talk about "those people." Well, I will always remember that I came from that gutter, and no matter where I may reside, I'll always be one of "those people."

There are neighborhoods in every community and city, not to mention the rural poor, who have been marginalized by our culture. They have no voice. They have few advocates. And some within the system make a heck of a lot of money, from other people's poverty, ignorance, and suffering.

So I am thankful to have the opportunity to try to help open some doors for those people. It's far more of an honor for me to be welcomed into their homes to talk, than to attend any meeting with a politician. Hence, the next few days will include some of the self-purification ceremonies that I undertake in these circumstances. I just got home from picking up a nice load of stones -- mainly white flint -- for use at the sweat lodge. I also found a 20-inch by 7-inch piece of petrified bark, so I'm about as happy as any human being needs to be!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 02:45 PM

4. kick!

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Response to CrazyOrangeCat (Reply #4)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 04:12 PM

6. Thanks!

I appreciate it.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 04:16 PM

7. Recommended.

Hope everything finds you well. Susan is going to have surgery the day after Christmas. Hope to be in touch with you after I take care of her needs.

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Response to mmonk (Reply #7)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 08:31 PM

9. Thanks.

Please let Susan know that we will be saying prayers in the lodge for her. Keep me updated.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #9)

Thu Dec 13, 2012, 09:10 AM

11. Thanks. Keep me updated on the progress of the study.

I also would like to learn on how you secured funding.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 04:27 PM

8. Here Comes The Sun

I recced this 1000 times but the counter on the OP must be broken.I too am confifent you will do your best.

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Response to Me. (Reply #8)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 08:35 PM

10. Well, thanks.

This is a project that I'm quite excited about. I've worked on related environmental issues in this part of the state for over thirty years now. There have been some successes, and some frustrating outcomes. But I am satisfied that I've done my best over the years. And though I am old, and no longer enjoy the physical strength I once took for granted, I can still rumble.

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