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Tue May 26, 2015, 10:14 PM

Real People [View all]

It seems lately that my attempts to become a full-time hermit, and cut off almost all contact with the outside world, keep getting derailed, if only temporarily. But what, a rational human being can -- and, indeed, should --ask is, “But what does this have to do with that fellow Bernie Sanders?” That’s a fair question. A little “off the wall,” but I’ll deal with it.

One of my favorite pastimes is sitting quietly, out near my little pond, and feed the fish, birds, and chipmunks. I have a one-room cabin there, as well as a great stone fire-pit my boys made me, plus my lodge is only a couple dozen feet away, hidden in the brush and edge of the woods. I love to hang out there with my dogs.

But recently, people call, to ask for my thoughts or assistance on some issues. Some are minor: an area school principal was attempting to prevent a 16-year old girl from attending her prom. The girl has had serious (brutal) health issues, and missed enough of the year that she couldn’t catch up. She’ll be “home-schooled,” with hopes she can eventually enter college. She’s a bright, good young lady.

Her father is employed in the media, and has covered a wide range of issues that I’ve been involved in over the decades. So he called me. I told him to approach the school correctly, going through the “appropriate channels,” and to repeat three sentences I wrote up, having to do with: [a] the state’s focus on inclusion vs. exclusion; that she’s not a “drop-out,” as the principal claimed, but rather a kid with medical “special needs”; and [c] that it was better to resolve this rationally, rather than have it become a news story. (Their superintendent and BOE over-ruled the principal this morning.)

A group of teachers and concerned citizens from yet another district requested my help in recent elections for three seats on their school board. Despite several “recounts,” their three candidates won. Convincingly. And an area District Attorney requested my help on his re-election campaign. (In upstate New York, every not every race involves a Democrat vs. a republican; sadly, some are republican vs. rabid tea party. Less often, it is republican vs. rabid tea party vs. Democratic Left. In a four county area, the candidates that I’ve assisted are 8 to 2 winners in the past five years.)

Now back to the question about Bernie Sanders. I guess what has impressed me the most recently has been listening to conversations that a fairly wide range, in terms of age and income, of people are having. Because it’s not just the same small group of people, going town to town, that are doing the grass roots organizing. I think it is like one of the cycles that Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., spoke and wrote of so often. More people seem to be waking up.

Let me give an example. I think it is an important one. Today, among the groups that is targeted for “blame” in American culture is public school teachers. I include those in K through 12, as well as those teaching in public colleges and universities. While that isn’t a new social dynamic, the intensity of it has increased in recent years. It is both fair and accurate to say that a large segment of the 1% are actively opposed to public education. And they use their lap dogs in political offices, and even in churches, to take cheap shots at public education.

Now, the teachers’ unions are relatively strong. But that isn’t the only way to advocate for quality public education. As I have studied systems for decades, I’ve long been aware of another option. And it’s funny how you can say something for years, and it seems like others don’t really hear you. Then, suddenly, they do. A teacher can’t serve on their school’s BOE, but not every teachers resides within the district that employs them. Hence, it is entirely possible to organize, and get one or more teachers on their community’s school board. That changes the tone of the conversations that BOEs have. (Two of the three new BOE members in the one school are public school teachers.)

Back in the Reagan era, the right-wing republicans became aware of the fact that school boards are the first step in elective office. They exercise -- to various degrees -- community control. So they started running candidates. More recently, in the northeast, energy corporations get employees to run for school boards. In some cases, quite literally, they advocate for “community support” for fracking of gas. I’ve seen this.

“Community control” is power. It’s not the only power, by any means. But it is the building block necessary to create a larger movement to bring about social justice. Well, at least in a constitutional democracy. This doesn’t mean one segment of the community speaks -- or makes every decisions -- for the entire community. But it does require bringing a variety of voices into that conversation, which is an important part of that decision-making process.

When people start to actively participate in the social-political process, they begin to understand that they have more power than they did as a cog in an industry. Their economic power might be slime, indeed, but that isn’t where their power resides. It’s kind of like a teacher serving on the BOE of their home community, but not where they are employed. It’s a group power, the Power of Ideas.

Now, back to this Bernie Sanders character. Quite a few people are talking about him, which suggests there is a very real possibility that most of them might actual listen to him. And I think that is a good thing. If a large segment of the population listens to him with an open mind, I think that they will hear him, and understand. That’s not to say that his current message is any different than it was, decades ago. Principles and ethics are constant. Rather, it is that we are at a time when more people are able to hear him.

H2O Man

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H2O Man May 2015 OP
MannyGoldstein May 2015 #1
H2O Man May 2015 #2
ms liberty May 2015 #3
H2O Man May 2015 #4
onecaliberal May 2015 #5
H2O Man May 2015 #6
onecaliberal May 2015 #7
sabrina 1 May 2015 #8
H2O Man May 2015 #9
sabrina 1 May 2015 #11
LWolf May 2015 #10