It’s the eve of Election Day. I’ve got the shingles (look that up on the Google) and Ben has a high fever of unknown etiology, so this is going to be short.
I heard two remarkable speeches this weekend. The first, at the Ann Arbor NAACP dinner, delivered by Hilary Shelton, head of the NAACP D.C. office. This is a guy who walks the halls of Congress (a few years ago I might have added “hallowed” in front of Congress, but not now.) He was articulate, acerbic and inspirational. He talked about his debate with Ward Connerly, the man behind that piece of trash known in this state as “the Civil Rights Initiative” or Prop 2. He described Mr. Connerly as “someone who climbed the ladder of success with the aid of affirmative action and now wants to kick the ladder down so no one else can climb.” I thought that was wonderful.
Hilary also told a very moving story about a childhood friend of his, a single father, whose 14 year old son was shot in gang crossfire a few years ago. This was a dad who did everything right and was trying his best to raise two wonderful boys to be men. As he knelt beside his dying boy in the gutter, a reporter asked him what he did wrong, why was his boy dying. What the man had the presence to say was that he’d done everything right for his own son, and his only regret is that he didn’t do it for the boy who pulled the trigger. We can’t build walls to keep “them” away from our kids, so we have to embrace and help every kid we can. Words to live by.
Last night, I drove into Detroit to hear Howard Zinn speak. Howard is the author of A People’s History of the United States. He’s a famous guy in peace circles, and in some other circles because he got fired from Spellman college for sticking with the underdogs. Howard said great things too. He said our country was being run by aliens, and he didn’t mean the people trying to sneak across our borders to find a better life for their families. He meant those people who are profiting from this horrible war in Iraq, and skimming the best off the top for their friends. The people who are stealing our votes and the lives of our kids. They are aliens, an unknown, unrecognizable life form.
Howard also quoted our own Declaration of Independence, and said that the people have a right to form a government, and, when they disagree with that government, they have the right to abolish it. The founders of this country turned the notion of sovereignty on its head: we are the sovereigns and we are only governed so long as we consent to be governed. He said that patriotism was about doing just that, withdrawing our consent, turning it into dissent, and abolishing this government set up by aliens—because it wasn’t what we thought it was. They have stolen our democracy and lulled us into a false sense of complacency. The media have us all entertained into numbness. That we’d better stand up and do something, anything, to stop it.
Howard Zinn and Hilary Shelton give me hope. When I take Ben by the hand tomorrow and walk across the street to Pittsfield Elementary school to cast my vote, I am going to do that one small thing to take back my country. And I am going to keep dissenting, even when my voice shakes.
But right now, I am tired and the right upper quadrant of my body feels like it’s being lanced. And seven more kids died today fighting a war that they didn’t start, that was based on pure lies, and that was started by an unlawful and unconstitutional exercise of executive power. And those nitwits in Congress all went along with it, because there were flags everywhere and they were all afraid of being called un-American.
There is nothing more American than dissent. Look that up on the Google, weep real tears, and vote tomorrow because your life depends on it. And then, Wednesday, give it to the Democrats and tell them they’d better start acting like they care about our country or you’re going to get rid of them, too.
Take this country back from the aliens.