Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
-- Margaret Mead
Monday, January 17, 2005. "Martin Luther King died," my 8-year-old granddaughter Sara observed as we spent the holiday together, "so black people could be free." I suggested that it would be better to say that Dr. King lived and worked to help black people be free, but that he died because someone who resented what he was doing and hated him for doing it shot him. "Oh," she said, "you mean a terrorist."
Thursday evening, January 20, 2005. While Bush supporters in Washington danced at "Freedom Balls" and nibbled on catered delicacies, about 150 former "Portage Citizens for Kerry" regrouped as the "Portage Democratic Coalition" (PDC) and held a "Counter-Inaugural Pot-Luck Dinner". As the line inched past hearty homemade goodies, it was evident that far hotter than the electric skillets of chicken, steaming green-bean casseroles and warm apple pies was a fierce resentment of Bush’s war and domestic policies and a peppery saute of anger at the fecklessness of the Democratic Party. "We shouldn’t be called PDC," one person said, "Make that POD -- Pissed-Off Democrats."
What were they PO-ed about? A huge simmering pot of issues -- from "Bush-Lite" Democrats to state funding for education [15 years of efforts to get school funding on a sounder basis than local property taxes]. From unfairness in voting and counting votes in Ohio [most skeptical that the counting was hacked but believing that poor people and minorities had been intimidated into not voting] to disgust at the perversion of Christian beliefs in homophobia [the passage of Ohio Issue 1 banning gay marriage]. From what we can do about issues being chosen and framed for the mainstream media by big money interests to deep concerns about poverty, Social Security and health care. From how we can practice and protect democracy in our communities and nation to expert or amateur apprehensions about global climate change and renewable energy,
But the overriding taste of the political stew that evening was bitter: horror and outrage at the slaughter in Iraq and destruction of Fallujah, dread and disbelief at the justification for and use of torture by Americans, and shame and alarm at the terrorism and violence practiced by our own nation in the name of "Freedom" and "Democracy".
But for all their anger, Democrats don’t know what to do about it. They see their words fail and their numbers pale beside the political myths generated by TV and embraced uncritically by their neighbors. They see that their letters to Congress and to local newspapers change nothing.
Friday, January 21, 2005. A neighborhood in Portage County was terrorized by a man with an AR-15 assault rifle who killed a woman and her 7-year-old son and then a KSU student he had taken hostage. The killer was on probation for federal firearms violations, but local authorities had not been notified that he was living in the area.
Last fall the Republican Congress, responding to Bush’s silence on the issue, let lapse the ban on assault weapons enacted ten years previously. After this shooting an aide to our Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan said he doubted that the ban would have kept the killer from getting the weapon. Ohio doesn’t require background checks for private sales or gun show sales.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005. The Convention against Torture treaty, said Alberto Gonzales at Senate hearings about his fitness to be Attorney General, doesn't prevent Americans acting under the President’s authority from using "cruel, inhuman or degrading" tactics on non-U.S. citizens who are captured abroad. Gonzales further said "I do not think it would be appropriate for me to address reports of interrogation practices discussed in the press and attempt to analyze whether such reported practices are lawful."
Thursday, January 26, 2005 The world observes the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The first camp there was built to terrorize the Poles and to provide slave labor to private industries profiting from the war. Auschwitz II was built in anticipation of 100,000 Russian prisoners of war. Later the two camps were combined and refitted for the "Final Solution". Over a million people perished at Auschwitz.
As a POD I am often tempted give up worrying about national and international matters and just work on local issues. But in the wake of the 2004 election I feel that that's exactly what the Bush administration wants: keep citizens so tied up fighting Wal-Marts, saving wetlands, promoting energy conservation, providing food pantries and homeless shelters, supporting quality public schools, defending Social Security and Medicare, protecting rights of gays and non-Christians, backing sound science against the theology of "intelligent design", and agonizing over abortion and gun control that we have no time, energy or wits to notice the devastation their policies are wreaking on the planet, their perversion of democracy, their cruel wars on the people of Iraq and the poor of the world, and their use of terrorism, torture and WMDs to achieve their goals.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world? Indeed -- though most of us don’t like their thoughts or the ideologies to which they are committed -- it appears they already have.
Caroline Arnold (email@example.com) served 12 years on the staff of Senator John Glenn and is now active in civic and environmental affairs in Kent, Ohio.