December 7, 2017

Poem: Protest

digital collage by S. King, using a photo
by Brad Spiess
The rock is in my way;
I have to move it.
When I push against
This obstacle,
I uncover all
The nasty things
Living beneath.
"Why did you move that rock?"
People ask me.
They blame me for
The hidden creatures
Lurking below it.
They tell me,
As if it's
My fault they see
Something ugly
Crawling out from
Underneath that rock.
The rock is in my way,
And I will move it.

December 1, 2017

What Democrats Believe

My take on a summary for the Democratic Party's agenda.
In the wake of last year's election, there's been a lot of soul-searching among members of the Democratic Party. One point I see raised often is that Democrats don't have a clear message or statement of beliefs. I recall a local Democratic Party meeting back in February where we scoured the state party web site for such a statement, and found nothing. The problem, of course, is not that Democrats don't have a clear set of beliefs, but rather that we're not very good at articulating them.

Earlier this year, the party tried to improve their messaging with the proposal "A Better Deal." I can understand the thought behind this: the New Deal is still the gold standard of Democratic legislative accomplishments, what we're offering is better than what the Republicans have, put the two together and voila! Unfortunately, the message fell flat. "A Better Deal" sounds hesitant and timid, and the proposal itself is heavily detailed and more practical than progressive - criticisms which reinforce the stereotype of the Democratic Party as out of touch with the needs of America today.

This week, The Takeaway radio show has been asking various people inside the Democratic Party about what they think its direction should be as part of their series The Road Ahead. I've heard a lot of good ideas, and at their core is the belief in democracy: that government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people. From Keith Ellison to Howard Dean, the people interviewed all said that the future of the party is coming from the grassroots up, not the top down. Like any good manager, the job of the people in charge is to facilitate the best ideas, remove roadblocks, and make it easier for everyone to get involved.

So, while the people who are good at meeting and facilitating and administrating are doing their jobs (God bless them! It ain't easy.), I'd like to submit my ideas for consideration. This is my take on a succinct statement of beliefs for the Democratic Party.  Here's a PDF you can download, too.

Please note this is not (yet) officially endorsed by the Democratic Party

I used the language that Democrats I know have already been using this year. "Resist" cropped up immediately after Trump's election, and hasn't diminished in the year since. "Reclaim" entered the conversation thanks to Representative Maxine Waters, who refused to allow others to ignore her questions or talk over her. "Rebuild" isn't a meme, it's just a simple statement of the work we have ahead of us to fix what's been broken and neglected.

My goal was to craft a statement of beliefs that can inspire those both within and outside the Party. I wanted something general enough that most of the Party's goals and values would be included, without getting bogged down in details, as we so often do. 

In the spirit of democracy, I would like to hear your feedback on this statement of beliefs. What would you change? What would you add? I'd like to continue the conversation to let America know what the Democratic Party believes, and hopefully inspire a few more people to say, "I want to be a part of that."

September 5, 2017

Their History Matters to Them

Sculpture: "The Last Voyage"

I recently came across an online discussion about whether or not the Israelites were ever really slaves in Egypt. There's a lot of scholarship on this subject, and it's fascinating to read about the archeological evidence (or lack thereof) for the Hebrew Bible. But I find it even more interesting to think about how the history of this small ethnic group is now known the world over.

I don't find it at all surprising that the Egyptians didn't corroborate a lot of the stories from the Hebrew Bible in their own writings. After all, why would they? They were large and powerful monarchies, and with the effort and expense required to actually write things down 4,000 years ago, why would they waste any of that on stories about a fragment of the slave or migrant population? There were thousands of people who migrated through Egypt's kingdoms back then.

The history of the Israelites (or people who eventually became the Israelites) just didn't matter to the Egyptian ruling class. But it mattered to the Israelites. They carefully preserved the stories of their ancestors, passing them down orally and eventually in written form. As a migrant people, history and shared culture was all they had.

Now, one of the great ironies of history, in my mind, is that many people the world over who have no Hebrew ancestry can list the rulers of Israel and recite stories from their histories; while few beyond scholars can name more than a couple of Egyptian pharoahs. In fact, a lot of people only know Egyptian history through the lens of the Hebrew Bible.

Millennia later, the unimportant migrants, the slaves, are known worldwide. Their histories are just as important as those of the great kingdoms where they toiled anonymously. I wonder, who are the Israelites among us now? Which ignored, marginalized people are carefully recording their own stories from their own perspective - stories those in power aren't even aware of.

A thousand years from now, the people in power now might either be forgotten or else known primarily through the stories of the ones they enslaved and mistreated. It's a good reminder not to discount people's points of view just because they aren't the ones in charge.