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Friday, November 17, 2006

Break a Leg

Hold the cheers.
Hit the lights.


It appears a fungal pall has settled on the smooth marble walls and old leather chairs of the showpiece of political drama, the US Capitol. Like an aged theatre welcoming yet another revival of Annie, Get Your Gun, the building where our legislators do the people's business is filled with a new company of players who walk the stage in dusty costumes and continue to perform lines from anachronistic scripts that hallow old ideas of leadership.

This, however, is not the show the voters want to see produced. We want something fresh, informed by the great leaders of the past, but stepping outside that stale paradigm.

No more rehearsing
Or nursing a part.

Now the star of the show sits in her dressing room, a closed smile staring back at her from the lit make-up mirror. She knows the person she sees is accountable for the success of the run, and its failures. The worst thing she can do is not play to the audience, yet during the last dress rehearsal, she did just that. She went with a preconceived notion of leadership by following her own agenda, thinking the rest of the company would follow along to make her look good.

But the lead role in this play is not delivered through soliloquy. It is one of dialogue and requires listening, focusing and reacting, and only after she shows the concern one actor in a scene must have for another can she begin to act, and to lead.

A knock on the door breaks her from her intense stare. "Five minutes, Ms. Pelosi," says the anxious voice of an enthralled young assistant. Nancy gets up from her chair, and after dabbing her make-up with her finger and pursing her lips, turns off the lights on the mirror and leaves the dressing room.

Oh what heights we'll hit!

As the door closes behind her, she knows the mirror will be waiting for her to return, for when the act is over, she will face herself once again. Whether lauded by flowers or faced with an abrupt end of run, she will know that she is accountable, and maybe, just maybe, she will have brightened the stage of this dingy, old, white-domed theatre so that more and more people will clamour for following through on her farsighted commitments, and folks at water coolers and coffee shops will be talking about the greatest cast on the greatest stage doing the greatest work for our country and the world.

So Nancy, break a leg. We're counting on you.

On with the show!
This is it!

-PBG

Monday, November 13, 2006

Turning the Dirt in DC

This morning in Washington DC, between the memorials to America's two mavericks of liberty and freedom, Lincoln and Jefferson, behind long rows of dignitaries, shovels and a trough of dirt, stood Ambassador Andrew Young with a microphone in his hand.

Standing beside the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ambassador Young cued those assembled to "turn the dirt" to break ground on the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial in our nation's capital.

Like the results of the midterm elections, the groundbreaking in Washington, DC turned over the dirt that runs along the tidal basin, a short distance from Capitol Hill, to re-establish the people's America - our America.

With joyous choral voices fading, the Ambassador recalled the final planning meeting with this country's last great leader in Atlanta before they took that ill fated journey to help sanitation workers in Memphis. As Andy Young spoke tearfully and Jesse Jackson sobbed, Congressman John Lewis, who was also at that meeting in the early spring of 1968, stood along the shovel line, gripping the tool's handle with one hand, while the other held his bent head. His shoulders were shaking; his wet face was hidden in his palm.

Ambassador Young talked about how Dr. King told them, in the hours before his assassination, that they were laying the whole movement on him, that they needed to step up and be the leaders as well, that he was thinking of stepping down if he couldn't count on them.

With tears, the great men at today's event showed more than the sadness that comes from memory and loss. They were the tears of great men awed by the grace life gave them to be in the presence of the greatest of men.


So, at Andy Young's cue, the group "turned the dirt," and in the wake of the speeches and the songs, an old era of struggling for liberty was insured of its endurance, and a new era of reclaimed promise was insured of its time in the sun.

From the changes wrought by their marches and protests and even their blood, we can now all affect change through the ballot box, as we did one week ago.

May we all humbly take the torch they now hand us and - as they did when Dr. King handed it to them - move it forward strongly, resolutely and justly for the sake of all America, all Her people, and all the people of the world.

-PBG

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Milk Run

This is the time to gloat. Tomorrow we get to work. Great job, America!

So why do I feel like this is a Joseph Heller novel?

While I hate to rain on this "Happy Days are Here Again" parade, there is something about yesterday's vote that really bothers me. In order to control committees, we needed a majority. In order to get a majority, we had to field conservative candidates like Jim Webb (Virginia) for the Senate and Brad Ellsworth (Indiana) for the House. Not Democrats I can usually get behind, but I'm happier than I was in 2002 (and of course '04). Control the committees, control the world.

I also find the part of the country I live in stuck in a really bad cycle. I wrote the following letter to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today:

The results of Tuesday's election shows how much the South has distanced itself from the rest of the nation. While most of the country was seemingly going out of its way to vote for Democrats - even voting out anti-Iraq War, anti-Bush Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island - Georgia voters went out of their way to add zero new Democrats to our Congressional delegation. Zell Miller, in his TV ad for Sonny Perdue, said that Georgia is "the envy of the nation." He must mean the Republican nation, because that is what the South has become. With Trent (the-country-should've-made-Strom-president) Lott's re-election in Mississippi and Zell waving the banner, the Republicans have completed their transformation into the Dixiecrats of the 21st Century.

-PBG

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

From Anxiety to Confidence

With less than a week to go before we push the touch screen and vote for the ersatz leaders of our country for the next two to six years, it's time to move from anxiety to confidence. Don't let yourself be numbed into distraction by the "Dancing with the Stars" soap opera, Madonna's new kid and Ryan & Reese's break-up. Forget JK's badly delivered joke and Babs' using her concerts as a forum for dissent. We don't have to defend their opinions nor their rights to them. What each person who loves this country the way we do must embrace is our own vision for a fair, free and open government.

This Congress has legislated closing our borders, shutting down habeas corpus, turning off the lights on freedom of information and damming our rights to privacy. They warn us that terrorists want to limit our abilities to enjoy our way of life while the laws they enact do just that. They want to limit the rights of Americans who happen to be gay, and see it as a rallying cry when the courts do their job of constitutional oversite.

Now they want to follow the old tradition of European racism and make Muslim women take off their burkas and hijabs. What group will be hit next? Sikhs forced to abandon their turbans? Rastas their locks? Jews their yarmulkas? Maybe they'll want black folks to bleach themselves.

Curiously, the people that advocate cultural homogenization are the same ones who see no problem with a nativity scene in the public square. Obviously they believe that if it's not White and Christian, then it's not American. I'd like to think they're wrong about that.

If there is anyone to be afraid of, it is the Nuremberg Law mentality of this administration and the Congress that enables it. How long do you think it will be before the so-called Minute Men on the border storm the U.S. border towns like Brown-shirts, drag Latino women and children from their home and put them on a bus to Mexico (after a beating to "teach them a lesson")? I heard on Marketplace yesterday that Malaysia is forming enforcement groups to do just that with their "illegal" Indonesian immigrants who come to Kuala Lumpur for the unskilled factory jobs that Malaysians won't do.

So don't be afraid of the terrorists, my friends. You're odds of winning the lottery are about the same as dying in a terrorist attack. If there is something to fear it is this good-for-business government that wants the rights we are guaranteed in this country to belong only to those who can pay for it. When Karl Rove refers to the Christian Right as "nuts", he means any idealogue voter, including us. The only vote they really want is the money vote, and fuck the rest of us.

As Streisand would say, "Shut the fuck up!" Now go vote. Maybe we can make this one count.

-PBG

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