The work we do as organizers that cannot and should not be mocked smugly, as they did at the convention last week.
Today for example, I spent my morning with a group of female women survivors of family abuse explaining the voting process, how to vote, who can vote, the history of voting rights, voter suppression, and the importance of it in their everyday lives.
It was both empowering and exciting to speak to these women. All of them getting their lives back together. Learning about the importance of independance and survival and most of them had never voted once in their lives!
This was the third time this week I spoke to this organization each time a group of 20+ women who had lived through things most of us could never understand and I hope none of you will ever have to understand. Their questions were often very basic and the excitement and appreciation they showed when someone actually took the time to explain something as simple as the levels of government they are voting for when they look at a ballot (what does the State Assembly do?) empowered them to not only have the courage to vote, but inspired new questions like "How do I learn who I should vote for? Who will best represent my concerns?" Questions I can't answer for them, but could give ideas on how they can find the answers for themselves.
Not one knew there was an election next Tuesday. They do now. They plan on voting in it now. They were talking about who they would bring to the polls with them next Tuesday.
When I was done with each session I had women who believed they COULD someday build their lives to a point that they could run for office themselves. They were excited about voting. They understood who could and couldn't vote in their communities and all had people they wanted to go back and tell what they had learned. These are all really smart women who've never had a teacher, friend or family member explain this stuff to them and they left feeling empowered and excited about voting!
I'm not tooting my horn here in anyway...
I'm tooting their horns!!! I was so proud to be a woman today. To be in a sisterhood with these smart, strong and beautiful women. I love my job as a community organizer.
I love the people I organize! I love the people who just need some inspiration and hope to find out something new in their lives. I think this job is among the most noble careers on the planet!
So who are the community organizers?
- We are your faith leaders.
- We are the people who knock on your door to tell you about a candidate or issue we care about in our communities.
- We are staff members of organizations we adore who make sure you have a place to go when something isn't working in your lives.
- We are the radio talk show host with something on their mind about our community.
- We are the high school student who wants healthier lunches.
- We are the college student running for student council.
- We are the union members fighting for better pay, benefits and working conditions.
- We are old and young; black, brown and white; Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist; paid and unpaid; rich and poor; we are you when you have something to say to your friends, neighbors and relatives that could change their lives for the better...
- We are anyone who sees and injustice or an opportunity for improvement, and a way to resolve it and knocks on your door at 8:00 pm with our kids on our heels to tell you about it...
So read what Kathleen has to say next on this and your feedback as always is necessary.
I say to my sisters (and brothers of course). Organize! Organize yourselves, your communities and your workplaces! They are knocking us because they know that the only way we win in November is if we organize.
Well, thanks for the reminder that we have and always have had the power to pull our communities together around a common cause and organize them to make all of our lives better in some way!
For all the talk about reformers and mavericks, the Republican convention this week struck me as a return to the GOP's decades-old culture-war handbook, with speaker after speaker launching attacks on the "elites" in the media and Washington who supposedly look down on small-town America. At the GOP convention, there was a dispiriting number of distortions and ugly charges hurled from the podium, but nothing exemplified the spirit of the event to me more than the repeated outright mockery of community organizers.
As someone who has worked as a tenant organizer, I was offended by the smug sneering directed toward people who work hard for little pay on behalf of those who are struggling. How does attacking people who sacrifice for the common good mesh with the Republicans' stated desire to divert social service funds to community groups? How does it fit with speakers' claims to be standing with "real people" against "elites?" And I'm sorry, but how can anyone not laugh out loud at the ludicrous image of Wall Street millionaire and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney complaining about Eastern elites?
Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin made it clear that she's an able attack dog -- proudly describing herself as a pitbull -- and should not be underestimated. But she also made it clear that she's willing to stretch the truth when following the GOP's win-at-all-costs playbook. I think James Fallows had it right when he said that the decision to pick Sarah Palin was a signal that the McCain camp was embracing Karl Rove's base-motivating strategy and Religious Right leaders have reacted with a fervor that is hard to overstate. Clearly the pick of an anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-science extremist wrapped in a folksy hockey-mom package has fired up the base in ways that even McCain's pledge to pack the Courts with right-wing judges has failed to do.
After the derisive and divisive comments from so many speakers, John McCain's decrying of partisan rancor last night rang hollow to me. His use of right-wing buzz words such as "culture of life" and "judges who won't legislate from the bench" was a reminder that McCain would continue in the partisan tradition of the Bush administration.
In addition, the ridiculousness of the attacks on the "liberal media" -- which has more often than not been fawning in its treatment of McCain -- is so transparent that I hope the press will not cave in to the campaign's bullying demands that reporters stop asking legitimate questions about Palin's record, or about the impact of McCain's promised policies on the lives and liberties of millions of Americans.
But we can't count on the media to do the necessary truth-telling about John McCain, Sarah Palin and the Religious Right culture warriors who are now mobilizing to put them in the White House. That's our job -- and yours!
John McCain and Sarah Palin have lit a fire under the GOP's far-right base. I have to say they've done the same for me, and I hope the same is true for other Americans who share my deep concern for the ways they would use their power to undermine our nation's highest values and reverse so much progress that we've made toward those ideals.
All the best,
Kathryn Kolbert, Presidenthttp://mail.google.com/a/aclu-wi.org/h/wie0fctxbwyl/?v=b&cs=wh&to=Kathryn@pfaw.org?subject=Friday%20Note%209/5
P.S. Thank you to the hundreds of people who wrote me in response to my last note earlier this week about Sarah Palin. Your insights were truly informative, and your attitudes were reflected in the overnight success of our "Sarah Palin Doesn't Speak for Me" open letter which has already attracted 11,000 cosigners. If you haven't already, please sign it and forward it on to your friends (http://site.pfaw.org/site/R?i=N-ZJJ8_zpVCC-EIaJirwUw..).