4 July 2015: Will America Die Before It Becomes Itself?
Today I have Langston Hughes's most famous poem on my mind--the brilliant insight that America isn't America. Our country suggests a perfect democracy it may never become. Today we celebrate a document that execrates Native Americans as savages just below the Lockean eloquence we drool over, intimations of which I read actually in words written by an African American quoted by Howard Zinn, before the Declaration was written, with such eloquence and such learning.
Here is what I wrote in a review for Opednews.com of Zinn's magisterial comprehensive history: "That Tom Jefferson took the theme of the dignity of humanity from the unsuccessful plea written by the self-educated African American Benjamin Banneker, that he put aside his racial prejudice. You'll find other foreshadowings of immortal oratory in their [his] humble words."
So we all know that America was first an oligarchy of the rich and famous--although New Jersey, my home state, allowed women to vote from the 1790s onward for some years--then it decided in agreement with Ben Franklin that owning a donkey shouldn't determine one's right to vote. But the idea of us thrills so many still and lo and behold, along comes Bernie Sanders to promise us America. And his polling results are closing up a huge gap with Hillary Clinton's lead.
In my heart I know I'm Green and already pray for a Sanders victory. In my heart I know that Secretary Clinton is right (-wing) and moreover not in good enough health to assume the presidency, although the upside is that we'd have two presidents, both middle of the road, she at least very lately having taken on ideals that the Election Integrity movement espoused at least ten years ago if not more. I told Danny Schechter in an interview that the Progs are always ten years ahead of the rank-and-file Democrats.
And I honor, extol, and hallow the memory of Danny Schechter today, who might have said that Bernie Sanders IS the July 4, the America we've always pined after (though through-and through dissection would also appear). Today I declare myself strongly in favor of him, despite Secretary Clinton's lead in the polls. Next year at this time I pray for a reversal of these numbers. I pray that in Election 2016, just as in 2008, we won't be forced to vote for the lesser of two evils.
So the preceding paragraph seems to meld Bernie into Danny, or the reverse, with some amount of pronominal ambiguity. They are both heroes of the highest order. I don't know Senator Sanders personally but did know Danny and did study heroic prototypes as a classicist in another life. To be a hero, must one be arrogant, hugely aggressive, sometimes totally irrational and with that crazy? Of course. Danny was sometimes thus described and so much more -- one of the most brilliant and knowledgeable people I have ever met, motivated by a profound, enduring love of people suffering at every level and committed to changing it.
And he did, as we affirmed at his recent, beautiful memorial service at Judson Memorial Church in New York on his birthday, June 27. I didn't even think to bring a reporter's pad to that event, only worrying about bringing the same cloth handkerchief to that event as the one I inherited from my mom and used to weep for her--she died a year ago June 8.
I brought along raw emotions, watching one aspect of Danny after another speak beautiful words about him at the podium. We began by singing a national anthem, South Africa's, a land he loved and worked tirelessly to rescue from Apartheid. I can't quote a sentence--only words like "love," "passion," "heroism," "genius," "insanely nonstop labors on behalf of the persecuted hordes" (the latter is a paraphrase but the intent is sincere).
In his Preface to my Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols, Danny called me obsessive about Election Integrity, "a woman possessed," and I call him now something far greater, a human rights hero, an impossibly inaccessible formula of traits required to change the world.
As I said, I don't know Bernie Sanders but I do see in him a world changer, a hero, the revolution we've been praying for, Occupying democracy with more and more success.
God bless the wonderful life of Danny Schechter and keep us from ever forgetting him, and bless this country with a Bernie Sanders future.
July 4 this year has turned me inside-out. So be it. We must all translate our love for what America should be and must become in order to survive, into action--all of us. I've said unto exhaustion that democracy is hard work. I'm old and these days do little more than write as my contribution, but did lots more in the past--never enough, efforts dwarfed by Danny's.
We must create an America in which all can work hard toward a literal rather than just nominal democracy. I don't know what Danny would say about this July 4 but would have read it avidly. Bernie Sanders promises us America. Danny Schechter worked impossibly and obsessively hard to turn the world into what Langston Hughes taught us is America.
So let's start in America. Lead us, Danny and Bernie, toward the impossible task of founding America, of declaring independence against everything holding the world back from it. Let's celebrate a true July 4 this year and commit ourselves to work savagely 24/7 to translate the idea planted in 1776 into reality.