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Life Arts    H1'ed 5/10/09

Margaret Bassett: The She-Bear of OpEdNews

Message Rady Ananda
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With a debate team background, decades of educational training and experience, and some spare time on her hands now, Margaret Bassett leads all editors at OpEdNews in the number of articles edited: over 6,000. She has written 43 articles and 35 diaries, and has posted close to 3,000 quick links and over 1,600 comments.  

Asked why she edits, she responded, "What this old world needs is good journalism.  It needs it in translation sometimes. It needs it cheaply. And it needs good journalistic standards of thoroughness. It's why I look at OEN and I ponder. I find it a good place to ponder because there are members to think with."

OEN owner Rob Kall remarked, "Margaret has been a true gift to OpEdNEws, bringing her passion for shining the light. The depth of wisdom and experience she brings to the site is invaluable." Senior editor Joan Brunwasser finds her to be an inspiration, sending this message: "I hope to be as feisty and energetic as you are when I'm your age!"

Debate and education is Margaret's forte, having spent a lifetime teaching adults.

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"I was a senior at Campbell County High School (Gillette, Wyoming) in 1940. All that was left for graduation was to finish studies, edit the school page in the weekly paper, and play the mother in Black Gold, a nail biter where the oil shark wanted to marry the farmer's daughter to get the land.  

"That summer I was elated that FDR chose Henry Wallace as VP--a man who is my yardstick for progressivism."

In 1942, Wallace gave his most famous speech, "The Century of the Common Man." This call to arms extolled the virtues of education, "freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom from fear of the secret police." Most significantly, Wallace fought for freedom from want. When he ran for President in 1948 on the Progressive Party ticket, he called for universal health care, 60 million new jobs, and an end to segregation. A true progressive.

It's easy to see how Margaret admired Henry Wallace. Born to humble means in 1922 in Campbell County, Wyoming, Margaret spent her early years with a panoramic view of mostly undeveloped land. "I grew up in the 19th Century in many ways. I somehow had sense enough to recognize that people who live on the land are not inclined to be fenced in. Perhaps that happened after having gazed at the Big Horn Mountains a hundred miles away from us."  

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"On Sunday afternoons during my upper grade years, I used to walk the mile to the old schoolhouse. There I would look at the old globe and figure out which part of it I would look up in the World Book." Three families attended this school in the 1930s, which boasted a total enrollment of thirteen pupils:

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"Hugging the schoolhouse wall are me (top right), brother Bob, and sister Norma (in coat, now deceased). Blond curly-haired boy (front left) is little brother Morris. The girl on top row right and I email each other. And two of her siblings still live. Just this week her older sister, who was nine years older than us, died. The other family, with three members, are now gone. Still, a pretty hardy group without vaccination, despite the polio scare." 

Her mother was a K-12 schoolteacher, but Margaret wasn't going to have any of that. She earned her political science degree from the State University of Iowa. She began graduate work in Spanish and Speech Pathology to create a manual for teaching English to Spanish-speaking students, "but there was no one at Iowa to help with a dissertation." So she left in August 1945 and went to D.C. teaching English to foreign exchange students. She found teaching at this level to be her calling.  

But the McCarthy Era dirtied democracy with the House Un-American Activities Committee, turning D.C. into "a rat's nest." She left for New York City where she worked at the Institute of International Education. 

In 1972, she worked on George McGovern's campaign against incumbent President Nixon, whose "political dirty tricks and intelligence-gathering operations helped Nixon win re-election" with the now-infamous Watergate break-in. Margaret remembers:

"We tried to use [the June 1972 break-in] to warn voters, but the issue didn't get enough media attention until after Nixon won re-election."

In 1975, Margaret obtained her Masters in Vocational Guidance from the College of Education at Roosevelt University (Chicago).  

Though she learned computer programming in 1966, it wasn't until the mid-90s when personal computers and telecommunications became readily available to senior citizens. It was then "I realized I would not have a lonely old age. Combining it with real life neighborhood youngsters was my way of returning something to society for what I had enjoyed in my growing years."  

In 2004, she worked with a group of Texans in Austin who started by championing Wes Clark for candidacy. She did research for them in the early morning hours, and her time zone was earlier. "They called me the east end of the West Wing." 

"Culturally, I was most helpful in translating what the Christian denominations did during Viet Nam in the peace movement. The many Baptists among them were bowled over by the Ashcroft/Falwell contingency. On freedom and privacy issues, they could use my tussle with McCarthyism. We all chased Tom DeLay and Dick Cheney for stories to refute. Our purpose was Rapid Response." 

Reading the political landscape, she saw the import of the 2006 elections.

"After 2004, one of the hunches I harbored was that persons too young to experience Viet Nam and World War II would be critical for the Democrats if they were ever going to be taken seriously. I read articles, found on other venues from OpEdNews, and decided it might have a major part in 06.  My sighted eye was dimming with a cataract and after I enjoyed successful lens replacement, I elected to make OEN my headquarters for the coming changeover.  

"As I told Rob, I would edit because I had time. However, my first hope was mostly to read, write and research--like I did with the Texas group except on a larger scale. (There are skeletons in my inbox of book reviews and opinion pieces which will never see the light of day.)" Frustrated that she has not devoted more time to her own writing, she still likes that she can help others with theirs.

"OpEdNews is one way of extending my 'giving back' as I look for parents. It's always busy parents who are impacted by political events. What they should do is think about what their kids will be doing when the little tykes reach a hundred. What they are stuck doing is keeping bread on the table and a roof over their heads. They are likely to get caught in the political trap and fall off into numbing values.  

"Take, for example, the topic of Viet Nam.  Hardly anyone on our pages is not impacted by the twin struggles of peace and civil rights. To avoid thinking, most members ignore the last 40 years of history." Her favorite essays are those that reveal history through the lens of personal experience.  

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I asked her how she felt about same sex marriage. She responded, "I have no compunction about it. I never thought it was anybody's business."

How about AIPAC? "No matter what opinion you give, you're going to offend somebody. It's a hot button issue. When I returned from Denmark in 1951, I saw a city bench ad that read, 'No dogs or Jews.'"

But then she decried lobbyists in general. "Look at Monsanto and agriculture. The original idea of the Farm Bureau is corrupted. Agribiz is what we're fighting. People aren't going to be able to feed themselves like they did during the depression. Some can plow up their land but not most."

Who do you admire in Congress?  "Bernie Sanders."

What's one of the most important issues today?  "Single payer health care. Everyone should listen to Rob's radio interview  of last week with Dr. Flowers. This health care business is a gender issue."  

Most poverty issues, including inadequate health care, are gender issues: women make up the largest portion of those in poverty. "Single payer health care is an issue that can unite women of every political stripe," she insists. Also check out Joan Brunwasser's interview of Dr. Flowers, in two parts here and here. Among others, OEN editor Eric Nelson also wrote a good piece on this.

She thinks government has gotten too big and objects to its meddling in the education of our youth, and invading our privacy. "We have no privacy anymore."

But there are some serious issues facing Americans today, she warns. "Things are not as bad as they have been at different times in this nation," she explains. "But we don't know how bad it can get. We have bankruptcies, lay-offs, part-time workers and a housing crisis."

Words of wisdom for the rest of us?  

"It's not important what you've got. It's what's happening to the other guy that matters. Progressives look after all folks. We look out for the other guy, knowing we could be in the same boat."

OEN benefits by Margaret Bassett's hard work and progressive insights, just as much of the world around her, too, is more enriched and better educated. She is a model for all of us as we work toward uniting the grassroots "of all political stripes" to restore the freedoms we all once enjoyed. As Henry Wallace put it back in 1942:

"When the freedom-loving people march; when the farmers have an opportunity to buy land at reasonable prices and to sell the produce of their land through their own organizations, when workers have the opportunity to form unions and bargain through them collectively, and when the children of all the people have an opportunity to attend schools which teach them truths of the real world in which they live - when these opportunities are open to everyone, then the world moves straight ahead....

"The march of freedom of the past one hundred and fifty years has been a long-drawn-out people's revolution. In this Great Revolution of the people, there were the American Revolution of 1775, The French Revolution of 1792, The Latin-American revolutions of the Bolivarian era, The German Revolution of 1848, and the Russian Revolution of 1917. Each spoke for the common man in terms of blood on the battlefield. Some went to excess. But the significant thing is that the people groped their way to the light. More of them learned to think and work together.

"The people's revolution aims at peace and not at violence, but if the rights of the common man are attacked, it unleashe[s] the ferocity of a she-bear who has lost a cub."
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In 2004, Rady Ananda joined the growing community of citizen journalists. Initially focused on elections, she investigated the 2004 Ohio election, organizing, training and leading several forays into counties to photograph the 2004 ballots. She officially served at three recounts, including the 2004 recount. She also organized and led the team that audited Franklin County Ohio's 2006 election, proving the number of voter signatures did not match official results. Her work appears in three books.

Her blogs also address religious, gender, sexual and racial equality, as well as environmental issues; and are sprinkled with book and film reviews on various topics. She spent most of her working life as a researcher or investigator for private lawyers, and five years as an editor.

She graduated from The Ohio State University's School of Agriculture in December 2003 with a B.S. in Natural Resources.

All material offered here is the property of Rady Ananda, copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009. Permission is granted to repost, with proper attribution including the original link.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." Tell the truth anyway.

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