Slapping at Community Organizing

New Orleans         I hit the seam.  Landing in the small, Jackson airport, I was on the road and hoping for the best by 1040 PM.  I was not alone on the road, but the traffic did not seem worse than usual as I hit McComb, then Brookhaven, and then crossed the line into Louisiana.  I kept waiting for the swell to surge into the road.  Past Hammond, Louisiana and then coming through Manchac Pass there were signs warning of terrible traffic waiting for me on I-10 once I left I-55, but it just never happened.  Mayor Nagin’s reversal and opening of the city for “humanitarian” reasons, as the New York Times called it kindly, had clearly released the pressure valves on the traffic.  No one was in the city though.  The north side of the Interstate was dark as I entered.  Bywater was dry, but quiet in the night.  I walked through my door at 115 AM with relief.  Home, sweet, home!

    In short, I missed Palin’s maiden speech to the Republican Convention.  I’m sympathetic to her.  I love Alaska, so I’m happy that we will be hearing more about that big, cold, messy piece of landscape and its place as the last physical frontier in America.  Heck my tribe even drove Wasilla in our one great Alaskan trip.  I also think the whole beauty queen, pregnant daughter, steelworker husband, small town mayor, little state governor, runs for vice-president as part of Team Whack for the White House is a great narrative, and must make many Democrats go to sleep with wry, happy smiles on their faces these days as they think about how little she brings to the McCain ticket.      

    But waking up in New Orleans again it did not take me long to find out that Palin took some cheap shots at community organizing, so now it’s on, missy!

    Not that I’m overjoyed with the media spinning that tries to equate community organizing with being a small-town mayor or a PTA officer as all part and parcel of the same thing.  You cannot, and should not, try to leech all of the critical content from organizing to pretend it’s nothing more than social work without the smile.  Ugh.  That is not going to work.  There is a truth to the process of building power that is not easily diluted into another version of Mom and apple pie.  The fight for democracy in America and for power for all Americans regardless of income, race, and gender is a fight and not a stroll through the city parks and small towns of the country.  

    So the Palin line about community organizing being like being mayor of a small town, but “with responsibilities” is just a cheap shot, but it is really (maybe fortunately) a strike called down on the wrong target.  Being a community organizer for Obama was a mission, not a management gig, so this is all apples and oranges.  The real comparison has an edge to it.  Would you rather a president who wanted to build democracy when he was young and spent time in the struggle to do so, or a vice president who wanted to be a radio announcer?  

    But, it’s on, so let’s argue about the real issues another time.  Maude Hurd, ACORN’s President, was quoted in the USA Today:

     “Community service groups reacted strongly Thursday. Maude Hurd, president of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), said her group helps people learn leadership skills so they can work for better schools, wages and treatment from financial institutions. She said the "condescending attacks" were disappointing. A coalition of faith-based groups said political leaders should be thanking community organizers, not insulting them.”

    Michael Kieschnick of Credo (the old Working Assets) sent me a note that they had broadcast to their subscribers urging them to stand up for community organizing and ask Palin for an apology, and I’m glad to share this and spread it around.  Hit the following link and sign a quick message that Credo has distributed and send a message directly to the Governor about what and what:  http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/defend_community_organizers/

    There is a part of this that is really pretty wonderful.  If you had ever told me over the last 40 years that a community organizer would run for President or that community organizing would be an issue in a presidential election, I would have had to call you a liar.  Now, we even get to strap it on when people at the highest level attack community organizing, and call them liars instead.

    America, what a country!

Sarah Palin
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