Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wishing I could have Granny D over for coffee

This past week, I've been down in my back, and have spent quite a bit of time in bed, lying flat on the aforementioned back, listening to the radio. That was how I learned about the death, earlier this week, of grassroots political activist Granny D at age 100.

Doris Haddock career as a liberal political activist dated as far back as 1960, when she and her husband campaigned against hydrogen bomb testing in Alaska. In 2004, at the age of 94, she challenged incumbent Republican Judd Gregg for one of New Hampshire's US Senate seats. That campaign was documented the film Run Granny Run.

She first gained national attention in 1999-2000, when, at the age of 90, she walked across the United States to dramatize the need for campaign finance reform. According to her blog, maintained by admirers, Granny D continued her fight for campaign finance reform when she was honored with a 100th birthday party by the governor of New Hampshire:
People have been asking me how I feel about the recent decision by the Supreme Court to strike down some of the campaign finance reforms that I walked for and have been working on for a dozen or so years.

When I was a young woman, my husband and I were having dinner at the Dundee home of a friend, Max Foster, when a young couple rushed through the door breathless to say that they had accidentally burned down Max’s guest cabin, down by the river.

Max stood up from his meal. He set his napkin down. He smiled at the young couple and he said,

“Thank goodness. You have done me a great favor, and you don’t even know it. We have been wanting to completely redo that old place, and now it will be a clean start. It will be better than ever the next time you come to stay.”

Well, I guess the Supreme Court has burned down our little house, but, truth be told, it was pretty drafty anyway. We had not really solved the problem of too much money in politics. Not hardly. And now we have an opportunity to start clean and build a system of reforms that really will do the trick.
I have been thinking of Granny D today as the Coffee Party sponsors over 400 gatherings across the United States with the goal of countering the right-wing shenanigans of the right-wing Tea Party movement. The Tea Party folks promote their agenda under the guise of liberating us from interference from an overbearing government. The Coffee Party responds that
We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.
That is a noble goal, and exploring the Coffee Party site, it seems that they are dedicated to the grassroots democratic activism -- in the spirit of Granny D -- that might make that goal a reality. But I am also reminded of the many times that the US government has acted as a force for oppression in the world.Radical feminists and leftist activists have often have argued that this is not an accident. Ambivalence seems to be my overriding mood this week. I find the Coffee Party appealing, but wonder if it will end up legitimizing US government policies that I personally find very disturbing.

 Too bad it's too late for me to invite Granny D to talk it all out with me over a cup of coffee.

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