Joanna Macy - support Dennis Kucinich
I just wrote these words in support of a presidential candidate:
June 11, 2003
We still have a chance to reclaim America. The name of that chance is Dennis Kucinich. As his record and candidacy show, he has the values, vision, and courage to lead our country—not into delusions of empire, but onto the path of justice, peace, and ecological sanity.
Despite the rage and grief I have felt over what the Bush junta is doing to our country and the world, a determined hope stirs within me. In the year since I got to know Dennis Kucinich, his actions in Congress and his unmistakable belief in this country's founding values have lent an extra measure of conviction to my work for the Great Turning. My half-conscious prayer was that he would run for president. Now he has accepted that challenge. Though many still shrug him off as a long shot, I am convinced that every single day he stays in the race educates the public on crucial issues—from universal health care to nuclear disarmament to the dismantling of NAFTA and the WTO.
My first meeting with Kucinich is described in my letter of July 4, 2003:
Today is the Fourth of July...and I sit here in the backyard mulling about our nation's holiday. Actually, I've been thinking about it for quite a while. What does America--and being an American--mean to me?
By "America," I am referring to the United States. I used to take care with that name when elsewhere on this continent, since Mexicans and Canadians can rightly call themselves American, too. But in Canada recently, I noticed how the folks I met there used "America" in the same way as we do: to mean the U.S. Perhaps they were simply deferring to our right to the name, given our economic and cultural domination. Perhaps they didn't want it, because it had become distasteful to them.
So I confront again, on this day of parades and fireworks, the passel of feelings that being an American evokes in me. I have to dig to find any cause for celebration. I have to delve deeper than the anger and shame I carry for the condition of our cities and farms and schools, for my government's betrayal of its own vaunted principles, for its naked alliance with corporate greed, for its self-proclaimed right to rule the world, a militarism which now extends even into space. This is the country whose seal is on my passport, whose privileges I have known--including (so far, at least) the right of resistance. Could it be that the outrage I have felt since the coup of January 2001 is, in a way, a gift that my country has given me?
"Are you glad to be an American?" I asked that of my colleague Doug this morning. He was about to take part in the Fourth of July parade in Nevada City, proudly driving his bio-diesel car. To fuel your automobile with used vegetable oil may be Yankee ingenuity at its best, celebrating the independence we most need at this point in our history.
After a pause for reflection, Doug answered my question. "It is a special calling to be alive in this world as an American," he said soberly.
His reply reminded me of a process we do in the Work That Reconnects. Called "My Choices for This Life," it lets us go back in our imagination to a point preceding this lifetime. There we see how certain factors, that have shaped our life, could have been "chosen" to deepen our service to life on Earth. These factors include place and time of birth, gender, social conditions, color of skin, and nationality. This exercise of the moral imagination has let me see some purpose in my being born American. Though I might prefer being from Denmark, Holland, or New Zealand, I have to admit that, at this historical juncture, citizens of the U.S. have an irreplaceable role to play--levers to pull, organizing to undertake, at the heart of the empire.
To belong to America, complicit in its lifestyle, may not be totally to my liking, but strategically it makes sense. If it is, as Doug put it, a "calling," if I can bring to it a deep ecological awareness, a bodhisattva commitment to the welfare of all beings, it's a useful place to be. As an American, there are things I can do: There's a mythic illusion, propagated by the corporate monoculture, that I can see through; and there are tools I can grasp to help dismantle an oppressive system.
This was, more or less, my earnest and somewhat grim accommodation to being born as an American, until I met Dennis Kucinich.
A Congressman from Cleveland, Kucinich is becoming known to the broader public as the sponsor of an amazing array of bills, from the labeling of genetically modified foods, to the establishment of a Department of Peace, to universal health coverage, and the espousal of international treaties on climate and arms control. But it wasn't Dennis's actions in Congress that threw me for a loop when I spent two days with him last month at a "State of the Possible" retreat sponsored by the Positive Futures Network, publishers of YES! magazine. And it wasn't his political charisma, I'm allergic to that. It was, quite simply, his choice to believe in what this country stands for--a faith disclosed in the course of our talks, and without any rhetoric at all. Because of the way he spoke them, I am learning now, by heart, passages from the Declaration of Independence. He let me see that to honor this country as "the home of the brave" means being brave enough to resist measures, such as the USA PATRIOT Act, to deny us our constitutional rights.
From that same retreat I carry words of Vincent Harding, a towering moral intellect bearing the history of the civil rights movement. He, like Dennis, helped me see our democracy as a work in progress. Vincent quoted poet Langston Hughes: "America, you've never been America to me; and I swear this oath: you will be!"
Those words echo in me. Inspired by them, I begin to give myself the education in American history I never received in the French lycee or my college years. After devouring Grace Lee Boggs' autobiography Living for Change about her remarkable years in the labor movement, I am reading Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States. I am appalled by the brutalities and injustices, and, at the same time, exhilarated by the many heroes.
And now this time we're in, the Great Turning, gives the patriot's heart full play. What an adventure we're in; happy Fourth of July!
In the year since I wrote those lines, the U.S. government has invaded and occupied Iraq, announced plans to do the same with Iran, and, in addition to its accelerating plunder of our natural resources and public services, further stripped the American people of their civil liberties.
There are moments when I'm so discouraged and disgusted that I think, "It's too late to stop this juggernaut, and we're not worth saving anyway." But Dennis Kucinich won't let me stay in moral defeat, he raises my sights to all we still can do for ourselves and our world.
So let's support him and keep him in the race so more and more people can hear him and wake up. See his website (www.kucinich.us) and make a generous contribution: to secure the attention of mainstream media, his campaign must receive substantial contributions from all of us by June 30.
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