I Am a Democrat

I am a lifelong Southern Democrat. Born in the mid forties in southwest Florida, I grew up in the Jim Crow South when it was a Democratic stronghold as solid as Gibraltar. One of the most furious reactions I ever saw from anyone in my family was the time when I was (young) and, within earshot of my grandfather at a family get-together, happened to utter the phrase, “I like Ike.” His reaction was both visceral and instantaneous and, if he had not recognized me as he rose, I do believe he would have crossed the room and smote me where I stood.

I identified with those Democrats when I discovered that they spoke to the interests of labor, that they saw a role for government in providing a safety net under those who had fallen, and generally considered government a possible tool for establishing standards of protection and assistance for the wider citizenry when that was needed. They appeared to me to represent a more human(e) approach to government, to stand for a vision of the role of government that included compassion and the collective use of our financial power to advance solutions for some of the pressing social needs within the country.

I never left that Democratic Party and I never abandoned those interests or visions. It appears to me, however, that the Democrats have left me. I see what looks like a huge PAC into which has been concentrated the control of what used to be, and still is called, the Democratic Party. That PAC is essentially indistinguishable from a twin that is at the heart of the Republican Party. They are both fed by the “free speech” ($$$$$$$) of what is in effect the world community of international businesses.

The Republicans, however, in addition to maintaining their organic connection with that business community, have connected on a much wider scale to a constituency that I believe once was actually Democratic: the Church. Religion, and most especially its evangelical and more fundamental expressions, was and still is part of the bedrock of the South and those people were Democrats, solid and proud. Since the basic tenets of the Church have remained essentially unaltered for several hundred years, I must consider the likelihood that it is the Democrats that have moved and not the Church.

The Democrats have grown a symbiotic connection to the Republicans’ core constituency: Business, as that constituency has increasingly spread its very substantial power in the form of “free speech” ($$$$$$$) to the parties. Since (as they say in “South’r’n”) “Ya best dance with him as brung ya.” what is still called the Democratic Party has had to increasingly act like Republicans. Acting like Republicans while talking like Democrats has left most of the party’s constituents standing alongside the path confused and annoyed, scratching their heads and looking around trying to figure out whether they accidentally left the Party or the Party deliberately left them.

Both parties’ centers are built on the same foundation: The “free speech” (ok, ok…I’ll stop doing that..) of business, which “talks” to both, though more “loudly” to the one it thinks will win and/or act most effectively in its behalf . While the Republicans have approached and won a new and very solidly united and active constituency in the persons of the millions of faithful in the nation, the Democrats have drifted away from and lost not only that constituency but labor, in whose interests it is hard to speak when you are connected by transfusion to the very corporations for whom those people work; Greens, for the same basic reason, but the Greens see what those corporations are doing to the environment as they convert resources into capital; I think there are more to list and I think the point is made.

The Democrats try hard to distinguish themselves from the Republicans, to create distance between them, and it is hard to get very far away when you are connected to the same umbilicus or even share organs. The Party has a dilemma: It has found the riches and to access them it must leave home. It must choose. At stake is the two party system because, sooner or later, those of us from which the “center” of the party has walked away will, once again, seek to build the kind of representation and power in political expression once offered by the Democratic Party. It is an organic necessity that from within a country founded upon the most Liberal vision of government ever conceived on the planet there must arise a political expression of the values that shape that vision. Be that the Democratic Party, as it has historically been, or be it a rising third party, it will happen. Perhaps the two party system will persist in the form of the Redemopublicratican Party and a Second Party Yet to Be Named.

Democratic thinking has not disappeared. Liberal values have not lost their power. The party that calls itself Democrat has left the building.

I will be a constituent of a party that values human labor; sees government as a tool, not the answer, in ameliorating suffering and bringing social conditions toward civil resolution; that works to tax its citizens accurately and fairly and then turns those revenues to commonly agreed purposes (Yes, I do mean “tax and spend.”); that supports a military that is superior in its quality and then seeks to build alliances and partnerships with neighbors and others in the world community so that military can be used for its best and truest purpose: providing for the common defense. I will join and vote for a party that establishes civil liberties and the sanctity of citizenship as its cornerstone and builds upon that cornerstone administrations that recognize and act as though they are the property of the people and not the other way around. If those principles can be brought home to the evangelical faithful as natural to their faiths, connected to and growing from the basic tenets of the Gospel of Jesus, that’s fine with me, the party I’m talking about really is a big tent. When I hear these principles strongly and genuinely spoken and followed by actions consistent with that speaking I will seek out and support whoever that is.

Or, I shall keep speaking them myself and watch and listen for an echo or a chorus until either there is such an echo and subsequent chorus or I exhale and do not inhale again.

I am a Democrat.

Thank you for your consideration. I invite your reply.

April 18, 2006

A conjecture: Life of an Original American or Any Indigenous or Aboriginal People

Asleep in a shelter built of native materials and suited to its environment, I awaken, to what? I awaken to the morning light, to the pressure in my bladder, to the movement/sounds of the world about, to the touch of another. It is winter, cold. I dress myself in the skins of cold weather animals. Experience has long ago taught us how to use these, how to tailor them into well-cut and effective garments. We are warmly dressed. What do we eat? We have a small supply of items in our domicile: dried meat/fish, rootstocks, nuts, and legumes. If there is fresh food available in winter, we know where it is. The world in which I live is friendly, known, understood. Its resources are familiar and available. Its seasons are familiar as well, their stars, their animals, their changes; all go on around me like the lives of my family.

Dressed and fed, warm, I leave my domicile, out into the morning. The air is utterly sparkling, the sun just up. I go to a stream and from it drink clear cold water. What is my day to be about? What are my activities, what chooses where I go, with whom? It is early in the deep snow; the sun creeps farther south each day, showing his face to us for a shorter and shorter times. We prepare, near his farthest wandering, to invite him back to warm the anticipated, welcome spring. Today we hunt and forage for the food of the feast of the sun’s return. There are food animals, fur animals, and we shall go and bring the meat and fur for the happiest of the sun feasts: Sun’s turn from the Southern Journey.

We shall hunt these days and prepare, then for several days we shall not eat. There will be little happening among my people except the ending ritual. These are the short dim days. The long dark night has nibbled at the dawn and the twilight since the fall of the leaves. Longest nights and shortest days are times of reflection and prayer. At the shortest day, upon the eve of the longest night, we finish trouble among our selves; make good the injuries we haven’t healed. If we have kept that which we did not make, that which wasn’t given to us for our own, on this night we return it. If we have between us feelings that stop the tongue or lower the eyes, on this night we go to each other and speak of these things. A new time is coming, the days will lengthen as the sun takes back the night’s stolen light. The darkness of our spirits and in our relationships among ourselves is to be reclaimed at this time as well. We shall eat no gift from our land, only drink the water and soak the leaves for our drinks. It is a time to look into the darkness to see its spirits and workings, to know its ways. Long ago these were fearful times but we have come to know the sun wants to come back to us. The light wants to lengthen as the sun climbs higher and higher crossing the sky. We know these seasons are the way of our world and we live their messages. So we shall inhabit the dark and finish the long nights among us.

For three days all will stop as we watch the shadow fall upon the stone, awaiting the sun’s joyous acceptance of our invitation to return to us, to once again climb to the zenith in our sky. Then we party, feasting on the bounty of the dark nights and upon the preserves from the long days; a feast of gratitude, of welcome, of hope.

The world continues.

These are also the beginning days of the hardest season. It is a season of black and white, of cold, snow. In the past many have died during this passage. Now we have learned to dress and to live well and how to shelter ourselves securely from the storms. Still it is a long and hard season. The Sun Feast turns it to anticipation of the green bud, then the rush of rivers.

In the clear nights I see the old stars of winter, the turkey calls from thickets heavy with snow. I know some trees are sleeping; some will give their clear blood for sweet syrup. I live surrounded by all the spirit of the earth. It is a time of rest, of peace, sleep for trees, for bears. The beaver are lodged. It can mean something about the day or the person if one is seen in this Season. The small streams stop, rest. The rivers and lakes pull blankets of ice over themselves and hide like the bear.

Much of the world is asleep.

Sky is, of course, never sleeping. She marches around us, telling us her stories and we see her moods, one in the stars, and one in the weather. One ancient and distant, one so near that sometimes the clouds hide the mountaintops. She is a woman with seasons, moods. She storms and shrieks, tossing over trees. She scours the land clean in torrents of rain or covers it for rest in the snow blanket. Her heart is sun and moon is her hunting dog, running ahead, then following. She howls, this sky, and sings softly. She cleans, she warms the very earth with her heart in the season of the green bud. Sometimes she lays her soft dew upon the ground by touching us with her cloud cape.

This is sky.

In all feasts and celebrations, of course, are the prayers and offerings to sky for she is the daughter of the every-in-all-one…the Nameless Joyful Mover. Long ago we had for this a name. We found that to be a bad thing; not like a crime, but we saw the name always made smaller the great expanse, the vastness of presence, the power. So we had a great council with all our nations. For days we spoke of it and agreed there would be no name, that we all knew we could speak of natures, of movement, of presence, and no more would we try to speak all and all in a word or phrase.

To stand each day upon a world I know as living. To walk in forest and know each tree and plant, each animal. To understand the place as loving, safe. To know it as a source of food, of shelter, of water, of life. To be one with it. To be present at any and all times to myself and the world in which I live as organs of the same being. For all this experience, this way of being in the world to be what I think WITH, how I just AM, not a conjecture or construct of mind. Not a way of looking but simply SO, the already/always, the IS. To BE that I am a being of all this being, this is my home, we love each other, we ARE each other. I, just as much as the rabbit, the bear, the bison came from her(e). We revere each other and care for each other, we are aware and know each other. We ARE that we belong here and are the parts, integral, organic inseparable parts of one whole living being.

The “wilderness” is home, not a dangerous place of hunger and thirst. How could one hunger in a vast organic food display? All of it is available: The plants, the animals, the water, the earth. I assume their awareness. As I know I am aware, so, I assume, are they. Spirit invests all. We speak of parts, aspects, ways of the great-all-everything-life-spirit-mind. We do so with care. Care to be inclusive not narrowing, care to hold ourselves open to more of the being and being with, not less. The “organs” of this being are invested with the spirit. Canyons, rivers, sky, earth, sun, the bear, the mouse, eagle, each plant and flower, the giant trees, all penetrated by spirit, invested with spirit. Each and all making spirit their own as spirit makes of them its own. One being with eyes that number like the stars, one being that knows “rock” because it IS Rock, that knows “cloud” because it IS. And I, I and spirit, just like all else and spirit, are one. We know each other that we are each other. In my words I say “me” and “spirit”. My mind can hear two words and treat them as two things. I say, “I know spirit and spirit knows me.” My mind separates “me” and “spirit” for hearing the language. There is no separation. I and spirit are one. I am a place of spirit, I see through my eyes, spirit sees through my eyes. Spirit is, and sees through bear, river, sky and bear sees with, by, and through spirit. I take my self to the great forest and sit with my back to the tree, bringing my body and his close and our spirit centers near. There is a difference in how our spirits are, his and mine; a different feel: His is slower, more even and I must sit a while and be with tree for my self, for my spirit to be with his. Then we can sense what was already so: We share spirit. Not A spirit, not THE spirit: What is me that if it left, would leave me not me, and what is tree that when it leaves, tree is not tree, is the same in its essence, different in its feel, its energy. Like water in a dewdrop, a rainstorm, a waterfall, a snowflake, an iceberg, a fogbank, in steam: Different expressions and states, same essence. In this world I live. Of this world am I a part. To this world do I belong and all vice versa. The spirits of all around me and mine are one and it is the spirit of all that and all else. Like a river of grass it is visible here, not there, deep here, not there, here this grows out of it, there, that does. It is all one thing flowing and I am of it.

This is where I live.

What gets me up each day? I hear the birds, the light comes up. I awaken because I am rested and finished sleeping. My bladder needs emptied and my belly filled. And my Days, of what are my days filled? I may hunt; I may work on art, on fashioning objects, things to use, gifts to give. I may help another with a job. What gives me my activities? Whatever is needed, wanted.

My people have conversations, small and large. Sometimes we meet in council, the oldest among us listen long and often speak last. Everyone brings something. Families or family groups may meet to talk of matters close to them and out of that meeting one or a few may go to meet with others from other families or groups to bring their views, to present the thinking of their family to the others. All are heard, their views considered, weighed on the beam against and with the interests and views of others and other families or groups. The older ones among us often listen silently. I have seen such listening stretch for hours. Sometimes they will ask questions, speak among themselves briefly. There is a council of our whole community in which there are people who bring the views, concerns, needs of all the families and groups. It meets when conversations are needed that affect all of us: moving, disputes with other communities, war, peace. These conversations may extend through many days until all that is to be said has been said. So that all may be considered and have its weight added to the balance. Everyone leaves having listened to all there is and having spoken all there is and having taken part in any deliberations and choices there are. Sometimes some will not agree with the choices but they all know how and why the choice was made and know their interests were included in the process.

In this way we live together.

Arise in the light to the songs of birds and children. Eat with our families and friends that which we gather from the place we live, including, during its season, that which we grow for ourselves. In their seasons we move. In spring we begin our move to the mountainsides and high valleys. This can be a hard journey but we know the high country will be better for living when the sun is high crossing the sky. We stay through summer in the high country. There is much food there and we prepare stores for the dark season. As the leaves turn and the peaks are frosted we travel to the south and to the lakes and streams of the plains and lowland forests. Sky tells us when and which way. We are always at home; we move though our home from place to place with the sun and the stars. Long ago we summered in the lowlands. Wintered in the mountains. Long ago we learned where the air is kindest, the weather best. There are stories of our learning days. We learn still of our home, ancient, sky dome, deep earth, flowing water. We still discover their voices, their spirit with ours. Each tree every stream, its place and its person are its character. We are at home. We are in and of our home all through our journeys. We sometimes visit friends in the forests or on the mountainsides: trees, streams, rocks, to sit with them again and feel our spirit together. There are canyons where many of us have felt similarly in our spirit. We go there together to listen and ask of the spirit we share. This we will bring back to the community, to the council. Some hear clearly rivers, some trees, some the sky. Some hear several and a few hear all.

So do we listen to our home.

I study the world around me, I watch the processes of my home. I see the beetle bore into the dead log, then, breaking open such a log, I find the tunnels connected through it and the eggs, the larvae crawling out and chewing the dead wood, leaving dust. I see this larva select a place and become a cocoon, a chrysalis, and I see the beetle emerge. This process I observe and learn, the birds, the deer, the sky and the weather, all around me I watch my world for centuries learning and teaching those who come after me. Thus is my world known to us and are we at home across its vastness. In steaming jungles, scorching deserts, ancient forests, upon the glistening ice and aboard tiny dots of land set in vast azure seas are we at home, familiar with the cycles of our cousins and friends.

We honor the spirit we share with our surroundings.

There are acknowledgements spoken, thanks given, prayers and sacrifices offered as we prepare to hunt. We call to the spirit of our quarry so they know we need their bounty of meat for food, so they can hear us coming to them and those who will can come to us and give themselves to us. They are great and powerful brothers and sisters, living also in the spirit we all share, and we are honored that they come to us for our use and comfort. We thank them. We thank the spirit all in everything, considering ourselves blessed and honored.

All and everywhere is the spirit, through and in the earth, the sea, the sky and in the ant, the squirrel, the deer, bison, bear, leaf, twig and branch, limb and tree. The very air is charged through and sometimes roars and tears until it splits with great searing flashes of light and roars the thunder across the lands and seas.

Such is the spirit.

To see the outside power and feel the inside presence, to know the sameness of the spirit throughout and across all, this but humbles and honors us and one or many of us may find ourselves paused and being with it at any time as we might pause to converse with or greet a friend or watch a storm over the prairie. We are all one inside, though different in our appearance. This we have found from long careful talks in pairs, families, councils. We are with the spirit as are we with our skins, our breath, our heartbeat. It lives through us and we through it. This is my world.

This is my life.

This is how I live my day and my time. How do I look at this? In the spirit, in the all in everything. I look across the living world and see it one in aspects appearing dissimilar. I see the same animating principle from the black stardusted winter sky to the endless blue depths of sea, from the ocean shore to river bank to lakeside to and to and to and know that of this I am, included as a vital part. There is only one “each” so all in everything may have eyes everywhere, ears hearing, foot upon the earth, everywhere. Each eye, each foot uniquely valuable: no other can see just that, is standing just there, hears so clearly this at just this time. This I am and of this am I we are one and each a part of all that is every one of us always in everything. We have special places, places special to us: some individual, some family, some as whole communities, which are especially evocative of the presence of this “so.” We go to these places in gratitude, in need, in inquiry, in joy, and grief, we to stop and be with all in everything for giving and receiving. The great falls in the smoking land, the canyon, among the giant trees, these are special places.

This is my world.