Water Man Spouts

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Living History

"I have an abiding faith in America, and an audacious faith in the future of mankind."
--Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Oslo University

Last night, my daughters and I went to the Grand Opening of the Chenango County Democratic Headquarters in Norwich, NY. On the ride, I told them the story of when one of my cousins ran the Democratic Headquarters there in 1960, and campaigned for Senator John F. Kennedy. My cousin, who drove for over 60 years, would get the only tickets he ever was issued in the month he drove to Norwich to run the office. In my book on the cultural influences made by the Irish immigrants in upstate New York, I wrote that my cousin got three tickets; he and his wife corrected me: it was five. And along with each of those tickets, the local police issued a warning – "we don’t like your kind here." (I have an image of them calling him "that one" when they talked about this Irish-American agitator.)

My daughters are 11 and 14 years of age. For many youngsters their age, talk of the 1960 election may seem like ancient history. But for my daughters, who know my cousin as one of the oldest relatives who attends our family reunions, and visits our home to talk about politics, it provided a direct connection to the event that we were going to attend.

We talked about how things have changed in my lifetime. Many of the top elected officials in Chenango County’s judicial system are Irish-Americans, and members of those two girls’ extended family. This is a result of the positive changes that democrats like my cousin was working for in 1960, and which we continue to work for today.

48 years ago, there were questions about if an Irish Catholic could be elected President of the United States. This year, the questions have included which candidate the Democratic Party would nominate: a black man or a white women? Our party is participating in an important chapter in our nation’s history, and is going to deliver some of that promise that John and Robert Kennedy offered the country, but which was stolen from us. I’m glad that the change is going to come in my children’s lifetime.

At the Grand Opening, we mingled with a crowd that included old-time democratic activists, who have patiently worked for our party during the often bleak years that included Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Cheney administrations. There were old friends who I had done voter education/registration for Bill Clinton’s presidential and Hillary Clinton’s senate campaigns. And, in something that was very meaningful to me, there were friends from the local progressive left, who are not registered democrats, but who are uniting with us on several key campaigns.

We had the opportunity to talk with a couple of area politicians, including Congressman Michael Arcuri and Don Barber, who is running for the NYS Senate. These are the types of politicians that we need to elect and re-elect this year, in order to insure the progress that the Obama-Biden ticket promises the people in the hamlets, towns and cities across the country.

Don Barber, who lives on his "family farm," has received national attention, due to his extraordinary fund-raising ability in the rural, republican upstate farm country. His opponent is a lap dog for the insurance industry, who has no regard for the environment. Thus, while all of Don’s contributions are from the "grass roots," he is gaining the support of everyone from the progressive left to moderate republicans.

These are interesting times. As Election Day draws nearer, the pace is picking up. Still, in times like these, it is important to take the time to appreciate that we are living – and participating – in an important chapter of our nation’s history.


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