Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Power of Community

Last night as I watched the Republican National Convention, I was expecting the Republicans to blast Obama. The Democrats were certainly not easy on McCain. Attacking the opponent is what the campaigns of both the Democrats and the Republicans do, after all.

I assumed they would say that Obama's experience as a community organizer was not preparation to be president. Personally, I disagree. Obama directed an organization that helped community members set up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants' rights organization. Insuring that the citizens of the country receive education, work skills, and affordable decent housing are core responsibilities of our national leadership. However, I can understand how and why the Republicans could arrive at a different opinion.

I was stunned, however, to hear the speakers mock the entire concept of community organizing. Rudy Giuliani spluttered out to a wildly cheering crowd: "He [Obama] worked as a community organizer. What? He worked — I said — I said, OK, OK, maybe this is the first problem on the resume."

Do the Republicans not know what community organizing means?

Community activism is absolutely at the core of participatory democracy. Its goal is to have all members of the community become empowered leaders able to address whatever issues the community faces--massive layoffs and unemployment, lack of public transportation in the face of the high price of gas and cars, foreclosures on homes, the existence of hunger and malnutrition in the face the rising costs of food, high rates of teen pregnancy, rising school drop-out rates and students not being able to afford college, lack of health care, the presence of fear and violence, poverty.

The goal of an organizer is to help the community learn how to respond to its own needs rather than have the government have to shoulder the responsibility. (You'd think the Republicans would support community organizing in greater numbers than Democrats would, wouldn't you?)

Did you know that Obama's community activism took place within the context of a faith-based organization? Wasn't it the Republicans who pushed for faith-based initiatives to restore all the services the government was no longer providing?

I can think of nothing better for the start of one's resume--for a Democratic or a Republican--than spending three years as a community organizer, learning about the real issues real people face. It seems far, far more relevant than being a soldier, no matter how much bravery or responsibility being a soldier might show.

Community organizers learn every day the power of community members to become their own leaders. Rather than political executives doing that job for them, real people act for themselves and learn to change the world. Sometimes community organizers have to give up their own veto in order to do what the entire community thinks is right. Organizers know that their role is to inspire, facilitate, and guide the regular citizens of this country to take the reigns of power and lead America to a better place.


* * *

UPDATE:

Um...McCain just canceled his own scheduled community service for today...

Also: check out this marvelous post about community organizers.

11 comments:

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Oh man, the RNC. I try to keep an open mind, but sometimes I wonder if these people even THINK about what they are saying. I mean, a lot of the experience Palin has is in "community organizing" it has just been around religious issues, which I guess changes the whole ball game.

But to diminish what Obama has done is angering - and I'm not a huge fan of Obama (and of course am not a fan of McCain).

I was also astonished to hear us now being referred to as the "angry left" by Bush. Can't he see WHY we have such reason to be angry.

I mean, one of the things that is glaringly obvious to be is the republicans attempts to stop constitutionally granted protest and freedom of speech with all the police in riot gear, journalists (like Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman) being arrested, preemptive raids on the homes of folks who are there to peacefully assemble, I could go on and on.

Now, for the sake of disclosure, I am not a democrat (or a republican), but I do find it interesting that police allowed all the protests to take place in Denver without the harsh crackdowns like are occurring in St. Paul. I think the republicans know how angry the people are and that they blame it on them.

I fear that this is the future of our country, we must do everything we can to not allow this to happen, and challenge all the empty rhetoric, threats, and unfounded accusations. Even though Obama isn't anywhere near perfect, he is better that 4 (or 8) more years of the same, maybe worse.

Sorry for the rant, I'll get off the soapbox now.

Mouse said...

I made the mistake of watching part of the RNC last night (including Palin's speech) and am STILL fuming mad this morning as well as very sad.

Sue said...

Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Also, yes.

Red said...

This comes from people who most more than likely could not put together a Thanksgiving dinner...I rest my case. Pffffft!

Carrie K said...

Oh, I hate listening to them belittle jobs. Mayors, community organizers, seats on the Senate, it's not chicken feed, any of them.

In times of peace and properity, I could probably run the States. In times of war and turmoil? It takes careful thought. I try not to take any of them at their word but their record. It's my body, my paycheck, my retirement, my inheritance, my country. But I do share it with a whole lot of other folks who differ from me greatly.

OfTroy said...

I "Liked" the claim that McCain was going to end the war with honor.

first which war? the stupid one where we are war with terrorism?

or the second, in which we are the terrorists?--

The republicans can't even define the object of our continued presence in Iraq (except to say our object is to leave with honor!)and how do we honorable leave a country we invade based on a collection of lies!?

Martha H said...

It only provides more proof of how out of touch the Republican Party is with the real US...in a day when Local is more and more a favored purchasing option and our kids have to have community service hours in order to graduate from high school. Thank you for stating everything that I was thinking and that was making my blood boil. I cannot listen to McCain tonight.

Donna Lee said...

Guliani's speech made me so angry. I work in a community mental health center and I challenge him to come down and see the folks that I see everyday. We depend on our community organizers and community resources and wouldn't demean them for all the money in the world. They are firmly back inside their ivory towers and can't see the people on the ground.

becky said...

This is absolutely not about your blog, but I had to come over and ask... On July 6, 2007 you posted at 37days that you would frequent a certain cafe in Dupont Circle in DC to get avocado and toast. Did you ever get it??? I'm dying to know!

The Purloined Letter said...

Becky--LOL! I totally forgot about that story. I have not been to Afterwords in quite a while, and I don't remember asking for avocado and toast. But I've been eating a lot of both here at home!

Veggie Mom said...

College Girl wants to be a community organizer after she graduates from Larry U. She read Obama's books and he inspired her. I really think Rudy is a nincompoop. And, well, Sarah Palin is a woman, so I guess I have one thing in common with her. Veggie Mom is generally apolitical, but I was equally offended by the RNC shenanigans!

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