It is Independence Day, 2018. Parks and Picnic grounds are filled with Americans celebrating this monumental event in human history. All in those parks are everyday citizens enjoying family and community time in remembrance of the Declaration of Independence. Its drafting was done by a relatively small segment of the population, but on behalf of the whole population of the Colonies at that time, which really only was meant to serve the white, property owning men of the day.
Among those feasting in the parks of today, only a small percentage are actively engaged in the drafting process. Most attended the fireworks events are along for a free ride thanks to maybe 20% of the folks at the grills and on the blankets who are actually working as engaged citizens and activists in trying to perfect the language of this amazing document and future Amendments to the Constitution which followed. Always expanding those protected from tyranny.
The intent was to free people from tyranny. It is ironic to me that we are still working toward that goal a quarter of a century later. And more ironic that the tyranny is coming mostly from within, not distant shores separated by oceans. That tyranny, or authoritarian rule is very much upon us today in the form of a President and followers in his administration who are very much a small minority among us, but empowered by the inaction of most among us.
The inaction is I think not malicious in intent, rationalized by such thinking as..."I'm too busy, my family responsibilities don't allow me to engage, I can't afford the time, it is too hard, I don't know what to do, or it is hopeless". These are the majority of the folks on the picnic grounds around us who are either not motivated to engage in the drafting work, oblivious to the necessity, or just plain greedy with their time and self interest.
So, I want, in what likely are the closing chapters of my life, to honor those who inspired me to do some small part of the drafting so that I and future generations that follow me might enjoy freedom from tyranny. Sadly, I don't remember all their names, so forgive me for seeming to neglect many by name deserving of recognition as drafters of the Declaration of Independence. I want the unengaged to know these American Patriots, if not by name, at least by deed.
The YMCA camp counselor who paired me with a black camp buddy at an early age. The leaders of the Catholic Worker Movement who gave me my first taste of activism as a college student. My Army Intelligence School buddies from Notre Dame with whom I teamed to "invade" segregated Baltimore night clubs in Baltimore in our uniforms, demanding service with our fellow African American officer. We got service for sure. My Knights of Columbus friend who recruited me to team on getting a distinguished African American physician into the way less credentialed all white organization. Sadly, he was still blackballed. The massive crowd on the Mall at the MLK I've Got A Dream Speech. The people I met in bars in Black neighborhoods in Detroit and DC as they were burning. Our Parish Priest in Minnesota who recruited us to network the parish's first African American family.
The leaders and 1000 Citizens for Good Schools activists in Houston with him I had the privilege to integrate the Houston Independent School District with by overthrowing a racist, segregationist school board. May Kaye Merriman, my first spouse who ran a pro-integration, pro-busing State school board campaign and got 44% of the vote. Her work with NOW that engaged me in that movement and the diversity message Panel of American Women and her brave fellow liberal feminists. Billy Carr, Godmother of Texas Liberals who recruited me to the movement to throw the Tory Democrats out of power and purge the Party of Wallace supporters. The Bushes helped by recruiting them to build the Texas Republican Party. The renegade Texas Legislators, Craig Washington, Ron Waters, Mickey Leland and Bennie Reyes who gave us 10 years of the Renaissance in Texas and Houston Democratic politics. My fellow Bravehearts who formed the opposition to the attempted breakaway, all white west side Houston school district it took us 7 years to defeat. Leaders in the Vietnam and Iraq/Afghan anti-war movement who taught me how to organize on college campuses.
My fellow organizers of the Democratic Forum in Salt Lake City who introduced Democratic Party values to a very Republican city in the early 80's. My partners with the Take Back Movement at KPFT-90.1 FM radio whose success resulted in giving a progressive and liberal political voice to Houston in the Bush era. Orell Fitzsimmons and Wade Rathke of SEIU and Acorn to taught me Acorn style of community organizing. Gerry Birnberg Chair of the Harris County Party who gave me the opportunity to create and chair several committees dealing with grassroots organizing and training, combating Tea Party Voter Suppression and Party Messaging. David Van Os with whom I had the privilege of creating and organizing the Progressive Populist Caucus of the Texas Democratic Party and lead as Chair for 5 years. Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting and Boyd Richie who gave me opportunities to act as an advisor on Party reforms and serve on the Platform Committee respectively.
My spouse Julie Jackson who inspired me with her leadership of the 7th Senate District of the Texas Democratic Party, ably served as a Steering Committee member of the PPC, serve as organizer with Billie Carr and our neighborhood Precinct Chair. More recently she has been a key organizer of the resistance movement in Wilmington, Delaware through Delaware Women For Inclusion. She has inspired with brilliant work creating a wildly successful Facebook Community called Impeach the Mother Fucker Already.
These people have given me the courage and inspiration to do my small part in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, thankfully a continuing work, likely always needed to fend off tyranny.