Monday, March 23, 2009

Human Rights, North Idaho Style

On Monday, March 16th, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Human Rights Education Institute and the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations dinner/fundraiser/awards banquet. Four hundred and fifteen people, count them, 4 1 5, attended the dinner. Of course a thousand would have been better, but this is north Idaho, and getting that many people out on a Monday night impressed me.

Thanks to Jeanne Buell, Idaho Democratic Party Vice-Chair, both Laura Bry, Bonner County Democratic Central Committee Chair, and myself, received invitations to sit at Jeanne's table. Of course, friends from around north Idaho also sat at the table and it's always nice to reconnect with others in the north Idaho community.

The Coeur d'Alene Press provided a good overview of the events, including the exciting announcement of the Civil Rights Award to Scott and Mary Lou Reed. Having known Scott for almost twenty years, and Mary Lou for almost as many, it pleased me to no end to see them awarded for the many contributions they consistently make to the people of north Idaho. You guys are the best! We should all try to follow your example.

Nontombi Naomi Tutu gave an inspired, heartfelt, pointedly truthful speech about racism. She said that in order to heal the wounds of racism, we have to recognize that racism in each and every one of us. Pointing out that although people may say we don't see differences, we do, as is so evident when we look at what children say ("out of the mouths of babes and sucklings"). Through their words, we can all see that children see differences, and they see these differences as opportunities to learn, but as adults we try to shush the children in order to be polite or whatever. Nonbombi Tutu suggested that, like children, we should see differences as truth, talk about those differences, and respond to, and appreciate them.

She gave the example of white people saying, "I don't think of you as black," meaning black has a stigma or story for the rest of the community. So when a white woman can finally make that statement, what it really means is that she now trusts and respects the black person. Prejudices exist, and until we know and recognize them, we cannot begin to come together. She gave us, a room full of white people, a glimpse into the causes of racism and asked us to recognize difference as opportunity. I think her point was well taken.

I felt honored to be there, and proud as well, to be a member of a community that seeks to educate about racism, prejudice, and human rights. I am so thankful for all the Human Rights activists, in Idaho in particular, and around the world. It takes all colors to make a rainbow.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours

Wow, the news is overwhelming. Thank goodness I have to work tonight, meaning I focus on food instead of world events. That will be a relief after this day of troubling news.

Every morning I read The Independent (London) for that out-of-country perspective on today's news. Inevitably, it's the newspaper in which I first hear about all global warming events. Today was no different. But what I learned is very scary. It appears that if the world doesn't do something this century, then the melting of the Antarctic ice may be unstoppable. Not a good way to start the day.

Amy Goodman and countless others have not only been keeping a watchful, indeed astounded, eye on the AIG bailout, but also bringing attention to all those not helped by the bailout. That includes the group I'm in: the 55 yr. - 80+ yr. olds.

Then my husband directed my attention to an article about Idaho's favorite French friend, the nuclear poster child, Areva. Check it out. Areva is begging for a bailout from the French government, i.e., French taxpayers because, amongst other problems, its stock has plunged. They must also pay billions in penalty fees for their Finnish plant. But it doesn't end there. Their reprocessing plant in La Hague is under attack everywhere for discharging massive radiation into the English Channel. Oh, and there's much more, including having nowhere to dump their nuclear waste which is being made worse by the U.S. not opening Yucca Mountain. In terms of business sense alone, Areva's problems are welcome news to me, because anyone with a lick of sense would no longer trust any of Areva's plans for Idaho.

Specifically, this news about Areva may actually benefit north Idaho because Areva is now focusing on building a biomass plant in north Idaho. The same news was recently reported in The Statesman, where it seems some ignorant souls like the idea. So do some folks in Bonners Ferry, obviously oblivious that another proposal for a biomass plant was shelved in 2001, due to public outcry. I guess they like that old adage, "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Or perhaps it's just the local mania for more and more timber harvest. Obviously, for the taxpayers' sake, Areva is not a safe company to do business with these days. Unfortunately other biomass companies will be lined up behind Areva to sell their snake oil to all ignorant buyers.

Wow! From the world to the Democrats to north Idaho, the news has been overwhelming. I guess I'd better head off to work and try to impart a little love and happiness into tonight's food because the world, if not just Bonners Ferry, seems to need it. A lot.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Frank Church Banquet 2009

The weekend of March 6-8 found me once again in Boise for my usual reason: the Idaho Democratic Party Frank Church Banquet and state committee meeting. This visit proved to be an exceptional one for several reasons. First, I joined several other Idaho political bloggers on both Friday and Saturday nights for an exchange of stories, political discussions, great beer, and lots of fun. Not only did I experience Boise nightlife, but Nampa's as well. And I received an educational lesson on beer. Bloggers know what's important....

Secondly, events like the Frank Church Banquet allow me to become re-acquainted with fellow Democrats. It feels really good to be surrounded by other people who share a similar political ideology. Those large groups do not often come together in the netherlands of Idaho and one can begin to feel very alone in the redder parts of this great state.

Finally, I really wanted to hear what the banquet, keynote speaker, Jim Messina, had to say about the Obama White House. Jim is an Idahoan through and through, raised in Boise, a graduate of Boise High School, with family still in the state. And now he is Obama's Deputy Chief of Staff. And he did have something to say about working with Obama and being in the White House. He basically said that he has learned five very important lessons so far. His description of these lessons painted a portrait of a president who is respected, intelligent, and insightful as well as having a good sense of humor, great love for his family, and a belief in not just our country but in its citizens.

While describing these five important lessons, Jim also made us all aware that in many ways he is like his president, including his love of family, his willingness to work hard for our nation, and his own disarming sense of humor. The first lesson he learned is that no one is more important than anyone else. It takes teamwork to accomplish great and small tasks and the people who helped organize the Obama campaign and who now work in the White House are all team players.

Jim also learned that such jobs are never glamorous. His office is small, he receives more emails than he can read, and at all hours of the day (and even night) people want his help and attention. His main job is fixing problems, whatever they may be, which entails both seemingly insurmountable problems to petty and insignificant ones.

Next Jim pointed out that Democrats are passionate. He gave several examples of this, including his own faux pas at the Democratic National Convention which led to his being taken aside by Obama who told him, "Let me make the headlines." But Democrats' passions show up in many forms, and Jim also described the example of approaching an arena at which Obama was to speak and at three miles away people already were lined up along the roadway, just for the chance to wave to Obama.

Jim also made us aware that contrary to some opinions, Democrats are not disorganized. He told several anecdotes about Democratic organization, but the one that stayed with me is that on the Sunday before the election, the Obama team knocked on over one million doors. Now that is true grassroots organization!

Finally, he said that Democrats not only make history, but that their core beliefs are the same as the American people's beliefs. In making history, he described how ironic, but also historic it is that slaves helped finish building the White House that is now occupied by the first African-American president and his family. He also mentioned how Obama has already begun to repair the damage of the Bush administration with the passage of SCHIP and the Lily Ledbetter Act, and with a re-newed focus on alternative energy. He made the point that this administration believes in making health care available to all Americans, in becoming energy independent, in insuring that all children receive a world class education, and in providing tax relief to those who need it most, the poor and the middle class, and not the richest, and not the corporations.

All in all, Jim provided a personable and insightful view into all the next four years could be. Idaho Democrats are proud of Jim and very happy with their new president. This weekend demonstrated to me that Democrats are fair, organized, passionate, and that they believe in providing for the American people. And although their job as Democrats may not be glamorous, Democrats are terrific, rather beautiful people.