Saturday, April 9, 2016

New York for Bernie, 2016

There are some times when we need to become our own media. One of those times is now.
The Bronx, the United States, and the World need Bernie. And right now, Bernie needs New York.
New York, let's show the world that New York City is not the center of the universe because of Wall Street, but because of its humanity.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Congressman Bernie Sanders' presidential rally at St. Mary's Park in Mott Haven, the section of the South Bronx where I have lived for the past five years.  The rally was a huge success and drew between 18,500-20,000 people - people of all backgrounds - the working class. And today, Bernie came to a second rally in the Bronx, this time at Bronx Community College - another success. The library auditorium was filled with college students and others - real Bronxites and other New Yorkers - listening to this Vermont Senator from Brooklyn who gives us hope.

I was grateful to hear New York State Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda standing up for Bernie at both rallies. Sepulveda says he did not endorse Bernie from the beginning, but wanted to look at the issues first. Once he did, he realized there was no other candidate he could stand with other than Bernie Sanders.  This is line with previous meetings I have been in with Assemblyman Sepulveda, where I distinctly remember leaving feeling impressed with how principled he was.

Some major news outlets have been starting to pay attention, giving more airwaves to Bernie Sanders and the issues that he is talking about, rather than the rhetoric and contradictions being spewed by other candidates. Yet there are still a lot of doubtful people, and people who say Hillary is going to win New York, she has all the superdelegates. Well, that's precisely the establishment we are working to deconstruct, that Bernie has been talking about.  He walks the walk in his opposition to money in politics, the need to repeal Citizens United, and the need for campaign finance reform. That is the first step to a true democracy. He has been consistent on his messages about the need to hold the banks of Wall Street accountable, invest in living wages ($15/hr) for working class people rather than war, make college education affordable, have a healthcare system for all, accept the human-induced causes of climate change and take responsibility for addressing them, bar for-profit prisons, and address the plight of urban communities across the country.  Political actions that demonstrate that he upholds the human dignity of all, especially the most disenfranchised.

Bernie spoke eloquently about religious coexistence - what matters is not if a person is Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, or other - but that there is love.  My good friend Jonathan Reid shared a video on my Facebook page the other day of someone giving out Free Hugs at a Bernie Rally and a Trump Rally.  It goes without saying, there was a lot more love at the Bernie rally.

Man offers free hugs at Sanders and Trump rallies and gets shockingly different responses Free Hugs Project
Posted by Salon on Thursday, March 31, 2016

Actually, Bernie has received an invitation to speak at the Vatican next week.  Though, he is not the first progressive socialist Jew to be invited to the Vatican; last year, the Vatican invited Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.

A friend of mine made a flyer comparing Bernie Sanders' statements on climate change, war, and economic inequality to those of Pope Francis, even before the announcement was made about the Vatican's invitation.  It is really not hard to figure out why someone like Bernie Sanders would appeal to the Vatican.  He speaks up about addressing wealth inequality and other injustices that keep people oppressed - issues that fit squarely within the realm of Catholic Social Teaching. His spiritual convictions - that we are all in this together - are also very much in line with the church's teachings.

Besides the superdelegates, the other significant concern regarding the primaries is all of the support the unions are throwing at Hillary Clinton.  Bernie supports unions too - why wouldn't he?  He's for the working class.  The Working Families Party has already enthusiastically endorsed Bernie Sanders, though unfortunately the votes don't count in the primaries.  But the unions are endorsing Hillary.  What's even sadder is they are unethically using staff time to support Hillary. A friend of mine who works for a union told me they were going to make him go canvas for Hillary.  I told him to just talk about the issues.

Through Bronx Health REACH, I am working with the United Federation of Teachers to bring nutrition education into schools in the Bronx. The UFT is a big help in this regard, certainly they play an important role in society. But one role they should not play is endorsing candidates, especially if those wishes go against their employees.  That role is what the Working Families Party is for.

I had a wonderful time at the Bernie rally today. I met real New Yorkers, with incredible stories to tell.  I stood online next to a retiree currently serving on a Bronx community board who said of his career working on Wall Street: "If you want to see cocaine, go to Wall Street."  He had become addicted to drugs working on Wall Street, not from living the Bronx.  I also had a fascinating conversation with the guy sitting next to me during the rally, an actor named James McDaniel, who lives in Harlem, saw the gentrification that happened around the time Bill Clinton moved his office to the Harlem State Office Building, and has been invited to dinners at the White House on numerous occasions.  He told me the one time he got to speak to President Obama, he said, "This country doesn't deserve you."  I would have to agree with him. It made me sad, actually, to hear Bernie today saying the same thing Obama said during his candidacy, that he needs the American people to work with him.  Because the thing is, Obama and Sanders are telling the truth.  Things will not change unless we the people are working together with progressive elected officials to create the change we want to see. 

This election, the primaries are an opportunity for Americans to vote with their values. The Democratic ticket can go to Bernie or Hillary. It is not about who will beat who later on. We are talking about nowNow is our opportunity to create a revolution, as Tracy Chapman's voice sang out through the loudspeaker at the end of the Bernie rally.

The choice is ours.  Will we stand up for our values?  We have until April 19th to decide. This is our opportunity to embrace hope and our spiritual convictions and build a world we can be proud of. I hope we will choose it. And for those who are still skeptics, may I ask that you seek to really listen to a few Bernie supporters. They probably have some pretty incredible stories to tell.


Isaac said...

Kelly, your writing is beautiful, and what I love is that through your simple prose you tell a loving and compassionate truth. Thank you for being you and for sharing your thinking. Please keep writing.

Babak Ebrahimian said...

Thanks Kelly for this post. I specially like Tracy Chapman’s song at the end!

Time passes, and history moves on, but do people learn from it? Where are we now?

In 1977, the German Marxist playwright, Heiner Müller, wrote Hamletmachine: a play where he describes his vision of Europe and the future.

“Give us this daily murder
Since thine is nothingness Nausea
Of lies which are believed
By the lies and nobody else
Of lies which are believed
Of the mugs of manipulators marked
By their struggle for positions votes bank accounts
Nausea A chariot armed with scythes sparkling with punchlines
A walk through the street stores Faces
Scarred by the consumers battle Poverty
Without the dignity…

Hope of generations
Stifled in the blood of cowardice stupidity
Laughter from dead bellies
Hail Coca Cola

This short play clearly speaks about humanity’s desire and quest for capital gain and the wars it creates. It is enough to look at the language and imagery to see he is criticizing the politicians and their “lies” and political scene which are “marked by their struggle for positions” and “votes bank accounts.”

One side we find those who are capitalizing on their corporporations: “Hail Coca Cola!” and on the other we find poverty in the streets. The contrast is as clear as black and white: there is no middle ground: no gray.

I staged Müller’s Hamletmachine in Spring of 1990 by that Summer I visited him in his [East] Berlin apartment. There, he described his vision of the future: Antarctica would melt and drown all of Europe: only the tip of Eiffel Tower could be seen: Siberia would be the only place to live in. I asked him why his platys were so “violent?” He’d smile and respond, “Violent? I find them very funny.”

Today, I see what we are experiencing in the United States is exactly what he spoke about: battles between “the poor and marginalized” and those who “run the corporations” -- those who believe in climate warming and those who don’t.

Thinking about it now, I agree with him: it is all funny: many politicians in this year’s elections can not agree on climate change, nor can they stop being civil in their debates; we find violence and bloodshed: now our capitalistic values can not be changed, let alone be challenged. Sign of progress is to allow different points of view challenge us, or forever, we will be stuck in the same spot!

Another concern we have today is how religions-- namely Judaism and Islam, and sometimes Christianity -- have caused multitudes of conflicts and wars in the Middle East. Yet, the core and intersection of these “Abrahamic” religions can be found in their mysticisms and mystics where “God is Love,” which can be seen in everybody; where the essence of God is “Love.” In Judaism, we have the Kabala, in Christianity we have St. Francis [among many] and in Islam we have the Sufis; with this common denominator, they each come together through different paths, but to the same final destination: Love: love for mankind and all his creatures. War occurs only when man uses religion for political and ideological purposes.

These extremist attacks are unfortunately carried out in the carried out in the name of “God” and they are often accompanied with the promise that those who carry them out “will go to heaven.” One quote I remember from high school, which I’ll never forget, is one by Sir Winston Churchill: “You can not blame a nation for its government.” It looks like our age is one of blaming others and creating scapegoats for our own social and political problems: to create scapegoats is much easier than to search for the truth of the matter, the solution for our problems. Jesus has a solution against making the innocent into a scapegoat and creating violence: it’s Love: Love for God, for and your neighbors, your enemies; if someone slaps you in one check, offer the other check as well; if someone ask to walk a mile with them, walk two miles with them instead. Are we ready to take on the challenge?

Babak Ebrahimian said...

Today was Earth Day

As a Catholic, I look up to the pope to get some direction: most of the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ is on danger we are facing today in face of global warming: It's a cry from our “common home” [the Earth] to be rescued from destruction. This destruction not only kills nature around the globe, but it also poses a threat on the lives of the “poor and the marginalized.” He remarks the culture we have now is not anything but a "throw away culture" where wastes everything. Noting the rapid pace of this wasting process, he points out:

“The continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is coupled today with a more intensified pace of life and work which might be called “rapidification”. Although change is part of the working of complex systems, the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution. Moreover, the goals of this rapid and constant change are not necessarily geared to the common good or to integral and sustainable human development. Change is something desirable yet it becomes a source of anxiety when it causes harm to the world and to the quality of life of much of humanity.

Technology and growth is necessary if it doesn’t damage ourselves, other people, cultures and cities we live in, and more importantly, the nature: we are so self absorbed that we are unconscious how rapidly we move in life and in our culture: a common example can be found in Apple’s IPhones: each time a new model comes out, crowds rush to purchase one: the same is true about other commodities such as cars or clothing: I can best describe our culture today as an “a rush culture” were everyone is rushing without realizing it! Continuing with his thoughts and reflections, Pope Francis writes: “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all "as "fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems." Our lack of attention will not only destroy the earth for ourselves, but we will do so for our children in the future:

Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species, which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority becomes extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

The encyclical fully embodies the charism of Saint Francis: to help “the poor and vulnerable” and protect nature where we live in and which sustains us. In the ending of this section, he concludes with words echoing "the Canticle of the Creatures" which Saint Francis wrote to show how we are all connected to one other and to God’s creations -- from "Brother Sun" and "Sister Moon," to finally, "Sister Death."

Babak Ebrahimian said...

It's important to note what our dialogues are pointing to today: “global war-M-ing” or “Global war-N-ing?”

Linda said...

I live in Montreal, Canada and I am rooting for Bernie.