Sunday, January 25, 2009

Conversations on the Post-Election Independent Movement Conference

About 600 independent activists and grassroots leaders gathered today in NYC to consider what we've achieved and where we're going as a movement.

I found what Fred Newman, my close friend and colleage of 25 years, had to say about Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness to be most provocative. Newman said we have to go beyond the American Dream. 

That simple and yet very demanding statement made me think about where we're at right now. I grew up in the South under segregation. My dad was a young Arkansas National Guardsman who was called to Little Rock to escort the Little Rock 9 into Central High in September 1957. I remember the "whites only"/"colored only" water fountains at the courthouse in the early '60s. I remember the day they did away with the poll tax that kept black people and poor people from voting.

I spoke to my father on November 4th, just after 11pm Eastern time, and we agreed that we never thought we would see the day that a black man was elected President of the United States. It's a very big deal.

It's part of the American Dream. The same American Dream that promised us a chicken in every pot, and a car or two in every garage.

But that American Dream is not only increasingly out of reach for most people, but also increasingly unhealthy and even inhuman on the global level. The American Dream, as beautiful as it is, requires that too many of the world's people be relegated to being poor, sick and dying.

We have to change the past if we are to move forward, Newman urged. And changing the past is not something that the "powers that be" take lightly. This is a fight.

But, as Newman said, we're a revolutionary country. Something about Americans -- we toil in obscurity, and we take big risks. We re-make ourselves again and again, through hard work. We are the folks who just changed American history by electing Barack Obama president.

Over the past couple of years, as independents were the first to speak out against the war in Iraq, and the first to step up to the plate for Obama against the Clinton machine, I have been reminded of the civil rights movement that I witnessed, and participated in, as a child. I hear the segregationists (and these were the good moderate ones) calling for "gradual integration".

Gradual didn't get it. Particle politics won't get us where we're going. We need quantum politics, and it's clearly independents who have the vision to make that leap. As Idaho activist Mitch Campbell put it, it's not fixing the problems we need, it's creating new answers.

It's clear from today's conference that this new creativity revolution is going strong. Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country. So pick up your development tools and pitch in. Let's build a new America, and a new world, and change the past.

-NH

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