Friday, November 11, 2011

We are all Veterans - A Personal Perspective

Now this might offend some people.  As we honor the men and women who put on a uniform to serve their country in foreign wars, let’s reflect on those who resist, who stand up for their principles of non-violence and take another path.  My husband is such a man. In the Vietnam War, he resisted being drafted, refusing more than once to take his physical when called to his small local draft board in Illinois.

He stated his beliefs as conscientious objector, and was punished by having his status rejected by the Board.  He joined forces with the Quakers, who took up his case and filed suit against the United States Government.  There was a man with principles.  

He won that case and went on to accept alternative service in the Chicago ghetto, working as a trained carpenter, teaching others skills that could help them get jobs and find their way out of a life of violence, drugs and despair.  

Violence found him, though, as bullets came flying through the window of the training center, a not uncommon occurrence, he was told by those who ran it. Violence was all around then, as it is now. 

In the time of Vietnam, I served with the New England Resistance, an organization who spoke out against the War and the draft, who counseled youth and who worked with enlisted men to open a dialogue on what the War meant to us, to them, to the small nation they were sent to ravage.

We helped those who took a public stand against the war machine, men who left the Military because they realized the war was wrong and they could no longer serve its cause.  These men took Sanctuary in local churches and did not resist when U.S Marshals in all their finery swept in to carry their limp bodies off to Federal prison.

We marched and protested; we chanted and we talked. We wrote articles and we counseled. We spoke at churches, schools and rallies.

One thing we did not do, as much as this urban myth persists today.  We never, ever spit on returning veterans.  We never treated those who served overseas with anything but the respect they deserved.  It was not the veterans who started the war; but it was they who suffered, who died and who were maimed, physically and mentally.  Who still to this day stand on street corners with signs around their necks asking for a little help, a little understanding.

Now they are joined by veterans of newer wars, Iraq I and II, Afghanistan.  The war on drugs, the class war the Republicans wage against poor people, sending jobs overseas and giving the fat cats fat payouts.

We are all veterans, today and everyday.  Veterans of a cynical America fighting wars foreign  and domestic.  

Scott Olsen, the Iraq War vet, who was struck on the head, suffering serious injuries from a flying police canister at the Occupy Oakland rally last week, took one for all of us.
blog post photo

Thursday, November 10, 2011

6 Steps on Enduring a Loss

Article from Elect Women Magazine on "Oh, no I didn't win my election! Now what!" by Matt Lewis, originally  published in Campaigns and Elections 

Falling Forward in Politics
Today, the stakes in political campaigns are high. It’s no surprise that in some cases, Election Day defeat can lead to depression and a loss of self-esteem.
Serious political candidates make major sacrifices involving family time and financial income just to take a chance of being a public servant. It’s easy to see how devastating a loss can be for anyone willing to be, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “the man in the arena.”
But candidates aren’t the only ones who sacrifice. The candidate’s spouse, children, and staffers also must endure the ups and downs of victory and defeat. Young campaign managers invest two years of their lives in a gamble that ends on Election Day. Even the winners have trouble adjusting to the normal pace of post-campaign life. And the losers feel as though they’ve lost a member of the family.
Few campaigners are prepared for this roller coaster ride. That’s why I’ve created this list…to help prepare you for the realities of political life…before you run.
What your campaign seminar didn’t teach you about winning and losing:
1. People in politics fear failure is a stigma – IT’S NOT.
James Baker ran for Attorney General of Texas in 1978…and lost. He managed George H.W. Bush’s Presidential campaign in 1980…and lost. But instead of giving up, he went on to become what many consider to be a top-notch Chief of Staff for Reagan – and even Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush. Here’s another revelation: Howard Dean wouldn’t have been DNC Chairman if it weren’t for his failed presidential campaign. As the late Senator Sam Ervin, Jr. once said, “Defeat may serve as well as victory to shake the soul and let the glory out.”
2. Take comfort that you are in the arena.
By getting involved in campaign politics, you have already proven to be an exceptional person. Average people rarely take chances, and thus have few failures and few successes. The fact that you failed at something means you were being aggressive. To use a sports analogy, the best hitters in baseball still get out seven-out-of-ten times. Sure, sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose, but you’re still better than (as Theodore Roosevelt described them), “those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
3. Realize everybody loses.
In their book Buck Up, Suck Up…And Come Back When You Foul Up, James Carville and Paul Begala write, “Perseverance. Toughness. Tenacity. Those are the qualities that make the difference. Real winners know they’ve got to lose a lot.” Carville and Begala ought to know. They lost a lot of races in the old days, including suffering the worst defeat a Democrat had received in Texas history. Ironically, their careers were resurrected by Bob Casey, a man who was then thought of as one of the greatest failures in Pennsylvania political history. In truth, every single successful person is someone who failed, but never considered themselves a failure. Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime. Einstein was told by a teacher he would never amount to much. You should view this setback as a stepping stone on your way to the next victory.
4. Your campaign inspired future leaders.
Conservative icon Morton Blackwell says, “Don’t fully trust anyone until he has stuck with a good cause which he saw was losing.” That’s because sticking with a good cause that is losing says something about your character. Many of today’s best political leaders got their start working for losing campaigns. Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley started out working for Gary Hart (who was the manager for George McGovern’s failed Presidential bid). So that seventeen year-old kid who volunteered for your campaign could be governor some day. Think of it this way: would Ronald Reagan have been elected president if Barry Goldwater hadn’t run in 1964? Or consider Pat Robertson’s failed Presidential bid in 1988. Although he lost that election, his supporters (who were calling themselves the Christian Coalition by 1994) helped bring about the Republican Revolution. Not bad for a failed campaign. That’s what I call “failing forward!”
5. Your campaign brought issues to the forefront.
In 2000, John McCain lost the Republican Presidential Primary to George W. Bush. But, during the first Congressional legislative session to follow the election, campaign finance reform passed. Had McCain not run for office and made it his signature issue, it is doubtful campaign finance reform would have been passed – and signed – by President Bush.
6. You learned lessons that will help you win next time.
Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, and Abraham Lincoln all lost political campaigns before achieving their destiny. Reagan lost in 1976, but won in 1980. Churchill (who was turned out as Prime Minister after defeating the Nazis) persevered and became Prime Minister again. And every schoolchild knows the story of all the losses and hardships endured by Abraham Lincoln. These men became great because they had to endure what Churchill vividly referred to as his, “wilderness years.” On a lighter note, NBA coach Rick Pitino puts it this way: “Everything I’ve learned about coaching I’ve learned from making mistakes.”  By understanding these six principles, you will be on your way to realizing that failure is temporary. What makes the person isn’t whether or not you fail, but rather, how you handle adversity, and what you learn from it, that counts.