Saturday, August 19, 2017

Six degrees of separation ... ?

During the Nineties -- shortly after acquiring my first MAC -- I caught the genealogy bug and dived into creating my family history.  It was all-consuming, and gratifying, and there was so much to learn through that process.  (See the Charbonnet Pages in the links in the Archives on the left, for paternal line and California Black Pioneers for maternal records.)

Started with my maternal line, with my great-grandmother, Leontine Breaux Allen.  She had been the mainstay of my family since it was in her little house beside the levee of the great Mississippi that my mother, her siblings, most of her aunts and uncles for several generations had their beginnings.  My mother's mother, Julia LaRose, died there when my mother was but 7 months old.  She was raised by my great-grandmother, as were her three half-brothers and a sister.  Mamma figured heavily in my childhood and adolescence.  She died when I was 27 years-old, married with children of my own.

One learns early in the search that names can be problematic.  Not only is this complicated by the fact that slaves generally took on the surnames of their owners, or the plantations upon which they'd spent  much of their lives before freedom came, but because of a lesser-known reason:  During the 1800s through the early 1900s most ordinary folks were pre-literate.  This means that schooling was not widely attainable, and less so for non-whites.  For enslaved black folks, to learn to read had to be a deeply-held secret punishable by the lash if discovered.

Therefore Leontine, born into slavery in 1846, and enslaved until freed by the Emancipation Proclamation at 19, spoke only a patois of French, and (as far as I can tell) never learned to read or write.

Public records such as the Census were conducted by scribes who had to be literate, but who were strongly dependent upon oral data in order to fulfill their requirements.  Many of those records were kept through the Catholic Diocese, and I'm grateful for that since in Louisiana, those church records go further back into American history than the public records of some States.  The Church was central to the lives of all, and those diocesan records at Baton Rouge are filled with history.  They held the dates and places of most of the people's rites and celebrations, and could be the most powerful sources for opening into hidden family histories otherwise unattainable.
Marriage certificate of slave-owner, Eduoard Breaux
to Leontine's mother, Celestine "of no last name",
dated  1963, the year of the Emancipation Proclamation

Since the people of the times were pre-literate, those records reflect the countries of origin of the scribes, and Louisiana had seen a successions of rulers from other nations over its colorful history.  It was settled by the French under Napoleon, taken over by the Spanish for a time, became the reflection of "the known World," long before this became a country.  New Orleans, Louisiana, and St. Augustine, Florida, were established cities long before we became a country, long before the Revolutionary War of 1776.

For instance, my maternal line started out in Loudon, France, when Vincent Brault departed for the new world and landed in Nova Scotia for a few generations,  when his first descendants traveled to Maryland, then -- with the consent of the Spanish governor of Louisiana -- landed in St. James Parish, Louisiana, where the Breaux settled for all time.  These were the Acadians, now called "Cajuns."

Those scribes -- collecting their census data each decade from pre-literate villagers -- entered those names as they could, phonetically.  One is warned that Breaux, for instance, might appear in census records as Bro, Braud, Brau, Breau, Brault, Breaux, etc., depending upon the native language of the scribe. (Bro, Spanish; Braud, German; Brau, German; Breaux, French, etc.).  This turns out to have been an important thing to know in building my family history, since -- depending upon which years I was tracing, our family surnames varied accordingly.
Imagine how surreal it became as I peered through the looking glass of my life down this rabbit hole when valiant star-crossed young Heather Heyer met her death fighting for her cause in Charlottesville last weekend, and I found myself staring into the face of her mother, Susan Bro, on the small screen of the television set in my Richmond, California, bedroom!

I know ... .

Full circle?


... surreal, but mostly because -- after hearing Susan's brief, uncompromising but prideful response to the tragic loss of Heather -- lovely and so dedicated to her cause of supporting "liberty and justice for all" -- it was clear that the two of us could easily sit down over a cup 'o tea and start our conversation somewhere in the middle of the 14th paragraph!

Were this another time, I might just glide over this coincidence muttering under my breath about "small worlds," but at 96 I've no time to waste, and with the last item now completed on my old bucket list, connecting with Susan Bro tops the new one.  I want to touch lives, somehow, with this amazing, courageous, and wonderfully giving woman on the chance that we are cousins but 6 degrees of separation apart, if that would serve the purpose of providing some comfort in this time of great sorrow.

Friday, August 18, 2017

"Every time these cyclical periods of chaos arise, the opportunity to re-define Democracy rises with it ... ."  
It is then that we gain access to the re-set buttons, and the time comes when the platform is re-created upon which the next generation of newly-minted Americans will stand as they assume the responsibility of forming that "more perfect Union."  

We're now at another such time; a time of generational change.  They've been occurring rhythmically since 1776, and each such period has led to a higher rung on the upward spiral of this ladder of the great American Experiment.

I'm awed by the newly-emerging young people now surfacing courageously and defiantly.  They're turning up everywhere and in some of the most unlikely places.  Some of them have found their places where it counts -- in the media, in government, in the legal professions, as educators, and they're eloquent and daring.

And, it is We who are the Leaders we've been waiting for; those who have lived long enough to be able to bear witness to a past of earlier victories in the long struggle against injustices and inequities. Look around you.  We're here.  We may not look like the image in our heads of what leadership should look like; we're old and infirm in some cases, but were still kickin’, still viable.  

There’s nothing new here, guys.  

We're wearing whatever the skins we're in proudly, and without apology.  We're scruffy and denim-clad (but that's now been usurped by the invaders who've come out from under their sheets), and so varied in racial identity by now that our race is fast-becoming little more than a political choice, but that's less important with each day that dawns.  Some of us even find ourselves among the unlikely class of the "privileged," and who'd have ever believed that?  It would not surprise me to run into those I met at Telluride at the MountainFilms Festival last year, those with the time and the financial resources to bring to the great changes now needed by the rest of us.  Everything's up for grabs.  The Democracy is on the move, again, and this time we're taking giant leaps toward a more ethical and moral future made possible through advanced technology.

The animated debates are being conducted -- not on Public Television -- but on the cable news channels, in the unlikely voices of folks like James Murdock, owner of the Fox News Channel -- arguing against the presidential outrages, and for the taking down of statues of the defenders of the Confederacy!  Those unscripted panels responding to the outrageous pronouncements emanating from the White House are unprecedented in their candor.  The masks are off.  The painful and formerly ill-formed festering boil of centuries-old White Supremacy was finally lanced indelicately in full public view and now we have only to wait to see if the poisons can be contained before their destructive diseases have the power to destroys us all. 

I say, there's little that's new here, except for social media.  Those of us who have been marginalized for centuries, whose stories have been muted, expropriated, or silenced altogether, have lived into a time when the masks have been pulled down and the awfulness has become visible to all.  There's no place left to hide.   And we've lived into a time when the price paid for those omissions in our history books have produced a generation of Americans who truly believe that this nation was formed by and for them -- the White Christian -- and there has been little evidence to tote out to refute their claims.  They've been allowed to believe that "Humankind" is generically white, and that the rest of us are exotic,  "sumthin' else", to be related to custodially.  

This defines the fundamental failure of our system of public education.

There is still denial from high places such as that displayed in the voices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in all their uniformed and be-medaled glory expressing outrage with the words, "... our values were firmly established in the year 1775, and ..." without including the fact that those Armed forces resisted racial integration until the year 1948!   Or any recognition that among those defiantly and proudly marching in that Tiki-torch parade chanting"Jews will not replace us!," were many returned veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan!  Until we've begun to exhibit a willingness to share our complete history, there will be lingering skirmishes to get through, ... but one day at a time ... .  

Every sign that I've seen over the past several days would suggest that we far outnumber the Neo Nazis, and that their desperation -- so clearly evidenced by their armed presence in our midst -- is going to be defeated.  Their obvious motivation is based in fear and hatred, the last dying gasps of the Confederacy are being heard in angry shouts, but also in tragic and petulant whining ... "so sad." Is there a more perfect way to describe His Orange-ness?

We cannot hate them out of it.  That's a loss cause.  We can only make them irrelevant by refusing to allow ourselves to waste energy fighting against bad ideas.  We must replace what they're expressing with better ideas.  Meet across town in huge numbers in Unity Festivals!  Have our artists, poets, musicians, orators, come together and raise their voices in Love and Hope.  We've done it before.  We brought down a failed presidency and ended an unpopular War in another surge of change.  We can do it again.    

We must not be cowed nor discouraged by this last gasp of what history will someday define as the feckless Age of White Supremacy.  Humanity cannot be sustained under such an erroneous assumption, because that will take us all into the planetary realities that can no longer be denied, but that must be faced now for the sake of human survival.

I will join with others (in civvies, of course) over this coming weekend in Berkeley, San Francisco, Richmond, and wherever else another voice is needed against this most recent threat to our country.

See you at the Festival! 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Living life in italics ... once again ... .

Perhaps it's this dreadful cold that I've been host to for the past several days.  Maybe the doubts have been creeping up over past weeks ... and I've failed to notice 'til the wrestling with these painful coughing spasms that are not yet subsiding.  But whatever the reason, I've rarely felt more confused and bereft than over the past few hours when I'm struggling with the need to hold the world off until the coughing ceases, and the need to respond to two calls for my participation in both MoveOn's local vigil in support of Charlottesville's protestors, and, another received earlier in the day for me to "say a few words at Indivisible Berkeley's Vigil and March from Finnish Hall to Civil Center Park in Berkeley.  Both demand answers, and these are my compadres, right?

I'm facing the fact that -- even if my physical condition allowed it -- I'm not certain just what I would say because throughout the day confusion has been building as I watch transfixed by footage coming out of Charlottesville, and pundits spouting their usual bilge that tends to want to assume that they're on the side of the angels, and that there is a (majority) constituency for their view.  But is there?

One statement -- repeated by many -- stood out this day, and that is -- "This is not who we are!"  Oh?  Is that what we really believe?  I'm not so sure ... . and maybe I should be.

You see, I believe that we're Morris Dees and Fanny Lou Hamer, Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Beecher Stowe, but that we are also George Wallace and David Duke, and, Steve Bannon and Donald Trump. The trick is to find room on the planet and the nation for us all to find ways to live together in peace.

Maybe the beginning place would be to stop being in denial as to just who we are, and to begin to deal honestly with how we process our national history for succeeding generations so that the legacy is carried over with integrity.  There must be an acceptance of our mistakes and a sharing of lessons learned, generationally, so that our democracy will continue to serve as intended by those imperfect white men who conceived it for those "like them."  That's a tall order, right?

It was with a jaundiced ear that I heard the eminent Senator Orrin Hatch indignantly come down hard on the thugs in Charlottesville with the statement that his brother, who was lost in WWII fighting Hitler and the Nazi, in a war to save the democracy that was fought with a segregated Armed Forces!  It was a war that cost 54.8 million lives, worldwide, and the contradictions have never been included in our history books, nor in the national narrative.  

In watching those young thugs -- they were expressing the worst of us -- true, but they were also exhibiting what happens when we've denied our essential truth in favor of an unsustainable myth that serves no one:  The Myth of White Supremacy.  Their expression of entitlement is now being exhibited with the symbols born of those with whom we fought 70 years ago.  What we've allowed ourselves to believe is that we are the saviors of the world, and that this justifies whatever we do that serves this self-deluding image. And that image is undeniably "white".

What in the world are those of us who deviate from that mistaken national image to do with that?  I've never been able nor allowed to be a part of that "We."  As our diversity is embraced and grows, the generational changes will shift, and become more true, I believe that.  It is this belief that sustains me in my work.

Many generations of living with slavery, Jim Crow, inequality in most areas of civic life, has ingrained in us the idea that White means power, and that in order to gain that power we must learn to emulate the behaviors, ethos, attitudes of those who have established themselves at the top of the food chain, but deep down we know that we bring with us differences needed for balance in a nation still forming in this grand experiment.

To the extent that we are successful at retaining that which is buried deep in our DNA; our basic humanity-- and can combine that with the gifts brought in by other world cultures, we can refresh and revive the American Dream so that it retains its vibrancy for generations to come.

Meanwhile, in the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King:

"Either we will learn to live together as brothers, or we will surely perish together as fools."

Monday, July 31, 2017

Receiving honorary doctorate at Mills College, May 2017
After hours of watching accounts of the horrendous actions coming out of our Capitol last week ... .

I lay awake for hours doing what I've not done for a very long time, maybe ever, doing "what ifs."

What if I'd found my life's calling much earlier so that I might have taken advantage of the resume that has been accumulating in this tenth decade?  What if I hadn't been a "late bloomer"?  What if I'd been born much later at a time when women's roles were less limited -- that I'd been encouraged to attend schools of higher learning instead of defining myself only in relation to the men in my life?  What if?

Perhaps -- in these final years -- I would be in a position of such prominence and such relevance that my voice might be one of those listened to in high places, as it is right now, unexpectedly, but at a time when life is ebbing and power as well, as prescribed by expectations that continues to mute the voices of elders.

Finding myself being quoted by others, learning that my PodCasts and interviews are being used in colleges and universities -- in Women's Studies, Issues of Diversity, Civil Rights, etc., is both astounding and hardly believable when I allow myself to dwell for even a few moments on the unlikelihood of such a thing.  So I quickly discount such news as nonsense, until -- in a quiet moment just before sleep -- the reality dawns, and I am lost in wonderment ... .

What about the little Bettys still out there in the inner cities and backwoods of the country, young women of color, yet laboring under the crushing weight of low expectations; undiscovered and still lost in the fog of poverty and undeserved shame? Though we're witnessing a great increase in the numbers of brilliant young black women, especially in the fields of Law and Communications these days, it will take a generation before the inadequacies and injustices have been brought into line with the promises of the founders of our Democracy.

In a nation that places so much stock in white privilege, are we continuing to sacrifice our democracy's human potential in favor of economic gain and the acquisition of wealth?  Does that not doom us to what we're experiencing right now?

Visiting lecturer at Humboldt State University, 2012
Maybe those who have suffered for centuries from the denial of the values upon which our democracy was founded are more sharply aware of their worth than anyone else could possibly be.  Maybe the pathway toward salvation does not run through Wall Street after all, but through the giant sequoias and ages-old canyons so precious to our predecessors on these lands; the Indians.

... and to think that -- at fifty when I married Bill Soskin, who was at the time Dr. William F Soskin, university research psychologist of note, I entered the world of the Academy thinking, " ... if I know all that I know, can you imagine what they (those Ph.D's) must know?  After all, they've had access to years and years of study that I've completely missed."

You know what?

... after a brief time I'd learned that Bill and Friends knew everything there was to know about a tiny sliver of what-was-to-be-known, and that that was about all.

Disillusioning, that.  Still is.

Wish I, or some other wise person, might have found a way to channel Chief Joseph, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Fanny Lou Hamer, Sojourner Truth, or Harriet Tubman to lead us out of the weeds we've found ourselves hopelessly entangled in as the Ship of State flounders in seas of seemingly insurmountable world conflict.  Wonder just what it was that all of these iconic beings shared in common ... surely it wasn't economic status or academic achievement.

Would it not be a major contribution if one could figure out that common denominator, and how to infuse that into humanity in these troubled times?

Maybe then we could find the key to forming that illusive "... more perfect Union."

Friday, July 28, 2017

It IS as suspected, once you find yourself on the world's radar, it becomes self-generating ... .

... this honoring thing.  After your ninetieth birthday you begin to get awards for being able to tie you own shoes.  It must be, otherwise how do I explain this to myself:

Yesterday just ten minutes before I would be due in the theater to give my regular Thursday at eleven presentation our deputy superintendent suddenly appeared from our headquarters offices to whisper into my ear that there would be a delegation of ten officials from the National Parks Conservation Association arriving to attend my talk, and that they would be presenting me with an award at the end of my presentation.  (No pressure, right?)

As is usual, shortly after my Thursday morning arrival at ten through the rear entrance to the Visitor Education Center, more friendly strangers had begun to gather for the eleven o'clock ranger  program.  Ordinarily I immediately go to a front desk computer to collect the overnight accumulation of emails and ignore almost everything else until time to go downstairs to be miked-up for my talk.  This morning was no different.

I normally enjoy a kind of momentary lull during which thoughts are collected for another event.   About a half hour is spent sitting unseen at the Bay-facing windows behind a large exhibit to watch the lazily passing sailboats from the nearby yacht harbor, or the occasional daring wind surfer ...  before facing another audience.  Since I work totally from memory, extemporaneously, using no notes or script, the mood I bring with me into that room allows access to the memories I must again bring to life. It tends to work well, that is, unless something unusual upsets expectations.  And that is precisely what happened.

Yesterday, 15 minutes into my program, there was a temporary interruption after the arrival of 8 people from another special group which included 3 severely disabled people in wheelchairs escorted by attendants.  Everything completely stopped so that a few members of the audience might be moved so that some seating could be removed in order to accommodate those in wheelchairs.  Concern about the earlier "special" visitors was soon lost in the face of this new challenge.  Of course it was all easily handled by capable rangers, and we soon picked up where we'd left off just before ... .

The program soon got back on track after the adjustments had been made, and when it closed at the end of the hour the special delegation from the National Parks Conservation Association approached to present me with a folder containing a letter from Ms. Theresa Tierno, CEO and President, announcing that I'd

"...been selected to receive the prestigious Robin W. Weeks Award for Enhancing Public Understanding of National Parks from NPCA in recognition of the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park."

and further:

 ... We would be honored to publicly recognize your contribution by presenting you with the Winks Award at events planned for Wednesday, April ll, 2018 in Washington, D.C. "
with Terry Tempest Williams at the Mountain Film Festival at Telluride
Ms. Tierno's letter continued with a description containing a list of past recipients; "filmmakers Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, Ranger Shelton Johnson, historian Douglas Brinkley, authors Terry Tempest Williams and Nevada Barr, and more recently Jack Stewart and Colton Smith of ABC's Rock the Park and Creative Action Network founders, Max Slavin and Aaron Perry-Zucker."

By the time my talk ended with the Q&A, and the delegation from the Conservancy approached to make the presentation, it held all of the surprise factor that had been originally intended.  Somewhere in the middle of that unexpected interruption, I'd become so completely taken with the process of bringing those new folks into the room that any fears I'd been feeling had dropped away, and the room had become the blend of friendly strangers, as is ordinary to that space.

Despite the number of times this process has now been repeated I remain equally humbled and puzzled by the acclaim that has found me -- hidden away quietly in my small community -- doing work that (maybe) only I could do; do you suppose?  Work made possible through lineage from ancestors who were 'buked and scorned" at an earlier unenlightened time in our collective American past.

How grateful I've become for whatever triggers life has provided that allows me to give voice to those who came before.  As time progresses, and as it tapers down toward infinity, my connection with that dark past grows ever brighter and the more easily translatable.

Maybe it is that which deserves the recognition for which I've become the vessel ... .

Monday, July 10, 2017

This morning brought another day of filming ... but with a twist ... .

... which required trying to build an information bridge between 30 Rosie's Girls -- a park-sponsored group where the youngest was 10 and the eldest, 14 -- and an elderly woman fast-approaching 96 years of age.  Challenging?  You betcha!  I was terrified at the prospect, the fear that I didn't have the ability to bring their generation together with mine in a coherent way in the sharing of the Home Front history.  How on earth can one do that?  Yet it seemed to work despite the fear.

We gathered at Kennedy High School in a room that probably housed classes in social studies or civics because every available space on the walls was covered with photographs and posters of past national leaders.  Images of Presidents Clinton and Obama dominated the room.  Our sitting president was not represented on these walls, an interesting observation as noted by one of the cameramen.  It would have been interesting to learn whether we'd simply overlooked that image, or, if there were political debates among the students that ended with a conscious decision to allow the omission.  Interesting?

After a brief opening statement about my personal history -- based on a conversation in the car while on the way -- we did a Q&A.  The girls seemed so woefully young, and unknowing, but open and willing to participate as we gathered in chairs that formed a semi-circle with me in the middle.

By the time I felt fully engaged -- about 30-minutes later -- the lights behind their eyes began to slowly shine on, and the room started to come alive for me.

The conversation at times felt far afield from where I thought we should be going, but by the end my feelings of awkwardness had all but vanished, and when our director, Carl, stepped in to remind me that the spread of history that lay between my great-grandmother, Leontine Breaux Allen, and me, might be of interest to these kids.  In the telling of that history, a pathway opens up where the most meaningful part of my story enters, and I'm "at home."

Oddly enough, it is in the telling of that narrative that I feel most "American," because that story places me in the context of one of the nation's most perilous and life-changing times; that of slavery and emancipation.  My enslaved great-grandmother's role in our history may have been involuntary, but the fact that she survived those painful years at a time when education was forbidden meant that she was illiterate.  Schooling was far beyond her reach as both a slave and as a woman.  Yet only one generation later one of her daughters, Alice, would create the first school for colored children in St. James Parish, Louisiana.  Alice served as its principal until her death.  One generation later, a grandson, George Allen, would serve as president of Texas Southern University, one of the nation's historically Black colleges. This surely speaks to her participation as a strong guiding force in her family -- in a fast-changing nation of imperfect folks trying to "get it right."

Through her long lifetime -- she lived to be 102 -- she was able to instill in her 13 children enough ambition, dedication to principle, idealism, and ethical standards that her great-grandchildren, of whom I'm now among the eldest, are still among the nation-builders, in a nation of extraordinary ordinary folks still trying to get it right.

I touched on none of that, but just being reminded of the full story of how much later generations (mine) were enabled by those who lost almost 300 years to the evil institution of slavery in this country continues to allow me to feel the full weight of my citizenship in this still-striving young country ... in my role as a passionate interpreter, a truth-teller, serving in a federal agency, the National Park Service.

This morning gave an indication of just how important my ranger role is in these continuing chaotic times as we continue the process of forming that "... more perfect Union."

As I looked out into those upturned young faces, I could see tomorrow -- though innocence abounds -- but also I could see the openness that is an essential element in creating the future that they will live into ... .

It is such a privilege to be in a position to be able to influence their choices in even these small ways ... like sitting around in a semi-circle sharing history at Kennedy High School in Richmond, California, on this day, July 10, 2017.

We ended with a pledge.

Repeat after me:

"Every day in every way what I am to be I am now becoming!"
In an odd way, these simple words speak not only to the state of adolescence, but to a young country in progress, as well.

And that, my friends, is an example of the simplicity that comes after complexity!

It felt right.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Maybe it was the Fourth of July that created the climate ... .

... or the questions that come up in the Q&A following my talks, but for whatever reason I'm bringing those conversations home at the end of the day, and lingering over them for hours into the night.

My audiences are visibly depressed and are looking for a reason to hope at a time when our nation appears to have lost its way ... or, found new pathways forward in which at least half the country is faltering -- too unsure to trust our institutions for guidance more than for a few hours at a time, or until the next newscast.

Whether by intent or by accident, unlike those audiences, I find myself more hopeful than the headlines might justify.  It's hard to explain, but let me try:

The Revolutionary War of 1776 brought into being our "One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all (some?), and pressed this young country forward into what has become cyclical periods of chaos.  Democracy is not static, but dynamic.  My 95 years have provided enough time to enable me to look back and see the patterns.  I'm now seeing such periods as the times when our democracy is being re-defined; when we're making necessary adjustments in our collective decisions and institutions that will give us a way forward.  It's at such times as these that the reset buttons are revealed, and another round of "the work" can begin.  These are the times of the greatest chance to take whatever steps we must "... in order to form that more perfect Union." Time to "... promote the general welfare". These opportunities rarely occur in times of calm and serenity, if such have ever existed.  These cycles of change are invariably dramatic and fraught with risk.

We're in another of those chaotic periods now, and it's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work building the next platform upon which a new generation of Americans will stand to continue this grand experiment.  Maybe the greatest threat to our governance is the fact that only 17% of those between 18 and 24 turned up to participate in our last election -- when we elected a president with a bit more than 25% of those voting.  Fifty one percent of that vote came from those over 51, presenting an imbalance in governance tilted toward yesterday rather than tomorrow.

This country started out with those long-revered and imperfect slave-owning Old Dead White Men who probably did the best they could in establishing our Democracy.  From where I find myself these days -- Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, the Adamses, Madison, Franklin, Paine, et al, --  created out of their chaos of 1776 -- the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution with its durable Bill of Rights that founded this nation-- and given the systemic limitations that gave birth to some fatal flaws -- that brilliant work was probably the best we could get out of the bold leadership of their day.  We're still trying to overcome the contradictions embedded in them, but at least two important questions were answered by the last administration.  Never again will we ask if a woman would ever be allowed to run for the highest office in the land, or, if an African American is capable of being President of this country and Leader of the Free World.  Those discussions are over for all time.  In less than 7 years, a generation of children who lived through the Obama administration and know no other will become voters.  The changes we've been working toward and waiting for have already taken place.

Ever since 1776, each generation has had the responsibility of re-creating the Democracy in its time.  A tall order, that, but necessary if our system of participatory governance is to survive in our day.  We cannot continue to sustain ourselves with a 40% turnout in general elections.  Whether we explain that to ourselves as the result of voter apathy or voter suppression, the result is the same; loss of control of our institutions, and the resulting concentration of power within a chosen few of the privileged. That is  antithetical to the intent so eloquently spelled out in our founding documents.

The Great Experiment is on-going.  Democracy will never stay fixed.  Fortunately for us, there was enough resilience built into the system by those imperfect men that the adjustments needed in light of an ever-changing nation are and have been achieved, but only the dynamism emanating from a passionate and caring electorate will sustain us.

Ultimately, it all depends upon We, the People, and we, too, are imperfect.

I see citizen involvement rising daily among the current electorate with the help of unprecedented access to information, a proven and dependable body of media despite the sensationalists, and many ethical and caring State and National representatives peopling our Halls of Congress. Technological advances are light years beyond where the fertile imaginations of those courageous Fathers of our Country might have taken them.   They could hardly have imagined a nation where their ideas would forever influence a world still yearning to be free in this, the 21st Century.

Why on earth would one not be hopeful?

We need only to look to the upward spiral that defines America to see, albeit dimly, the next steps in our most recent cycle of creative chaos!

This is who we are.

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