By Ken Krayeske • 9:31 AM EST
Without demanding something, you get nothing.
If you’re a Zen Buddhist, perhaps that’s a great way of looking at life.
But shoot, not even Buddhists can find their nothing in modern America, which is why we must makes demands on the political power structure.
From local land use boards to the state Freedom of Information Commission to the presidential election, citizens must make concrete demands of those in power, lest they do nothing at all.
Last year, the Newtown Planning and Zoning Commission stopped the local Cambodian Buddhist Society from building a temple on land it owned in town. The Buddhists appealed, the superior court ratified the town’s decision, and the state Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling.
Not far behind is the Meriden P&Z board, which denied a mosque a permit. Now imagine the Hartford P&Z rejecting the application to build Grace Lutheran Church or Asylum Hill Congregational Church, and then getting the highest court in Connecticut to stamp such religious bigotry with approval.
I can’t fathom it myself, but Dred Scott happened to, so it is not so far-fetched.
And suppose the P&Z commission then kept the records of its deliberations secret? The state’s toothless Freedom of Information Commission seems so impotent lately that it might back down from enforcing such a decision.
The FOI commission cannot realize compliance with sunshine laws through fines alone. If open government is a priority, let the state legislature create a statutory remedy which involves sending egregious violators to criminal court.
More severe sanctions like jail time for public officials who keep secrets on the taxpayer dime would hopefully curb abuses like that which we see from Hartford’s Corporation Counsel John Rose, Jr. or Burlington’s own Karissa Niehoff, the principal at Lewis Mills High School.
Realistically, demanding that the legislature surmount its partisan paralysis to even tie its shoes is asking a lot. So why bother asking for more? Because if we don’t, we end up with Joe Lieberman.
This week, Connecticut’s junior senator spoke at a conference hosted by John Hagee, who spews such anti-Catholic venom he doesn’t deserve the title Reverend.
Oddly enough, Hagee runs Christians United for Israel, a powerful lobby group that believes roughly the Rapture can only come with a strong Israel. Therefore, the route to the kingdom of heaven for God’s chosen 144,000 goes through a nuclear holocaust in Iran.
Ned Lamont alone cannot demand that Lieberman back away from the abyss of hatred and bloodlust. We all need to say loud and proud that we are a big human family and nuclear war is not an option.
Although I’m not even sure the allegedly hopeful Sen. Barack Obama believes that, either. He has discussed surgical nuclear missile strikes in Iran if needed. And then he just sold us down the river on FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Back in December, Barack promised us he would not support any Senate bill which granted telecommunications corporations immunity for helping George W. Bush illegally spy on American citizens.
This past month, Obama changed his mind, and voted to legalize Bush’s program which shreds the Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure. What liberties won’t we sacrifice to win this phantom war on terror?
Obama has moved so far to the center right that I wish I didn’t chase his comet in February’s primary. I still think he is the better option than McCain. Yet I think we can make him better by putting pressure on him, by making demands on him.
For that reason, I’ve been collecting signatures for Ralph Nader this past week or so. Polls show Barack coasting through Connecticut by 20 points. And what does he give us for our unconditional support? Treason with FISA? Warmongering until 2010?
I get bend-the-pen-in-my-hands frustrated when I am out petitioning to get Nader on the ballot and nine of ten refuse to sign. Two of those will say it's because they think signing will hurt Obama’s chances. That is an advanced form of ignorance, and shows how easily manipulated even smart people are.
Understanding there is a winner take all system, no one takes votes from anyone else. All candidates earn their totals. And if you know enough that Ralph Nader got one percent of the vote in Florida in 2000, and Al Gore lost by less than one percent, then you need to take it the next step and stop blaming one man for the failure of our entire civil society to demand that George W. Bush and his henchman fairly count all the votes.
The Bush crime syndicate managed to steal not one but two elections because on average an additional three in ten people I approach for signatures are not registered to vote. They just “don’t pay attention to politics."
Another one of those ten (making it six rejections) will confuse signing petitions with voting. The seventh out of ten will ask “You mean you have to petition to get on the ballot?” The eighth person will ask “Who is Ralph Nader?” The first basemen for the 1972 St. Louis Cardinals?
The ninth person may take the clipboard, think for a moment about supporting free speech, ballot access and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, then decide that they don’t want to share their birthday or address.
If not that, then there is the joker who signs someone else’s name, or the well-wisher who signs but is not registered, or gives the wrong birthday. They signed to make me feel better.
I could use the pick-me-up, because getting rejected nine of ten times is often disheartening. Having my time wasted on a signature that will be rejected is quite possible worse. A president who demanded a civics curriculum in our schools that taught people about elections, and how we run out government would be good. But the one candidate who does that is having trouble collecting signatures.
So persevere we must, because while Barack and Iraqi prime minister (and U.S.-installed puppet) Nouri Al-Maliki and now maybe even Bush talk about withdrawal in a distant 2010, we need an anti-war candidate on the ballot who demands immediate withdrawal.
Without making demands, we get nothing.