Friday, April 3, 2009
From a Distance
On Tuesday night I got home late. That morning I'd been down in DC and up on Capitol Hill after attending the 2009 Citizens Equal Rights Alliance conference. The next morning I headed out to Beacon Hill for the Casino Free Mass April Fool's Gold rally at the Statehouse.
It's been exhausting, but by gosh, it feels so good to be an activist!
Even now, as I continue to endure a whopper of an allergy attack from the residual pollen of a million gorgeous cherry blossoms, and my nicotine and Febreeze saturated room at the Clarion - I can honestly say it was well worth it. And, when the Benadryl finally wears off, I'll tell you all about the things I learned about Indian sovereignty, IGRA, grassroots, the IRA, and yes, even the Mashpee Wampanoags. But for now, I can tell you (again) that it ain't comin'.
At the conference, coast-to-coast communities from Plymouth, Massachusetts to Plymouth, California were represented. I witnessed for myself that CERA is comprised of incredibly smart, educated and passionate people who live and breath the spirit of the Constitution. They've armed themselves with the facts and with research and the truth. What started out as a fight for their quality of life turned, for them, into a call to help others.
I remember, way back when, hearing Dennis Whittlesey denounce their organization as "racist". Apprehension about being labeled as racists even prevented many in my own organization from embracing their help. But heck, that's what folks like Dennis count on.
In reality, CERA, like their slogan, "Many cultures, one law", is the definition of anti-racist. A panel of Indians even spoke at the conference. And let me tell you, it was very enlightening.
All I can say is, if someone is supporting inequality in this country, it's either from ignorance, fear, or to keep an unequal share of Federal dollars flowing into their pockets.
I was delighted to be part of the 'Middleboro' delegation to the conference - a delegation which proudly included a wonderful first-time speaker, as well as our amazingly inexhaustible EIS organizer. As always, it was invigorating to meet fellow activists who quickly become friends. I know I'm not alone in the sentiment that representing that amazing group of people from Southeast Massachusetts who refused to swallow a 'done deal' in 2007 - and who were recently rewarded with proof from the Supreme Court - was infinitely sweet.
Which is why the Dennis Whittlesey's of the world wanted Middleboro to dismiss CERA's advice. Because, my goodness, what if everyone back then had realized that we were just following a script investors and gaming lawyers had written for us? A script that made us do something stupid while thinking we were really being smart.
How many people accepted the inevitability of a casino simply because someone in authority told them it was true? Obviously, some of us looked into it from different directions and realized it wasn't. And if you'd have found CERA, they would have proved to you that it wasn't.
So, if you were one of the few who walked up a hill this week to raise your voice, or just to listen, you've made a difference. In fact, you're holding up the house.
For those of you who thought it all ended after the Middleboro Town Meeting (from Hell) on July 28th, 2007 - you're missing the point. That spot on the map with the big tents and the orange shirts provided concrete proof that our nation was being guided by a 'separate and unequal' philosophy. Many of us, for various reasons, accepted this. Others railed, and are still railing, against it. But even those folks who wanted a casino in Middleboro, those fellow Americans of ours, should have been repulsed and reviled by the actions of the past two years.
We can't be a united nation while divided into separate sovereignties, governed by a schizophrenic series of laws based on an archaic contrivance of guilt and presumed ethnicity. It doesn't work. In the 21st century our country has become a blended family. Our elected leader is of mixed-race heritage. Many cultures, one law. That's what works.
But the IRA sets us all upon an unbalanced national stage. The greatest benefactors of this unequal footing aren't Native Americans. They are profiteers who've learned to thrive on unintended pockets of persuasion and surreptitious loopholes created by a clash of legal inconsistencies.
In the end, some Americans end up with lawyers, investors, spokespeople and politicians defending fictitious and odious 'done deals'. Other Americans, those enrolled in Tribes or living on reservations end up disenfranchised, blackballed, shunned, extorted and worse. And it's all so that we won't put up a fight.
Yet, we forget that this nation was forged in the good fight, that it earned it's identity by refusing to be quiet and that it's always been at it's best when it asked questions, took a stand, and demanded accountability.
I suppose a lot of folks start out like me - proud to be an American but still asleep at the wheel of their own political involvement - until hit head-on by greed and rear-ended by ignorance. But finding yourself in that position doesn't mean you have to stay that way.
And that's CERA. Ordinary Americans, Indian and non-Indian who awoke one day to find their world upside down and a fire ignited in their conscience. They became an army of citizen soldiers, and, in the end, they'll celebrate the victories for which they paved the way. Because they had it right all along. Many cultures, one law.
The same goes for CasinoFreeMass. A rapidly growing grassroots movement, some of whose seeds were sown in a meeting room in the basement of the Middleboro library and fertilized by the endless manure of inevitability. At first, we worried about our own back yard. Now, we stand for everyone's back yard.
And so, while our leaders and neighbors and friends struggle with the vexing questions and seemingly insurmountable dilemmas of the day - a chosen few have worked unnoticed, with trowels and mortar, to reinforce that foundation on which we stand.
A foundation supported in the simple words repeated every morning by school children. Not a 'belief' - but an expectation that all of us are part of one nation, united and unbreakable, and that we live in a place where there is liberty and justice, not a handout or mitigation, for all.
Posted by Gladys Kravitz at 10:00 AM