Saturday, February 13, 2010

The End Of An Era

The room in Forsyth was full of people quietly chatting over light refreshments.  Most of these people know each other.  They worked on the Obama campaign in 2008.  They are neighbors and friends.  They have gathered for a reason.  Hope in in the air.

I drove down from Christian County to be at this gathering for for two reasons.  1.  Most of these people are my family and I was invited.  2.  I got an email from a friend across they state telling me that a young guy named Tommy Sowers was going to give JoAnn Emerson a run for her money for the 8th Congressional District seat this year and if I had the chance I should check him out.

I don't live in the 8th District.  I live in the 7th District where I've yet to hear of any viable Democrat entering the race.  But what I saw on Thursday makes me wish I could go out and vote with the rest of Southern Missouri this fall.

If you are sick of Washington insiders, tired of the same-old rhetoric, and ready for something besides the same old incumbant garbage we have been served up on a platter day-in and day-out, then you are ready for Tommy Sowers.  This is a man whose time has come. 

Lay down your party loyaties, your partisan in-fighting, whatever notions about politics you cling to.  Do you want to solve problems?  Do you want to improve your life?  Do you want Southern Missouri to be a better place to live, work, and raise children?  Then get ready for Tommy Sowers.

Tommy is from Rolla, Missouri, where his family has lived for 4 generations.  He attended public schools there, and he then went to Duke University on an ROTC scholarship.  He has an MS in Public Policy and is currently completing a PhD in Government at the London School of Economics. 

Tommy just got out of the miliatry in August.  He spent 11 years on active duty and obtained the rank of Major.  He has served in Kosovo and Iraq.  He attended the Special Forces Qualifications Course, graduating 1st in his class.  At 10th Special Forces Group, he led an Operational Detachment-Alpha (A-Team) of 12 Green Berets.  He has been awarded the Combat Infantryman's Bage and two Bronze Stars.

From 2006-2009 Tommy served as an Assistant Professor at West Point's Department of Social Sciences.  He has taught classes in American Politic and Mass Media and Politics.  In 2009, he taught Introduction to American Government at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla.

Basically, Tommy Sowers is a local guy who is well-educated, served his country in the military, and now wants to put his education and leadership skills to use improving the lives of Missourians.  What I heard him talk about on Thursday included his feeling that having the 8th Congressional district rank "dead last" for median female income is "unacceptable."  He says the word unacceptable with a kind of emphasis that makes you think he wants to do something about it immediately, personally.  He also talked about the poverty in general of the 8th district and how he finds these conditions "unacceptable."

Compare this to JoAnn Emerson.  She has never lived in the 8th Congressional District.  She is a lobbyist who met the late Bill Emerson while he was in Washington.  When he died, she took over her husband's seat.  Bill Emerson himself never really lived in the district.  She takes special-interest money like it is going out of style.  She spends your money like it's her own.  If you see her, ask her how she enjoyed that trip to Tiffany's (for a complete list of her expenditures, including the gifts from Tiffany's, click here). 

I grew up in the 8th Congressional District.  I cannot remember in my lifetime an Emerson not being in that seat.  JoAnn Emerson does not care about the average Missourian.  It is way past time for a change.  Tommy Sowers is a verteran running for Congress, and he is the man to bring it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How to Do Activism

I have gotten very frustrated lately with people who say they want change, but are unwilling to get their hands dirty to get the change they want.  The country is going to hell in a handbasket, people.  The supreme court recently decided that corporations are entitled to the same freedom of speech that we are as individuals.  Therefore big corporations can keep buying elections with all of their special interest dollars.

What are you going to do about it?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident.  That all men are created equal."  But they aren't.  Don't Ask Don't Tell means that gay men cannot serve in the military with the same freedom to be open about who they are that straight men can.  And the Pentagon doesn't even want this law! Gay men cannot get married in many states.  Hell, in most states they aren't even able to get the same benefits as married people because they aren't even recognized as a "civil union."  And that's men.  Don't get me started about the inequalities in our country facing women.

What are you going to do about it?

Children don't have access to life-saving medications when they live in the United States of America. 

What are you going to do about it?

Activism isn't changing your facebook status for a week.  Activism isn't "liking" someone else's status.  Activism is hard work.  It takes committment and energy.  It gets old and depressing at times.  But it gets things done.  So here is what you have to do if you want to see the country change directions.

1.  Get educated.  Know the facts.  Facts could be found in emails, on websites, on television news programs, in newspapers, on blogs, or on social networking sites.  But be wary and skeptical.  Many false emails circulate the web trying to sway people to one point of view or the other.  Use or to find out if information is true before you pass it on.  Consider the source of the blog before you freak out about the information.  Did you watch it on MSNBC or Fox News?  Because it makes a difference (and if you don't know what I'm talking about, or which station goes in which direction, you need to get educatied on that).  Watch the Sunday morning political shows, if just to know what people are taking about.  Get educated.

2.  Know who your representatives are in the House of Representatives and the Senate and how to contact them. 

3.  Talk with other well-educated people about issues that are important to you.  Don't always talk to people with whom you agree.  There is a lot to be learned from the well-mannered debate.  We have come to an awful polarized place in this country where we think we cannot disagree appropriately on important issues without it being some sort of hellacious surrender.  We can actually disagree and learn from each other.

4.  Contact you elected officials and let them know where you  stand on imporant issues.  Write them, call them, email them.  Griping, complaining, and whining makes no change.  These people work for us, and as their bosses we need to let them know when they do a bad job.

5.  Join a political campaign for someone you support, and/or give them financial backing if you are able.

6.  Refer to #1 and educated yourself.  No one will listen if you sound like you are ranting and raving when you don't know what you are talking about. 

Things can change, I think, if enough smart, talented, people really start giving a damn and holding our government to a higher standard.  You can help.  It starts now.  Reverse the handbasket.