Monday, August 31, 2009

Edward Kennedy's Last Quorum Call

Where did they hide their tears? I wondered as I watched Senator Edward Moore Kennedy's family members assemble for a brief prayer outside the Senate chamber Aug. 29. It was to be his last Quorum Call at the place. He joined the ancestors on Aug. 25.
His family seemed so stoic now at the departure of the patriarch of one of America's most iconic political dynasties. It was, after all, their hurt, their loss, their father, their uncle whose remains were at the front of that long, long cortege.
Dozens in the audience who knew him only by reputation, wiped away tears or sobbed silently. How did his family members retain their composure? Where were their tears? Had they cried themselves out in private?
The sun dipped behind the Capitol Building before his body arrived. There were periods of sun, then the buttermilk sky looked like it might rain. Onlookers reminded one another that rain at a funeral was a good sign, from Heaven.
Like his martyred older brothers—President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy—Edward Kennedy earned a reputation as a champion of liberal and progressive causes, a defender of the downtrodden, a fierce advocate of Civil Rights legislation, and a supporter of universal health care for American citizens for more than 40 of his 46 years in the Senate. He was buried near his brothers in Arlington National Cemetery.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

On 83rd Birthday: Fidel Castro "Strong"

(Pictured L-R: IFCO co-founder The Rev. Lucius Walker, former Cuban President Fidel Castro, and IFCO's Ellen Bernstein and the Rev. Tom Smith, Havana July 31, 2009)

Cuban revolutionary leader and former President Fidel Castro “looks good,” is “strong,” is “taking care of himself,” and the Cuban people remain committed to “the revolution,” according to the founder of a New York based church group that opposes the U.S. embargo of Cuba.
“Because of the negative news in so many corners in the U.S. media, I didn’t know what to expect,” The Rev. Lucius Walker, Co-Founder of IFCO Pastors for Peace told The Final Call. “(Former President Fidel Castro) looks good! He has obviously gained weight, based on the images we saw two or three years ago.
“He’s strong, strong, handshake. Very alert mind. Just talking about a range of issues as always. He talked about his diet and his exercise regimen. So, he’s taking care of himself and he’s enjoying the opportunity to write and read and reflect,” the Rev. Walker continued, describing his July 31 meeting, which lasted several hours with Mr. Castro at a home near Havana.
The IFCO delegation also met with Cuban President Raul Castro on July 26, one of Cuba’s major national holidays. It is the date of the attack on the Moncada Barracks by a group of young revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro in 1953.
“He looked good, like he had gained weight, was sharp and articulate. I hadn't seen him for three or four years. He showed tremendous signs of recovery from a very serious illness.” The IFCO delegation was in Cuba to organize a 130-ton humanitarian aid shipment, the 20th organized by Pastors for Peace.
The Rev. Walker said he and Fidel Castro touched on health care, and U.S.-Cuba relations. “He spoke of the respect and appreciation he has for the president of the United States and has a recognition of the many responsibilities being faced by the Obama administration right now.”
During his delegation’s nine-day visit to Cuba, Pastors for Peace members fanned out to sample Cuban life. “The people across the country—we scattered, we went to three different provinces—and everywhere we went, people are with the revolution. It’s a major commitment. Old, young, and all in between,” the Rev. Walker said.
“So, the spirit of revolution among the people is undaunted, in our view. I was just, on every level impressed with the way things are moving forward."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dr. Ron Walters on race and Obama healthcare

“I don't think it has much to do with the health debate,” Dr. Ronald Walters, professor of political science at the University of Maryland told The Final Call. “What we see in the health debate is these town hall meetings have opened up the first opportunity the radical right has had to come back and mobilize against Barack Obama. So, when you look at what people are saying, some of it has to do with the broad outlines of all of his public policy.

“What we have to look at is this: It really is political opposition to Barack Obama. To that extent, some of it is racial. Some people are using racial slogans, and some are using party slogans. The two are mixed. Some of it has to do with race, there's no question about that. But I put this in the general category of their opposition to the fact that he's in the White House. Period,” Dr. Walters continued.

White, working-class voters have been organized by the right wing, according to Dr. Walters, and have been “egged-on by their leadership, to oppose everything that he's done,” even when it's against their own interests.

“The thing that the Republicans have had a tradition of doing, is mobilizing poor people against their own interests,” Dr. Walters said. “That's one of the amazing things to me that they have been able to do it. What it appears they're able to sell them, is a subtle version of White supremacy, which allows them to privilege that over any policy gains they might make.”