Monday, June 28, 2010

Blogging from Philadelphia AmericaSpeaks

Donna here, blogging from AmericaSpeaks. I spent Saturday, June 26 as an observer at the Philadelphia AmericaSpeaks forum, one of the many happening simultaneously around the country. The AmericaSpeaks organizers are to be congratulated on an event that brought out voters from many different walks of life to grapple with the tough fiscal problems that our lawmakers deal with every day. I felt the organizers did a good job in Philadelphia where people ranged from members of the Tea Party to those mobilized by MoveOn.Org. While the materials were far from perfect, they tried to present balanced information and made space for people to add other perspectives.

I enjoyed meeting the people at my table and hearing their take on various solutions to budget difficulties. Participants at each table tried to form consensus on ways to balance the federal budget. At my table, no one was satisfied with the options presented and the biggest whoops and hollers were for adding a single payer option in health care. I saw lots of support for defense spending cuts, with the caveat that it wouldn't hurt the troops. I witnessed anger at policy makers, hearing statements like, "Policy makers need to get back to representing us" and "Recovery has been only for Wall Street. None of my friends feel bailed out."

I was heartened that the participants around me understood that we take care of future generations by what we do today - and that cuts can affect all generations.

I'll leave you with two stories: An older Native American activist at my table said he came in jaded and left feeling good about the discourse and inspired to get re-engaged. And an unemployed, uninsured woman at my table who was about to lose her house cried when at one point when "Our House" by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young was played as background music. "Our house, is a very, very, very fine house. / With two cats in the yard / Life used to be so hard..." We all need to remember that life is still hard for many people and we need to be sure we are taking care of our neighbors today if we hope to have a strong tomorrow.

-- Donna Butts

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