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Taking it to the Streets: The Democrats Have the Ultimate Weapon

By Cheryl Seal

This week, the Democrats found their voices at last, and they have roared! There is a unity and all-embracing agreement to disagree that crackles through the room like electricity. If all of America could witness this revolution of ideals, it would spread through the nation like a brush-purging wildfire. Truth, once presented, hits with a "shock of recognition" that cannot be dismissed. Like a tenacious seed, it will sprout and grow even in rock. This is exactly why the Bush administration and its army of media minions are trying to make sure that the public never sees the truth.

PBS news commentator Jim Lehrer was appalled that the big media networks had agreed (i.e., colluded) to limit convention coverage to a pathetic three hours. Why on Earth, he exclaimed, would they do such a thing? Easy: More than three hours of the Democrats speaking truth to power would galvanize the public to Kerry, while more than three hours of the Republicans pontificating on Bush policy would hurt the GOP! But even the coverage that is "leaking out" (a bizarre concept for a supposedly free and open election process!) is being spun, tweaked, edited, and otherwise manipulated. The rightwing media thugs are roaming the streets of Boston like a gang out for blood. Tune in any call-in radio show now, including C-SPAN and you will find it packed with Freepers. Their pettiness knows no microbounds - I heard a white guy call into a black talk program in Baltimore who claimed the audience response to Heinz Kerry was "tepid" The moderator, of course, knew better. But this is what we are up against: a well-funded, single-minded, anti-American (yes, I totally agree with Heinz - these people ARE acting anti-American!) crusade against not just liberals, but against the two-party system and our nation's fundamental principles of liberty, equality, and opportunity.

So how do we get past this Media Curtain? Simple: We must take it to the streets! We must go out into our communities, one voice, one neighborhood at a time, and present our fellow citizens with the Truth. Back in 1990 when I lived near Monson, Maine (the starting point of the famous Wilderness Miles of the Appalachian Trail), the Bush I administration wanted to put in a Ground Wave Emergency Network (GWEN) tower - a 300-foot metal monstrosity designed to detect an above ground nuclear blast This tower would have perched on a mountaintop near the Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary- right at a time when they were in the process of releasing peregrine falcons back into the wild. The Wilderness Miles would have been dominated by a hideous monument to a Cold War that had already become obsolete.

Most of the area citizens were conservative folk. They had been told nothing about the tower except that it was a "first warning" system and had something to do with "national security" and would "create jobs." Based on this scanty and highly misleading information, the townsfolk fiercely supported the tower at first. Then, thanks to the help of other communities who had fought other GWEN tower sitings, a small group of us armed ourselves with the facts. The "first warning" was to give a handful of politicians in Washington a few extra minutes to flee to secure underground bunkers while the rest of us fried. The tower would not enhance national security - it was designed to pick up a nuclear event in progress, not before it occurred. And last, the only "jobs" it created was for one guy to mow the lawn twice a month in summer, and another to plow the access road several times during the winter. We also armed ourselves with all the data we could on environmental impact. The only real excuse the towers had for being, we discovered, was the multi-million-dollar ConTel contract they represented.

There were just about seven of us in our group, but we set out to talk to our fellow citizens, one by one. I went door to door, accompanied by my 16-year-old daughter (who volunteered at the Audubon sanctuary and cared passionately about wildlife, especially the falcons). We were polite and matter-of-fact, and asked if we could just give them some information - no hard political sell. Even the most skeptical were willing to at least hear us out. We weren't sure at first, if we had any impact. But, as I said before, Truth has an amazing power of its own.

A few weeks after we started our campaign, there was a town meeting at which an Air Force officer was to present his sales pitch for the Bush administration's tower. Our little group was to present the opposition viewpoint. We hadn't heard anything to indicate that anyone but us would show up, and we approached the Monson Elementary school meeting room with a sense of gloomy resignation. Then something incredible happened. People from the town and surrounding areas began to show up, at first in a trickle, then in a torrent. By the time the meeting had officially started, over THREE HUNDRED people - in an area where the entire population was at most 1,000!- were jammed into a standing room only event! It was like the climax to a Disney movie!

Thanks to getting the truth out to the people, face to face, the area's breathtakingly beautiful mountain landscape is today not marred by a hideous steel tower.

Some years later, my friend John Dieffenbacher-Krall and the Maine People's Alliance crusaded for universal healthcare and campaign finance reform for the state, going door to door. They were up against the insurance industry lobby and against every special interest/corporation in Maine with a stake in "buying" legislation. While these money moguls took out full page ads to attack the Alliance, the Alliance rarely got any decent coverage at all. But, once again: Truth has a power of its own. Today, Maine is one of the only states in the nation that now has at least preliminary versions of these reforms.

So when the Democrats leave the Convention this week, inspired by the rousing reaffirmation of their ideals through powerful speeches and the excitement of networking with fellow activists, they must take that inspiration into the streets of their communities. Go door to door if you can, armed with facts. If nothing else, present your neighbors with a handsomely copied version of Bill Clinton's incredible speech, which speaks directly to both conservatives and the undecided. Or, like the Maine People's Alliance and GWEN tower communities, compile the best, most heavily documented roster of facts available and share it.

Screw the media! Who needs it when we have the most powerful weapon of all: TRUTH.