Saturday, November 18, 2017

39.2 - Goodbye and farewell

Goodbye and farewell

All that talk about hope, about the necessity of hope, brings to mind the phrase "keep hope alive." It's attributed to Jesse Jackson and while I expect he was not the first person to ever say the phrase, he is the one who made it a mantra and so can lay claim to it.

And it's what we have to do, always have to do: keep hope alive.

It's one of the things I've tried to do here - amid the news and views, the anger and the analysis, to maintain hope.

Even in the face of the continuing advances of the reactionaries, in the face of the racism and the sexism and the classism, in the face of the willful ignorance and the denial of science, in the face of the banality of evil as on-going wars become a back-of-the-paper story, in the face of all that and more, I have tried to maintain, even to offer, hope.

Because the truth of the matter is that even many professional grouches (like me) are actually unregenerate romantics whose sharp words are honed on the inexplicable, indefensible, yet utterly unshakable conviction that things not only should be but can be better than they are.

An embarrassingly large number of years ago, a friend asked me for some background information she could use for a presentation on world hunger she'd been talked into giving at her church. She confessed to being very nervous about doing it and said she envied my ease at giving speeches.

I answered that I envied her gregariousness, how comfortable she was one-on-one with strangers, a quality that gave her skill in door-to-door petitioning. I've always found the prospect of going to a street where I know no one and knocking on strange door after strange door, political petition in my hand and earnest expression on my face, rather intimidating.

She half-smiled and said something about how that didn't seem anything special or "important." The truth is, I'm not sure she believed me.

But I meant what I said. Because every one of us has his or her own strengths, has something we can contribute to the struggle for peace, for justice, for the environment, for, in short, life. None of these abilities is inherently more important than any other. All are important, all are necessary, and the question isn't whether your particular skills are "better" or "worse" than any others but whether or not you are using them.

Some, like my friend, are good at petitioning. I'm not. Some are good at fundraising. I'm not. I lack both the focused concentration necessary for large-scale organizing and the patience for phone-banking. The list of my inadequacies is embarrassingly long.

My strength happens to be words. Talking. Writing. Giving speeches. And like that. So doing this is, simply, something I thought I could contribute. What's Left has intended from the beginning to be an example of what's called advocacy journalism, a type of journalism that deals in facts, not propaganda, and wherever possible uses neutral sources but which makes no bones about having a point of view; journalism, that as I have put it, "puts facts into an ethical context in order to spur action."

Put another way, What's Left was from the beginning intended to be a voice of conscience and a tool in an on-going movement, something of use to the many whose skills in other areas so greatly exceeds mine. Something that helps. Something that keeps hope alive.

In doing the show, I've been guided by four quotes that served as editorial principles:
1) "To thine own self be true." Which, as I expect you know, is a quote from Shakespeare.
2) "The US isn't the worst - but it is the biggest." That's a quote from Joan Baez.
3) "Sometimes a bit of humor contains more inner truth than the most serious seriousness." That's from a chess grandmaster named Aron Nimzovich.
4) "No one but no one, no matter their ideology, political perspective, or status as 'left' or 'right,' 'liberal' or 'conservative,' can be by that reason exempt from either criticism or praise." That's from me.

The reason I bring all this up now is that this is the 300th edition of What's Left, which was born under and in fact has lived most of its life under the name Left Side of the Aisle - a name which I never actually liked because it implied that I'm a Democrat, a description which anyone who has watched the show for any length of time would know was misleading. I recall, for one example, writing in 2012 how I would not vote for Barack Obama because he was too conservative.

So anyway, yes, this is the 300th edition of What's Left.

It is also the last edition of What's Left.

Yes, we are hanging it up, packing it in, closing it down, choose the cliche that pleases you. After something over 6-1/2 years of an almost weekly show, it's time for me to find another way to be useful, to advance the causes in which I believe.

Actually, that's not quite right, there will be one more, a holiday special intended for the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, on the history of why they are on December 25 and January 1 as opposed to any other days of the year.

But yes, we are turning out the lights, closing the door, again choose the cliche you prefer.

I've said this before but it bears repeating. I have been greatly helped over these past years by several people without who this simply would not have happened or even if it did would not have gone on nearly so long as it did.

So I want to say thank you.

First to Donna, just for being Donna. She is my strength, my source, my reason to get up each day.

I want to say thanks to the staff here, to Dylan, Kris, and perhaps especially to Yvanna because she once said that she liked working the camera for the show because she always learned something, which is about the most complimentary thing someone could say to me.

Then there is Will, video editor extraordinaire of song and fable.

And finally there is Rich, the Executive Director of the station and the all-around go-to guy here who was willing to take a chance on me: When I first approached him about doing a weekly show of political commentary, he - I could tell - wasn't too sure that it wouldn't peter out after a few weeks. But he took the chance to let me do it my way and I hope in the time since he was given enough cause to be happy with his decision.

So with that I guess it's time to wrap this up for the last time. This is not the end of my activism, I just need to find a different outlet. It doesn't even mean that What's Left won't reappear at some point in some altered form.

Because for now and for the future, the issue for me, for all of us, is not "What can I do?" It's "Am I doing what I can?" Perhaps that only amounts to a little, to what can seem so trifling as to not matter, but matter it does because none of what we do is for nothing.

We are each of us as individuals called, required by what is right, required by the call of justice, to do what we can. No one can expect more of us - but we should expect nothing less of ourselves.

So instead of saying to you "see you next week," I am going to say "Carry it on." Because like the man in the movie said, "Never give up, never surrender."

And as always, peace.

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