When Jerry Northington began letting people know he would be running for Congress, my first reaction was that I would love to help write for him. My second reaction was that this was Jerry Northington, and that he needs no help writing! Jerry has an extraordinary combination of intelligence and passion, eloquence and conviction, and anyone who has read his online writings, under the pseudonym “possum,” knows that Jerry’s huge heart and tough but gentle soul are exactly what this country now needs in its elected officials.
As many of you know, “possum” has been administrating the human rights blog, Never In Our Names. Everything you need know about Jerry is in that encapsulated. His idealism in the causes of peace, justice, and human rights are at the core of absolutely everything he has done in the realms of politics and social action. He has lived it. He has worked for it. And now, he wants to take his ideals to Washington.
Who is Jerry Northington?
As explained in his diary, Black Annie, Jerry grew up in a different time, in the deep south. He saw, first-hand, the crippling effects of racism, and how it poisons the racists, their victims, and our entire culture. Writing of a woman he knew, as a child, Jerry observes:
Annie’s life was restricted far beyond her schooling and housing. She lived in a society where “White Only” signs were posted on water fountains, public restrooms, and store windows. Lunch counters admitted no blacks to their facilities in those years. The distinction between races was stark and ever present. The difference between the facilities offered to black and white residents was severe. Water fountains offered to blacks were often inoperable. Restroom facilities offered were mostly so unacceptable in condition that most people would avoid their use at all costs. Blacks coming to town for shopping or business planned to be back home before needing any public accommodation.
In those days of my childhood black people were not given the status of human in most respects. The society that surrounded blacks in those days saw them as somehow animalistic as the various epithets used as adjectives clearly showed. Today we see the same degrading behavior toward the various foreign populations both in and out of this country. One satellite radio channel uses derogatory terms to describe the opposition fighters in Iraq. Many such epithets were applied in Viet Nam as has been discussed here on NION already. The abuse of human rights has a long history in our country. We have much work to do to reverse the effects of our past action in this area. Progress is being made, but we can never forget our history lest we fall back into old patterns once again.
Certainly, the bigotry Jerry observed, as a child, still poisons our national culture. Its roots underlie so much of what is still so wrong, both in our domestic and foreign policies. But, for Jerry, his life experience would soon show him yet another devastating result of this poison. As he writes on his campaign website:
War is hell. There is no kind or gentle way to avoid those words. By the time I reached Vietnam, I could see the failure of the US Army to prepare well for the situation. We were trained in conventional warfare and then sent to fight a guerilla operation. We were kids sent to do a man’s work as the old saying goes. No amount of preparation could have readied us for what we were to face. Only experience taught us the lessons of survival, and too many did not live to share their experience.
The sights and scenes play back in my mind like a bad movie. I can return to those minutes and hours at any moment of the day without hesitation. The memories are as clear today as the day I came home all those years ago. I was lucky to be spared much of the worst of what war can bring one’s way. I am among the fortunate ones who came home alive, if not so well as before. Many thousands of my fellow soldiers came home in caskets. What each and every one of us endured was more than enough to teach me the futility and uselessness of all war let alone one of occupation.
I came home a very changed person. That returning was the beginning of my time as an antiwar activist. The intervening years have seen increased involvement in protest until today when I stand for election to Congress in the House of Representatives. I stand as an antiwar activist and campaigner for the people. The lessons of the past are very clear. War is not the way to win hearts and minds. We must pursue more peaceful solutions if humankind is to survive. There is so much we humans can accomplish if we begin to work together for a better world. If we continue our militaristic ways we may have no future whatsoever.
It’s not only about a particular war- whether Vietnam or Iraq- it’s about the very nature of war, and the culture that so often pursues it, without cause. When this war finally ends, we, as a nation, must reflect not only on the political machinations that got us into it, but on the ease with which we, as a nation, accepted the lies. The jingoism. The false bravado. The glorification of violence. All of these are ingrained in our national psyche, and Jerry is exactly the kind of person we need to participate in the official dialogue that will help us cleanse ourselves.
A Vet, twice over, Jerry came home and became a veterinarian. Again, we see Jerry’s fundamental sense of compassion, and his passion for healing. As his website explains:
Like his father, Jerry went on to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, and was asked to teach neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine for four years. He eventually helped to establish a veterinary specialty hospital, and continues his practice as a veterinarian with a practice limited to neurology.
Did I mention that he’s smart? Did I mention that he’s motivated? Did I mention that his life is proof of the depth of his caring?
Let’s look at some more excerpts from his diaries.