Listening to those who came before

As this historic weekend begins, here is the cover of The Nation magazine. Some of you might have seen this in a diary at dkos by the artist J. P. Marvoudis. the idea was Barack Obama being sworn into office, surrounded by civil rights figures from history. I then thought it would be appropriate to have the late, great Thurgood Marshall do the honors. I then expanded the idea to include civil rights of all kinds (Chief Joseph, Cesar Chavez, Gandhi, Mandela and Biko, Susan B Anthony, Harvey Milk, etc.)… Of course, it can’t be all-encompassing. There’s not enough pages to accommodate everyone who has helped bring about this wonderful moment. But I wanted to include as many deserving figures as possible…

I hope this cover can be used as a teaching tool… there was amazing work done throughout history, paving the way for Tuesday’s wonderful moment. …and knowing a bit more of how we got here will make this inauguration all the sweeter.

There’s a lot of history to be learned from studying this one image. But its a history that doesn’t end with the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. The consummate community organizer Al Giodano tells us that if we look and listen carefully, these are the people who will speak to us about our future as well.

Organizers trade in a moral currency that is invisible to almost everybody else, a reality that has its lonely moments no matter how big the crowd nearby. In those moments, our dead are there, often the only ones there, looking over our shoulders, pushing us forward, whispering, inaudibly to everybody else in the room, “You can’t turn back because we didn’t. We made the ultimate sacrifice and you that survived are responsible for assuring that sacrifice was not in vain.”

The fundamental difference between the roll out we’re living today and that of all previous presidents in our lifetime is that this one’s an organizer. You might not agree, or understand such a statement at all, but if you have the ear of any of those fallen friends in the cover above, they’ll clear it up for you. And if you don’t have them on speed dial, there is a path to get those numbers: Get out there and organize… and marvel at how fast they arrive.


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