This is the text of the talk that I gave at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson (UUCT) on July 30, 2017. (Watch the video here.)
Our lives are made up of the choices we make. Although they range from the mundane to the profound, all of our choices bundled together determine balance or imbalance in our lives. Taoist philosophers believed that to lead a happy and tranquil life, one must live in balance with the forces of nature—the yin and the yang, the female and male, the good and evil.
In her book, Envisioning a New World, UU Rev. Rosemarie Carnarius applies the concept of balancing yin and yang to public policy. She suggests that we should try to consciously balance social responsibility—the yin—with individual liberty—the yang. It sounds so simple yet so profound. Like the Tao.
Carnarius goes on to point out that with the our country’s Declaration of Independence, “… for the first time in history, an individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was proclaimed as divinely ordained, unassailable, and constitutionally guaranteed.” A huge step for the common man.
Also, lest our new country devolve into the lawlessness of unbridled individualism, the framers of the Constitution balanced “the ascendency of the individual” with a “trust in humanity’s capacity for self-governance.”
Democracy—the voice of the people—would balance the rights of the individual.
Primary races are good for the Democratic Party because they allow different opinions to be heard. Last night while watching the Democratic National Convention (DNC), the value of the Clinton vs Sanders primary was evident. As a progressive, I heartened to hear Senator Bernie Sanders say that the two camps came together on the platform and came to agreement regarding debt-free college, busting up the banks, making society more equitable, ending Citizens United, and other populist agenda items. (They also added the Equal Rights Amendment – ERA – to the platform, but no one mentioned it.)
Mission accomplished, Bernie. Thanks for your service to the 99%. Bernie pushed Hillary and other establishment Democrats to the left and opened their eyes to the inequities of our current economic policies which offer largesse for the 1% and austerity for the 99%. They balance tax cuts and giveaways for big corporations with budget cuts, layoffs and tax increases for the rest of us– Robin Hood in Reverse.
I am by far the most progressive candidate running in Tucson and the only Tucson Democrat running clean. I have often quip that I am the Bernie Sanders of Tucson– with Hillary Clinton’s gender issues. I am pushing the local political discussion out of the safety zone of politics as usual and toward a more progressive direction– particularly in the area of economic reform, wages, and money in politics. Back in September 2015, when I started campaigning, no one else was talking about the $4 billion in unaffordable corporate tax cuts, $400 million in tax credits (half of which go to private businesses), $312 million in interest on our debt to Wall Street, or God knows how many millions in unnecessary lawsuits. And no one else was talking about income inequality or the living wage.
Listen to the answers. You’ll hear little progressive hints from the other two, and you’ll learn where we stand on the issues. The Zona show is the only venue where we were all asked about gun control, marijuana legalization, and raising the minimum wage, among other things. There are differences between the three of us; it’s worth the 30 minutes. (My segment is around 19:49.)
Today is Fathers’ Day. It’s been almost 20 years since my Dad, James L. Powers, Sr., passed away… far too young.
Many of you have heard my speeches about my Dad’s unwavering support for the United Steelworkers. He was a long-time member and an officer in his local in Lorain County. That is… until the last strike when Thew Shovel closed the plant in Ohio and moved to the south for cheaper, non-union labor. As a vice president, grievance man and a contract negotiator, Dad was a strong fighter for working men and women, and he argued politics and unions with everyone, particularly his father (my grandpa).
Dad, the Working Man
Dad was one of those boisterous, in-your-face union guys that you see in the movies. He was a third-generation electrician, a Navy vet, an NRA member, an avid outdoorsman, a hunter, a John Wayne aficionado, a great dancer, a quirky style icon, a ham radio nut, and a Republican, until Nixon broke his heart and he changed his registration to Democrat after Watergate. He drank to much, fought in bars, won and lost rings and watches playing craps, and carried a switchblade and sometimes brass knuckles. (Truth be told: he may have won those two prizes shooting dice. Jimmy and I were always fascinated to see his winnings in the morning.)
Thew Shovel was in South Lorain, a grungy, hard-scrabble place with economic immigrants from all over the US and the world. “Hillbillies” from Kentucky and West Virginia worked alongside Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Hungarians, Poles, Italians, and workers from the earlier immigration waves like the Germans, English, and Irish. Lorain is called the “International City” because so many nationalities lived there and worked in the factories of Northern Ohio– US Steel, the shipyards, the Ford plant, the GM plant, BF Goodrich, Moen, Nordson, and many others– all gone or, at least, greatly diminished now. Unionized factory jobs made Northern Ohio a true melting pot of ethnicities in the 20th century.
I remember going to Thew once or twice with Mom to pick Dad up when his car didn’t start. (Since both of my parents worked, they always had two vehicles. Mom drove the “good car”, and Dad always drove some rusty rattletrap that was held together with shade tree mechanics and cooled with a Thermos of iced tea on a hot summer day. I remember driving to Lorain once with Dad and my younger brother Jim, who was a toddler at the time. The floor boards on the passenger side of his car were completely rusted out, and I could see the road whizzing by beneath us. Being maybe five years old or so, I remember expressing concern to Dad that Jim and I may fall out onto the pavement and be run down by the cars behind us. There were no seat belts or car seat back then. Dad said, “You’re OK. Don’t look down” and kept driving. There was an “emergency” at radio station, where he was a part-time engineer, and he had to take us along. He left us in the car for what seemed like forever while he went inside to get the station back on the air. It’s a wonder some of us survived our childhoods.)
I have vivid mental picture of the Thew Shovel factory– smelly, noisy, dark, dirty, and stifling hot, and I remember thinking, “Wow. This is where Dad goes everyday.” Life for a working man in the industrialized north was hard. Lorain and Lake Erie were extremely polluted in the 1960s, before the EPA. The air was thick and dirty. The beaches were strewn with dead Lake Erie perch. The sky and the houses were pink with dust from the steel mills. With a job like that, it’s no wonder Dad loved camping, hunting and fishing. (And it’s no wonder he fought so hard for benefits and better working conditions for USW workers.)
My Dad, the Gun Owner
I have been thinking a lot about my Dad during this past week– not so much because of Fathers’ Day– but because of the mass shooting a week ago in Orlando, Florida and the gun control debate that has followed.