Saturday, April 30, 2016

To Whom Does Citizen Owe...What?

Some Things Obvious...Some Things Not.

As often as we may, as individuals, confront and attempt to resolve the problems this question, more often than not we simply fail. 

Some things we owe to ourselves because we are simply human beings. (At least, that is the presumption I make when considering who may be reading or interacting with this blog.)

Yet, even at this fundamental level, the answers to the question are different for every living, breathing human being. It doesn't take very long, even in the solitude of our private thoughts before we come headlong into conflict. That conflict usually occurs when we arrive at that magical point where "should" and "do" collide. 

I once worked with a man who had a terrible habit of saying, to whomever might be listening:
    "Review the basics once a year. It takes about a year to review the basics."
              ~W. Clement Stone

I've always considered these to be some of the most profound words I have ever encountered. In the rush to live in today's world, with constant movement, raging emotion, and rambunctious information, assailing us at every moment, it can be difficult to concentrate on the basics--even the basics of who it is that we, individually are. Sometimes, finding out who we are at some given moment surprises, shocks, or amazes us. We can find it taking much longer, and much more concentrated time than we ever thought necessary to get to that point of "Me". Many times, we at first do not believe we have arrived because we do not recognize what we see before us. You may believe this has happened only to you; you would be grossly mistaken. 

Some folks ignore or avoid this moment at every turn. They don't care for what they see, how that feels, or what the realization means not only to them, but of them. Who would want affinity with that person? Each of us experiences this reality daily, yet believe no one could possibly share our perception of the experience itself. 

What has this to do with answering the question?

Simple. We do try to convey our best selves whenever we are called to interact with other humans. Think of those communities you exist within. Work. Family. School. PTA. Union meeting. Grocery. Bank. And, yes, voting booth. 

The simple truth is that we carry this self with us no matter where we go, or what we do. We fly forward with the gigantic hope that our best self will somehow outstrip even our limited abilities, and show up anyway. Mostly, we are disappointed in that hope. But, every rare once in a while, someone shows up that we cannot imagine being us because of the greatness of their appearance. In life, that can happen when we, almost without thought, do that which is right and not that which is convenient, or invisible, or practiced, or easy, or even best. You know, those moments when you silently hope against hope that someone else sees, notices that you. You wonder how that person might become the usual, the habitual you. 

Eventually, you recognize that this person can only become the superior you with painful, relentless practice. For many, that is a price too much to pay. They retreat, in defeat, leaving themselves only the other self which they must somehow learn to accept and accommodate. It is a constant battle that these folks will lose much more often than win.

The real truth is that this is most, if not all of us. It takes more than most of us can muster once, much less every day of our lives. Yet, we do know that there lies, deep within us, Citizen. Proven in war, and peace, our sense of that greater than ourselves rests deep in the core of our being. Americans seem to have an extra dollop of that. We are a nation of winners who have, upon occasion lost. But, those battles we have won mean more to us than life itself, if we are honest about it. Of course, some of those winning moments truly matter most. With more practice such moments could even become usual. But what purpose could compel the tough work required to be that person as a matter of habit, like breathing?

It's difficult to really atomize such a concept. Sometimes, the circumstances dictate the person. Sometimes, the person dictates the circumstance. This is the muddled world of citizen. When should someone stand up, and step out, and declare themselves to be either in favor or, or opposed to something? Many would say that the more muddled or confused, or strained the circumstance, the more likely the best of us is compelled to show up, and show off. Sadly, many more would declare that the best self must be always protected, regardless of circumstance, and become as fair weather citizens. Pretenders all. 

For citizen, as for self, it is not the easy, or the convenient, or even the imperative that compels us to the fore. Before citizen can change a nation, citizen must change citizen. Given that citizen does have a bit of a civic flavor to the terminology, the implication is that citizen is the force for change where citizen lives. Not just under the home roof, but at every point between the kitchen table and the council table at the Courthouse. Just as there are significant concerns on one end of the citizen spectrum, so are there significant concerns at the courthouse, and the Statehouse, and the Whitehouse. But, regardless of the home in question, there are questions which citizen is obligated, yes obligated to ask, and answer. Some examples:

How many people in my community went hungry yesterday? 
How many people in my community were homeless yesterday?
How many people in my community were without any money?
How many people where I live live in poverty?
How many people where I live do not/cannot access basic healthcare?
How many people in my community need, and cannot find honest, honorable, respectable work?
How many people in my town cannot read, or write?

How can I help? What is available, and what can I do about it?

I challenge you here, now. Choose the question which seems the most outrageously false to you. Get undeniable facts from the most authoritative source you possibly can. You will be stunned, flabbergasted, gobstopped. Then consider the last two questions. Remember the who that you are. Consider the you that you might be, or would wish to become. You are citizen. 

What are YOU going to do about it? Not because you must. Because you can.

I am, and remain,

The Tennessee Progressive

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"We Mutually Pledge..."

It's a long post. I hope you will endure to the end. It matters.

Before there was a Constitution of The United States of America, there was a more fundamental, foundational document.

This document meant to set out the choice of the people of the thirteen colonies, to announce and explain why they chose to dissolve their affiliation and allegiance with Great Britain. It's authors forged reason out of vapor, and a nation out of the single-minded will of her people to be free. In the course of that document, simple and clear reasoning was set down for all to see, read, and understand.

The document would come to be called The Declaration of Independence of the People of The United States of America. Decades of pain, suffering and sadness came before it. Decades, and perhaps even centuries of sadness, suffering, injustice, and unrequited intentions have flowed from it. Across the span of time, we have seen, as a nation, as a people, and as citizen the realities, and the most profound effects upon the world as a result of it.

It was written, representationally, BY the people who proclaimed it. They were called "Citizen".

It has been, over the course of it's ebb and flow through the histories of the world, a dividing point. Without putting too fine a point on it, I would submit that the history of the world itself can legitimately be divided into two distinct parts: that part before the publication of this document, and that part which has come after it's presentation to the King of England, and the world.

The Declaration of Independence spoke for a people, for an idea, for a nation of souls dedicated to something larger than themselves. In our day, and in this time, it is easy to not have any appreciation at all for the cost of merely thinking of such a document, of such a rebellious act. We today easily lose sight of the price those who came before us have borne, and the incredible largess which has flowed to us from it. From the ink-stained parchment upon which it was written, The Declaration of Independence has borne our nation, our people, our griefs and our victories. It is worthy of our consideration, and our specific attention.

It speaks to all people of the world, many of whom have never, and in all likelihood will never be direct beneficiaries of it. It speaks to each of us, as citizen with simple, but determined fervor with our every breath. When I was a boy, it was a companion in my studies. I carried a copy of it with me in a book given to me by my Grandmother, at her son's (my Father) request. He knew that I loved her in a way which was deeper than the love I had for anyone else in the world, including my parents. He wanted me to love these documents, as well, with that same love. As it turned out, I do. Even today, I'm looking at a book much like that one, except this one has my name on it.

My world was, in my youth, a decidedly simple place. Nestled deep within the loving arms of the Appalachian Mountains, the community in which I was raised had simple values, simple rules, and simple people. I could always imagine them as having been just like those common people, those citizens of those first days. I could relate to them. We did adore those documents. They did not, by or of themselves make us who we were. They did make it possible to believe we could be who we would one day become. Our task was to live up to the promise they, The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution made possible for us. To do so was to be counted as citizen. To do otherwise was to be counted as a bad person. That's how it was there, in that place I call home.

As things would develop, it was my Grandmother who guided me through these documents, not as a teacher (although she surely was that, and much more) but as a mentor, as a Guide. She was truly a most amazing woman, and I most surely did love her so.

It was she who walked me into "When, in the course of human events..." early one summer morning. Be assured I do remember it as if it were only yesterday. It was a bit of a grueling journey, and her instruction was severe. "Who, what, where, when, how...." That was all preamble for her, to me. I was required to gather, understand and master these concepts on my own. It took some time for a young boy, but I was living inside this document more than others without even realizing it at the time. The son of a politician, a State Senator and his wife, a Journalism Professor responsible for originating some of the most beloved words of our nation, our life was not an exception to the documents I learned. Our lives were determined, demanded in fact, to be an example of these words to the highest achievable order.

Carefully, patiently, "Nanny" walked me through this profound document one word, one phrase at a time. She defined terms I could not, and gave many real life examples of what they meant--and what they had better mean to me if I was to be a "good boy". She taught without bias or some axe to grind. She was not trying to make me a mirror image of anyone, including herself. It seemed much more important than that. There seemed to be a near animalistic urgency that I absorb, consider and determine for myself what this term "citizen" was to mean for me, in my life and the living out of it. And then, on what would be nearly my "graduation day" from this summer of my greatest instruction, we got to the last part.

History is prologue. All that comes before gets condensed down into the basic and final understanding. You see, for my Grandmother (as opposed to virtually every other person who would attempt to engage me with what my understanding of this document should be) her eyes would mist when she uttered those first words: "When in the course of human events...."

Those are the words most students of The Declaration of Independence can call upon readily in their memory, along with "certain unalienable rights...." To be sure, these were legendary plateaus in my own learning journey as well. But, as she was so often want to be, my Grandmother did not find the ultimate value in these phrases--at all. For her, and eventually for me, it was the last bit that mattered most. That was true because for her, and for me, they defined citizen in it's purest, most fundamental, foundational and obligatory form. It was the "why" of the document, you see. It wasn't about a laundry list of gripes, or the stomping of rebellious, obstreperous feet against a big mean authority far away. Not even close.

Why would simple, everyday people even go to the bother of creating such a rabidly rebellious document in the first place? Why paint a target on your own back in the face of something like, say, the most powerful military power on the planet at the time?

Citzen, that is why. The hope of the founders failed because of a most unpleasant reality; a necessity that Thomas Jefferson said would be the responsibility of his children and grandchildren to finish. But, as Jefferson said along with so many others, if the rebellion did not succeed, no other consideration was worthy of merit. First, independence. Then, freedom. To what end? What was being asked of these rebellious colonists, BY these rebellious colonists? It must be remembered that there was a very strong, nearly even split between two opposing forces within the discussions. Nearly half of the citizens instructed their Representatives to oppose independence at all costs, no matter what. But, in time, and after some pretty amazing reality forced upon them, one caveat sealed the deal for independence. It was the last one.

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

This is what is read. Words have no meaning until they are put into context, interpreted by the reader into terms, conditions or situations which belong uniquely to them. Through a process of identification, definition, interpretation and finally application, the words take on their own specific identification that become part and parcel of the identity of the reader, who now owns the words.

Over the course of some time, these words have taken on a very personal meaning for, and in my life. It wasn't enough that I read them, or even understood them. My training required that, at some point, I could clearly demonstrate ownership of them. It was an expectation of learning in my world: it still is. 

This is what the words became for me:

"To prove by the daily living out of our lives, one to another that we give our complete and individual support of all contained within this document to one another, even every one, with an unshakable belief in the power of the Divine to protect us, no matter what, I do pledge to you, my fellow citizen--as you pledge to me--my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor. So say we all."

That's the way, you see, I was required to see it, because that was the way the aging eyes of a white woman, whose eyes saw the savagery of the Civil War, as well as the rebellious reality in Southeastern Kentucky of living in a house that was a stop on the underground railroad, saw them. Her understanding was, I promise you, complete. Mine was, at the time, not. It would however, become so. She knew that, with this lens, my life was set before me to see reality in a very special way. I wasn't special, but I was uniquely given, and gifted, and blessed, and prepared. My obligation was special; not as the obligations and responsibilities of citizen are necessarily special at all. All of us have those. But, I came from a very special stock of folk. 

Does it still matter? Do those promises still hold? Are we citizen still? Must we live up to and abide by the definition those so long ago gave us? Or, has time erased the requirements, the obligations, and the privilege of citizen? Let's talk about that. What do YOU think?

Let's talk together. 

Let's talk today.

For the PPTS team, I remain,

Bud FieldsThe Tennessee Progressive

Friday, April 22, 2016

Plans for the Future at PPTS

Dateline: Columbia, Tennessee
April 22nd, 2016

Hello, Mr. and Mrs. America, and...?

If you remember this tag line, complete it in the comments below. You may win a prize. Beware, you may be revealing pertinent information about yourself that you may not want others to know... :)

It's been an interesting time around here of late. We've been mostly off the air, for several reasons. We've had medical issues (a few niggling one remain), we've had staff changes, we've had (and are still dealing with) some pretty severe technical issues, and then there's this.

We've been watching with interest the primary campaigns. So much has been happening at such a lightening pace that we have not been able (see staff changes above) to keep up, create relevant stories, gather the public figures to explain the goings on, and generally been a bit (ok, a LOT) hesitant to position this particular project in the line of sight of all the shenanigans going on between candidates, campaigns, debates, primaries, caucuses, recounts, news stories, arrests at demonstrations, issues developing before our eyes....just like you. It 's easier to report as an observer, but not necessarily better reporting comes from that. 

1. We need some volunteer citizen journalists to help us as this circus narrows itself down to about three main rings. Investigators, fact checkers, interviewers, and witnesses top our list of needed volunteer supporters. We also want a few dedicated journalism students who would like an intern opportunity to develop or hone their skills to join us. The show is also on the hunt for additional staff members (Producers, EPs, co-hosts, etc.) Why? More on that shortly.

2. By the end of May, we will be back on our regular schedule. The shows will air live every Sunday afternoon, between 2 and 4 PM. We will be as engaged as possible through the conclusion of the November elections, and beyond. But we really do need some financial support to make this happen. Not a lot, just enough. Nobody here is looking for a salary. We just can't continue to feed the needs of the production, time, and work from our own pockets. Asking for the help of those who receive benefit from our labors is both honorable and ethical. 

3. It is not that the show will be restructured so much as it will return to its original structure. We believe, and are committed to honest, unbiased, ethical, moral and legal journalism, be it print or broadcast. We would love to believe that those with a growing interest in, or desire to participate with real journalism might come forward and accept the offer posted above. Hardest, most thankless work you will ever love. Guaranteed. You can work with some of this industry's leading talent in multiple areas. High School or College more than welcome to apply. Contact the show for details. Soon.

4. So, what's all this really about? 

It's easy to fold up shop when you are the only one dedicated, or even interested in the product. When 20,000 people listen to that product each week, it gets a bit more difficult. PPTS is a product of a desire to engage, through civil discourse those of shared or opposing viewpoints with dignity, safety (as possible) and respect. We believe that people can disagree without being disagreeable. For the most part, that has been our experience on this project. We still do not suffer fools easily, and we do not allow tomfoolery on the show. 

It's hard work. It takes a lot of time. We have not been doing some things correctly. I know that because we have not had any, repeat ANY relevant feedback either on the show, or on this space, from those who seem to be listening. If nobody is listening, I got plenty of things to use those hours for, and so do the other members of the PPTS team. Believe me. I'm not ranting. I'm asking for your feedback, and input on what we are doing, and how we are doing it. If you like it, say why. If you don't like it, please say why. Participate, citizen!  For years, we have worked to empower you, citizen to get out, stand up, and do something about it--whatever the it of it was. We can only hope that you have done so, because you have not reported back to us and told us what you did about it. Frustrating, and crushingly disappointing. It's just really hard to have a conversation with yourself for two hours at a clip for more than a couple of shows. (People start looking at you funny!)

Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be restructuring the organization. I need your help if we are to continue. That is a decision left to me. I'd like it to be with your participation and input. Yes, that means we'll have to crank up the networks again. Researchers, come forth! We will have to get into the water again. Yes, indeed. Legislative specialists, start your steno books! Technical support will be upgraded. Staff and studio and blog specialists, On YOUR Marks!

More as it develops. Thank you for hanging in there with us. It means more than you can know.


Bud Fields--The Tennessee Progressive