Bernard Weiner: Ten ''New Year's Revolutions''
Ten "New Year's Revolutions"
By Bernard Weiner
The Crisis Papers
For many years, four San Francisco families have gathered after Christmas week in a cabin in the Sierra snow. One of our rituals takes place on New Year's Eve: We each write out our resolutions on pieces of paper, put them in a pot, and then one person reads each out loud and everyone has to guess whose resolution they think it is. When all the authors have been named, or have confessed, we burn the papers in the fireplace and watch as the embers fly up the chimney and out into the world.
One year, someone made a slip of the tongue and referred to his "New Year's Revolutions," and ever since many of us refer to them under that rubric.
I won't burden you with my highly personal resolutions for 2004, but here are my public "New Year's Revolutions," which possibly might resonate with your own life and political desires.
1. I resolve to support -- with time, energy and money -- whatever reasonable candidate the Democrat party puts up in opposition to George W. Bush, even if I may disagree with aspects of that candidate's program or personality. There is no higher patriotic act I can perform right now than to work for the defeat of Bush&Co., the policies of which are endangering our national security, coarsening our civil society, ruining our air and water, and shredding our Constitutional guarantees of due process of law. (On the local level, I resolve to help alternative candidates, so that we can begin to grow a principled party from the grassroots that can prepare for power and responsibility in the future.)
2. I resolve to help register as many potential new voters as I can in time for the 2004 election. I'll set myself a goal of at least five.
3. I resolve to contact my election officials and protest purchasing and use of the new touch-screen computer-voting machines until the software-coding programs that count the votes are examined, fixed and certified as accurate, along with a paper receipt of the ballot cast. As it currently stands, this new technology has been proved to be easily manipulatable by hackers or partisans attempting to alter the numbers.
4. I resolve to work toward election-financing reform, to help ensure that the influence of big-money contributors and institutions is minimized, while the will of ordinary voters has more sway. Our democratic republic will fluorish only when the government cannot be bought.
5. I resolve to work to protect the freedom of the press, certainly for the traditional mass media (newspapers and radio and television) but also for the internet, the media most attuned to and democratically run by the people themselves. Already, there are indications that corporate-government forces are moving toward institution of controls over internet access and content.
6. I resolve to pay more attention to the relationship between justice and peace. I know that unless the two go together, there can be no meaningful progress in any political-social endeavor. I vow to work more in the non-violence movement as a means of effecting change, but I'm realistic enough to know that unless justice accompanies peace, the fires of violence increasingly will be stoked.
7. I resolve to see the world in a more holistic way. Cuts in the education budget are connected to the increasing number of potholes on our streets are connected to the huge costs of wars abroad are connected to the tax breaks for the wealthy are connected to the Israel/Palestine confrontation are connected to election dirty tricks. To miss seeing where and how the dots are connected is to deal only in segmented ways with the overall problem. "Radical" means going to "the root."
8. I resolve to act where and how I can to help repair the world, not blaming myself if such efforts can't be immediately successful. I will cultivate patience and persistence -- and compassion, especially toward my political enemies -- and join together with those similarly inclined, and as a united force we will move humanity the short (or long) distances required for genuine progress. I will remind myself that sometimes humanity moves a quarter of an inch forward and sometimes -- when the social factors are just right -- it jumps ahead a whole foot. And, at times, humanity often stays mired in the mud, or reverses fields and falls back an inch or even a foot. Right now, we're in such a minus-foot period, and the need is great for reversing that backwards momentum.
9. I resolve to maintain and grow my spirituality, to help bring light in a time when shadow forces, here and around the globe, spread darkness and despair to so many. Hope and faith can indeed move mountains, and I will be a soldier of hope, helping to move the pendulum back toward the flame of progress.
10. I resolve to aid the arts, in all their wonderful diversity, for they provide soul mortar in the construction of our humanity. I will contribute creatively where and when I can, and contribute money and time and energy to other of my compatriots energetically engaged in art's glory. Art, as with a child's laugh, can help lift us from society's pit and show us a better way.
Keep on laughin', keep on artin', and keep on keepin' on.
- Bernard Weiner, a poet and playwright, for 16 years was the San Francisco Chronicle's theater critic. He has taught at Western Washington University, San Francisco State University and San Diego State University, and is co-editor of The Crisis Papers ( www.crisispapers.org)