A Farewell to Wellstone
By Bill Moore
Paul Wellstone was the first political candidate to whom I ever gave a contribution. Concerned about the determined effort on the part of the opposition party to replace one of the last outspoken voices in Congress, I recently sent his campaign committee $100. I know it wasn't much but I don't live in Minnesota nor I am a Democrat. Instead, I was - - and still am - - very concerned about the fate of democracy in America, a fate that now looks a bit bleeker.
|Yesterday, Wellstone, his wife and their daughter, along with three campaign workers and the plane's two-man crew died in a crash just short of the runway in Duluth, Minnesota. I understand they were flying to a funeral.||
I never met the man, but I was drawn to him philosophically as a voice of moderation and compassion and courage in an increasingly intolerant, corrupt and bigoted world.
Senator Wellstone was in the middle of one of the most hotly contested elections in the country. The conservative Republican machine was determined to replace him with a handpicked Bush supporter who would give the decidedly right-wing party effective control of all three branches of the US federal government.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune recently reported that Americans for Job Security, a little-known, Alexandria, Virginia-based political action committee or PAC originally funded by the American Insurance Association, is reported to be spending $1 million on anti-Wellstone television and radio ads in the two weeks before the November 5th election. My small contribution would hardly counter that kind of political muscle, but I felt I had to do something.
Like many American's for the last 35 years or so, I have been a passive observer and infrequent participant in the democratic process. I would vote every two years, accept the results the morning after and go back to earning a living for my family.
For ten of those years, I was a church pastor for a fundamentalist, Christian organization with decidedly Old Testament views towards life and the world. We kept the Sabbath, didn't eat pork and believed in the imminent return of the Messiah.
But gradually I began to realize that I was also an active member of a self-centered, self-righteous, eliteist organization who viewed everyone else in the world as evil and lost to God. Only my little group, which numbered no more than a hundred thousand or so worldwide, had the "plain truth." The rest of humanity was "blinded" and deceived by Satan, a morally-debilitating philosophy that seems to cling like fungus to so many other well-intentioned spiritual groups in this world.
While we preached an "end-times" message of warnings about war and disease and famine, we secretly anticipated being spirited away to a "place of safety" during the coming tribulation.
Ironically, some of us thought that place was the "Rosy Red City of the Dead", Petra in the land of Jordan. I have never known quite sure why, since it's only a half day's drive from there to the fabled plains of Megiddo, better know as Armageddon. Back then we were decades ahead of the current wave of fundamentalist Christian fascination with the Apocalypse.
I eventually resigned from the ministry, ostensibly over questions of doctrine, but in reality, I simply couldn't be a part of an organization that held such decidedly un-Christian views of my fellow man.
The man I saw in the New Testament, the man I loved and respected, wasn't cozening up to the powers-that-be but was actively engaged in helping feed the hungry and care for the sick, while delivering a message of hope and vision. But he was also breaking many long-held taboos and cherished customs of his time in an effort to show people what true religion means. Re-read the "Sermon on the Mount" again and see just how "radical" his views were for his time, and in many respects, even for ours.
"You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven . . ."
Imagine a minister or a rabbi or mullah or yes, even a US Senator standing up in the wake of September 11th and issuing this challenge to a grieving and angry America. Talk about being a political radical! I know of only one Senator who did and she was a woman.
The peaceful, non-violent message of Jesus is ridiculed as naïve, weak and "liberal." Ironically, it would be a Hindu who would demonstrate the political force behind this message. His name was Mohandas K. Ghandi.
Instead, our selected leaders chose to do exactly the opposite. "If you're not for us, you're against us," was their rallying cry. I assume similar warnings where made in Al Qaeda's terrorist training camps months and years before 9/11.
The Sanhedrin saw the trouble-making Galilean as a threat to their cozy status quo with the Romans. They completely missed the point of his universal message and saw only the masses who were attracted to him and the political threat they represented. So, they determined to deal with him before he could pose an even greater danger and the rest, as they say, is history.
Thankfully, Americans appear to be waking up from their year-long stupor of grief and anger and starting to question the morality of the direction in which the powers-that-be seem to be taking the nation. And leading the way are members of the clergy, including the head of George and Barbara Bush's own church.
Here's a sampling of many of those voices:
- Dissent is Coming From All Quarters - Even in Bush's Own Church
- The Voices of Conscience Must Be Heard on Iraq
- The Other Side of America
Today, there are two major anti-war rallies slated for Washington, DC and San Francisco. The organizers say will be embarrassed if 100,000 people don't turn out. How many do will be an indication of the growing level of awareness that America needs a serious change of direction. And I suspect that Paul Wellstone's courage and compassion will serve as a rallying point for many. If there is any good to come out of this current malaise of corporate corruption and war-mongering, I hope and pray it will be a reawakening of democracy in America.
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