Thursday, November 27, 2008

Guest Column: Giving thanks for people who speak out

Guest Column: Giving thanks for people who speak out

Ed Slavin
St. Augustine
Publication Date: 11/25/07

At Thanksgiving, I give thanks for:

1. St. Augustine's civil rights "foot soldiers," who changed history. They deserve a prominent museum.

2. Our American Founding Fathers and those who work for democracy and transparency everywhere.

3. Nature and those who work to protect it everywhere be especially thankful whenever Congress enacts a St. Augustine National Historical Park, National Seashore and National Scenic Coastal Highway Act, including electric trolley-cars.

4. People of faith for speaking out for global environmental protection and against war and poverty.

5. Veterans for defending our liberties.

6. Flagler College for recognizing student rights (Club Unity and Gargoyle newspaper).

7. St. Johns County Commissioners, better listeners than St. Augustine City Commissioners (whose antics rightly earn Folio Weekly "brickbats" and improved St. Augustine Record coverage).

8. Anastasia Mosquito Control District commissioners for canceling its $1.8 million luxury jet helicopter and ending risks to people, pets, butterflies, frogs and other "non-target organisms" from spraying organophosphates. Thanks to three AMCD Commissioners (Emily Hummel, Barbara Bosanko, Linda Wampler) for changing their minds and two others (Jeanne Moeller and John Sundeman) for persisting in speaking their truths. Courage.

9. The Burrell, Mills, Ponce and other local families for standing up to land speculators like Robert Michael Graubard. Expose "developers" (a/k/a land-raping, tree-killing, wetland-destroying speculators, whom County Commission Chairman Ben Rich calls "worse than any carpetbagger").

10. FBI for investigating/prosecuting political corruption, including convicting two Miami PBS&J engineering chief executive officers for illegal campaign contributions/bribery/embezzlement. Follow the money.

11. Congress and investigative reporters for uncovering corruption. Be thankful whenever the House Judiciary Committee finally begins impeachment hearings.

12. Our city of St. Augustine for admitting wrongdoing in its illegally:

a. polluting Lincolnville for decades with illegal dumps;

b. moving illegal dumps' contaminants into our Old City Reservoir 2005-2006. No thanks to Florida Department of Environmental Protection (a/k/a "Don't Expect Protection") for allowing our city to move 20,000 cubic yards of contaminants back to Lincolnville. Environmental racism? No thanks to St. Augustine City Manager William Harriss, who blamed former subordinates, recently yelling "I've done nothing wrong." Be thankful when sworn witnesses testify about environmental crimes.

13. John and Elizabeth Edwards, for running a clean lobbyist-free presidential campaign and exposing Ann Coulter's bigotry.

14. Al Gore for winning Nobel Peace Prize and Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth." Florida proudly voted for Gore in 2000, with recounts wrongfully ordered halted.

15. My parents, family, teachers, professors, friends and mentors for teaching me to question large organizations and how they mistreat people. Always ask, "why" (and "why not?"). Uncovering uncaring governments' massive, secretive pollution in Oak Ridge, Tenn., mercury (1983) and St. Augustine Old City Reservoir confirmed my mother's wisdom: "Trust your mother, but cut the cards." "The truth will set you free."

16. Congressional Democrats for raising the minimum wage (first time in nine years), while voting to protect whistleblowers and our environment.

17. Progressives, activists, performers, whistleblowers, artists, scientists, reporters/writers and truth-tellers. They've enriched our lives.

18. People willing to work for new leadership in Washington. Our U.S. Rep. John Mica voted against whistleblowers and against raising federal minimum wages. In 2004, 72 percent of Floridians voted to raise our minimum wage. Mica sought to halt investigations of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Mica defends Big Oil company price-gouging and offshore oil drilling demands. Enough.

Be thankful we get to overthrow our governments every two years. We need new leaders, including a "humble" president who "restores honor and dignity to the White House" (as Bush falsely promised). Too many politicians are arrogant, waste money and won't admit mistakes.

As Mosquito Control Commissioner Jeanne Moeller says, "there are more people like us than there are people like them."

Thank you for working to improve our future.

Robert Kennedy said, "it is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a [person] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, [s]he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

Ed Slavin is a Georgetown University School of Foreign Service graduate, journalist, advocate/activist who first proposed a St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Scenic Coastal Highway on Nov. 13, 2006.

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