Thursday, July 28, 2016

Will Bernie Sanders’ “political revolution” lead to a surge of progressive activism on the local level?

On, the first day of the Democratic Convention, I tried to attend a Progressive Democrats of America event billed as “The Revolution Continues: Progressive Candidate and Engagement Training” but it turned out to be pre-empted by a meeting for Bernie Sanders delegates only. The Bernie delegates I saw were overwhelmingly young, enthusiastic and seemed more like a crowd of supporters of a victorious candidate than supporters of the guy who lost.

But then in a sense Bernie won. As he put it: “we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party. Among many other strong provisions, the Democratic Party now calls for breaking up the major financial institutions on Wall Street and the passage of a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act. It also calls for strong opposition to job-killing free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” These are real accomplishments and progressives owe a lot to the Sanders’ campaign.

On July 25, the streets of Philadelphia were teeming with enthusiastic Bernie supporters. They’ve enlisted in the political revolution. Some see building an alternative to the Democratic Party as the only option and I can understand why. My hope is that they will instead build a strong progressive base within the Democratic Party, and that starts on the grassroots. From Chris Rabb, who recently took on the Philadelphia political establishment and won a state house seat by a decisive margin, in his blurb for my book the Green Shoots of Democracy within the Philadelphia Democratic Party : “The Democratic Party must be genuinely democratic and transparent on the grassroots level if it is to be a force for change on the national level.”

Grassroots organizing was the the theme of of another DNC connected event organized by City Councilwoman Helen Gym and focused on local action. The event was sponsored by groups trying to advance a progressive agenda on the local level: Local Progress; The New American Leaders Project; Young Elected Officials Network; Wellstone. The audience was much more diverse than the gathering of Bernie supporters at the PA Convention Center and many were elected officials on the local level. It was heartening to realize there’s already so much grassroots progressive activism.

Right wing activists have tended to be more focused on local politics than the progressive left. In the 1980s, political analysts were remarking on the skill with which what was then called the “New Right” focused on the grassroots—the party infrastructure at the precinct level as well as low-profile local offices such as school board elections. The right-wing focus on electoral politics continued as the Tea Party, the 21st century incarnation of the radical right, wasted no time getting its members elected to political office. Countering the values and policies of the Republican Party involves just such dedication to the unglamorous work of building a progressive infrastructure at the grassroots. There may be more drama and excitement in national politics but successful national movements must have strong local support. Let’s hope Bernie Sanders’ political revolution takes this local turn.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The moment I’ve been waiting for: Casa Blanca is in bloom!

I love lilies and what I love most of all are the mid-July oriental lilies with their musky fragrance I just can’t get enough of. The first to bloom is the deep pink, very reliable Stargazer:

Next the impossibly tall, glistening white Casa Blanca:

My idea of bliss is sitting in our garden late at night sipping a glass of wine and taking in the intoxicating fragrance of Casa Blanca

I’m sure that Casa Blanca is the lily DH Lawrence had in mind when in Sons and Lovers he described a pregnant Mrs. Morel pushed out of her house after an ugly fight with her husband:

She became aware of something about her. With an effort she roused herself to see what it was that penetrated her consciousness. The tall white lilies were reeling in the moonlight. and the air was charged with their perfume, as with a presence. Mrs. Morel gasped slightly in fear. She touched the big, pallid flowers on their petals, then shivered. They seemed to be stretching in the moonlight. She put her hand into one white bin: the gold scarcely showed on her fingers by moonlight. She bent down to look at the binful of yellow pollen; but it only appeared dusky. Then she drank a deep draught of the scent. It almost made her dizzy.

Mrs. Morel leaned on the garden gate, looking out, and she lost herself awhile. She did not know what she thought. Except for a slight feeling of sickness, and her consciousness in the child, herself melted out like scent into the shiny, pale air. After a time the child, too, melted with her in the mixing- pot of moonlight, and she rested with the hills and lilies and houses, all swum together in a kind of swoon.

When I first read Lawrence I wasn't a gardener and didn't pay much attention to the way Lawrence often used his characters’ reactions to flowers and trees as a way of probing their emotional states. But when I re-read Sons and Lovers years later, after I became hooked on gardening, I appreciated this dimension of Lawrence. And I was convinced that the lily described in this passage this was Casa Blanca—or more likely an earlier less hybridized version.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Passionately in love with love with Lilies!

One of the best things about our decision to avoid travel in the summer (except for a week in Block island) is that I don‘t miss any of my beloved lilies.

The first to arrive--usually the second or third week in June-- are the much despised orange daylilies which grow by roadsides. I have more than I can use, but I can’t give them away. Most people view them as little better than weeds. But there’s nothing more beautiful than a huge mass of orange daylilies. I’m sure if they were rare and hard to grow they would be considered beautiful and highly prized.

The gorgeous hybridized daylilies bloom later in June and through July; they are generally much shorter than the rangy orange ones. Some of my favorites: the repeat bloomer rosy returns:

My all time favorite a purple day lily whose name I unfortunately cannot remember:

Then come the hyper-hybridized Asiatic lilies. They have large, showy flowers but unfortunately no fragrance and unlike the daylilies they tend not to return. My favorite, Landini, a deep burgundy lily, generally blooms for one year and disappears. It's so beautiful,I succumb to the temptation to buy new bulbs every year.

Next come the regal lilies. The most beautiful of all is lilium regal album which has the most astonishing fragrance. I realize this sounds strange, but the best way I can describe it is a sweet lily fragrance mixed with a peppery scent. The regal lilies are temperamental and don't reliably return. They require full sun and most of my garden is partial sun, but I love regal lilies so much I keep trying to grow them.

Then the first of the Orientals-a miniature oriental, Mona Lisa. Its musky oriental lily fragrance is far from miniature and it has the advantage of not needing to be staked.

The best are yet to come in mid July!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Revisiting my 2009 4th of July post

While trying to figure out how best to re-organize my blog, I came across this July 4, 2009 post, "Why I feel better about the 4th of July now that Obama is President.” From the post:

Yes, the 4th of July feels different with Obama as President. To quote Michelle, for the first time in my life, I feel proud of my country.

I brought it up at a 4th of July dinner with my sister, her husband and some friends. My sister said she never liked the 4th of July. It was always hellishly hot, and when her kids were young she had to go to those awful barbecues, parades and mosquito-infested fireworks displays. And as a member of the Vietnam War generation, she didn’t feel very good about her country. None of our friends were the patriotic types.

When we talked about it over the phone yesterday, she said that Obama’s election made her feel more patriotic not just because his victory signals that racism is waning, but also because Obama obviously loves his country warts and all. If he could get over what he called our country's “tragic history,’ maybe she could too. I had never thought of it that way but it made sense and maybe explained some of my (more or less) change of heart.

In this and other posts written in the first year of the Obama administration before the extent of Republican obstructionism and the depth of Tea Party racism became apparent, I was an optimist. Subsequent years have tempered that optimism although it has not diminished my admiration for Obama. I would happily vote for him for a third term.

Although (I think) on some level I still believe that the arc of history bends towards justice, the optimism of the 2008 election is long gone. I have difficulty believing that this country could actually elect a racist buffoon like Trump. I will be working for Hillary but with grim determination--not the joyous optimism of 2008.