An activist’s search for inspiration

Last night I took exception when seventies activist Angela Davis said an individual can’t fight city hall during her Q&A. It wasn’t a Joe Wilson moment (fixed)- the floor was open, but in Dayton- it’s almost written in stone that one has to ask permission by commission and it drives me crazy.

Gary Leitzell didn’t ask permission to run for Mayor. He just did it- and surprised a lot of people. The typical process, still unbeknown to most, is to appear before the Montgomery County Democratic Party screening committee and ask for its blessing- or, alternatively, to ask someone in the Montgomery County GOP for permission (although Mike Turner skipped this step as well). There is no written rule about this- but, it’s just the way things have always been done.

A long time ago, Paul Woodie, who was working as the head of planning for Dayton at the time, told me in Dayton “you need a herd to be heard.” And even with the power of the Internet- the “Powers That Be” still place emphasis on who “endorses” you. We saw the media value of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance not endorsing Rhine McLin, and the import that the people who ran her failed smear campaign placed on Gary’s “Republican endorsement.”

I went to hear Ms. Davis speak because I wanted to know what made her tick, what made audiences still come see her 30+ years after her prime time in the spotlight, and what someone who once ran for VP on the Communist Party ticket would say to inspire the next generation to question authority, to stand up and act out to fight inequity. Instead, I heard about the plight of transgendered criminals being assigned to prisons that might not fit their lifestyle based on a panties check. Yes, the penal system in this county is broken and we’ve allowed a prison-industrial complex to rise to prominence.When I asked her how an activist of her stature can be talking about panties checks of minor criminals and the injustices done to them- while criminals like Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis are getting $125 million dollar severance packages while people are losing their homes, jobs and hope- I expected an inspired answer and didn’t get one.

Can one voice make a difference, or do we always have to have a herd? Do we need to ask permission before commission of a new vision? I almost find more inspiration from my friend David E. Bowman who decided to start a group called “The Dayton Marketing Community” and hosted “Big Idea Breakfasts” without having to ask anyone for an OK.

And while Angela Davis talked about her position of an “abolitionist” and her desire to see the end of prisons, I was looking for an inspiration to “fight the power.” She didn’t deliver.

When it comes back to inspiration for activism, or for any great achievement in life- I again turn to David Bowman who shared a Dayton centric quote that sums up so much of my struggle in one of his posts: “Orville Wright did not have a pilots license.”

Gary Leitzell didn’t have a mayor’s license either, before 11pm last Tuesday.

Angela Davis has an activists license, but didn’t use it IMHO last night.

What license are you waiting for?

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32 Responses

  1. truddick November 7, 2009 / 8:14 am
    I’m waiting for the IRS to revoke tax-exempt status for the churches that are led by ministers who use their pulpits for politics.  What you get when you mix church and state is an irrational state and a profane church.  This goes not only for Dayton’s ministerial alliance, but Sarah Palin’s place of worship where Reverend Muthee called upon the congregation to donate money to her campaign.
    I don’t want a license.  I want more cops, at all levels, to stop the abuses.  Not just police on the street; investigators from SEC, EPA, FDA to protect us from bank fraud, pollution, and e coli.  And IRS agents to catch the tax cheats and to require these holy men with political endorsements to pony up property taxes for their sanctuaries.
  2. Gene November 7, 2009 / 8:58 am
    Now is that revoking all TE status for all religions, or just those places your feel that politics is being preached?

    How about eliminating property tax on every property? Now you would have a level playing field.

  3. Teresa Lea November 7, 2009 / 9:59 am
    Ms. Davis did  not say that an individual “can’t” fight city hall. Ms. Davis was answering a question brought to her from a minority, handicapped male that felt he had been wronged by the state. She said it  is easier to be heard when more people are doing the yelling (my own paraphrase). She encouraged him to form a group of people to fight for his cause. She said many times that none of the outcomes of her fight came out of her fight alone. That her fight inspired people to join together to fight for something bigger than their individual injustices.
    Ms. Davis did not come to speak to a group of political activists, she came to speak to a group of Philosophers for Peace – a group of thinkers. She came to be a catalyst to new  thinking, she did not come to offer answers, but a path to answers. A path that includes education, discussion, and reality.
    Ms. Davis spoke of something bigger than herself, she eluded to the fact that even her radical ideas may not be the answer. We won’t know until people begin to solve problems through educated discussion instead of three men swapping stories over a beer in the White House.
    Your struggles are not unique David. There are many people fighting the same fight you are. The power of a group IS greater than the power of an individual. The day you choose to embrace this is the day you will begin to see your ideas realized.
    I hope to see that day soon.
  4. Roger November 7, 2009 / 10:33 am
    Who is Jim Jordan?… did you mean Joe Wilson?
  5. Gene November 7, 2009 / 10:44 am
    Who is Jim Jordan? Michael’s dad? Donna’s Husband?

    Obama does lie. He is a politician. It is his job. He can not help it.

    Illegals will be covered. I have no problem with that, but I do have a problem with BO lying about it….

    Typical. “Change”, “Hope” are key words that means nothing will change, unemployment has soared to ten plus percent since Obama has been president, and that this whole system is just smoke and mirrors. You are a fool if you think otherwise

  6. J. Alexander November 7, 2009 / 11:21 am
    One only needs, to ask their own inner being, for permission to live, love & think with passion.  For me to be a witness to injustice & remain silent, is a  burden of guilt, most of the time too heavy of a weight to carry & would suck away all that is good within me.

    “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”  Elie Wiesel

    @truddick ” waiting for the IRS to revoke tax-exempt status for the churches that are led by ministers who use their pulpits for politics. “…….more than a handful of south of town churches have become experts over the last 8 yrs with their “hidden” basement campaign phone banking & lit mailings on the issues….or placement of certain biblical passage posters right above the voting machines….these “churches” need the tax-exempt status revoked & BOE’s need to stop using places of worship as polling places as well……I’ll go hold my protest sign with you any Sunday afternoon, when the city police ((my tax $ )) hold up public traffic, while they let the parish out.

  7. Will Brooks November 7, 2009 / 1:54 pm
    @Gene. I disagree with you that there will be no change. The change that Obama and others are promoting is an expansion of unconstitutional federal government. The hope is a false hope because it’s packaged to make us think that the federal govt can fix the problems they helped create in the first place. Example: Insurance lobbyist work with the federal govt to legislate the health care system we have today. Change is obviously needed the current system doesn’t work. Government’s solution – A health care bill that will expand govt powers into lives of private citizens and make all of us carry health insurance. That my friend is the change they Obama and others are bringing about.
  8. David Esrati November 7, 2009 / 3:03 pm

    Thanks Roger- Joe Wilson- fixed.

    Didn’t expect this to go to an argument about church and tax exemptions- but- so be it.

    As to TeresaLea – yes- groups are great- but they form around leaders. Movements still start with one person.

  9. David E. Bowman November 7, 2009 / 3:50 pm
    Thanks for your kind words and contributions to the Big Idea Breakfast meetings.  I especially hope to see you bring the bcycle idea to Dayton in the near future.  The Wright Brothers quote comes from Gordon Mackenzie’s book Orbiting The Giant Hairball.  If you are searching for some inspiration, it is a good place to look.  Finally, thanks for taking the time and effort to maintain this site and get people talking, thinking, and doing.  Your hard work inspires me.
  10. Larkin November 8, 2009 / 4:13 pm
    Very well said, Teresa Lea, you deserves credit for not crawling under your chair.  
    David, you neglected to mention that you had already stood up (first at the mic) to tell Prof. Davis that you were disappointed by what she had to say.  This is because you went to the lecture with expectations. When she didn’t meet your expectations, you were disappointed. Whose fault is that?  
    You also didn’t mention that you spoke at length (considering that it was supposed to be a simple Q & A) about why white collar criminals weren’t in prison and why only the wealthy were elected. And Angela Davis DID address those questions.  (David wasn’t alone — my 15 year old son was with me and he noted that most of the “questions” were statements about the person asking the question and weren’t questions at all. Pretty astute for a kid.) 
    You don’t say in this piece that what happened is that when Angela Davis was answering another person’s question (and that person was probably mentally ill, and she was answering him with gentle sincerity) that you blurted out “Bullshit!”  That she turned her attention to you and addressed your concern (when you had barged in on someone else’s “turn”) speaks to her graciousness. 
    I don’t agree with everything Angela Davis said. It seems pretty remarkable that a person who is so sensitive to issues of rascism and classism would use language like “epistimalogical strategies” and “dialectical materialism.” I think she had some interesting ideas, but many that would only work in some kind of utopian society.  I do think that maybe we should all take the time to write to our representatives and say that we don’t think that pregnant inmates should be shackled during labor and childbirth. 
    Do you think that in a perfect world everyone will agree with you, or that you should be able to sway opinion to line up with your own?  That’s not the answer– the solutions to problems come from an exchange of ideas, and if you can do that with good will in your heart, it certainly speeds the plow. 
    That you would take your questionable behavior at a public forum and try to spin it into something noble is truly disappointing. I’ve gone on record with a long and detailed endorsement of your ideas and your character, so when this sort of thing happens, David, it reflects on me, as well as all of the other nearly 10,000 people in Dayton who supported you last Tuesday. 
  11. David Esrati November 8, 2009 / 5:09 pm

    @Larkin- so it’s ok for someone who once lead a movement, and talked about substantive issues- to go out and wrap themselves in academia to talk about an unjust, but minor issue- while the big ones go ignored?

    I call that selling out.

    I wrote an e-mail to Ms. Davis- I’m awaiting a reply.

    I refuse to stand idly by when anyone ever says “you can’t fight city hall”- it’s not in my constitutional make-up. It was an open floor- in an academic setting- this wasn’t a courtroom, or during her presentation.

    The issues of our society locking up a disproportionate number of minorities and lower income people is crying for a champion- a force, instead- we got this namby-pamby presentation with big words- and little substance. I expect more.

    Shoot the messenger- but, what are you doing to keep people out of jail/prison and turning them into contributing members of society? I spent the morning talking to the future Mayor of Dayton about many things, including how we can put “criminals” into a diversion program rehabbing homes and deconstucting them.

    We have serious problems in this country. We’ve sold our political offices to the highest bidder. The politicians in turn have sold us out. I expected Angela Davis to be the anti-sellout. This post wasn’t about Ms. Davis- it was about what I took away from it- she just happened to be the catalyst of the idea.

    Sorry you don’t like it- or my reactions. The thing is- I’m not doing any of this to please anyone- but to make them think- and if you think I’m an arrogant asshat- that’s what I am. I’ll live with it.

  12. Larkin November 8, 2009 / 9:26 pm
    David, your method of delivery gets in the way of your message. You’re shooting yourself in the foot. How many missed elections and roomsful of shocked silences and unhappy associates is it going to take before you can see that? 
  13. Larkin November 8, 2009 / 9:30 pm
    And by the way, as your gf has already pointed out to you, she didn’t say you can’t fight city hall. She said you can fight better when you are organized. You tried to throw Tianamen Square up in her face (did you really think that was just one guy??) but that’s a perfect example of what she was saying. Not to mention the fact that she was saying this to someone who was (metaphorically speaking) wearing a tinfoil hat. What would your advice to that man been? Wear his tinfoil hat to a city hall meeting? You’ve become a parody of yourself, David. I had hoped that after the stress of the election had eased that you would regain your sense of balance and common sense. I still hope that. 
  14. David Lauri November 8, 2009 / 11:02 pm
    if you think I’m an arrogant asshat- that’s what I am. I’ll live with it
    Being able to say whatever one wants and not caring what others think of one’s doing so is indeed very liberating.  It’s not, however, a very good strategy for attaining public office.
  15. Ice Bandit November 9, 2009 / 12:31 am
      You sought inspiration from Angela Davis? Whattsamatter David, wasn’t Mumia available? The incessant leftist fascination with murderers is kinda’ fascinating, and this academic fraud with blood on her hands is just another example. But you’re not alone David;  Pentagon bomber and cop-killer Bill Ayres is one of Barack Obama’s main homies.  At least O J Simpson, another killer with a get-out-of-jail-free card, hits the muni links every day and avoids the spotlight. Others, like Davis, hit the lecture circuit and offer Marxists bromides that masquerade as insight and dangle the prospect of inspiration to gullible pols like David Esrati. But back in the day, David, we didn’t call them activists, we called them criminals…………
  16. David Esrati November 9, 2009 / 6:08 am

    @Ice Bandit-

    For you to call her a murderer discounts your argument. The courts found her not guilty. Our justice system is far from perfect, I agree- but, it’s the only one we have.

    I too, walk bearing the legacy of the legal system gone haywire- I’ll assume that you still believe me to be a terrorist for protesting the secret, illegal meetings of the city commission, even though 5 courts found me not guilty.

    As to what Ms. Davis was offering- apparently my expectations and her delivery were like comparing the issues of genocide with jaywalking. Inspiration can come from anywhere, it’s just so many people put too much credence in traditional sources and ignore much of what surrounds them.

    I believe in equal opportunity inspiration, apparently you do not.

  17. Jeff November 9, 2009 / 8:06 am
    Here is a small thing that shows the difference between Louisville and Dayton:  Back in the 1970s, when Angela Davis was, ahem, better known, she spoke in Louisville, perhaps at the University of Louisville (dont’ remember the location or topic).  To honor her visit to the city the Louisville Board of Alderman, which would be equivilant to Dayton’s City Commission, vote to award her an honorary Key to the City.
    Can anyone envision someone like Angela Davis ever being honored in Dayton like that?
  18. David Lauri November 9, 2009 / 10:16 am
    Does Dayton even have keys?  I think people have been leaving the doors unlocked.
  19. Jeff November 9, 2009 / 5:31 pm
    Actually, getting a key to a city isn’t as tough (or meaningful) as you might think.
    This was back in the 1970s.    I’m wondering if the “1960’s” ever happened in Dayton, aside from race riots.
  20. Ice Bandit November 10, 2009 / 1:40 pm
    Inspiration can come from anywhere, it’s just so many people put too much credence in traditional sources and ignore much of what surrounds them.
    I believe in equal opportunity inspiration, apparently you do not. (David Esrati)

       Sir Isaac Newton was inspired by the apple knocking him on the head and Einstein by the drunk leaning on a New Jersey lamp post. So you’re right Dave, there is potential inspiration hiding in every crack and cavity. But what, dear David, was the inspiration you hoped to glean from one with the checkered, criminal and hypocritical history of one like Angela Davis? Agreed, she was acquitted of murder. But for that matter, so was OJ Simpson and John Holmes but I don’t remember either one of them hitting the lecture circuit. So assuming, as you must, that the death of Judge Harold Haley was one big misunderstanding (perhaps the judge grabbed Angela Davis’ gun from his abductors and blew his own head off) what other inspirational actions in her history did you find potentially inspiring? Was it her flight to Cuba after the acquittal, where she was the English language mouthpiece for that famed humanitarian Fidel Castro? Or her dalliance and defense of Jim Jones before and after the murder of a US congressman and the mass suicide in Guyana? Or her refutation and denunciation of the victims of the “Prague Spring” uprising in eastern Europe after they appealed to her for help because of her supposed interest in prison reform?  Yes David, inspiration is just about everywhere, but some are inspired by Mother Teresa and others by Charles Manson. And if you tell the world that Angela Davis left your inspirational fuel tank on “E”, the Old Bandito says “good”………..

  21. Robert Vigh November 10, 2009 / 3:34 pm
    Why is Ken Lewis a criminal exactly? I did a quick search and just saw that he makes tons of money. What criminal element does he represent? Since it was this guy you were expecting an inspired answer regarding.
  22. Ice Bandit November 10, 2009 / 3:48 pm
      I too, walk bearing the legacy of the legal system gone haywire- I’ll assume that you still believe me to be a terrorist for protesting the secret, illegal meetings of the city commission, even though 5 courts found me not guilty. (David Esrati, defending Angela Davis)

      Please David. The view might be great from that cross but those nails have gotta’ be agony. Granted, you got caught in the crosshairs of a vengeful city for what was basically street theatre, but you prevailed and prospered. But enough with martyrdom.  Puleeeeeese. Those 72 virgins are the sole property of the muslims……….

  23. David Esrati November 11, 2009 / 9:03 am

    @Robert V. If I need to explain to you how Ken Lewis took hundreds of millions in pay, while driving the company into bankruptcy- to have to be bailed out by taxpayers making minimum wage (if they still have a job, a home or a credit rating thanks to this man and his company’s actions) and firing (laying off) thousands of his employees, while getting a $125 million severance package- well, I can write off all the intelligent contributions you’ve made here as those of an idiot savant.

    @Icebandit- I’ll let you write the checks to the lawyers next time, OK?

  24. Gene November 11, 2009 / 9:44 am
    DE, write an opinion post on Fort Hood. This is a big deal, I would love to know your thoughts regarding this situation – if you have time, and I guess if you have an opinion.
  25. Robert Vigh November 11, 2009 / 10:33 am
    Dear David,
    I simply wanted to know why you thought he was a criminal as opposed to making an assumption. But, I could guess at your response. Your response is also why you and I could never agree on national politics. You display a clear mis-understanding of how the government was intended to operate.

    Let me explain. Ken Lewis has never asked me nor taken money from me. I dont like BoA and have never invested with or worked with them. However, he has my money in the form of bailouts. How did this happen? The US Federal government demanded that I pay them a portion of my earnings and they chose against my wishes to give $$ to someone who already had their chance to earn it in the market. Ken Lewis acted with no force nor coercion towards me, yet the US federal government certainly did. Ken Lewis does not employ people with guns and the authority to take from me, as a matter of fact, he was given my money by people with authority and guns that could take from him.

    So, while I agree that he is certainly an opportunist, I do not see how you proclaim him a criminal. I would however call the group that used force and coercion to make Ken’s opportunism criminal. That group would be the Federal Government.

    If it is the amount of wealth that he earned according to his contracts and employment by shareholders, well, that is between them. They do not have my investment and it should not be my concern, nor yours.

    So you see, you are so busy believing that control and government is the answer to solutions you get angry at the person who has your money, yet you are always looking past the gun in your face (and the party holding it) that is making it possible. 

    So what inspiring response where you seeking? What element makes him a criminal? How much should he been allowed to pay himself? Is that amount arbitrary and open to discussion? What if you and I disagree? What about others like him that dont run the company into the ground as much? What about the successful ones? If BoA can get the same work done with less people, is that criminal? If he gave half to charity is he still criminal? 
    How many of those above questions would you like the government to control? In a free market with a simple constitutional government, you dont even have to answer those questions. Nor, do you have to waste dollars and production to employ people to make those decisions. Each individual casts a vote every single day with the money they spend and invest and where they choose to do so.

    There are so many elements to your response that I could analyze and digress into, from the attitude of entitlement to lack of knowledge on where most tax dollars come from. Even to your argumentative attitude and immediate dismissal to someone who may disagree.

    Regarding me being an idiot savant. Even if I felt that I argued poorly on one topic, why would you imply that dismisses the ideas on all others? You are so obviously wrong here, but I would not imply that you have never been right simply from your current state of wrongness.

  26. David Esrati November 11, 2009 / 11:21 am

    @Gene- the true question is if Psychiatrists are competent to make decision about fitness for duty- here was one that was surrounded by “professionals” whose main job it is to assess fitness- and they failed miserably, considering the actions of their co-worker.

    @Robert- you and I will continue to disagree. The reality is, you have the right to make as much money as you want- if it’s your money you are playing with. If the company is private- go for it. The moment you sell stock- and take it public, there need to be controls, especially since so much of our financial system is hinged on it indirectly.

    Your way is to return to a gold standard, eliminate all financial instruments, end taxation and depend on anarchy. Good luck with that.

  27. Robert Vigh November 11, 2009 / 12:45 pm
    Yes, we will disagree. Those companies are not public. Their stocks are offered to the public, but each person privately decides whether or not to be an owner. It is not “public” like we consider our highways. You must have vested ownership to cast a vote. And if you want to analyze controls, what controls do you have? The SEC? Do you realize they have missed every big problem since their inception?

    Your description of my way is inaccurate, but I could certainly argue some of the elements that you listed.

    That was a dissapointing answer, followed with another David presumption (knowing my way). Your stated intention is to get people to think. Yet, you seem to respond poorly to well thought opposition. Are you sure your intention is not simply to get people to think like you?  

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