The Common Good


Sojomail - September 1, 2000

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  +++++++++++++++++++++++++ 01-September-2000 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
     *Honey, I love you

 P. O. V.
     *'Clean' money in politics: Oxymoron? 

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Harlem Renaissance hits the Appalachians

 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers hit reply

 H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
     *Evangelicals for Social Action

 O n  t h e  R o a d
     *We're coming to a town near you

 W e b   S c e n e
     *Swedish center for conflict resolution


Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k

If you live to be a hundred, I want to
live to be a hundred minus one day, so I
never have to live without you.

                  Winnie the Pooh


P. O. V.
Clean Money
By Micah L. Sifry

Four years ago, people mostly laughed when Jerry
Brown tried to making campaign finance corruption
an issue in the presidential primaries; this year
all the major presidential candidates felt compelled
to address it -- even George W. Bush tried to claim
the mantle of "reformer with results."

One striking indication of the change: Exit polls
of Republican primary voters showed many of them
citing the need for campaign reform as the number
one reason for their vote -- more than those citing
abortion or education as their top concern. Both
Democratic candidates proposed to make full public
financing of congressional elections the cornerstone
of their reform planks (albeit without covering
primaries, a fatal flaw). And even after dropping
out of the race, Sen. John McCain continued to play 
an effective gadfly role, irritating the Republican 
congressional leadership and forcing the passage of 
a modest but needed measure to clamp down on secretly 
funded political committees.

But the real reason for optimism is not the increased
lip service being paid to the need for reform. After
all, at the same time that Al Gore promises to fight
for real changes in the system, his campaign is
charging as much as $500,000 a ticket to gala
Democratic fund raisers. And Bush, who has broken all
records for presidential fund raising, is a walking
corporate mannequin.

The good news is happening in the states, the
laboratories of democracy. Just about every major social
reform of note in American history has originated at
the state level. Such is also the case with rescuing
our democracy from wealthy special interests.

Four states -- Maine, Vermont, Arizona, and 
Massachusetts -- have enacted clean money campaign 
reforms; that is, full public financing for candidates 
who agree voluntarily to limit their spending and 
raise no private money. This is the critical measure 
of real reform -- breaking our elected officials' 
direct dependence on private money to finance their 

For the full commentary on campaign finance reform
as it appears in the Sept/Oct issue of Sojourners
magazine, go to:


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Affrilachian Poets Turned Prophets
By Elizabeth Newberry

In 1991, Frank X. Walker attended an event in which
four white Kentucky authors and one African-American
writer, South Carolina native Nikky Finney, read
from their works.
Previously billed as an evening of "The Best of
Appalachian Writing," the event¹s name had been
changed to "The Best of Southern Writing" to
accommodate Finney.

"Why weren¹t African-American writers in Kentucky
represented?" Walker remembers asking. The Webster¹s
Dictionary he consulted later in the evening defined
Appalachians as "white residents from the mountains."
"It meant I couldn¹t be a great Appalachian writer
if I wasn¹t white," Walker said.

Out of need came invention -- a birthing, a sacred
naming ceremony for him and other black artists
from Appalachia. They became the Affrilachian Poets.
"There is a power in naming something, naming yourself
when the appropriate word is not there. Black writers in
Kentucky were grateful for the word, it was something
that could hold us -- a vessel we could sail across the
sea in," says Finney, one of the group¹s founders and
a member of the University of Kentucky English faculty.

Soon Walker's community of writers at the University
of Kentucky adopted the name. Members would steal
"poetry moments" by holding impromptu critique sessions
in elevators of the Martin Luther King Cultural Center,
turning off the power to share work and get feedback.
It's the group's intense sense of community that
continues to be a sustaining element today. "I think
there has been no other writing group since the days
of the Harlem Renaissance that is as connected as we
are; we really are connected by spirit," says
Crystal Wilkinson, whose short story collection
"Blackberries, Blackberries" was published by
The Toby Press this summer.[]

To read the full story on the Affrilachian poets as
it appeared in the Sept/Oct edition of Sojourners
magazine, go to:



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B o o m e r a n g

Kathy Hedberg from Grangeville, Idaho, wrote:

I loved Ed Spivey's column on Iran, North Korea,
and the Southern Baptist Convention. He gets my
vote for president!


SojoMail reader Gino Peregrini wrote:

I resonate strongly with Jim Wallis's comments
on the "Survivor" phenomena. I don't watch 
television - we "neutered" our TV five years 
ago by dropping cable. But of course, 
I couldn't miss reading about the program.

It seems to me that some of the worst visions of
science fiction writers, such as Philip K. Dick
or C. M. Kornbluth, are coming true. Our technology
provides a pacified mass, entertained by tawdrier
and tawdrier shows, while the corporations and
the wealthy rule us for their own benefit. We have
no need of overt tyranny when we have television.


Rachel Brekhus from Columbia, Missouri, wrote:

Real human social life, though it can be "played
to win" as though it were just a series of zero-sum
games, does not always reward the ruthless style of
interaction that produced a winner on "Survivor."

In real life, undeceptively ruthless types sometimes
rise to the top - if the circumstances are right -
but under other circumstances, we never hear of
them. Likewise, the end goal of life is not so clear.
In a game, the object is to win, in a very exactly
defined way. In life, though, you set your own goals:
achieving a measure of social justice, or keeping your
family together, or becoming good at your craft.

One other point: Although all the white males voted
for the white male, note that the white male Navy-
Seal homophobe stuck pretty close with the gay man
(the one who ended up winning) pretty much all through
the game. He said his attitudes about gay people didn't
change, but isn't it a sign of hope that at least for
the duration of the game, these two could work together,
even if the structure of the game was such that working
together meant allying oneself against others?


Emilie Nichols from Littleton, Colorado, wrote:

I would like you to reprint Michael Lerner's article
"Don't Vote Lesser Evil Politics!" from the September/
October 2000 issue of Tikkun. It is stunning!

Here's one quote:

"By not voting your conscience, you are giving the
media the justification it seeks to ignore significant
alternative views. If your own views get marginalized
in future national debate, the media can say 'the one
time you were consulted - the election booth - you
indicated that the issues that you cared about were
those that were articulated by your candidate, so why
should we give attention to views that have been
demonstrated to be so marginal?' You become the author
of your own marginalization."


Jack Lohr from Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, wrote:

Not only does Thomas Wakely exist, he's a Green
Party candidate in the 10th congressional district
with ample documentation at:

It was the first site I found in using a search
engine on "Thomas Wakely"! Not fair of Chris Beach
to paint him as a nonexistent fraud, then take it
back. Not fair of Chris Beach to smear him with
anonymous and nonspecific allegations. Not fair
of Chris Beach to suggest that he "may have moved
to another city."


Sue Easton from Hillsborough, California, wrote:

After years of hearing what a wonderful world it
would be if schools got the money it costs to
build bombers and the Air Force had to hold
bake sales, I submit that our legacy-seeking
president owes us all an explanation for running
up a travel tab nearing $300 million dollars. It
is well documented that on  his (post-Monica) trip
to China alone, the cost exceeded that spent by Ken
Starr. The thing that angers me is that this $300
million is not simply the cost of transporting a
president around the globe on the business of the
people. Many of these tax dollars paid for significant
numbers of Bill's loyal friends to tag along as a
reward for their loyalty to him.

And Al Gore wants me to believe that the
Democrats are the party of the people? Well
I wasn't invited to participate in any of these
lavish people's  vacation jaunts -- were you?
And is this what you envisioned paying for with
your hours of labor? Whoever gets elected in
November, this kind of excess at our expense has
got to end.

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H e a r i n g  t h e  C a l l
Evangelicals for Social Action

Evangelicals for Social Action were among
the Call to Renewal's first National Partners,
and it's easy to see why! ESA describes itself
as "evangelicals working together to challenge
and equip the church to be agents of redemption and
transformation in the world." ESA does this through:

*reflection on church and society
*training in holistic ministry
*linking people together for mutual learning and action

Find out more about ESA's many ministries,
including Network 9:35, an amazing resource that
connects churches involved in holistic ministry;
PRISM, the ESA magazine; Crossroads, an organization
that aims to equip Christians to make a more
informed and faithful response to current issues
through reflection on critical policy questions;
and the Evangelical Environmental Network. It can
all be found on one convenient site:

Find out how your organization can join the
Call to Renewal as a National Partner. Go to:



 Help SojoNet build a network.


O n   t h e   R o a d
Sojourners road trips

September 22, 2000
Cleveland Ohio

Jim Wallis and the Call to Renewal
celebrate "faith-working"


W e b  S c e n e
Cool siting of the week

The Transnational Foundation for Peace and
Future Research is an organization based in
Sweden whose goals are to provide conflict
resolution, peace research, and education to
improve conflict understanding at all levels
and promote alternative security and global
development based on nonviolent politics,
economics, sustainability, and ethics of care.

The foundation's Web site provides up-to-date,
alternative press information about conflicts
worldwide, research, and policy papers in areas
of conflict resolution and mediation. Go to:


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