For the last ten years I have been driving into an American garage that had never been painted. Yes, there was 20-year-old dry wall which had been taped when it was built but it was, you know, a garage.
We don’t live in the garage.
I finally reached the ‘tipping point’ – got sick of it looking at it when I drove in – and several days ago got down to the disagreeable business of painting it.
Today I’ll finish the job.
Of course, being an American garage, ours is a repository of the assorted flotsam and jetsam of family history, and that had to be moved, first. Moving that junk around was a major impediment for me. That junk was really what made the task “disagreeable.”
Into the junk I dove, and amongst the treasures unearthed was this:
It was a hastily made sign for a memorial march on October 25, 2002, the day U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife Sheila and several others were killed in a tragic plane crash ten days before the 2002 election. I was one of tens of thousands of marchers in a massive memorial that October evening. (The scrawled text: “To Paul and Sheila, You’ve passed the torch of Peace and Justice to all of us. Rest in Peace.”)
Sen. Wellstone was a favorite of mine. I had watched his career evolve since the 1980s. He was cast as a radical liberal, the way “politicians” are labeled, but if one looked at the totality of his record, he was a very reasonable fellow, and he was the odds-on favorite to win his third term the coming election day. Though he had finally voted against the controversial Iraq War Resolution a scant two weeks earlier, he was a favorite of veterans groups. Sheila was a champion of causes for “we, the people” as well. But their lives ended in the woods near Eveleth, MN that Friday morning in October.
The next week former U.S. Senator and Vice-President Walter Mondale agreed to take Mr. Wellstone’s place on the ballot, but it was too late in the game.
Politics being what it is, politics was played like a fiddle around the memorial service for the senator a week before the election. There, the senator was only a memory (we were in attendance). Republican Norm Coleman won a very narrow victory.
It is appropriate that I found, this week, that sign I carried in Mr. Wellstone’s memory eight years ago.
Politics is raging in this country like an out-of-control forest fire, and some “Tea Party”-like candidates around the country are very scary. If they win, and govern as they promise, the American people will have genuine reason to regret the short-sighted decision to elect them.
We need, collectively, much more adult behavior from ourselves than I have been seeing in the last year. We can pretend we can have it all, without the commensurate responsibility, but such has never worked, ever. We will pay the piper, ultimately.
The Wellstone’s do live on in training people for political engagement. I have never had reason to think of attending Camp Wellstone, but I know some wonderful legislators who have, and in fact met with one of them during a break in my garage-painting duties on Monday of this week.
Today, I’ll finish the last part of my project in the garage.
I’m glad I started it.
Some of the stuff I discovered will be tossed; others will be “garage sale’d.”
But that placard from October 25, 2002, will go back with my memorabilia.