Patriot by Harry Kresky

Today’s poem was written by Harry Kresky

Harry Kresky at National Conference 2017

 

Patriot

Me?
An urban Jew –
A radical iconoclast.

An American.
Who can’t bear to see his country torn apart
By those who abandon us in pursuit of gotcha gold.

 

I wrote this poem in to response to the goings on in Washington since Trump was elected.  While I’m no fan of our President, I see the concerted efforts of the CIA, the liberal media and the Democratic Party to undo the result of an election as a threat to our democracy. The poem is also posted on my blog: poemsforfriends.wordpress.com

Harry Kresky is counsel to IndependentVoting.org and one of the country’s leading experts on nonpartisan primary reform and the legal issues facing independent voters.

 

Highlights from P4P Conversation with Matthew Desmond

2016-desmond-diptych

 

On Sunday, October 23rd, the Politics for the People book club spent an hour talking with Matthew Desmond about his book, EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City.  I am sharing a few highlights below and you can listen to the entire conversation at the end of this post.

(Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come to the blog.)

Our first audio clip includes my introduction of Matthew and an exploration of his process, his examination of poverty as a relationship between rich and poor, and how that framework brought him to look at and study the eviction crisis. I also talked with Matthew about the destabilization of New York City’s public housing taking place under the NextGeneration plan. This section ends with some of Matthews most surprising discoveries meeting people living in poverty across the country and the ways in which they refused to be defined by their hardships.  Have a listen:

goo.gl/gMbuFS

Ramon Pena shared his personal experience being evicted in New York City after “20 years of having never missed a rent payment.” He goes on to share his journey through homelessness, the shelter system and finally to a home out of state. Ramon and Matthew explore what our elected officials should be held accountable for. Hear their interaction below.

goo.gl/X128aW

Sarah Bayer found out she is a Cambridge, Massachusetts neighbor of Matthew’s as she delved into a fascinating exchange on her 25 years of work within the family shelter system, what she describes as our nations’ own “internal refugees”, and the unique financial constraints placed on a city like Boston. How does Matthew see the role that the shelter system plays in the eviction crisis?

goo.gl/pnx51M

Tiani Coleman, president of New Hampshire Independent Voters talked about her days of working in the court system in Salt Lake City,

“I did pro-bono work for my church community and was able to see first hand the impact of lack of representation for families that were facing eviction. I had to handle some evictions, and even had opposing council get rather annoyed with me and tell me I was unnecessarily complicating things… What do you think is the biggest impediment to getting the eviction crisis and the representation issue in housing court addressed?”

Matthew began his answer by acknowledging the important kind of community investment Tiani spoke of, “Thank you so much for your work, you were slugging it out in housing court… When folks have a lawyer by their side their chances of keeping their home go up dramatically irrespective of the case.” Hear their interaction below:

goo.gl/94pcqh

Attorney and Independent activist Harry Kresky shared his observations since moving to New York city to attend Columbia in 1962. Throughout his time here and through his work on the NYCHA housing crisis he’s seen that increasingly “so much of the face of New York is now for the wealthy people…. A lot of the focus is on so called ‘affordable housing’ which deals with middle class people and union members and people that have political clout,” but troubling to Harry was the absence of a coming together of “the affordable housing people,” and “the people living in intractable poverty and fighting to save public housing.” Matthew And Harry explore why that might be:

goo.gl/t4ORyM

 As we looked forward, Arizona P4P member Al Bell asked Matthew whether he had heard of any members of congress who truly understand this issue of eviction and could potentially become an advocate. Matthew shared some encouraging updates with news of happenings on ‘The Hill’ since the publication of Evicted.  Give a listen:

goo.gl/5Yc7FS

Michelle McCleary helped take our perspective from the macro to the micro-level. “If I knew someone was hungry, I’d buy them a sandwich. If they were cold, I’d give them a coat” she shares, “What is our personal responsibility to our fellow man?!’ “I personally think this is where the conversation has got to go if we are going to make any lasting change…” Matthew replied. “By 2025 about 1.6 billion people will live in substandard housing or unaffordable housing… climate change and housing are the biggest issues facing humanity.”

You can hear Matthew and Michelle’s conversation below.

goo.gl/r3D9M5

You can listen to the full conversation with Matthew Desmond below, ENJOY.

goo.gl/xME8VI

***

NEWS FLASH

Next Politics for the People Selection:

Terrible Virtue

book-image

by Ellen Feldman

Our conference call with the author

will be on January 22nd, 2017 at 7 pm EST

 

 

 

 

Readers’ Forum – Doug Balder and Harry Kresky

untitled-61

Harry Kresky (l) and Doug Balder (r)

In his wrenching book, Evicted, Matthew Desmond observes that the first step on the devastating journey from eviction to homelessness is often the loss of an apartment in subsided or “public” housing.  A family that lived in a stable home is forced into dilapidated, private-sector housing, owned and operated by landlords seeking short-term profits from tenants who are likely to face further eviction, impoverishment, and social disintegration.

Here in New York City more than 500,000 people live in public housing operated by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), equal to half the entire population of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the city Desmond writes about.  The “projects” are a critical part of New York City’s infrastructure.  Maintenance could surely be better and capital improvements are badly needed.  But, for generations of poor and working class families, the projects provided stability, security, community and, of course, a roof over their heads.

This year, under the City’s “progressive” Mayor, Democrat Bill DeBlasio, NYCHA has begun to implement its “NextGen” master plan.  Under NextGen’s “infill” program, playgrounds, sitting areas, and other public spaces in NYCHA housing complexes will be sold to private developers, who will be permitted to build high rise apartment buildings containing a combination of market-rate and “affordable” units.  However, the “affordable” units are beyond the means of the average NYCHA tenant.  In addition, the plan allows the sale of existing NYCHA apartments to private landlords, who will receive a subsidy as long as the present tenants remain.  After that, the unit can be rented to families chosen by the developer, and earning up to $142,395 for a family of four.

Dr. Lenora Fulani and her Committee for Independent Community Action is campaigning against NextGen and has widespread support among public housing tenants and other New Yorkers who care about the lives of poor and working people.  CICA views NextGen as the first step in full privatization.  NYCHA claims these drastic steps are needed to meet its $17 billion capital deficit and $98 million annual operating deficit.  However, NYCHA’s own projection is that infill and the sale of apartments will generate a total of $300-600 million, a fraction of the capital deficit.  For real estate developers, NextGen provides an opportunity to build on what is now very valuable land, such as that at Holmes Houses overlooking the East River on Manhattan’s upper east side.

For those displaced by privatization, the consequences will be as drastic as those described in Eviction.  One need only look around New York to see massive luxury development in what were once working-class neighborhoods in Hell’s Kitchen, Long Island City and Williamsburg, and accelerating gentrification in Harlem and East New York.  We look forward to hearing what Professor Desmond has to say about this unfolding social catastrophe.

Douglas Balder is an architect and on the Board of Directors of the All Stars Project.

Harry Kresky is counsel to IndependentVoting.org and one of the country’s leading experts on nonpartisan primary reform and the legal issues facing independent voters.

***

Politics for the People Conference Call

With Matthew Desmond

Sunday, October 23rd at 7 pm EST

Call In Number: 641 715-3605

Access code 767775#

 

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

Today’s selection comes to us from Harry Kresky.  It is not a poem in the traditional sense. It is Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

Harry shares his thoughts:

This is as close as a political speech gets to poetry. I love its understatement and its acceptance of responsibility by America (not just the South) for the sin of slavery.  It is poetry (and philosophy) in its “not knowing” stance towards profound and troubling questions: “Both [North and South] read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”

And Lincoln leaves no doubt about where he stands on the fundamental question of slavery.”

Harry

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

SATURDAY, MARCH 4, 1865

 

Fellow-Countrymen:

AT this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the causeof the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

****

Our celebration of National Poetry month continues throughout April with poems chosen or written by P4P members.  

 

Reaching Across Boundaries

Reader’s Forum

By Harry Kresky

I was predisposed against Megan Marshall’s Margaret Fuller.  I had never heard of either the author or the subject and did not think the biography of a New England woman who lived in the first half of the nineteenth century would be of much interest.

Harry Kresky

Harry Kresky

I was wrong.  Margaret Fuller’s life is the story of a woman’s struggle to achieve intellectual, emotional, and sexual fulfillment.  But it is not a book “for women.” Fuller’s concerns – the one-sidedness and constraints of marriage; the difficulty in building intimacy as friends, lovers, coworkers; the tension between self-fulfillment and responsibility to others; the treatment of the poor and the despised – are the concerns of every decent human being.  In speaking as a woman, and on behalf of women, Fuller and Marshall’s message is not an identity-based, sectarian one.  Like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Pope Francis they express how the liberation of a particularly oppressed sector of humanity is inseparable from the development of us all.  Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Margaret Fuller lived her life like that and so can we.

Harry Kresky is counsel to IndependentVoting.org and one of the country’s leading experts on nonpartisan primary reform and the legal issues facing independent voters.

 

Politics for the People Conference Call

With Megan Marshall

Sunday, September 20th at 7 pm EST

 

Readers Forum

Keep sending me your thoughts on I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War.  Today, we feature a commentary by Harry Kresky.

I AM ABRAHAM

This is a most unusual book.  First, there is the question of what it is.  It tells the story of Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President in the first person, in Lincoln’s voice.  And it is a novel by Jerome Charyn, our next guest on Cathy L. Stewart’s Politics for the People book club.

Charyn’s Lincoln, of course, grew up poor, was a small town lawyer, and was as physically strong as he was tall and homely.  He led the country through a civil war, the abolition of slavery, and was assassinated six days after the war’s successful conclusion.

Next to George Washington, Lincoln is our most iconic president.  This remarkable book reveals Lincoln’s inner life as told by himself.  The narration describes Lincoln masturbating, worrying that his oratorical skills were inadequate as he began his famous Cooper Union speech and, most strikingly, the empathy Lincoln had for ordinary people – soldiers, impoverished and abused children, White House servants who included former slaves.

Harry Kresky

Harry Kresky

Incidents (such as a séance his wife brought him to as she tried to connect to their son William who died in the White House at age 12) are described in great detail – much more than exists in the historical record.  While Charyn’s accounts are not “true,” they are always insightful  in allowing us to access Lincoln, his time, his life and his character.

I look forward to the opportunity to hear more about the creative process that produced this book.

Harry Kresky is counsel to IndependentVoting.org and one of the country’s leading experts on nonpartisan primary reform and the legal issues facing independent voters.

P4P conference call with Jerome Charyn:

 Sunday, February 15th at 7 pm EST.

An Unusual Book-A review by Harry Kresky

Our Declaration is an unusual book in many ways. The author, Danielle Allen, an African American woman, insists that the Declaration of Independence is a bold statement about equality despite its failure to address the fact that slavery was a critical feature of the American economy or the subservient status of women. The European colonists considered Native Americans “merciless Indian savages” to use the Declaration’s own words. Allen’s book is a close reading of the text and seeks to find its meaning there with limited reference to historical context.

Harry Kresky, General Counsel to IndependentVoting.org

Harry Kresky, General Counsel to IndependentVoting.org

Allen sees the Declaration as a profound example of “democratic writing.” The document began with a directive from the Continental Congress to a committee to set forth the reasons why the colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft, which the committee then edited. The committee’s draft was presented to the Congress, which went through it line by line so that the final text gave unanimous expression to the perspective of a group whose members, despite favoring independence, differed on many other issues, most particularly the issue of slavery. Allen notes that there are several published versions that differ in some details (such as punctuation). At least one of these differences gives rise to divergent meanings. Yet the document is remarkable for its eloquence, clarity, and logical structure.

This method of writing has particular relevance to the independent political movement, which brings together people from many different backgrounds with many different points of view in pursuit of a common goal – the structural reform of our electoral system which, like the dominion of Great Britain over the 13 American colonies, is less and less representative of the American people.

Allen focuses on what she calls “political equality,” the belief that each human being has the right and the responsibility to contribute to the governing process as best he or she can. No one person is more privileged or has more rights in this regard. This notion of equality must reckon with the obvious inequalities in America, then and now. What does this notion mean in a country in which racial, educational, and economic inequality are so pronounced?  I look forward to our discussion with Allen on this point. We might ask her how this notion of equality squares with today’s hyper-partisanship and the significant disparities in the access people have to the process of choosing our representatives and impacting on how they govern.

REMINDER

Book Club Conference Call with Danielle Allen

Sunday, October 19th at 7 pm EST

Call in number 805 399-1200

Access code 767775#

Neruda

Neruda was born in Chile in 1904 and died in 1973.  He became politicized during the Spanish Civil War and continued to be active in the revolutionary movement in Chile and elsewhere in Latin America.  He was close to progressive leaders in Brazil and Chile and read his poetry before audiences in the tens of thousands.  He was hospitalized with cancer shortly after the military coup that overthrew the socialist Allende regime in Chile and died shortly thereafter.

Cathy Stewart introduced me to Neruda and through him I came to appreciate Cathy’s love of physical objects – paper, tea cups, toys, pens, arts and crafts, photographs.  This poem expresses Neruda’s love for the workers, ordinary and extraordinary, who produce them.

–Harry Kresky

 

Pablo Neruda

 

Canto XII from The Heights of Macchu Picchu

Arise to birth with me, my brother.

Give me your hand out of the depths

sown by your sorrows.

You will not return from these stone fastnesses.

You will not emerge from subterranean time.

Your rasping voice will not come back,

nor your pierced eyes rise from their sockets.

Look at me from the depths of the earth,

tiller of fields, weaver, reticent shepherd,

groom of totemic guanacos,

mason high on your treacherous scaffolding,

iceman of Andean tears,

jeweler with crushed fingers,

farmer anxious among his seedlings,

potter wasted among his clays–

bring to the cup of this new life

your ancient buried sorrows.

Show me your blood and your furrow;

say to me: here I was scourged

because a gem was dull or because the earth

failed to give up in time its tithe of corn or stone.

Point out to me the rock on which you stumbled,

the wood they used to crucify your body.

Strike the old flints

to kindle ancient lamps, light up the whips

glued to your wounds throughout the centuries

and light the axes gleaming with your blood.

I come to speak for your dead mouths.

Throughout the earth

let dead lips congregate,

out of the depths spin this long night to me

as if I rode at anchor here with you.

And tell me everything, tell chain by chain,

and link by link, and step by step;

sharpen the knives you kept hidden away,

thrust them into my breast, into my hands,

like a torrent of sunbursts,

an Amazon of buried jaguars,

and leave me cry: hours, days and years,

blind ages, stellar centuries.

And give me silence, give me water, hope.

Give me the struggle, the iron, the volcanoes.

Let bodies cling like magnets to my body.

Come quickly to my veins and to my mouth.

Speak through my speech, and through my blood.

Pablo Neruda

W.H. Auden–a selection from Harry Kresky

This is one of my favorite poems, written by W.H. Auden on the outbreak of the Second World War. Some people dismiss it as cynical.  I am taken by its honesty.  After all, the second world war was starting less than 25 years after the first one ended.  And, to me, the last stanza is positive, that possibility exists even at a time of darkness.  It makes me think of the German playwright Heiner Mueller whose  powerful and beautiful words are themselves an affirmation even as the subject matter of his plays are defeat, despair and betrayal.

Auden was born in England in 1907 and died in 1973.  He moved to the U.S. in 1939.  Early in his career Auden was hailed as a voice of revolutionary change.  By 1939 he, like so many, was less confident that it could be achieved.  Auden scholar Edwards Mendelson wrote:

“W.H. Auden had a secret life that his closest friends knew little or nothing about. Everything about it was generous and honorable. He kept it secret because he would have been ashamed to have been praised for it.”

I like this about WH as well.

—Harry Kresky

W.H. Auden, The Paris Review

September 1, 1939

  by W. H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright 
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can 
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. 

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire 
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

 

 

Bertolt Brecht

Harry Kresky’s first selection is 2 poems by Bertolt Brecht:

Bertolt Brecht was the pre-eminent writer associated with the German communist movement, considered the strongest of the “workers movements” until, of course, Hitler and the fascists came to power.  These poems from the 1930’s give a sense of the politics of that movement, both the militancy and, in my view, the naiveté.

Brecht is best known for his plays, but I like his poetry better.

After the fascists took over, Brecht moved to the U.S.  He never found his voice here and, many believe, disgraced himself when he testified before the House un-American Activities Committee in 1947.  Other progressive artists refused to testify and were found in contempt of Congress.  Brecht returned to Europe in October, 1947.

 

 

United Front Song

And because a man is human
He’ll want to eat, and thanks a lot
But talk can’t take the place of meat
or fill an empty pot.

So left, two, three!
So left, two, three!
Comrade, there’s a place for you.
Take your stand in the workers united front
For you are a worker too.

And because a man is human
he won’t care for a kick in the face.
He doesn’t want slaves under him
Or above him a ruling class.

So left, two, three!
So left, two, three!
Comrade, there’s a place for you.
Take your stand in the workers united front
For you are a worker too.

And because a worker’s a worker
No one else will bring him liberty.
It’s nobody’s work but the worker’ own
To set the worker free.

So left, two, three!
So left, two, three!
Comrade, there’s a place for you.
Take your stand in the workers united front
For you are a worker too.

Bertolt Brecht

 

Solidarity Song

Peoples of the world, together
Join to serve the common cause!
So it feeds us all for ever
See to it that it’s now yours.

Forward, without forgetting
Where our strength can be seen now to be!
When starving or when eating
Forward, not forgetting
Our solidarity!

Black or white or brown or yellow
Leave your old disputes behind.
Once start talking with your fellow
Men, you’ll soon be of one mind.

Forward, without forgetting
Where our strength can be seen now to be!
When starving or when eating
Forward, not forgetting
Our solidarity!

If we want to make this certain
We’ll need you and your support.
It’s yourselves you’ll be deserting
if you rat your own sort.

Forward, without forgetting
Where our strength can be seen now to be!
When starving or when eating
Forward, not forgetting
Our solidarity!

All the gang of those who rule us
Hope our quarrels never stop
Helping them to split and fool us
So they can remain on top.

Forward, without forgetting
Where our strength can be seen now to be!
When starving or when eating
Forward, not forgetting
Our solidarity!

Workers of the world, uniting
Thats the way to lose your chains.
Mighty regiments now are fighting
That no tyrrany remains!

Forward, without forgetting
Till the concrete question is hurled
When starving or when eating:
Whose tomorrow is tomorrow?
And whose world is the world?

Bertolt Brecht

 

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