Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Dad, the Activist

In the 1970's, my Dad taught me about activism. Dad spent 35 years as a reporter for Newsday on Long Island. In those days, reporters actually looked at the various facets of the news and reported their observations. Most of you remember that, eh?

Dad spent years on the night shift, and years writing obituaries. When my fifth grade teacher asked me what my Dad did for a living, I answered, "He writes obituaries at Newsday." The teacher laughed at me, quite loud, with a sarcastic tone. Jeez, I guess I said the wrong thing.

Later, as a teenager pawing through my Dad's dresser drawer, I found a medal in a velvet case. "What's this Dad?" "That's a Pulitzer Prize." "Why do you have this, Dad?" Turns out he'd won the damn thing as one of a group of reporters who wrote a series called "The Heroin Trail." (You can google it.) He wasn't the star reporter, but he wasn't writing obituaries anymore either. And if I hadn't found it in his dresser drawer, I wonder whether he would have ever told me that he had it. But I digress.

The Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) built the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant near the tip of Long Island. And Dad had a problem with that. That problem was called "no viable evacuation plan". There was no way that Long Island could possibly be safely evacuated in a timely manner if there were a nuclear accident. Dad was very involved with a No Nukes protest group. He even went to jail once during a peaceful demonstration. Newsday had to publish a disclaimer that his activities did not represent the opinion of the newspaper. I don't remember much of it, until the vivid description of Dad standing up at a hearing with blown-up photographs of the Long Island Expressway (LIE) during rush hour. He told them that if the LIE couldn't maintain reasonable traffic flow for much of a normal day, how on earth would it work if all the panicked citizens were leaving hurriedly at the same time during a nuclear meltdown? That moment was the beginning of the end of the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant. LILCO sold the power plant to the state for $1.00. That's the last I ever heard about Shoreham.

Dad's activism seemed quite normal to me. He was a reporter, a dad, a little league umpire, an athlete, and a no-nukes activist.

Thirty years later, I became an activist after a relatively unpleasant and life-changing experience. (You can scroll down and read a tiny piece of it titled "The Illegal Alien Attack".) My forte seems to be getting voters psyched to participate in the activist and election processes. Everywhere I go, I meet people who are ready to register to vote, ready to start calling their legislators, ready to subscribe to my newsletter. I've met these people at the gardening store, at singing practice, at church, at the supermarket, in parades, in parking lots, while driving (!) and at the dry cleaner. I meet them on Facebook and Twitter. Strangers contact me via email and telephone. I ask them questions and give them ideas. We figure out how they'll fit in to the political process. I introduce them to people and organizations, and then I set them loose. When they return, they bring their friends, and I get those people launched into activism too.

Today I was chatting with Dad, and I mentioned the Obama administration. I usually have to be tentative on this topic, because this topic makes him really angry. But today Dad was a little bit calmer. I suggested to him that he put it on his calendar, every Monday, to contact his Senators and his Congressman. Ask them to vote "no" on some appalling piece of legislation that he'd read about over the weekend. And he said "okay"! My Dad is a creature of habit. He started exercising as a boy and never stopped. Golden Gloves boxing, baseball, weight lifting, running, karate, horseback riding. He currently ice skates three times per week. When my Dad says that he'll make those phone calls on Mondays, I know that he'll make those calls until he dies.

Thanks Dad. For everything.

1 comment:

ToBeRight said...

I enjoyed this, Crista. Thanks for sharing. I learned a lot from my Dad too...most of it unspoken. Whatching him leave for work every morning without fail and come home every night for my entire life probably taught me the most.

Thanks again -