This afternoon my open house fears turned out to be unfounded.
Since I figured that I wouldn't know anyone at the gathering but the hostess, new Salem resident Laurie, my ever-anxious mind envisoned awkward moments standing around with a glass of wine in my hand, wondering what I was going to talk about with strangers other than the weather and if the Ducks were going to triumph in the Rose Bowl tomorrow.
I should have known better, because after moving to Oregon from the Boston area, Laurie has found a home among Salem's activist progressive community. She's been a part of Occupy Salem, along with other progressive efforts.
So when my wife and I walked into her home, we found a bunch of gray-haired rabble-rousers sitting around who instantly made us gray-haired rabble rousers feel right at, well, home.
We like outgoing people who speak their minds. And, boy, progressive activists aren't shy about doing just that. Not in any sort of irritating fashion (unless, perhaps, you're a Tea Party type), but in a this is what I think, and I'm not afraid to say it sense.
Introducing us, Laurie told the group that she'd found my blog when she started looking for information about Salem prior to her move. Semi-jokingly, I said, "I tried to talk Laurie out of coming here because Salem is so boring. That's one of the most interesting things to do here: complain about how there's nothing interesting to do here."
"You're wrong!" Those decisive words came from a little woman with big ideas who I instantly liked (also, I almost instantly forgot her name).
We got into a conversation about how Occupy Salem has invigorated this town. She sees lots of ways Salem is headed toward changing for the better, along with, hopefully, Oregon and the nation as a whole.
Spending a few hours in the company of energetic, committed progressives was a great way to start off the year. And you know, I think I also would have felt almost (but not quite) as good if I'd hung out with energetic, committed conservatives.
Passion makes the world go 'round. Without it, who are we? Listless, drifting, cynical, uncaring, passive, lackluster. I'd rather have someone vehemently disagree with me than walk away with a "Whatever."
One person at the open house who I did already know, or at least recognize, was Peter Bergel of Oregon PeaceWorks. I enjoyed talking with him about his representing Occupy Salem at a meeting of Marion County Republicans.
"There was common ground," he said. "Some extremists there called us communists, but others said they agreed with much of what the Occupy movement was trying to do."
That's why the Occupy folks refer to the 1% and the 99%. Given the political make-up of this country, the 99% of Americans include almost all Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Plus everybody else, for that matter.
What frustrates me, and what fuels the passion of folks who range from far-left progressives to Tea Party conservatives, is how the desires of the 99% have come to take such a back-seat in our supposed democracy.
I'm fine with majority rule. That's how democracies are supposed to work. But a lot has gone awry in these United States. Somehow corporations have gotten legal rights which should belong only to people, and unlimited political donations have become equated with free speech.
Several people at the open house are passionately involved with the Move to Amend effort whose mission is a constitutional amendment.
We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
They're trying to get Salem on board with this notion as part of a bottom-up movement. After initially expressing some skepticism about whether Move to Amend could succeed, I eventually changed my mind after recollecting how, not that many years ago, gays were very much in the closet.
Now, TV shows openly celebrate gay relationships. Several states have legalized gay marriage. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is gone. Clearly this country is on its way to full equality for gays. Given how unlikely that seemed a decade ago, anything is possible for the future.
If -- and it's a big if -- we can preserve, and as necesssary, restore, our democracy. The 1% should basically have 1% of the power. The 99%, basically the rest of the power.
I told Bergel that I was more than a little surprised to see a prominently featured Daily Kos post that supported the Republicans doing-away with the filibuster rule if the G.O.P. takes over the Senate next November.
I, for one, would very much like to see Republicans do what Democrats didn't have the courage to do in 2007, 2009 and 2011: Turn the Senate into a functioning body of government where the majority rules. Simply put, you cannot have a functioning government where it takes a super-majority to do even the most mundane, routine tasks. Where you can't even get something as basic as an up or down vote. Where you have to constantly concoct these ridiculous "gangs" and "super-committees" because regular order is broken.
Politicians should have to account for their votes. It is time to accept the obvious fact that "gentlemanly comity" is a joke and a relic of a bygone era. Let the majority rule and let the voters take account.
Yes, that would give Republicans almost total control, if they have 51 Senators. But isn't this what majority rule means in a democracy? Seems like people from all parts of the political spectrum could agree on that. Except for those in the 1% who are afraid of what the 100% would decide to do.