Driving home from the opening of Marcy Winograd’s new campaign headquarters in Venice this Saturday, I wondered what I could report.
Even without Sharon at my side, the event had been lovely. Familiar faces of Marcy’s loyal supporters filled the Peace and Justice Center’s parking lot. A hopeful buzz filled the air on yet another warm and sunny California day. Witty warm-up singers primed the crowd. The pizza afterwards was tasty and the soda cold. Lila Garrett’s point-by-point endorsement of her friend and protégé hit all the marks. And Marcy’s own impassioned and by now familiar recitation of one sensible liberal-minded point after another warmed every progressive’s heart within shouting distance.
But for anyone who has even glanced at the LA Progressive, that’s just what you’d expect me to say. After all, we endorsed Marcy in her races against Bluer than Blue Dog Jane Harman, we post notices of Winograd rallies and carry free banner ads on our site, we have even signed up for phonebanking, for chrissakes – we are practically unpaid adjunct staff and make no bones about it.
To say that Dick and Sharon of LA Progressive support Marcy Winograd’s run for California’s 36th Congressional District seat is like noting that Tommy Lasorda rooted for the Dodgers last night.
He did, we do, move on, right?
Then, coming back into our own neighborhood in Mt. Washington, as I slid around the corner onto Eagle Rock Boulevard, I found my reason to share these notes: Flo Griffen.
The Original Anti-Warhorse
Every weekend for the better part of a decade, since shortly after our country’s misbegotten invasion of Iraq, Flo Griffen and a half dozen of her friends from the Radical Neighbors for Peace have occupied the southwest corner at Colorado and Eagle Rock Boulevards, waving signs and passing out leaflets in protest of America’s perpetual wars, always with Flo at the front, flashing the biggest, most glorious 90-year-old smile you’ll ever see.
We met Flo at the Northeast Democratic Club, where she has been a member for a quarter century. A lifelong nurse, she spent part of her teenage years in the internment camp for Japanese-Americans at Poston, Arizona, followed by long stints in the Peace Corps, with assignments in Ecuador and Thailand in the 1960s.
In Ecuador, she showed the Quechuas on their fincas how to use a slow cooker she had devised, which involved burying a red-hot poker in sawdust beneath a covered pot to cook beets or beans or other slow-cooking dishes. Later, she spent a dozen years working on Oahu’s North Shore as a school nurse, where she got swept up in the anti-war movement, counseling servicemen from the island’s big military bases.
Now, if she’s not at the Lotus Festival in Echo Park or working with the Interfaith Vigil to End the Gaza Occupation at the Islamic Center of Southern California, you’ll find her on that corner with her friends, come rain or come shine, expressing my community’s profound outrage at these senseless wars we’ve started and can’t seem to quit.
We’re so firmly behind Flo and her friends, me and my neighbors, that we no longer bother to toot our horns in support, nor flash the peace signs we learned way back in the 60s, nor even smile and wave. No, now our Zen-like indifference expresses our solidarity as we drive past with a nary a glance in their direction, trusting that they can sense our good intentions.
At least, that’s what I did late on a Saturday afternoon and I could see that I wasn’t alone. In a nutshell, that’s why I want to see Marcy Winograd in Congress.
No Safe Bets
I’d be surprised if Flo and Marcy know each other – different generations, different sides of a very big town, different lives altogether – but they’re alike in one very important aspect: When they take a principled stand, by god, they stick to it.
Much has been made of the difference between Marcy Winograd and her two principal opponents: Janice Hahn and Debra Bowen. In my book, Hahn and Bowen are stout-hearted Democrats, loyal soldiers who have done workmanlike jobs of representing parts of the 36th District as they have gone from post to post in fashioning their long political careers.
I have friends who plan to vote for one or the other, and in a different circumstance, I might as well – and did, for Bowen, in the quarter century I lived in that district. They’ve each done good jobs lining up establishment endorsements – unsurprisingly, the Los Angeles Times just came out for Bowen Hahn – and they’ve done a nice job shuffling left and right just as the election master’s handbook instructs. The insiders will tell you, Janice and Debra, they’re the safe bets.
But as our country descends into a kind of military madness with our endless warmaking, with 12 percent of our neighbors and friends here in LA out of work – and double that in the poorer, darker parts of town – with a vicious war being waged against working people, another on women’s rights, yet another on public education, with the War on Poverty transformed somehow into a war on the poor, the last thing we need is a safe bet.
I want someone in Congress who will say, as Marcy did Saturday, that the first step out of our country’s financial mess is to cut the Defense Department’s budget by a third, first by bringing our troops home and then by cutting dangerous and extravagantly wasteful programs such as Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars Initiative.
I want someone in Congress who will say that corporate control of government is debasing our democracy and that the first step to fix that mess is for candidates to refuse, as Marcy does, to take corporate campaign contributions, relying instead on the small donations of everyday voters.
I want someone in Congress who will argue, as Marcy does, that our first priority should be in putting people back to work, building the nation’s infrastructure, building rapid transit systems, and – swords into plowshares – redirecting our surfeit of aerospace engineers to create the alternative energy systems that will make America more secure.
In short, I want someone who will stand on the corner and raise some hell. Lord knows, Washington has all the “go along to get along” it needs. What it needs and we need is someone like Marcy who will speak – not for the savvy insiders, not for the smart money, not for the safe bets – but for me and Sharon and my daughter Nea and Sharon’s granddaughter Rosemary Page.
And for Flo.
Editor, LA Progressive