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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Open letter to Albuquerque's City Council regarding the Minimum Wage initiative

My Grandson, 'Jaja' at his Great Grandmother's yard in Los Duranes

I hear babies cryin', I watch them grow

They'll learn much more than I'll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world . . . Oh yeah
What a Wonderful World

I would like to read this letter before the Council on 5/25/05 but, it may be impossible. It is my understanding they have a 3 minute limit for people addressing the Council.

Distinguished Council Chair and Members of the Albuquerque City Council,

I was raised in Los Duranes, the oldest community in Albuquerque. My family has a rich history in this beloved homeland. My family's roots reach all the way back to the time when the first Europeans set foot in the New World. My lineage in this Land of Enchantment is even deeper owing to my Native American roots. I stand today before the distinguished council and offer my thoughts regarding the proposal before you to increase the minimum wage.

It was not until I attended college that I realized the family I grew up in, lived in poverty. I simply assumed people lived like me everywhere. I assumed my father's daily struggle to earn enough money to feed the family - without complaining about it - was what every American was doing because they loved their families as well. In retrospect, I recall my mother made miracles happen every day just to keep us fed. Together, they saw to it that we never went to bed with pangs of hunger in our stomachs. In that regard, we were blessed; to have a roof over our heads and our bellies full of food. My siblings and I never enjoyed such amenities as new clothes or shoes; they were purchased at the second-hand stores located about town.

My niece who was educated as a Registered Nurse and Elementary School Teacher had the privilege of student teaching at the very school, Los Duranes Elementary, where my siblings and I were first educated. Daily she would return with heart wrenching stories of children who live in homes with and cracks in the walls where beams of sunlight dance off the dust raised from dirt floors. Bear in mind, these residences, where some people in Los Duranes live like third world citizens are located only a quarter of a mile away from where Mayor Martin Chavez resides. The community of Los Duranes is separated by a five-foot high wall from the Mayor's affluent community, Thomas Village. This gentrified community was considered the northern most part of Duranes just twenty-five years ago. Lest you dismiss the children my niece described as offspring of recent immigrants, let me assure you, I recognize many of their parents and grandparents as the same people I attended school with nearly three decades ago. These people live in generational poverty. Where there is poverty, there is dispair. Where there is dispair there is no hope. A place berift of hope is fertile ground for self-destruction, hatred and rage. As a community, we cannot afford to allow this to persist.

I received one of my degrees in History from The University of New Mexico. It was there that I read the profound words of one of America's native sons. He rose from a simple life to become President of this great nation. In my opinion he stands out as one of the greatest Americans if not the greatest American in history. He said, "The measure of any society is how it treats the least of its members." Pretty profound words I would say. This greatest of orators was a member of the GOP, a Republican. His name was Abraham Lincoln.

Unfortunately, the people this Distinguished Council needs to hear from most could not be here tonight. They are either out busy working or have just gotten home and have to attend to the needs of their families as well. Just because they go to work, does not mean their work at home doesn't need attending to as well. These people most likely are not inclined to vote because the attendant realities of their lives call their attention away. Moreover, there are quite a few who have simply given up on their government and see themselves as disenfranchised, having no voice; not even in their local government. They do not move in your world and the lion's share of us remains blissfully unaware of their lot in life. They do however share something in common with you; they want a better life for their children.

I implore you today, on behalf of the little people - the people with no voice in this great city - to please leave all political expediencies aside this very day. I ask you as members of the community we commonly call Humanity, to make a bold statement that posterity is sure to shine upon when you vote to pass this Minimum Wage initiative. It is a good thing; it is a decent thing it is the right thing to do for the wage earners of this wonderful city.

Esteemed members of this Council, you have an ominous duty before each of you in having been elected into your respective positions to represent the needs of your constituency; whether they voted for you or not. When you go home tonight, know that you have done something you can feel genuinely pleased about, something you have the very real ability to effect. It is your privileged responsibility to implement. Pass this initiative and go home tonight knowing that a few people in this town will have just a few more dollars to live. Pass this initiative out of civic duty, dignity and respect for the working poor in this city.

We need to be at the forefront in America today when we finally acknowledge that the wage earner and the working people are this country's most precious resource.

God Bless: America, New Mexico, Albuquerque, and the members of this Council


At Tue May 24, 02:40:00 AM MDT, Blogger Tazeen Mohsin said...

I think its just not the responsibility of the Govt to take care of its citizens. I've heard some1 say Charity starts from home. Each of us does have capacity within us to help others. I remember when we heard of Tsumani every1 decided to help. Ur country's 1 dollar is equal to 52 pakistani rupees now u can imagine this woman who was living from hand to mouth still decided to donate Rs10 just so she could help. Not until ur own ppl r willing to help how is the Govt suppose to? I think this feeling comes from within. For me most of the political figures r just there for power. There r other more important things for them to take care of.
Ur comment left me tumbling over with laughter. Thank u.

At Tue May 24, 02:43:00 AM MDT, Blogger Tazeen Mohsin said...

Oh i forgot to add. Ur grandson is so adorable plus he looks quite naughty.

At Tue May 24, 07:23:00 AM MDT, Blogger The Voice said...

In the greater scheme of things, there is so little that seperates us on this Great blue Ball spinning through space. I love America and I love my homeland but I also love my planet. I am a World Citizen.

I pray there will come a time when what we, as a planet come to hate is bigotry. I see the suffering and my heart is broken. I believe every Human Being on this planet has an intrinsic value and there is no other reason for government to exist but to insure that no child goes to sleep tonight with the knot of hunger knawing at them. I most assuredly beleve that, not until we as a society come to value children and honor their mothers with dignity and respect, we are doomed to fight wars.

The English Rock Musician, Sting sang a song called Russians in which he lamented at how the Cold War foes, poised on the verge of mutual destruction seemed oblivious to the reality that children would be destroyed should a nuclear confrontation ever come to pass. His message was simple, "I hope the Russians love their children too."

There is nothing wrong with cherishing our children and honoring their mothers. That is not weakness. That is the epitome of strength.

My purpose in life is to assure the children are safe. Naturally their mothers deserve the utmost in esteem and respect. I read your words from far across the planet and I am touched.

I understand the US is not at war with Pakistan but what makes your people any different than say the Iraqis who are dying every day, Yes, the tyrants must be stood down but a what price? At what point does the savior become the oppressor? Ultimately, every human being that dies - be they American, or any other member of the coalition forces or a member of the insurgent resistance or innocent civilian - is some mothers child.

We have become so consumed in waging a ideological war that we are willing to sacrifice our loved ones and then call them martyrs.

It has to stop for as certain as I am that America loves her children, so do Iraquis.

Be safe,


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