NewsPub Notes

A Local Hero Fades; A National One Runs

Harold Williams

With his full agreement, Harold Williams was taken off the respirator Sunday afternoon but  kept on oxygen and taken home, where he is at this writing (on Monday) under hospice care. It is expected that he has but a brief time left. A heart attack suffered last weekend seems to be the immediate cause of his turn for the worse.  His family and close friends are gathered with Harold, as are so many more of us through thoughts and prayers. Harold is a bright, engaging, caring man who worked hard, loved his family, his friends and his music and enlivened every encounter with his active concern. His life is a beacon for us all, to show us the way to live with strength and conviction whil being tolerant of others’ imperfections.

Even in the final days in the hospital waiting room, Harold’s friends could not refrain from telling Harold stories, such as his early job in the construction of Georgia Square Mall when he pretended to be trapped on the escalator and caused an instant eruption of street theater as fellow workers got in on the joke by rushing to his aid with ladders and other equipment. Or the brief period when he worked as a collection agent and was so softhearted that he would just pay people’s bills out of his own pocket. 

There are a million Harold stories, and his daughter Molly wants to try to collect as many as possible. Send her your recollections, stories, Harold’s advice to you, whatever to or 130 Plantation Dr., Athens, GA 30605. Keep Harold alive through our collective memories of his rich and exemplary life.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders served four terms as mayor of Burlington, VT. He went on to serve eight terms as the U.S. congressman from Vermont, and he’s now in his second term as U.S. senator from Vermont. He started out as an activist who ran four losing campaigns in Vermont before getting elected Burlington mayor in 1980—as a Socialist. He has been elected 14 times by Vermont voters.

To put Bernie in perspective, imagine that Athens-Clarke County was the largest city in Georgia, and that Georgia was the size of Vermont. In other words, instead of being the smallest county in the largest state east of the Mississippi, we’d be the largest county in the smallest state east of everywhere.

Now, compare Bernie to Gwen O’Looney. Seriously. In 1990, a decade after Bernie shocked everybody by getting elected mayor of Burlington, Gwen shocked everybody by winning in Athens-Clarke County. Gwen had been just as much an activist as Bernie, and she threw herself into the job of day-to-day heading a city, plus her early years were consumed with working out the nuts and bolts of unifying the city and county governments.

If Athens were the dominant city in a small state, Gwen could have gone on to Congress and to the Senate—or not. Love her or hate her, she put in eight years as mayor of Athens-Clarke County, and she helped to open up our government and make it more accessible to the people it governs.

Bernie Sanders did the same in Burlington, a city remarkably like Athens, though larger, with the University of Vermont, plus St. Michael’s College and a lot of late-19th Century architecture. Bernie Sanders, like Gwen, proved to be a fiscally conservative mayor who lost some of his radicalism grappling with political and economic realities but never lost his commitment to making government responsive to and supportive of the people it represents. Bernie Sanders is a no-nonsense, hard-working public servant. He is still a forceful advocate for the idea that government exists to enhance the lives of those it governs, with justice for all and no special privileges for anybody. Those familiar ideas, which are the bedrock of our democracy, are anathema to the elites who control our country, suck up its resources and embroil it in foreign wars, while continuously shifting the burden of paying for it all onto those beneath them.

Bernie Sanders, like Elizabeth Warren, stands for the radical notion that our nation should be true to its democratic principles and should level the playing field so that economic gains are no longer siphoned off by the super-rich through their ability to control government and build in unfair advantages for themselves and their corporations.

Because Bernie Sanders believes that government should exist for the benefit of the governed—all of them—Bernie Sanders is called a radical by those who gain by exploiting our people and our environment and by owning our government.

Does Bernie Sanders have a chance at winning the Democratic nomination for president? Of course not, just like he didn’t stand a chance when he started out running in Vermont. Alarmingly, by running, Bernie Sanders gives human shape to our basic ideals of economic responsibility, fairness and government by and for the people. That’s all. No big deal, unless your corporate fortunes are tied to special privilege and insider government for the very few.

Bernie’s is the voice of reason. Here’s hoping it rubs off on Hillary Clinton and that it helps us to see the Republican candidates against the backdrop of a clear-sighted focus on the democratic values of equality for all.

Bernie Sanders for president!