Public Comment

Honk for a New Deal

By Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 11:15:00 AM

For seven years now, Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace (LMNOP) has held a weekly antiwar demonstration at the Lake in Oakland, becoming part of the regular Sunday scene along with the geese, pelicans, and boats on the water. We’ve been calling for an end to war and other manifestations of Mad-Cowboy Disease. Now, with the election of Barack Obama, we’ll have a government that just might listen to us, so we feel it’s more important than ever to continue our Sunday walks at Lake Merritt. 

We hope to see a new course for our country, at least as progressive an agenda as was instituted back in the 1930s under President Roosevelt. This may seem like a huge dream, but the present crises necessitate coordinated action on a host of problems. 

The damage and repair list includes ecological, economic, and human rights issues such as global warming, the income gap, corporate crime, and home foreclosures; the need for renewable energy, health care, re-regulation, media reform, enforcement of anti-trust laws, and repeal of the Patriot Act, just to name a few items. 

Meanwhile, the United States is fighting multiple wars, creating more terrorists. 

These are complex issues that require well-thought-out strategies. They go far beyond cleaning up the Bush mess; our country has been going in the wrong direction for decades, on a disastrous course mass-marketed by Reagan, maintained by Clinton, and finally run at full speed by Bush. 

Nothing will substantially change if progressives go home and leave matters in the hands of a “savior,” as our new president is often portrayed. The election of Obama is a political opening for us—as the elections of Lincoln and Roosevelt were for previous generations. The labor movement pressured Roosevelt, and the abolitionists pressured Lincoln. 

During the 1930s, it was pressure from the labor movement, along with economic necessity, that persuaded Roosevelt to institute the New Deal. During the Civil War, it was pressure from the abolitionist movement, along with military and diplomatic necessity, that persuaded President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Barack Obama seems to recognize that common, everyday people can exert a powerful force for change. During a debate last January, he was asked which of the Democratic candidates Martin Luther King would have endorsed. None of us, Obama replied, and explained that King would call upon the American people to hold the winner accountable. “Change does not happen from the top down,” Obama said. “It happens from the bottom up.” 

However literally Obama meant that, words and symbols take on a life of their own; it’s up to us to accept the challenge of his response, and to put such pressure on President Obama. 

Our weekly walk is in a visible part of town, bordering busy streets around the lake. We’ve had international coverage, in Japanese and Swedish newspapers, as well as the New York Times. We’re also in a very real sense our own media, reaching out directly to the community around us—motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, picnickers, and even boaters on the lake—who give us an encouraging response. 

Please join us any Sunday in calling for peace and a progressive agenda. We meet at 3 p.m. at the Colonnade, between Lakeshore and Grand near the library branch. 


Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace (LMNOP): Daniel Borgström, Oakland; Beth Wagner, Oakland; Mark Boynton, Alameda; Marin Sanders, Livermore; Nancy Harrington, Oakland; Pat Maginnis, Oakland; David Baker, Alameda.