It is also easy to understand why our children of The Village Charter School are deprived of the “Participative Governance Experience.” They live in a “Monochromatic Landscape.” Their only real contact with government is with the police who conduct the “revolving door” where 85 percent of their fathers and brothers are “spun” between the community and prison. To the kids, everyone looks the same and acts the same—cops and criminals. And they create the same havoc when they appear! Government is not a response to problems but a stimulus to crises!
Again, my early learning from my father gave me the experience of “Participative Governance.” He viewed governance in both a responsive and initiative way. The most dramatic view of his initiative was when his union was out on strike. Two busloads of “strikebreakers” or “goons” as Dad called them were sent from Pennsylvania to break the picket line and, thus, the strike. Dad simply invited the mayor and council from his town to appear at this early morning confrontation. They did—with police—and the “strikebreakers” were escorted back to their busses without incident. Dad later claimed that this governmental action “had saved those Pennsylvania boys’ lives.” He knew the potential for violence of his waterfront union men.
My personal experiences were not nearly as dramatic—although a lot more productive. Here again, I turn to experiences involved in saving communities. In Springfield, the mayor and council ruled the minorities by what Senator Moynihan called “benign neglect.” With all the conditions for violence detailed in the Kerner Commission Report, we set about to create a “Shadow Government.” Created by “The Real People’s Congress,” this government served from “womb-to-tomb” in both the private, public, and all community sectors. The sources of its initiatives were in the minds and souls of the participants—majority as well as minority. The community mission was proactive: to empower people to live, learn, and work productively in the community. We “skilled” them instead of killing them. There was no violence! Springfield was declared “The Springfield Miracle.” Later on, it became the theme on which Michael Dukakis based his presidential campaign: “The Massachusetts Miracle!”
Perhaps my most electrifying initiative experience in Participative Governance was before the War in Iraq. I was urgently concerned with the “After-Shocks” of the war because, while there was an “end-game” to the war, there was no “beginning-game” to peace. From everything I knew, the peace initiatives would fall to insurgency because no Cultural Relating was built into the planning. My friend, Rob Owen, spent much political capital to get me in front of key members of the National Security Council. While I failed to influence the direction of the planning, I did succeed in expressing my rights as an American citizen. Moreover, I am given to understand that some members now read my books in order to understand the basic question: “How did he know it would turn out this way?” It’s simple: For every crisis, it is critical to relate to all of the people affected by the outcomes as well as all of the people affecting the outcomes.
So these are my experiences in Participative Governance or should I say “Initiative Governance.” They begin with the assumption that “We the People” are the constitutionally-mandated policy-makers. They culminate in the responsibilities for the lives of the people we represent and serve.
The children in our Village Charter School have an excuse for their deficits in experiencing Participative Governance. And they are paying for it with their lives! We do not! So we must empower them.
What about your experiences in the second critical principle of “The American Experience?” Where did your American journey carry you?