Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Thanks Again, Harry Taylor

"In my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of my leadership in Washington. And I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and grace to be ashamed of yourself."

- Harry Taylor, April, 2006

When I saw Harry Taylor at an art gallery in the NoDa district of Charlotte, N.C. last weekend, I recognized him immediately. For those of you who may not remember, Harry is the gentleman who stood up at a town hall meeting with President Bush less than a year ago and asked him a question so honest and forthright that no one could believe he was able to do so - to "get away with it" - at a town hall meeting. "Getting away with it" shouldn't be the way an honest and forthright question successfully asked of a President should be seen, but at the point in time when Harry Taylor stood up, citizens were discriminated against at these so-called "open" Bush town hall meetings (and it's likely they still would be).

At the time he'd done it, I thought that Harry Taylor looked "solid American" - the kind of face you'd see in a Norman Rockwell portrait. In the portrait called Free Speech by Rockwell, the expression on the faces of the citizens who look up to a man willing to stand up and speak says it all. You can imagine they're thinking, "Good for you. I'm glad you did that. Amen, brother." That wasn't the reception Harry got last April. He was booed by fellow citizens, much to the disgust of the millions of us who watched the clip repeated on CNN and the evening news. Oh, how we cheered Harry Taylor for his courage and honesty that day. That sentiment is precisely what I hoped I conveyed when trying to tell Harry how I'd felt when he stood up and questioned President Bush about last April.

"You never stop talking about freedom, and I appreciate that. But while I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me from breathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food. If I were a woman, you’d like to restrict my opportunity to make a choice and decision about whether I can abort a pregnancy on my own behalf."

- More of Harry Taylor's comments to President Bush last April

I found Harry to be a humble man. I told him that I held him in the highest esteem for the courage to have stood up and face the "boos" of those fellow citizens who'd been cowed by one another into eerie quiet and acceptance of things too many of us knew were wrong. In a free country, we have taken the right to free speech for granted. Harry showed us, after a long and bitter season of the kind of silence that comes from intimidation and discrimination, that democratic leadership can only come from the hearts of the people and that the health of that democracy depends on the courage of those who are willing to stand up and demand to be heard. A lot of people consider him to be a hero, but Harry would rather be seen as a citizen-leader just doing what should be expected of any person who cares deeply about participating in democratic goverment. He continues writing letters to the editor of his community newspaper and asking tough questions of his government representatives. He remains an Independent voter today.

It seems almost unbelievable that the tipping point, created by Harry Taylor himself, occurred only 11 months ago. We have to ask ourselves how the mainstream media could have slept through the "season of silence" for so long. Harry did their job for them when he stood up. A lot of "doubting Thomases" had epressed their fear that Harry was just another Jeff Gannon - an "intentional guest" at that infamous Bush town hall meeting. Meeting Harry, I can tell you that that belief is beyond the realm of possibility. As of last April (and, in large part, still today), Moveon.org was still being talked about by the MSM as if it was some wild-eyed leftist group and it just isn't true. Harry agreed with me that his standing up was a Malcolm Gladwell moment - a tipping point for a still-rapidly flowing waterfall of public honesty about the empty suit that our President has been all long. One short year ago, the media was all too willing to fill that empty suit with the Rovian illusions created by the designed absence of diversity of opinion at the Bush town hall gatherings. MSM seldom mentioned that it was a completely stifled reality.

Since his "15 minutes of international fame," Harry has taken the opportunity to participate in DFA grassroots training and MoveOn.org activities. Calling him liberal would be a stretch. Calling him a "small 'd' democrat" and a caring patriot would be far more accurate.

I really liked him.

Harry spoke for all of us almost a year ago. So much has changed since then. It was hard for me to find the right words to thank him, but I know he understood.

I'm just wild about Harry.

Last April at the John Edwards blog, David K. Beckwith [the blogger known as Anonymoses] wrote about what Harry did and why it was important. He said:
It was a moment to go down in history. A man, a North Carolinian, broke free of the groupthink silence and told the President the truth. On April 6, 2006, at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mr. Harry Taylor stood before a crowd of Bush supporters and Mister Bush himself, and said what many have wanted to say, but were either silenced, timid or a human chicken.

It is weird to think that one act of defiance can win someone a place in the history books, but it just reflects the times we are in, and what is wrong with current "leadership".

My hat is off to the new American Hero, Harry Taylor
Here were some of the many replies from fellow citizens:

Harry Taylor joined the ranks of "one who dared", which reminds me of the lone figure standing in front of the tank in Tianamen Square. That man and that tank are metaphors for the equally deadly machine operating out of the White House and one heroic figure with the courage to face up to that machine and publicly expose it for what it is. Mr. Taylor is a hero, purely and simply.

- Mardee

GWB what needed to be said as to how he felt. I think the man showed much character and he made me proud just to listen. In spite of the boos, he maintained his honor by speaking his thoughts.

- Im4jre

I was in shock when Harry started talking. I could not believe he got in the door AND they allowed him to speak.

- NCDem

Most times the truth hurts. It's about time someone had the courage to stand up and speak a truth that has been missing from so many of the mainstream "media" outlets and polls that are supposed to reflect public opinion. Mr. Taylor spoke the truth and there can be nothing wrong with that. If someone thinks otherwise they might want to check out a little document called the Constitution. They might find it's first amendment very enlightening.

- Cate-Iowa

Reminds me of a Steven Van Zandt song, "I Am a Patriot" -

And the river opens for the righteous, someday

I was walking with my brother
And he wondered what was on my mind
I said what I believe in my soul
It ain't what I see with my eyes
And we can't turn our backs this time

I am a patriot and I love my country
Because my country is all I know
I want to be with my family
With people who understand me
I got nowhere else to go
I am a patriot

- Benny

Abraham Lincoln portrayed ours as a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” This hardly describes what we have today. The only way to change that is to demand that our elected representatives in Washington, including the President, listen to us.

What can each of us do? Have conversations with others. Learn to be great listeners. Read… and not just material that favors your position. Develop healthy skepticism — make the facts prove themselves. Insist that your elected representatives respond, and support those who really do listen to us, the people. See the links to several November Congressional races to be fought against weak GOP incumbents. Please consider making a contribution.

I truly believe Americans are more alike than different; that we can find common ground that works for everyone; that we can have a genuinely representative government with compassionate leaders. We owe it to ourselves, and more especially to our children and grandchildren, to make this effort.

Know that courage is contagious. Together we do have the ability to win back our government and country.

- Harry Taylor, ThankYouHarryTaylor.com

* credit for the Rockwell/Taylor art: Cronus Protagonist, courtesy of the DU.

* credit for the art with the title The man who dared to tell the President what America thinks goes to Anonymoses [David K. Beckwith], who not only alerted me to Harry's presence at the NoDa gallery, but also took the photo of me with him above. Thanks, David.


benny06 said...

I had forgotten Harry Taylor for awhile in the midst of bigoted comments about gays and John Edwards over the weekend, but this diary brought back one of the candles of truth and justice.

Dave took an excellent picture.

I have a feeling I would like to meet Harry Taylor, and have my picture taken with him.

I hope you get this one framed, Jude. It's a keeper.

Thanks for sharing a Rockwell moment in 2007.

GreenSmile said...

being a massachusetts resident, I have had occassions to visit the Norman Rockwell Museaum. I may not know art but that man knew what I liked. And the Freedom's series was one of my dearest favorites of many Rockwell paintings. How'd you remember that painting? The resemblence with Taylor is uncanny.

Larry said...

Thanks for the memory. I had forgotten him as well.

Anonymous said...

It is wonder Harry isn't hanging out in one of Chimpy's secret "guest houses."

We all remember from the debates how well Chimpy likes dissent.

Anonymous said...

great post!! and wow he looks just like that picture!!

Frederick said...

Ahh, what potential America still has...

Anonymous said...

At the right place and the right time?? I do NOT believe in coincidence. It was meant to be. What an honor for him to meet you too.

the Cogitatrix of Newell

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