It’s all well and good to speculate about the power of the Netroots. Most of that is indirect, like when someone blogs an Open Letter to Barack Obama. Not just as a politico-literary device to snare the broader audience, but also with the modestly arrogant thought that it might actually be read by the President at bed-time and somehow thought more attention-worthy than the 9-year-old girl who has written to ask if there is anything he can do to keep her family from getting kicked out of their house.
Some of this speculation is quite a bit more tangible, such as how much positive impact was made and how was it made specifically by the Netroots-assisted get-out-the-vote efforts in the final two weeks of the disastrous Coakley campaign. As well as how much impact might be made in a primary and subsequent general election in a state like, say, Arkansas, presuming it wasn’t a desperate rescue mission but well-planned and recruited for in advance. Calculating those impacts is murky.
On the other hand, something we know we had an impact on in the past 15 days is a project that arose out of three diaries and a comment. When the earthquake shook Haiti January 12, it took 45 minutes to hear about it at Daily Kos and less than four hours before the first relief diary appeared. By the morning after the earthquake, there was a flotilla of relief-for-Haiti diaries with specific information. Soon most interested Kossacks were focusing their attention on a specific project. How much we Kossacks and visitors to the site collectively donated can never be known. But we're certain at least $118,000 has been raised for one project alone, the delivery of 118 ShelterBoxes to Haiti. (To see what’s in a ShelterBox, click here.)
This campaign had a lot of help along the way, but the whole effort got rolling in less than 12 hours after a breaking news diary by pantherq, and the first relief diaries by Septima, Dallasdoc and TexMex, boosted by a comment from Sallycat. They deserve a round of applause. So does Norbrook for quickly putting together a comprehensive, one-stop, how-to-contribute dkosopedia entry.
Dallasdoc thinks that the applause should go to the whole community, not just a few individuals. He’s half right about that. Instigators always deserve special mention. Activists can’t live without them. But the whole point of instigating is making something happen among the many. So, congratulations to all the other relief-oriented diarists (listed below) and the many hundreds who otherwise participated, in spite of all the distractions in their lives, online and off.
Their effort started with some words that have now delivered a little bit of comfort, privacy and daily necessities to hundreds of homeless Haitians whose names we will never know. Other human beings on the precipice, battered, bereaved, and with survival at stake.
While the relief campaign went on, diarists discussed all manner of things related to Haiti, a subject with which most Americans are only peripherally aware, if that. As our guts were yanked out by stories of doctors not having enough hacksaw blades for the deluge of crushed and gangrenous limbs and by scary updates, we paid some attention to Pat Robertson’s rantings about satanic pacts and the rancid secular inhumanism of Rush Limbaugh. We looked at the political and environmental problems of the island, the U.S. intervention record there, George Bush’s interest in the place, the country’s culture,geology and poetry, and the media’s response. But after more than 50 diaries written about Haiti the first two days, those topics gradually receded, leaving only the ShelterBox campaign. Here's what that's about:
Dallasdoc, yes, he is a doctor, saw the news and had a "terrible sinking feeling." When he saw nothing happening at Daily Kos, he tried to revive the discussion Septima had begun using "what notoriety I had." It wasn’t the first time he pushed a community project. In the 1980s, in medical school, he was a catalyst and facilitator for professors and community groups to found an AIDS clinic. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, the son of a teamster and working mom who was an amputee. Oldest of three kids and the product (mostly) of California public schools all the way through medical school before Ronald Reagan and Prop. 13 budget cuts "ruined them." For a decade, he was the medical director of a community health center, "where caring for the uninsured was our meat and drink." He got his moniker from the fact that he met a fellow from Texas and moved there to be with him. In 2005, he moved to New Mexico and entered the private medical system.
Was he surprised by what he calls the "firehose of generosity and information"?
Not in the least. After more than five years at Daily Kos, I know that people here are interested in politics because they care about their fellow human beings. We have proved over and over that we walk our talk. As I told a newcomer in one of the Helping the Victims of the Haiti Earthquake diaries: stick around. This community will astonish you regularly. ...
Haiti doesn't figure directly in the mission of "more and better Democrats," but it serves the principles that move most of us into politics in the first place. You can never go wrong appealing to our community's better angels and reminding us why we're political animals, and doing so can help us heal from our rancorous divisions. ...
We are stronger together than alone, and that’s something a political group should never forget.
TexMex once taught far from Texas in one of the poorest schools in Buffalo, N.Y. Life for children there was very hard, she says. Her work on including special education in a regular science class in is documented here. She chose the project because she saw a ShelterBox close up at a Rotary meeting in the town of the Canadian university where her husband is president. She got Daily Kos to buy at least one in the past as you can see here, here and here.
I have always been concerned with those who have less. I grew up with children in my classroom that did not wear shoes. I felt lucky I had shoes. I have a picture of my dad as a child at school with no shoes. The people half a block away had their house flooded when it rained heavily. I was always very much aware of "there by the grace of God go I."
Jonothon Kozol wrote about my schools in his book Savage Inequalitities. Add to that the fact that our family have been Democrats though history. I recently learned that my great grandmother on my Dad's side cleaned house for Maury Mavarick Sr. My grandmother on my mother's side was one of the women leading the Pecan Shellers Strike of 1938. My Dad worked for the air force as a civil servant welder. My extended my family was fairly pro war as it provided jobs for them. We didn't have much but we had a whole lot more than a lot of other folks near us.
I married young moved to Austin and got my degree in education speciallizing in Spanish and biology. In 1995 I was selected as of of the top ten science teachers in the country by NSTA. Didn't win but being in the top 10 felt good. During all the years as an undergrad and then most of my life, I also worked closely with my husband on his insect work.
Norbrook took on the Haiti project because he’s a "computer generalist." After volunteering to do the third diary in the project, he thought...
..."it would be a good thing to organize them while I was doing it. After getting ti all together, I decided to pass the code on to the next diarist in line – betson08. She and I had worked in a similar manner on the Pretty Bird Woman House diaries. Somehow, I ended up with the job. I have an uncontrollable urge to jump and volunteer when I can help that 12 years in the military didn’t cure me of.
Others who contributed one or more entries to the relief diary effort were: cosmic debris, nyceve, mindoca, betson, Andy T, Julie Gulden, Sallycat, ALifeLessFrightening, Jimdotz, vc2, , AntKat, parryander, Amber6541, it really is that important, VA gentlewoman, allie123, swampus, Deep Harm, big spoiled baby, lineatus, Delaware Dem, Turkana, webranding, blackwaterdog, Avenging Angel, Lrios, and Adam Luna.
In this currently recommended diary by Dallasdoc about Partners in Health, you can find links to all 32 diaries in the Helping the Victims of the Haiti Earthquake series.
If you haven't contributed to ShelterBox and want to, here again is the secure donation page.