Tuesday, February 5, 2008

We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For

I just watched Maria Shriver's speech at the Barack Obama rally in Los Angeles. She referenced the quote that is the title of this blog and of course, being the geek that I am, I had to find the passage where it came from.

"You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour. Now you must tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered:

Where are you living? What are you doing? What are your relationships? Are you in right relation? Do the children want what they see in you? Where is your water? Know your garden. Does your life grow corn?

It is time to speak your Truth. Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader.

This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination.

The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!

Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary.

All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we've been waiting for."

The Elders, Oraibi, Arizona, Hopi Nation"


Having lived in Arizona for ten years, my wife Maria and I identify with the Native American people. We have attended a few powwows and spend some time at the San Xavier del Bac mission on the Tohono O'odham settlement south of Tucson. When I heard the words, "We are the ones we've been waiting for" I was overcome by this feeling of hopefulness – this feeling as if I had heard this before.

Today of all days, this message resonates, for today voters across the country will go out and make their voices heard. It is a time for change in America, a time to put the dark times behind us and begin to heal as a nation, as one nation. Collectively, our voice is loud and change will occur.

Sometimes, when you seek out one thing, you uncover another gem.

"The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!"

This surely speaks for us as a nation as well. It also speaks to me as a member of a smaller collective, my union. Organized labor in the United States has sat at this same crossroads for the past two decades, lost for an identify, divided amongst itself, struggling for survival as corporate America continues to take us back into the stone age of workers' rights.

NATCA is no different. We have seen our shining star rise like a phoenix from the ashes of our predecessors. Our collective efforts and some very strong shoulders have carried us from irrelevance to a day where our voice is strong and will not be silenced. Certainly, we are living in dark times, without a collective bargaining agreement, under jailhouse rules where "front line managers" (you want fries with that?) act like wardens. Alas, we are not the only workers living in dark times, nor are we the first nor will we be the last.

The Federal Aviation Administration had to cheat, lie and steal from us to get here. They had to threaten and coerce their own management team into treating us like this. Sure some of them were licking their chops, chomping at the bit to exact their revenge on their workforce for whatever reason – most likely because they are jealous that they cannot do the job that I and my brothers and sisters so. Anyone who becomes an air traffic controller, who is destined to be a controller, does so because they have the "it" factor – the indefinable quality that makes this more than just a career to us, it is who we are. It is our identity. 99.9% of the individuals who moved into those jobs (and certainly the ones extracting their measure of revenge) do not and never will have the "it" factor….and it kills them. The cool thing about or brother/sisterhood: you all know precisely what I'm talking about.

Our resolve is so strong, that they cannot defeat us at the bargaining table or on Capitol Hill. Yes, it seems like a long time ago where we owned this profession, where we owned our identity and where we loved coming to work, despite the fact that we hated our inept employer. Yes my friends, hated. But we can get it back. Do not allow your repugnance of your employer to obscure your vision of who the true enemy is, who did this to you, who took away your profession and made it a job. Resist the temptation to turn your rage and your weaponry against your own and against your union.

This is the time to galvanize your resolve to make that difference, to lift ourselves up. I saw the tenacity last week in Washington, DC, where 400 members saw a need to gather themselves, unify their voices and make a difference. It was electrifying. We need to build on that momentum, continue this fight and prepare for the next one.

Be ever vigilant, my brothers and sisters, for the enemy strikes when you least expect it. Do not help them put you on the street, where you will fight them from the outside. Turn that resentment into a positive energy as we collective toil to take our profession from those who stole it. It is rightfully ours, my friends, for our brothers and sisters who shed blood, gave their families, their careers, their lives – they willed it to us and no one can take that away from us.

You cannot win this fight alone. You cannot protect yourself alone. The $600 or $1800 they gave you for going above and beyond is simply blood money. The stole it from you and gave some back – nothing more. Do not be angry at your brothers and sisters who received the blood money. This is another ploy to divide us, to turn one against the other. Resist the urge and withhold your anger for the employer who would pit your brother against you. They are the true criminals, not your brother or sister. The system itself is a joke and not because you were not recognized.

Victory may not be swift, but it is at hand my brothers and sisters. Their foundation is cracking and we must show tenacity and resist the urge to take the easy road. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!

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