Thursday, April 25, 2013

Honoring Paul de Armond

In Paul de Armond Remembered, Albion Monitor editor Jeff Elliott remarked that it was criminal Paul didn't receive a MacArthur award. For those unfamiliar with the award, it is a prize given by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to geniuses in the arts and sciences who hold promise for making great and lasting contributions to American society. Jane Kramer at The New Yorker made a pitch to MacArthur on Paul's behalf back in 1995.

The award at the time was, I think, half a million dollars, dispensed over five years. It is perhaps an understatement to say it would have changed Paul's life. And mine. Had our work been funded, Paul could have assumed his rightful place among America's top luminaries and distinguished scholars. I could have established the Public Good Project national learning center for teaching investigative research and communication to promising researchers, analysts and activists from around the country.

Paul, however, accepted the unfairness of life with aplomb, remaining focused on developing the tools future generations of upright good citizens would need in exercising social prophylaxis against anti-democratic movements, financed in large part by fraud. Pro-democracy, anti-fraud; had there been a motto for our work, that would have been it.

Accepting our fate as what Paul called "the dog faces" -- those who fight in the trenches, while charlatans, opportunists and pious poseurs parade in shiny uniforms -- we went about this task of recruiting, training and nurturing a network of individuals to join us in this thankless but vital task. Applying The Public Health Model to social conflict, we have been successful in helping those who rise to the occasion to organize effectively against hate campaigns. In Washington, California, Texas and Montana, our proteges and colleagues have made us proud. Today, some of our most active proteges are in Canada.

While heroic figures like Paul de Armond are treasured by those who know them, their tragic fate in societies such as ours is unfortunately ordained. Until America rewards rather than marginalizes its greatest citizens, the need for our work will continue. As such, we will mourn Paul's passing, then honor him for putting his Life on the Line by organizing.

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