Spirited America

Dan Gillmor wrote yesterday about Spirit of America (SoA), which is providing peer-to-peer support to Afghanis and Iraqi’s coordinated by American GI’s. Dan is struck by the fact that Marc Danziger and I are both over-the-top gung-ho about SoA, although we represent ends of the spectrum of opinion for and against the war in Iraq.

“Marc Danziger, a.k.a. the “Armed Liberal” Web logger, supported the war in Iraq. Britt Blaser, a Howard Dean campaign adviser, did not.
Yet they agree on at least one thing about that Middle Eastern nation’s struggle: However right or wrong America’s official policy may be, Americans should do what we can to help Iraqis.

As Dan said when we spoke last week, there’s no part of the SoA project that any of us can find fault with. If you’re a bleeding heart liberal, you want to demonstrate that people who hate the war can reach out to the people hurt by our government’s illegitimate war. Rabid war supporters see a chance to demonstrate that the war can be won because the greatest American force is the innate goodness of the American GI, and that it’s worth going to war to connect our terrific GI’s with Arab kids.

I can walk both sides of that street.

Marc Danziger got started by coordinating volunteers to fulfill the requests, and now he’s involved full time, directing all aspects of SoA as Chief Operating Officer. Jeff Jarvis hooked me up with Marc last week, in the hope that I can help them copy the parts of the Dean campaign that worked right – specifically the mechanics of a grassroots campaign using the strawberry roots hierarchical model I discussed recently.

Like all of us, Jeff feels strongly about this, moving mountains behind the scenes. He is a buzz machine. Read Jeff’s take here.

America Actually Coming Together

America Coming Together is doing important work to offset the advantages that corporate America has built to ensure that their corporate form of person dominates our carbon-based form of person. In practice, ACT brings together those who feel abandoned or embarrassed by this administration. ACT’s purpose is to bury the corporate-based government it despises under a landslide of aroused progressives and outraged conservatives. But it’s largely a negative form of energy.

SoA is wielding the positive kind of energy that seems non-existent in the political arena. Are we surprised to discover that the positive energy is rising spontaneously from a grass roots, self-organizing movement? SoA started with Dianna Smith, who sent baseball equipment to her husband Jay, a sergeant with the Special Forces in Orgun-e, Afghanistan. Her shipment started a movement. Perhaps the catalytic moment was when an Afghani kid named Nazim said, “I like to be a player, not a fighter.

“The things we did to help people in Orgun-e literally saved lives. Theirs and ours.”
Jay Smith, Sgt. 1st Class
U.S. Army Special Forces
“I like to be a player, not a fighter.”
Nazim
“I am very happy to come here and play. This is my favourite game.”
Abdul Hameed
Afghan teenager
   

It works both ways. GI’s surely see their younger selves when they watch a 9-year-old belt one out of the infield; any 9-year-old, growing up in any family, regardless of the religious image on the wall over his bed, and regardless of the hatred his uncles were taught.

After that, it was like pulling a string out of a sweater.

Are we surprised that other GI’s–U.S. Marines–followed up with something like, “How’re ya fixed for Frisbees?”

Heh.Here’s what 2 tons of Frisbees looks like.

Could a web-based movement be far behind? And a visionary leader who grabs the bull by the horns? The leader is Jim Hake, Silican Valley entrepreneur and visionary. The sound you hear around Hake is that of the ball rolling, Big Time. As I understand the rough sequence, more shipments followed rapidly, especially after FedEx agreed to haul stuff for free.

This week FedEx is flying a free charter loaded with 10-20 pallets of hand and power tools for Iraqi tradesmen. So it goes when you get mixed up with the grass roots.

Tipping Point

I love grass roots movements (You know, like the American Revolution). Movements that resonate so deeply with the right thing to do that support comes out of the woodwork, from people all over the ideological spectrum. From people so tired of resenting their neighbors’ opinions that they find a way to join with those neighbors and do something positive for a change. There’s no shortage of authentic needs at the people level in Iraq and Afghanistan. And there’s no shortage of grass roots energy here in this land of abundance. Money, of course, is just a form of energy.

Other needs arose and were immediately met. Baseball games-in-a-box – a pallet loaded with everything it takes to equip two teams to learn the game from GI’s – GI’s who surely see their younger selves when they watch a 9-year-old belt one out of the infield; any 9-year-old, growing up in any family, regardless of the religious image on the wall over his bed, and regardless of the hatred his uncles were taught.

Baseball-in-a-box and school kits sound straightforward, especially with free shipping. But the logistics aren’t trivial. If you want to send hundreds of school kits, the Marines discovered, you need to buy the parts in bulk and customize the kits. A tote bag loaded with a pencil box, notebook, lunch box, crayons, etc., sounds simple, but it needs a gang of volunteers to unpack the shipments of tote bags, pencil boxes, etc., and re-assemble them as individual kits. The assembly lines formed at Camp Pendleton in southern California.

That takes a lot of volunteers and that’s where Marc Danziger comes in.

Marc is a tech consultant and soccer dad in the L.A area, who took to this project like he was born for it. He stepped up and became active coordinatng volunteers. He was so active that he and Jim Hake had a little heart-to-heart and now Marc Danziger is coordinating SoA’s day-to-day operations.

Kerry Dupont (the Maine b
logger who had made a reputation by sending laptops to Iraqis to help them start blogging) has been recruited to work full time on project logistics.

I hope I can help Jim and Marc and Kerry line up a million people and several million bucks in pledges for continuing support. As you know, I have some views on how that might be done.

So, as Jeff Jarvis writes, here’s your opportunity. Get involved. If you have a war-peace preference, express it by helping our troops show their true colors. Doing so, you can demonstrate that the real power of our country is our people.

Spirit of America Links

SoA Background
SoA Blog
Current Requests
   Marines and SeaBees Seek Tools for Iraqi Tradesmen
   U.S. Marines Seek to Help Iraqi Children
   Air Force Chaplains Seek Help for Schools and Orphanages in Kirkuk, Iraq
   Special Forces Request Help for Afghanistan
   Support America – Iraq School Partners
Success Stories
Get Involved
GIVE! (All gifts go to the mission, not overhead)
About SoA

4:46:09 PM    

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