Sunday, February 28, 2016

An Example of Moral Courage: Doris (Granny D) Haddock (1910-2010)

Over the past few years, I've profiled at least half a dozen people (most Americans) who are truly unsung heroes. Not so much for what each has done, but in every case, for what he or she refused to do. Often, being a hero or heroine is a simple act of refusing to abandon one's principles and one's humanity when all around have forsaken their own.

Doris (Granny D) Haddock is one such person, and someone I greatly admire for her inspiring courage and for her strength of character. Doris Haddock was born (as Doris Rollins) on January 24, 1910, in Laconia, New Hampshire, USA. On January 24, 2010, Doris Haddock turned 100. She died 44 days later, on March 9.

Granny D is best know for walking across the continental United States, a distance of over 3,200 miles, when she was 88 years old to raise awareness of the need for campaign finance reform as a way of limiting corporate control of the US government. The January 2010 Supreme Court decision to essentially grant corporations the constitutional rights of citizens must have broken her heart, in effect giving corporations the right to influence US elections (and with their almost limitless wealth, their influence is enormous). That decision was a death blow to the notion that the American people are a completely self-governing people, and it was something Granny D fought against until the day she died.

She had this to say about those corporations and the notion that corporations should be given the same legal or moral status as individuals and expected to act morally or responsibly

Corporations of reasonable size are but groups of people. Beyond some point, however, the humanity falls away from an organization and all that is left is the will to power and profit. They care not that our seas and atmosphere are rapidly changing in ways that may lead to disaster and famine of unimaginable scale. They care not because they are not human and they have moved beyond human values. They do not need the fresh air or the water or the mountains or the birds. They are a kind of virus or a cancer, all prettied up with a nice logo and television commercials to tell us the most outrageous lies, one after the other. For in reality, they crush us under their boots and they pay off our political leaders with campaign contributions and other bribes. They trample on diversity of all kinds, including human personality, as fewer and fewer kinds of people can prosper in the world they are casting, and more and more of us are marginalized.
Rather than tell you more about this remarkable American patriot and hero, I'll simply share some things Granny D told us, and about which I believe she was absolutely right. And she was very brave in saying it at a time when most Americans were perfectly willing to remain silent while their nation was being plundered. If these words make her sound radical, so be it ... because she was not the instrument of radical change in 2003. She was one of the few voices that spoke out to condemn radical changes that were being brought about by those who claimed, "we can no longer afford the principles expressed in our Constitution." While our leaders tried to change our nation into one that no longer aspires to lead by example, but instead by threats of violence, retribution, and unimaginable destruction, there were those who stood in opposition. The truly radical social revolution that threatened us all was reversed, not because of Granny D alone; no one person was solely or even predominately responsible for that reversal. That disastrous trend was reversed because some Americans took an individual and personal responsibility for changing it. Granny D was such a person.

Granny D was an example to me; that I wasn't too old, at the age of 48, to take a stand on principle. She was an example that sometimes adherence to principle must trump security and comfort. She was an example of a person who wasn't too afraid to start big things late in life. She was an example of a person who lived her life morally and courageously.

Granny D told us the following, in 2003, at a time when America was marching, lock-step and recklessly, down a path toward fear, militarism and intolerance of any dissent. Has it really been thirteen years?

There are two kinds of politics in the world: the politics of love and the politics of fear. Love is about cooperation, sharing and inclusion. It is about the elevation of each individual to a life neither suppressed nor exploited, but instead nourished to rise to its full potential--a life for its own sake and so that we may all benefit by the gift of that life. Fear, and the politics of fear, is about narrow ideologies that separate us, militarize us, imprison us, exploit us, control us, overcharge us, demean us, bury us alive in debt and anxiety and then bury us dead in cancers and wars. The politics of love and the politics of fear are now pitted against each other in a naked struggle that will define not only the 21st Century but centuries to come. We are the Sons and Daughters of Liberty in that struggle, indeed we are. Let us not shirk from the mission that fate has bestowed upon us, for it has done so as a blessing

August 16, 2003 speech in Hood River, Oregon
When most Americans chose fear; Granny D chose to stand up and to speak out against yielding to fear. That set her apart from the masses. I did nothing so extraordinary; I simply followed her example. I'm a far better man for it. 

Doris "Granny D" Haddock
(January 24, 1910 – January 24, 2010)