Posted by: Patrick Barbanes | September 15, 2008

A letter to Sarah Palin

This letter from a community organizer named Joshua Kanary, a Community organizer with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is just too good not to have here in its entirety (although I encourage you to click the link and read it at the source, to increase the popularity of the letter: http://www.clevescene.com/stories/15/71/letters-09102008)

Gov. Sarah Palin: Like many other community organizers at various agencies across the city, county, state and nation, I work very hard for the underprivileged and impoverished people in my community. I work long hours in the Cleveland area in order to educate and involve the community toward ending poverty in this wonderful nation that I love, because, as I’m sure you would agree, the community itself can provide more help at a grassroots level than a government agency ever could. I often come home late and am too exhausted to do little more than cook dinner for myself and fall asleep in my studio apartment. I do not get overtime pay, but I always proudly work longer than the 40-hour work week I am paid for.

I get paid very little (less than a quarter of the $125,000 a governor of Alaska earns) to stand up for families facing legal and financial abuse from unscrupulous landlords, homeless people facing harassment from petty police and public officials, and children forgotten and neglected by a swamped and overly bureaucratic system. At the end of the day, powerful enemies throwing obstacles in my path outnumber friends struggling in the same battle I have been waging for years. Like you, I am not here to make friends but to serve my community and my country. What I do is hard, thankless work, and I do it because I know what I’m doing is good and right.

Therefore, I have to ask, what did I do to you that would make you ridicule and belittle my work, my passion and my career to an audience of millions across the nation? In your speech at to the 2008 Republican National Convention, you said that community organizers have no “actual responsibilities.” You mocked my efforts, as well as the efforts of thousands across this nation who put their country first, ahead of even themselves, when you said, “This world of threats and danger, it’s not just a community and it doesn’t just need an organizer.” You smiled as your audience laughed at everything I have dedicated my entire life to. I help people the entire country has given up on to fight the odds and climb out of poverty and stand on their own two feet. You laugh at that. I help people with disabilities and nowhere else to turn to find community resources that will empower them to find stable, affordable and livable housing. You laugh at that.

I go into schools and speak to children about homelessness, what it is and what its causes are. The children always ask what they can do to help, and I show them how, even at such a young age, they can serve their country and make an impact in the world. You laugh at that.

I have spent months fighting for just one client. She is a single mother living alone with her two children in a house missing windows and needing repairs. Every month, her landlord refuses to pay the water bill, and the water company threatens to shut off service. Every month, on a schedule I could set my watch to, I must jump through the exact same hoops, argue the exact same arguments and deal with the exact same obstacles in order to get the landlord to uphold his end of the lease and keep the pipes running in my client’s home. You laugh at that.

I stood before the body of Anthony Waters, a homeless man beaten to death on the streets of Cleveland, and bowed my head in prayer. I tell his story to whomever I meet wherever I go so people won’t forget his struggles and will realize the urgency of help needed now on our city’s streets. You laugh at that.

You have insulted me and many others fighting the same fight in order to better serve our country. I am deeply offended and I don’t understand what I have done to draw your ire. I am serving my country just like you. I am giving back to the great citizens of this nation just like you. Why are you attacking me? What have I done?

Joshua Kanary

Community organizer, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless

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Responses

  1. I understand you put a lot of effort into that letter but you must realize she is not talking about YOU. Politics doesn’t have the time to focus on individuals and it is all in part to the Political game opposing Obama.

    Second point is don’t claim victim. Seriously. That is a large part of this nations problems is that through Government privileges and immunities everyone feels that they are a victim of something. Your only a victim to yourself. You are obviously proud of what you do, and you do do a great service through your efforts. Who gives a &^%# what anyone else says. Lift your chin up and keep working hard, you know who you are and if not you better start figuring that out. Why do you feel so inclined to let the opinions of others rule that person. Keep up the good work, but give up the victim stuff =)

  2. Justin – Some thoughtful input. To your first point, that she (Sarah Palin) was not talking about the letter-writer, one has to wonder why such supposedly good speech-writers, who choose words so carefully, chose to be so sweeping with the words about community organizers? They certainly had the time to write something that would have spoken about Obama, rather than generally dissing ALL community organizers – as their words did. And if Palin and Giuliani have come out since the convention and said they weren’t trying to demean community organizers, just Obama’s experience as one, I certainly haven’t seen or heard it. So I have to take them at their words.

    To your second point, I don’t think the letter-writer, Joshua Kanary, saw himself as a victim. (Although if someone stabs me in the back, can I not claim that I there’s a wound there? That’s not being a victim, that’s just stating the facts.) And it’s important that people DO rise up and speak out when someone hurls insults or derogatory comments – which, again, is what Giuliani and Palin did. A real victim would let someone run over them. Joshua responded, and in a very respectful way. I’d say he took the high road.


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