People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Life And Death Of Susan Jean Daniels

I have been following the story of the murder of Sue Daniels since it hit the local papers in November. The titillating story surrounding her relationship with the man who stalked and killed her, Niklan Jones-Lezama (who subsequently committed suicide himself), was only part of the saga that attracted me to her. Sue Daniels was a political activist. She was also a research associate at Virginia Tech, working on a PHD in biology.

I would categorize her political activities as being on the far left; as far left as one can recede before picking up a weapon and calling for the revolution of the proletariat. The "power to the people" kind of crowd. Here is what was written about her "activism" prior to her reporting to federal prison in November after having been found guilty of trespassing on government property (at Ft. Benning) during a protest of America's involvement in Central and South America:
Daniels began what would be a years-long practice of writing letters to government officials. But her life's patterns changed with the death of her mother in 1996 and a split with a longtime partner in 2000. Daniels worked for Ralph Nader's presidential campaign and attended protests against the International Monetary Fund and World Economic Forum, taking steps against the hopelessness that she thinks has only spread since the time of her brother's death. "I think the antidote to that hopelessness is direct action," Daniels said.Jones-Lezama and Daniels were among an estimated 10,000 people who went to Fort Benning last year. Neither had previously attended the annual demonstration.

Daniels and Jones-Lezama were among about 100 people who left the main protest in what has become an annual rite, a mock funeral procession that crossed onto Fort Benning's property. Participants carry coffins and crosses emblazoned with the names of the victims of the school's graduates.

Like other activists, Daniels and Jones-Lezama describe the Fort Benning protests as part of a bigger picture that includes opposing war in Afghanistan and Iraq and reining in international corporations. It's a struggle that plays out on many levels, with community-building on one side and violence on the other, Daniels said. (
Collegiate Times had this to say about her:
Daniels’ other focuses included challenges against capitalism, multinational corporations and sexual assault, Lehr said. She was also very involved in the organization Amnesty International as well as mountain-top removal protests. (link)
A group calling itself Veterans For Peace had this to provide about her interests:
Sue Daniels, Pembroke, VA 41, a doctoral student in avian conservation biology, currently forming a local chapter of the Colombia Support Network, also active with AWOL (go-awol.org), the Coalition for Justice, Amnesty International, the New River Valley Greens, and the Living Wage Campaign. A participant in a beautiful Reclaim the Streets action in NYC during the WEF (the World Economic [Exploitation] Forum) ... (link)
Columbia Support Network. All Walks Of Life. The Coalition for Justice. Amnesty International. The New River Valley Greens. The Living Wage Campaign. Reclaim the Streets. "Challenges against capitalism, multinational corporations and sexual assault." "Mountain-top removal protests." "Opposing war in Afghanistan and Iraq and reining in international corporations." Ralph Nader's presidential campaign. Attending "protests against the International Monetary Fund and World Economic Forum."

Trendy. Radical. Leftist. And so distant from where she and I live(d). What strikes me as interesting about Sue Daniels' life is that both she and I are (were) relatively well-educated and intelligent. We have (had) somewhat similar views regarding poverty in that we both decry conditions that the poor have to endure. And yet our frames of reference could not have been more different. For her own reasons, Sue Daniels found it necessary to travel to Central America to find the impoverished. I can drive into Bland. She felt it necessary to join and/or organize various and sundry activist organizations to affect change in the world. I advocate free and unfettered capitalism; a system she probably despised. She denounced that which I champion as being critical to the ability of impoverished people here in this country to break the bonds that hold them. I find her decision to travel to Ft. Benning in order to get arrested to be goofy.

How is it that we have (had) the same intent but had completely divergent views as to how to achieve the same goal? It would be easy to attack her for the kind of campus-sheltered life she led. After all, it is no secret that academics are, by and large, detached from the realities of the world. Did Sue Daniels ever actually interact with the poor people of Giles County, Virginia? In all the testimonials to her life's achievements, I haven't read anything about her actually doing anything for those less fortunate that lived up the road from her. And I have often railed about America's "limousine liberal" types who shed tears of anguish with regard to the poor but wouldn't be caught dead near them. Barbra Streisand types.

Anyway, Sue Daniels is dead. And from the outpouring of grief, it appears she leaves behind many close friends. My interest in her story is this: Sue Daniels and I would never have been friends. Not because I would go out of my way to drive her away or to offend. And from her photographs, I would guess that she was a very kind person. It would simply be because our universes would never have come into contact with one another. She chose to save the world by rallying support for the children of Nicaragua and by stopping mountaintop removal. I applaud the opening of a new Wal-Mart Supercenter. And encourage the removal of those mountaintops if it will provide a paycheck to a few hundred poor area residents. Odd how our paths diverged.

The New York Times Gets Two Out Of Three

I outlined the fact quite clearly a few weeks ago that Social Security can only be "fixed" by doing one of three things. Or doing a combination of the three. The New York Times this morning advocates two out of those three.
Contrary to [President] Bush's frequent assertion that Social Security is constantly imperiled by political meddling, it has in fact been preserved and improved by political intervention throughout its 70-year history, most significantly in 1983. The system could - and should - be strengthened again by a modest package of benefit cuts and tax increases phased in over decades. (link)
I should caution, of course, that when the New York Times talks about a "modest" tax increase, they mean eye-popping, life-altering tax increase. But they are not wrong.

I think most young Americans take it for granted that they will never see a reasonable portion of their social security taxes ever returned to them. Like me, they see it as just more hard-earned income that mysteriously disappears in Washington. Whether or not they are prepared to take on a massive new tax burden, I guess we will soon find out.

The baby boomers are now starting to retire! May God help the young people.