On December 7, my beautiful great-niece — Erica Hurley — died of a drug overdose. Erica had just turned 30 years old. I visited with Erica on Sunday, December 6, in Lexington and gave her a belated birthday hug and gift.
She seemed happy. I had no idea that her life was in danger. Erica had just completed a five day detox program at an area hospital and I thought she was doing well. She seemed in such a good frame of mind.
I was with my sister and brother-in-law on Monday morning, when they got the call that their grand-daughter that they had tried so hard to help was dead from heroin. Heart-breaking.
The funeral was in Nicholasville. These are the comments I made at the funeral:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, Dear Jesus.
Our hearts are broken.
On Monday I saw, again, what it means to be stricken with grief, to be devastated by grief, to be beaten up by grief.
It is true: Only love can break a heart.
Our hearts are broken, shattered, destroyed.
It seems everyday I ponder the loss of our sister Carole — taken suddenly and much too soon at age 75 — taken in a head-on collision with a semi-tractor-trailer. That was May 19, 2014.
And now it is Erica, our precious Erica, who also has left us much too soon, at the age of 30 in her own collision — a head-on collision with the reality of addiction.
As I pondered on what I could say today, a familiar song came to mind. I heard these words:
The summer’s gone and all the flowers are dying,
’Tis you, ’tis you, must go and I must bide.
And when summer’s in the meadow
Or when its hushed and white with snow,
I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow.
Or Erica, Erica, I love you so.
And in my dreams, I see you free and laughing
And in my dreams I see you surrounded by love.
The summer’s gone and all the flowers are dying,
Oh Erica girl, Erica girl, I love you so.
Thirty-five years ago this week, John Lennon died at the age of 40. A tragedy. A huge loss. He had so much more music to write, so much more to do. The world was cheated of a great potential.
And so it is with Erica — such a great potential. Such a tragedy. Such a loss.
Erica was frustrated at the world for being as it is. She was idealistic. She protested against Monsanto. She was concerned about global warming. She wrote a letter that appeared in the September 22, 2013 issue of the Lexington Herald urging other young people to become involved in the Youth Climate Movement and to attend a rally scheduled in Pennsylvania that October. She wrote:
“It is up to our generation to shape the world we want to see. Every time we have a major transition in our country towards good, it was led by a strong youth movement … We need to combat climate change, stop social injustice and end corporate person-hood.”
This Lennon song fits Erica very well:
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too.
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.
You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us,
And the world will be as one.
Violence and addiction are robbing the world of so many talented and wonderful people. Every time, from now on, when I hear of a death by drug overdose, I’ll think of Erica. I’ll see Erica’s face. I’ll have a little more compassion, a little more empathy. I’ll have more understanding about the power and the heartache of the disease of addiction.
Erica was unique. She was such a ball of energy as a child — so independent, such a big vocabulary, so stubborn. She was a challenging child, a challenging adolescent. She was witty, smart and pretty. Beautiful. Loving. Erica is the mother of a precocious and adorable child. She had much to live for.
Erica turned 30 on October 24 and Sunday, I finally gave Erica her belated birthday gift. I gave her a big hug. On her card, I wrote these three words: I Love You. Since the death of Carole, I’ve started writing and saying those three important words more often. Sunday, Erica seemed happy and in such a good frame of mind. I am so grateful that I had this last opportunity to be with her.
I like the words to the Billy Holliday song:
Whether you are here or yonder,
Whether you are false or true
Whether you remain or wander
I’m growing fonder of you.
Even though your friends forsake you,
Even though you don’t succeed
Wouldn’t I be glad to take you
Give you the break you need
More than you know, more than you know
Girl of my heart, I love you so
Lately I find you’re on my mind
More than you know.
Whether you’re right, whether you’re wrong
Girl on my heart, I’ll string along
You need me so
Much more than you’ll ever know
Loving you the way that I do
There’s nothing I can do about it
Loving may be all you can give
But baby I can’t live without it.
Oh how I’d cry, Oh how I’d cry,
If you got tired and said “Good-bye”
More than I’d show
More than you’d ever know
I think Erica did know that she was loved. I think Erica knew she was very loved. And I believe she is at peace. And we must leave it there.
Our hearts are broken. What can we learn from this? I like the old gospel song:
We are tossed and driven
On the restless sea of time;
Somber skies and howling tempest
Oft succeed a bright sunshine;
In that land of perfect day,
When the mists are rolled away,
We’ll understand it better by and by.
By and by, when the morning comes,
Well understand it better, by and by.
Our hearts are broken.
And in my dreams I see you free and laughing,
And in my dreams, I see you surrounded by love.
The summer’s gone and all the flowers are dying.
Oh Erica girl, Oh Erica, we’ll always love you so.
Ohio Democrats need bold leadership and we will soon find out if Pepper and Turner have the right stuff. They have promised to deliver their “Blueprint to Victory” in early spring. I will be reading that document carefully to see if it addresses the big changes needed in the ODP organization itself. If they fail to address the accusations made by Sharen Neuhardt in her letter withdrawing herself from the ODP Chair election (see below) — then I’ll be worried.
The ODP, according to its current constitution, is structured to be a “political boss” organization. The ODP needs to be re-structured via a new constitution. In her letter Neuhardt claims that the Executive Committee, that according to the ODP is supposed to act as the ODP governing body, in fact has “little or no power or authority.” This revelation is shocking. I feel like Bob Dole: “Where is the outrage?” But even if the ODP Executive Committee had been fully engaged, in a larger sense it wouldn’t have mattered. The ODP is a tiny organization of only 148 voting members. Only 66 of these members are chosen through an election process where every Ohio Democrat can participate — a man and a women elected from each of the 33 senatorial districts — the rest are appointed.
We need to remember what the only Democratic member of Ohio’s Supreme Court, William O’Neil, said about this group of 148: “As a matter of honor, all ‘appointed’, not elected, members of the ODP Executive Committee who approved the debacle known as candidate selection in 2012 need to quietly, politely, stand up and resign. Remember folks, is was the ‘appointed’ Executive Committee who ran my lawyer Jennifer Brunner off when she expressed an interest in running for Governor, and it was the Executive Committee who endorsed in my primary. They need to follow their leader out the door.”
The biggest impediment to the success of the ODP is the structure of the ODP itself. The ODP needs to be transformed from a oligarchic structure to a democratic structure. The political boss system harkens back to a horse-and-buggy era when members from around the state had to make their way to Columbus in order to participate in the ODP Executive Committee. In this internet era, if the party chose to do so, all Ohio Democrats could be connected and voting members of the ODP.
We will know if Pepper and Turner will provide the leadership that Ohio Democrats need, if they address the charges in Neuhardt’s letter and if they outline a proposal for transformational constitutional changes to the ODP organizational structure.
To: David Pepper, ODP Chairman and Nina Turner, ODP Leadership Team Chair:
Congratulations on being selected as leaders of the Ohio Democratic Party. Thanks for producing your document: “Turning The Tide: Our Vision.” It gives Democrats a lot to think about. I like the “five basic principles” you outline — that you indicate will be the foundation for a “Blueprint to Victory” document that will be published in early spring.
The principle that most stands out to me is:
This principle is all about passion and motivation. Democratic candidates lose elections when Democrats are not motivated to pitch in and help — or, at least vote. John Kasich would not have been elected, if Democrats would have come out and voted. Without an actively engaged base, Democratic candidates will continue to lose. How to get Democrats motivated is a big question.
Every leader of an organization — church, school, club, business, or political party — asks himself or herself: What can I do to motivate individuals to make their maximum contribution to the success of this organization?
There are many books that deal with the question of how to make organizations successful. I looked up the book, “What Really Matters,” written by the former CEO of Procter & Gamble, John Pepper — David’s Dad — to read the advice John Pepper may be offering to his son, the new “CEO” of the ODP (according to the ODP Constitution). What I get from the snatches of the book I read on Amazon is that John Pepper has a lot of good advice. He emphasizes that the success depends a lot on whether, or not, an organization builds a sense of “community” within itself. He tells about the enduring loyalty and camaraderie of P&G employees and says, “This unique sense of community is P&G’s least tangible, yet most distinctive and difficult-to-match competitive advantage.”
The “Turning the Tide” quote presents a dreary view of the Democratic infrastructure as it looks right now — a “long list of names in a database.” Most people on this list have little or no meaningful connection with others on the list and certainly don’t think of themselves as being part of a Democratic community.
The ODP is a political institution consisting of only 148 voting members. This small group stands apart from the Democratic base. In the 2014 May Democratic Primary, there were 1,307,000 Democrats who voted. These active Democrats are the ODP “Infrastructure” and success for the party depends a lot on whether this group is “energized.” Very few of these Democrats feel they have any voice within the Democratic Party. To energize this base we need to expand opportunity. We need to reimagine the Ohio Democratic Party as an extended Roberts Rules online community of Democrats who commit to working together, to listening and communicating with each other, and to making positive impacts in their local communities. Even a participation of only 10% of those voting in the last Democratic Primary would bring 130,000 Democrats into community, but even a start of only 10,000 would be very energizing. I’d like to see changes in the ODP Constitution so that:
Chapter Three of John Pepper’s book is entitled “Going for the Big Win.” It begins with a quote from John Kennedy: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” David and Nina, we need dramatic and drastic change in the Ohio Democratic Party. Please take a risk. Buck the status quo. Dare to go for the big win. Use your talents and energy to transform the Ohio Democratic Party.
Earlier in the day FitzGerald met his Republican opponent with the editors of the Northeast Ohio Media Group — in the only meeting of this type scheduled for the whole campaign. Even in the informal format of this editor’s meeting, Kasich refused to answer FitzGerald’s questions. The headline from that meeting read — “Gov. John Kasich ignores Ed FitzGerald in their only meeting of election season. ” An hour video of the meeting is posted on the Columbus Dispatch.
In the Dayton meeting, FitzGerald paraphrased a quote an early twentieth century journalist that, “The vitality of our democracy depends on the common people understanding complex issues.” FitzGerald didn’t identify the journalist who made that statement, but it sounds like something H. L. Mencken would write. I found this quote from Mencken that seems similar:
FitzGerald asked: “How can the common people understand complex issues?” He said three entities have responsibility:
FitzGerald said that all three of these entities are failing and made the point that Kasish’s refusal to debate is an outrageous insult to our democracy.
The Dispatch reports that “Kasich has $4.6 million for re-election and FitzGerald has $248,000.” Much of Kasich’s money is going into 30 second TV ads. FitzGerald noted:
The FitzGerald / Kasich contest — with its propaganda, misinformation and with the power of big money to shape public opinion — illustrates that the very infrastructure of our democracy is in very bad shape.
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