Thanks for the wonderful Wellstone tribute
page. As Eric Alterman said barely two weeks ago
-- while Paul was alive, mind you -- he was a better man than we deserve.
Did you know that Paul, in addition to MS,
had horrible back problems that made sitting for long
periods unbearable, especially on airplane flights? He dealt with the problem, in airplanes at least,
by constantly walking up and down the aisles, talking with everyone, getting to know them.
Republicans liked to paint Paul as this
unbending liberal who couldn't work with anybody, yet they
knew better. Pete Domenici, Republican Senator from New Mexico, certainly did. Domenici and
Wellstone both had family members suffering from mental illness, so they both started work on a bill
to get insurance companies to provide better coverage for mental illnesses.
When Domenici found out Paul's plane had
gone down, he tried to call CNN to talk to them about it,
but he couldn't. He had to hang up and try again, he was crying so hard. He got himself under control
long enough to call back and announce that he was taking his name off of the Domenici-Wellstone bill.
It's now going to be the Wellstone bill, in honor of Paul.
But even as Paul could work with the high
and mighty, his real constituents were you and me. The Voiceless.
The people who don't have highly-paid lobbyists buying legislators the way we buy Happy Meals at a McDonald's.
These are the people I saw yesterday, when
I went to Paul's Campaign headquarters. The veterans with
thousand-yard stares. The people with special needs, physically or mentally handicapped, or who were in
some other way not TV-perfect and telegenic. I saw Somalis and African-Americans, Hmongs and Laotians.
Buddhist prayer flags draped the fence around the parking lot next to the building.
Wellstone's people had put out colored pieces
of posterboard, tape, and markers, so people could record
their thoughts. That's the background of colored rectangles that the news anchors have behind them when
they do their broadcasts from the site. One sign was put up by members of the British Labour Party.
Several were put up gays and lesbians, either as individuals or in a group. Two were from the Somali community.
But most of them weren't from groups, but from people writing as individuals. They enclosed pictures of themselves,
wanting somehow to share a bit of themselves with a man who had shared so much with them.
The building has the posterboard, but the
parking lot has the full-blown shrine. Green-and-while "Wellstone!"
signs cover the back wall, forming a backdrop for the candles, flowers and other tokens left by mourners.
The one display that makes everyone catch
their breath is the simplest of all, easily missed unless you're looking
Three veteran's service medals, awarded during Desert Storm. And, directly above them, an Army sharpshooter's badge.
These were left by a veteran who knew that the "dove" Wellstone was the best friend the American fighting man ever had.