Here's one I'm trying out: Close your eyes, and picture the crowd that shouts the loudest for the elimination of any hint of religion. They scream about an invocation at a commencement, they weep and wail over the logo a city uses on it's letterhead (never mind the factual history of the city), and if the Boy Scouts want to have a meeting in a public school, well they basically swallow their own tongues in fits of rage. You know the crowd that always thinks there's some chapter in the U.S. Constitution that separates church and state? Got 'em pictured? There are lots of these people who worship the late U. S. Senator Paul Wellstone, and want nothing more than to have their religion spread throughout public life.
This weekend, students at Brandeis University in Massachusetts are learning the ABCs of political organizing at the new "Campus Camp Wellstone." Actors at the Great American History Theater in St. Paul are rehearsing "Wellstone," a three-person play based on the life of the late U.S. senator from Minnesota. Construction workers are pouring sidewalks at the nearly-finished Paul and Sheila Wellstone Center for Community Building in St. Paul. And today, a month shy of the third anniversary of the couple's death, the Wellstone Memorial and Historic Site will be dedicated in Eveleth, Minn., near the field where the senator's plane crashed, killing all seven aboard. Nearly three years after his death, Paul Wellstone's legacy shows no sign of diminishing. Two books about the senator were published this month alone. Wellstone Action!, a liberal political training center based in St. Paul, boasts 8,500 alumni across the country and now is adding "advanced placement" classes. And at least a dozen buildings are named after Wellstone and/or his wife, Sheila, including schools, a housing complex and a battered women's center. Celebrities such as actors Robert Redford and Warren Beatty offer support to Wellstone's training network. Lesser-known Minnesota artists have paid their respects with everything from a seed-art portrait displayed at the Minnesota State Fair to Wellstone-inspired songs with titles such as "Who Will Lead Us Now?"Here's a rendering of the memorial the be built near the site of the plane crash. Tell me it's not a shrine. Check out this poor, lost soul seeking salvation in the form of a politician:
The moment I saw the green bus it all came flooding back to me. The overwhelming feelings of loss. The gaping hole that his absence left in our community's landscape. The fear that we will never again elect a leader with that level of heart and conviction. He cared about the little people. He was an advocate for them.Wellstone was an enigma for me. He said he would only seek one term, but like so many other politicians, he couldn't walk away, and ran for a second term. As much as I never fell in with Wellstone's political ideology, I always admired his gumption. He was a tireless guy, but I often felt his energies were misdirected. I even felt envy for his devotees, for I would like to vote for that I believe in so wholly.
Wellstone fought passionately for people who had been forgotten and disenfranchised. He fought for people who didn't have any fight left in them. He believed in them and he dedicated his life's work to them. The little people. The runners who struggled at the back of the pack. His death marked the end of an era. It seems as if everything changed when Wellstone died.
Just not so Holy.