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ALAN POGUE Father John Korcsmar addresses the IAF Convention The chorus heard at the Hemisfair Arena was built on a foundation of hundreds of thousands of discussions: discussions, for instance, far into the night in the home of Raul and Dora Flores of San Antonio’s Metro Alliance, where neighbors gathered four years ago to debate a cap on public spending; discussions in the little cinder-block church center in the Cameron Park colonia, where Valley Interfaith leaders gathered to plan their campaign to bring public utilities to the colonias; discussions among leaders of the Allied Communities of Tarrant at Morningside Middle School in Fort Worth to improve their children’s education through community involvement. Those discussions begot more discussions and they begot political understanding and political action. And the attempt to cap spending failed in San Antonio; and the state passed legislation to bring water and sewer service to the colonias; and the children in that middle school began to learn and provided a model for reforming education across the city and the state. But all this began as simple discussions, relationships among neighbors that became public discussions and public relationships. The day after the convention, Ed Chambers, executive director of the Industrial Areas Foundation, spoke to several hundred lead ers of the Texas IAF Network. “We stand for a kind of politics that is not really practiced in our country,” he said. “Historically, when the scale was smaller, you could practice the kind of politics we’re trying….Our culture is very simple. We start with family, a congregation. We start with the teachings of the Bible. We start with basic values that are given us. Then we try to practice a genuine democracy. Not the artificial democracy of the sound bite. In order to realize that, to stay close to the family, the gospel, and social action, we hold one another accountable….You are in the business of developing human potential. You believe that men and women are the most precious treasure this country has, and the most important thing we can do is to develop them, let them grow, let them flower, let those talents flourish.” What we have in the Texas IAF Network is a great experiment. Can a meaningful relationship be developed between a politics based upon moral understanding and moral imperatives and the big-money politics of the late 20th century? Is there still room to think and to build based upon values? Can a political system in which most people feel powerless be made a means of empowerment? As Ed Chambers described it, the source of IAF’s strength is the relationship among individuals. “All of us have pain and joy in our lives. Once you hear it from a white person or a black person or a Mexican, a Puerto Rican or a Latino, you say, gee, that’s my story. That’s the same story. We’ve got something in common. Once that starts happening to you, then you have a bond that the received culture doesn’t put any value on. That’s what keeps you togetheryour shared stories and your shared memories. That will keep you together and carry you through.” Czech writer Milan Kundera once equated “the struggle of man against power [meaning the State]” with the “struggle of memory against forgetting.” The politics of Texas IAF are the politics of the long haul. Communities are built upon collective memory, just as modern-day politics depend upon collective amnesia. The convention of the Texas IAF Network was an attempt to meld the politics of memory into a relationship with the politics of forgetfulness. It was awkward, but it worked. And to the extent that it continues to work, democracy is served. 0 This publication is available in 1dg:rotors from University Microfilms international. Cs8 liaires WO-521-3044. Or mail inquiry to: ‘ University Microfilms International 300 North Lob Reed. Ann Arbor. Ml 461011. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5