But Not Forgotten

City Pages writers say so long

Love Is the Law

Sitting in front of the television in the middle of a weekday, listening to the somber, droning details of disaster, I knew the numbness all too well. It could have been the Challenger rocket exploding in mid-air, the assassination of Anwar Sadat, the World Trade Center going down. My mind chewed furiously at the news while the rest of me felt guilty for feeling nothing at all.

And then Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy came on, reminiscing about a particularly contentious congressional debate that had dragged on into the early morning hours; how when it was over, and Paul Wellstone emerged from the chambers, his wife Sheila was waiting for him, and the two walked down the long hallway toward the exit, hand in hand. It was then I started to cry.

Terry Gydesen

We become more decent human beings the day we discover a permanent lover. Paul and Sheila met at the age of 16. They built a relationship, a day and a decade at a time, that contained more depth and decency than any love song or schmaltzy melodrama could give us reason to hope. The indomitable energy and compassion for which the Wellstones will forever be known would not have been possible without that love. The lives of literally hundreds of thousands of people are a little better because of it.

Paul Wellstone's most trusted political adviser put him through grad school and stayed at home to raise their three children. When Paul went to Washington, Sheila had her own desk outside his Senate office. Before long, staffers referred to them interchangeably as Paul-and-Sheila. As Sheila's work on social justice issues made her a leader in her own right, Paul's joy would ratchet up another notch when he brought her to the stage: "Sheila Wellstone! Sheila Wellstone! Sheila Wellstone!"

We saw them walk down the hallways, him loping, her leaning. We saw the quick caresses and easy eye contact as they passed each other out on the campaign trail. We can imagine how, toward the end, she would knead his aching back and increasingly sclerotic muscles at the end of another long day. But we can't fathom what it must have been like to fight the good fight, side by side, for 42 years, ceaselessly, neither one willing to diminish the ideal they saw in each other's eyes.

Love each other. That was Paul Wellstone's uncomplicated message. Go hand in hand and help each other. It was a blessing--his and ours--that he was able to practice what he preached.


Paint It Black

I don't want to eulogize Wellstone and I don't want to read eulogies. My thoughts are black, overpowered by how unprepared I am for how awful everything is, and how much worse it is now that Wellstone is dead. Even if Wellstone were to have lost the election next week, which now it looks like he wouldn't have, he would still be alive, able to speak out about what has been happening in the United States since Bush was appointed president. There are very few people talking about that, and there are even fewer who are in a position to do something significant about it. Wellstone was, and so it was urgent--more than ever--that he remain in office. I voted over a week ago, absentee from Argentina, where I have been living for more than a year. And now my vote could go, in effect, to Norm Coleman.

I want someone to explain, Paul Krugman-like, what the loss of Wellstone means for Minnesota, for Democrats, for the country, and for the whole world. I need someone honest to lay out what is wrong with Bush's trillion-dollar tax cuts that favor only the very rich; how the administration's response to 9/11 has turned out to be ultimately unserious; why the U.S. economy is collapsing and how it can be repaired; how the Republicans' hollow promise to squelch corporate malfeasance with strict legislation is merely designed to make us forget that a Republican-controlled Congress derailed Clinton's attempts to protect against those very crimes; how school vouchers deprive public schools of money they need; how women's health, and how a woman's right to have an abortion, is being compromised all over the world; why the United States should support Israel; and why we don't have to go to war with Iraq. There is more. I want to hear someone talking about all of it, saying what he or she believes to be true and important. Right now, the person I want most to hear is Wellstone.


You Learn as You Go

Having spent a weekend with a microcassette player collecting memories of Paul Wellstone that are so full of decency and generosity and humanity as to make mere hagiography look like a hatchet job, I've come to see that the indolent, selfish, insular way I've been leading my life is a waste and that I need to change it.


A Night Full of Rain

On Friday night, as I made my way over to the prayer vigil at the state capitol, notebook and tape recorder in tow, I found myself taking a detour through the U of M campus. There, on the corner of University Avenue and Harvard Street, I saw a student standing alone in the drizzle, holding a Wellstone campaign sign.

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