I just got word that Don White, a much-beloved, longtime companero in the movement for peace and justice in El Salvador, passed away. People of many walks of life, many movements – women’s, GLBT, Middle East peace, labor, immigrant rights, education, Venezuela solidarity and others- around the planet mourn his passing as they celebrate his life. Though he fought many battles in many wars, none moved Don like that of his beloved El Salvador.
Were we, as a society, better able to measure commitment to social justice as we measure baseball, basketball or American Idol stats, Don would surely have won many laurels and trophies for many accomplishments. Without a doubt, Don, a teacher who lived, loved and worked in Los Angeles, holds the U.S. record for organizing marches in a single lifetime. Because the movement in solidarity with El Salvador staged so, so many marches, protests and other events for so many years, Don, the dean of logistics, probably had more experience than anyone I’m ever likely to meet again. And, if I know Don, he’s likely already conspiring to set records for organizing in the Struggle of the Great Beyond.
His bubbly, kitschy humor was also unmatched when it came to raising money, something many of us first learned about from watching Don. It still brings a smile to remember how he made money glide magically into the hats, bags or other makeshift receptacles for cash, checks and other donations to any of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of large and small events he pitched at in English- and in his broken Spanish, which included the word “Companero” in every other sentence.
But more important than any logistical or fundraising capabilities, was Don’s possession of the one quality that has distinguished and will continue to distinguish the true revolutionary from the rest: that essential combination of unconditional love backed by incessant action. I’ve met many in the U.S. who’ve given heart and soul to distant causes in tropical lands, but none like Don. Long after many “in solidarity” people have left the Salvadoran people as a memory, many of us will remember Don as a light reminding us that we were never alone before, during and after that long, dark night of war. He was a friend I will mourn for many nights.
In his honor, please take a moment to look and meditate on this pic of Don (last man on the right, former member of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), for it is indeed how our friend, our companero, Don White, would like us to remember him. And as you do so, you too will remember one of those who fit the description of a Bertolt Brecht poem Don loved deeply,
Hay hombres que luchan un dia
y son buenos
Hay otros luchan un ano
y son mejores
Hay quienes luchan muchos anos
y son muy buenos.
Pero Hay quienes luchan toda la vida:
esos son los imprescindibles
(There are men who struggle for a day
and they are good.
There are men who struggle for a year
and they are better.
There are men who struggle many years,
and they are better still.
But there are those who struggle all their lives:
These are the indispensable ones.)
Companero Don White, Presente!