What is the relationship between community and independence? This is a topic I have been thinking a lot about recently. It seems that modern culture, particularly in the US, is so obsessed with independence that community has fallen by the way-side. Ironically, a healthy community is a key ingredient to independence and personal freedom. Maybe community and independence aren't antonyms after all.
Monday, July 30, 2007
A Little Hope Amongst the Chaos...
When we went away on vacation, I did not listen to or read the news. This is very unusual for me since I usually listen to the radio news in the morning and/or afternoon, as well as checking in on-line. Since we don't get any TV reception, I am somewhat protected from the disturbing and overwhelming visuals that accompany many of the headline stories. When I returned, I found it a rude reawakening to listen to Morning Edition on public radio during my morning my commute. While I was tooling around Maine and coastal Canada, it seems the world did not take a break from war, flood, famine, or other episodes of devastation. On a more cheerful note, when we pulled into our driveway last Sunday, it seems my tomato plants had also not taken a break from their summer growth spurt. It was almost dark out, but I could see those orange and red little beauties plus what looked like a billion little green spheres just waiting to catch up to their already ripe neighbors, glowing in the headlights. I went to take a closer look. These tomato plants marched on. Despite dramatic climate change leading to inconsistent weather they blossomed and bore fruit. It's inspiring to see this resilience and I can only hope to emulate it in my humanity.
The U.S. Constitution? I was absent the day we covered that...
I just have to spread the joy about some terrific news I heard from Freyne land. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has subpoenaed Karl Rove. Makes me proud that one of the only people on Capitol Hill that actually feels obligated to honor the U.S. constitution in any remote way is from Vermont. Maybe there is a tiny glimmer of hope that we could actually restore some sense of democracy. Democracy...is that what our country is supposed to be. Well, color me happy. I was starting to feel like a serf in a gated Kingdom. Want to read, hear, or watch Leahy's speech on the senate floor regarding this subpoena? Here's the link.
This is going to be a very short and picture-filled post. We just got back from our 8-day whirlwind adventure to Maine, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick (Canada, not New Jersey).
Ella T. Dogg will be writing her own post about our adventures. In the meantime, have a look at the pictures of her on vacation. I couldn't decide which one was cutest so I just put them in a random order.
Isn't she the sweetest? Check out that bed, a.k.a. mobile futon, that we set up for her in the car. Oh, and that fancy hotel room. What a life! Oh yeah, on the subject of other cute things, I finished the baby sweater for Robb's godson Sean. It fits him perfectly. At least it did 3 weeks ago on his first birthday.
Keeping up with the Jones' (even when they're drowning in their own garbage)
After a four-day trip to the garden state to visit friends and family this past weekend, I was already plenty riled up about the runaway consumer culture, unrestrained development, and political complacency that I witnessed in the land of my youth. Granted there are bubbles of liberalism in the garden state (I grew up in one), but these bubbles are either popping or getting smaller every day. The ridiculously high cost of living put the almighty dollar at the top of the food chain and things like the environment and humanitarian efforts get gobbled up like some helpless prey. In order to 'keep up with the Jones' (or even to simply not foreclose on your mortgage), moral values are put in the pantry and only the checkbook and gas tank get to sit at the kitchen table. With that kind of company for dinner, no wonder the divorce rate is so high.
So, after driving on the Garden State Parkway (see picture to the left-This road resembles neither a garden nor a park) and other potentially life-threatening activities, we made it back to Vermont at about 1 AM last night/this morning.
This morning, Robb and I dragged ourselves out of bed to go to the "town meeting" on global warming with Bernie and activtist/author Bill McKibben at Montpelier High School. There seemed to be a good showing. I'm not very good at estimating numbering, but it was a full house, especially for a Sunday morning in July. Bernie and the rest of the Vermont delegation is certainly pushing legislation to cut carbon emissions, but after seeing a car dealership dedicated exclusively to the sale of Hummers during our recent visit to NJ, I think that we need to push harder.
Environmental activist and author Bill McKibben, who has been sharing his knowledge and concern about the issue of global warming with the world for over twenty years had some excellent comments and responses to questions. Recently, Bill McKibben has written the book Deep Economy that I mentioned in a previous blog post. This book really focuses on the role of localism as an effetive strategy for reducing carbon emissons. He made a great comment about the way Americans eat, explaining (this is not word for word) that 'we order take out from 2,000 miles away every day.' This is referencing the distance that food travels to get on most Americans' dinner tables. Most Americans assume that they can drive through a snowstorm to go pick up a fresh pineapple. Strange, huh?
Several of the "townspeople" at the meeting offered suggestions about how indivduals, towns, states, and the nation might move foreward in terms of reducing carbon emissions. The idea that reducing our dependence on foreign oil could help not only the enviornment, but also the economy by creating "green jobs" was one great point. Nothing like some dollar signs to create a nation of environmentalists.
In addition to dollar signs, the other thing that people seem to be obsessed with in this country is status. They want to 'keep up with the Jones'. Americans have tried so hard to 'keep up with the Jones' that they make illogical and clearly immoral decisions like building houses so big that they can't even afford to furnish them or driving cars that are economically and environmentally unsustainable. They use credit cards to charge things that they do not need and can not afford so that people will think they are important. If we can get people to do things that do not benefit them simply so that they can 'keep up with the Jones', then surely we can get people to do make sound environmental decisions, like investing in renewable energy and efficient cars, so that they can 'keep up with the Jones'. If hanging your clothes on a line and biking to work was a status simple and made you look important, people would do it. So, in the future, maybe the term will change and people will try to 'keep up with the McKibbens'. After all, if the Jones' yard starts to fill with with all the electronic and plastic crap that they bought, but can not fit in their 4,000 square foot house, maybe the McKibbens' wind mill and solar panels won't look so bad.
Oh, and more importantly being environmentalist is cool. We were treated to a performance by the rising Vermont rap group X-10, who are "famous" for their "802" video. Now they have a new rap about global warming in Vermont. Have a look.
This is what happens when students have an education that teaches critical thinking and civic engagement. They actually know the name/number and contents of the Vermont Energy bill (H-520) that Governor Scissorhands vetoed. They even know that this Wednesday, July 11th, the legilature needs a 2/3 vote to over-ride the veto. Plus, they can rap about it and make learning and activism look cool!