This election has me feeling optimistic, a point of view I thought I had given up on. I lay down my doomsday scenario predictions, that post-Citizens United America would never see the success of a non-neocon. I will continue to hope for the nomination and election of rational, informed liberals and conservatives so we can have reasoned debate about the serious issues facing us. I long for a democratic process free of corporate money. But today, I applaud the fabulous diversity of the newly elected, who bring Congress closer to a representation of our population. I hope those lamenting the end of the rule of lily white (men) wake up and realize that white Americans are descendents of immigrants (often penniless) from northern Europe, that is all, and only those whose parents didn’t procreate with one of the descents of immigrants from anywhere else. I raise my coffee to my grandmother who said that if we intermarried, we’d all have a nice tan. I think that breaks down the idea of race quite beautifully.
So now that reason has made a comeback, let’s get real issues into the spotlight. Energy is first on my list since I am living in the shale gas crosshairs of the monsterish gas and oil industry. Let’s change the way we do everything. We need a nimble grid so buildings can feed energy into the system, and so that mutant storms don’t take out power for a whole swath of neighborhoods. We need good public transportation and bike paths, and public service ads that show how expensive and unhealthy the car is for us, personally, and our communities and countries. Let’s examine the way we use energy in industry. Let’s put solar panels on everything, and windmills down the center of highways, along every shore, along hedgerows of farm fields. Let’s power new buildings with geothermal, and require energy companies to fund homeowners’ and businesses’ installation of green energy and weatherization technology, to be repaid over time.And come on, America. Get off the single-use drink containers and plastic bags.
I see progress everywhere – certainly the local food movement is thriving here, and the energy it saves by not growing produce in petroleum-based fertilizer and shipping fruits and vegetables an average of 1500 miles is powerful to contemplate. But we are so very far from being able to claim that natural gas will help us transition from dirty coal and foreign oil. We are energy addicts, and gas is our new fix. It will kill us just as quickly, which is bad enough, but if we take the air, soil, water and climate with us, that adds a whole dimension of irresponsible horror. To those who say we can’t afford do to these things, I ask: Are you kidding me? What we’re doing now is costing us everything. Taking these steps will save a fortune in the cost of health care, military protection of foreign oil resources, environmental cleanup, highway maintenance, and in the case of fracking, water that has first been radiated, then taken completely out of the water table. It will also put people to work in fields with a real future.
I would also like to see a national discussion of personal responsibility, which is now code for cutting the safety net and not requiring corporations to pay a living wage. What can we reasonably expect of individuals? Let’s expect that. Where is the system rigged against the individual? Half of Americans live near the poverty line. Life expectancy can be predicted by zip code. Our own sense of agency is pathologically skewed when we live paycheck to paycheck, knowing we’ll lose everything with any ordinary disaster. The lion’s share of people in my generation are heading into retirement with very little savings, having lived through the loss of value of their wages, homes and pensions. The generation coming up will see all of their economic gains funneled into the repayment of student loans, which may take their entire lifetimes. We act like we’ve been hit by a tsunami, when in reality, we were hit by a redistribution of wealth. Let’s see some serious discussion on this, inside and outside of Capitol Hill.
I look forward to a reasoned and informed discussion on health care (to those businesses stroking out over the future projected cost of Obamacare – yes! let’s get the cost of health care entirely off the back of business), and foreign policy. Central should be our closest ally’s heartbreaking oppression of the Palestinians, a failure of Jewish teaching as much as our military violence is a failure of Christian teaching. Noam Chomsky’s moving piece about what life is really like in Gaza, which he calls the world’s largest open air prison, is here. And for the love of god, no more drones. Let’s live up to our own rhetoric of peace, freedom and due process.