Friday, November 18, 2016

A jackass or a carpenter?

I'm writing this on a gloomy Friday afternoon as rain changes to a mix of ice pellets and snow flakes on its way to becoming all snow. I'm thinking about the recent election and about Dylan Thomas' poem, Do not go gentle into that good night. I'm hoping that much of what we're seeing as this country, together with the rest of the world, transforms economies from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources; from "free trade" to fair trade; from extractive to restorative; from terminal to sustainable is raging against the dying of the light of the exploitative economy. If you look carefully, you can see that raging in what a minority of eligible voters has foisted on the rest of us.

one of many pairs of bald eagles in Minnesota
one of many pairs of bald eagles in Minnesota
Photo by J. Harrington

We've succeeded in restoring the bald eagle, our national symbol, to the point it is no longer endangered. "Organic" food and Community Supported Agriculture didn't first destroy industrial farming, they offered consumers a better, more healthy alternative to the latest and greatest processed food crap. Wind and solar energy are becoming/have become less expensive than green house gas creating coal fired generators.

Yes, ice caps are melting and seas are rising. That means, at a minimum, we have to be prepared and willing to offer help to those who will lose their homes and countries to the effects of global warming. Some of us will do so much more willingly than others. The only times I've believed America to be something less than great was when we didn't fulfill our responsibilities to each other and the rest of the world. We can and will do better in the future.

Sam Rayburn, a Democratic congressman from Texas with a reputation for fairness and integrity (think about that for a minute), is reported to be the source of the observation "A jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build one." It remains to be seen whether a jackass or a carpenter became president-elect on November 8, but, based on the reports about those currently being offered cabinet positions, I have my suspicions. But I also know that, in addition to Rayburn, a bright Red state like Texas has produced Molly Ivins, who understood that democracy isn't neat and clean, and Lyndon B. Johnson who, when he wasn't tormenting his dogs, was busy signing Civil Rights legislation. Sometimes, whether a leader acts like a jackass or a carpenter depends on those s/he is trying to lead.

Before you misunderstand, get upset, and fill my in basket with hate mail, I'm not trying to "normalize" the president-elect. I'm not even sure what "normal" is any more, are you? I am thinking that, if Nixon was the only one who could go to China, and if Nixon, a Republican president, forced to resign in disgrace, signed a number of critical environmental statutes, our job is to find the equivalents for our president-elect. I think we're up to that task, don't you. After all, I bet most of us are Ed Abbey patriots, who know that "A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government." Washington is full of those who kick like hell but can't tell a hammer from a nail. The rest of us need to get building before it's our turn to go gentle.

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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Please be kind to each other while you can.