Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th! We're depending on each of you!

Happy July 4th, even, especially if, you're Native American or a recent immigrant to the United States of American, 98% of which are located on the North American continent. (I believe the Hawaiian Islands aren't part of the continent, but they are one of the 50 states.) I hope Native Americans will continue to contribute to the mosaic of culture that is becoming indigenous to North America, especially the kinds of values reflected in Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass and Joy Harjo's How We Became Human. Such perspectives are critical in the perilous times we are living in. Before we are anything or anyone else, we are human.

Today's Star Tribune has an interesting opinion piece by Sean Kershaw, executive director of the Citizens League. It reflects many of the thoughts and concerns we've shared on these pages since, actually, since we started these pages. It's not that we don't agree with Mr. Kershaw, we just believe his assessment is necessary but not sufficient unto the times. More in line with what we believe is needed, and in line with Mr. Kershaw's assessment, can be found in yet another book, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman CONSERVATION HEROES OF THE AMERICAN HEARTLAND by Judy Stoeven Davies.

shall we fill our cities with dairies and turbines?
shall we fill our cities with dairies and turbines?
Photo by J. Harrington

We have been increasingly told about a growing urban/rural divide in this country. In part, this "divide" has been created by those whose livelihood is based on creating divisiveness, focusing on our differences instead of what we have in common, as a way to attract attention and sell advertising. While focused on this supposed divide, recently I was close to despair due to my frustrations about the relative growth in water pollution, not from urban areas, but from rural regions. After reading Davies' book, I now want to know how we better support her heroes and help create more like them.
They are deeply traditional and they harvest natural resources at commercial scale. What their stories reveal is the shallowness of the stereotype. Conservation has been a core American value since our founding, tied to values these heroes remain committed to, like self-sufficiency, faith, responsibility to family, community, heritage.
Since before its founding, the United States was, and is, supposed to be a land of opportunity. Early colonists and settlers saw the world as a win-lose proposition. More for you means less for me. There are too many of us now for that to be viable. We need to cut each other more slack on how we attain our goals and spend more time figuring out how we can agree on goals to attain. Our world must become a win-win proposition, in which we share the increased value we have collectively created. Think of the value of one telephone; one fax machine, a market of one. Kimmerer. Harjo, Davies, and others like them, show us how to add value through groups. We need more, and better, examples of co-ops and employee-owned companies to help us find better ways to share what we create. Then the United States, and the rest of the world, will really have something to celebrate: independence based on interdependence. If you don't believe me, try putting sunscreen on your own back.

I Hear America Singing



I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
     and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off
     work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the
     deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
     as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the
     morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at
     work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
     fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.


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