“The great fallacy of the United States is that it was built on individuality. That’s the greatest lie ever was told, because it was not. It was built on community politics. People got out in the communities and helped each other; farmers lent each other horses and tractors, and built barns. America was a much better place when she was a family, not an individual.” –Betty Williams, 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner
Happy Interdependence Day, family.
These are hard times we’re living in. Here in the USA, the events carry so many echoes of the last days of Rome, when the mad emperor Nero sat on the throne and brought that once-powerful Empire down in flames.
Perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Perhaps the days of Empires should be limited. They tend to go sour and turn on their own people and lands, along with despoiling all around. Multiple murders to capture and keep thrones. The decadence of wasteful consumption: the wealthy in Rome ate suppers of things like peacocks’ tongues, then visited the vomitorium in order to return and eat some more. Germany built concentration camps, where they sent many of their own people. Perverted power run amok.
We have the horror of the Republican Administration stealing and caging the children of asylum seekers. The irony of the United States of America turning on immigrants now! The time for that would have been when the first ships arrived on her shores. But in the apocryphal stories they told us as schoolchildren to build our identity as Americans, the native peoples here welcomed the fleeing Pilgrims with open arms. So now the descendants of pilgrims want to say, I’m here so it’s enough; it’s ours now, close the door?
Another part of the irony lies in the fact that much of what we now call the USA was previously owned by other countries.
Sure, incoming numbers have to be limited for a country to remain optimally functional, but we can address this global problem without reverting to inhumane ways.
Remember, this country was founded on revolution against tyranny. (There’s a great 4th of July meme of a British flag with the statement, “Happy Treason Day, ungrateful colonials.”) Revolt against unjust tyranny, along with articles on how to get along from the Haudenosaunee people, here for generations before Europeans arrived. In fact, their highly functional governance structure informed the basis of our current Constitution. We in the Industrial Growth Society still have much to learn from native peoples, especially regarding skill with relationships.
What we can do to foment revolution now in the face of increasing horrors; our strongest resistance, I think, is to be kind to one another.
We must firmly oppose what is happening, of course; we must dare to speak out fiercely – AND we must do it in a way that is honorable, even noble. As John Lennon said in a little-known video called I Met the Walrus,
“They got all the weapons. They got all the money. And they know how to fight violence because they’ve been doing it for a thousand years. The only thing they don’t know about is nonviolence and humor.”
So we must not unconsciously buy in to the casual cruelty, mockery and stupidity that is leaching like a miasma out of our highest office. We must not replicate that cancer further. Instead, we must consciously choose to embody kindness, generosity, and humor. What’s radical in these times is going ahead and acting out the world in which we want to live, as if it were already here. To assume that most people are basically good, and doing their best, even when they screw up or have an opinion that makes you want to scream. To listen, and not only with the ears, with the heart too. To openly care for one another and the earth. To make choices that are right and aligned with greater good, despite what the despots want. To benefit our grandchildren and grandchildren of all species for generations to come, not some rich corporation’s wallet this week. And if we want to do advanced practice, to get past the idea of any ultimate “they.”
The good news is, this sort of resistance is happening, and not only on an individual level. I gain hope from watching hundreds of cities and businesses openly state that they will continue to work according to the Paris Accord for Climate Change, despite what noise to the contrary comes out of the White House. They recognize the way the wind is blowing; they recognize that dialing down reliance on dwindling fossil fuels is the way that their businesses will be able to continue in a global marketplace which is, by the way, dependent on a finite globe. Acting in accord with our long-term means is just good business. Once regime change happens again in a couple of years, it’s clear that the next sitter on the U.S. throne will have to reinstate these agreements, lest we become an isolated and impoverished backwater.
Rome fell, and so could we. We can see the struts shivering now. But we don’t have to fall so hard.
This country can let go of Empire leanings and go forward into being a single, beautifully functioning collective of states, counties, towns, and neighborhoods. Or a better vision because it’s more realistic (based in the real), dividing our governance along resource-based watersheds. If we begin to see ourselves not as isolated autonomous individuals who must fearfully look out for Number One but more as a strong community looking out for the common good of all, and of our lands not as plunderable resources for private corporate gain but as commons for all, and we act accordingly, then we have a chance.
Happy Interdependence Day, human family. Enjoy those firecrackers invented by the Chinese, hotdogs invented by the Germans, and tortilla chips and salsa invented by the Mexicans. While driving to the party, let someone into your lane ahead of you. Go forth and make positive change, and don’t forget to celebrate who’s rowing in the boat with you.
Art credits: Photo of people running with flag from Dreamstime.com. Earth Pledge poster from Earthpledge.org. Map of earlier US borders was a comment from vierotchka on https://climatecrocks.com/2017/01/06/a-solar-wall-one-way-to-make-mexico-pay/. Cartoon origins unknown. If you know, please tell me so I can give credit. If you are the artist and would prefer I not share your work here, please contact me and I will respect this. Thanks, all.