Yes We Did– Now What?

January 28, 2009

Anarchy for the USA

Stay with me, now.  I’m a parent and a public employee who works to better the lives of children and families — and all who pass through the doors of my workplace– on a daily basis. The meaning of my life hangs on my hope that each individual will do what he or she can to make a better, safer, happier world for ourselves, each other, and generations to come starting right now, with children, whether our own or children in general. So no machine guns or molotov cocktails needed.

Things have changed a lot for me since I was a college kid.

But Jello Biafra and others who shine light on the hurts and injustices of our society are still heroes.

Why am I experiencing this weird flashback?

Soup is still good food. We’re sorry, you’re no longer wanted or needed or even cared about here. Sacrifices must be made. To save the working man you gotta put ‘im out to pasture.

The tired buzzword and spray painted A with a circle, most often seen on college campuses in the 80’s,  denoted a somewhat immature and ill-considered (or not considered at all, just ‘cool’) rejection of or  revolution against an oppressive civilization.

Just digging through our own thoughts and impressions, no digging through college textbooks we should have burnt long ago or lengthy reading on how do we define civilization and anarchy?

Civilization: orderly, comfortable, safe, lawful, just.

Anarchy: every man for himself, loot and pillage, ruthless profit for the strong and misery for the weak or simply disenfranchised–

Wait a second. That sounds an awful lot like how we are currently experiencing so-called civilization!

This gentleman goes into it at greater length than I shall at this time. It’s worth looking at and worth looking for more dialog in this same vein. I won’t offer that, for your sake, gentle reader who doesn’t have time to read one of my endless tangential Attention Deficit Rants (oh, Lord, too late, sorry!) and for mine because I have things I need to do on my sick day (Yes, even more driven at home, if that is even possible, than at work).

My women’s book group (well about three of us) recently read Tom Hodgkinson’s The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste.

I loved some things he said and others were just not for me. If you’d like to read a couple of each,  to keep these short I’ll post those seprarately.

But at the heart of what I believe in and am willing to fight for is the wellbeing of children, families, the individual and community– sometimes we’re sadly forced to prioritize these, or we act as if they are opposed, but they really should not be.

So when he quotes someone– I wish I could remember who, and I have to paraphrase cause I got it from the library and then brought it back– as saying that anarchy is when public interest and the interest of the family are the same–  sold. I am now an anarchist.

I have a Jeremy Bentham quote–“It is vain to talk of the interest of the community, without understanding what is the interest of the individual.

The iGoogle Confucius quote for today:
“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.”

And I am not talking about a one-man one-woman, two parent, Beaver or even Brady Bunch home. I’m talking about the changing face and growing understanding of families and home– The Village. Single parent families.  Families of choice. Communities. Rich families. Poor families. And every aspect of home– housing, nutrition, parenting and educational style, community, our bodies, our environment, our jobs, wages, vocations, quality of life.

Dearest President Obama, officials in his administration, and loyal supporters of our new Commander in Chief,

You seem like the man, and the supporters of the man, who can bring orderly, comfortable, safe, lawful, and just– for ALL people, not just Americans, not just middle class plus– together with public policy that is in the interest of the individual and strengthens our nation by strengthening the integrity of the home.

Your speeches refer my beloved Ike’s command that all shall have a place at the table — weak and strong, rich and poor.

Your presidency will teach, model, and create public policy which brings together:

*personal responsibility to make good choices that come from the moral compass within rather than fear of punishment (whether corporal in this world or eternal damnation in the next), starting with how we parent and educate children today

*public policy which brings access to the education and resources for all, not  just a privileged few, to develop that caring moral compass and make those good choices, resulting in the happiness and wellbeing of the individual, the integrity of the home, and the strength of our nation.

Back to Confucius (no idea of the validity of iGoogle’s source for these quotes, sorry, it just sounds good and that’s the internet for ya).

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.”

Our present situation is absolutely designed to rip apart the integrity of the home– in its narrowest and broadest senses– in America and around the world– and is by no means in the interest of any but maybe 5% of our citizens.

I know you can bring us all to the table, Mr. President. You represent so many of the losses, differences and struggles Americans face and so many of the heights we can attain with loving family behind us and hard work.

Here are my thoughts on where we’re going wrong.

We do not adequately insure that safe and decent living conditions, education, representative government, wealth, health care, and opportunities for advancement are spread over our population in proportion to its makeup– ethnicity, GLBT, ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ areas from within our own cities to countries around our ever shrinking world. Meanwhile we consume, consume, consume, and carry gigantic national, corporate and personal debt. This is absolutely a stain on our great nation’s decency and promise, and a cause for much strife and violence at home and around the world.

I know we live in America, not Baghdad or Darfur or the  Sahara, but I believe we still have a long way to go regarding protecting and nurturing children, working conditions, living wages and quality of life. CEO’s make salaries hundreds of times the salaries of those who produce the goods and services that make those CEO’s rich.

I think someone who works hard and gets rich deserves to be rich. I have no problem at all with that. But a ‘more equal’ distribution of the gifts of the free market would make it possible for all who work to prosper AND give back to those in need, to be part of the solution here in America and around the world.

My family doesn’t make that $250K you were talking about, but I’d still be glad to pay  more taxes if it went to educating, feeding, and nurturing babies instead of to bombs and bureaucracy.

We are doing incredible damage to our physical home– our bodies and our environment.

With few exceptions, the education system most of our children experience quashes creativity and readies children for quiet conformity and to punch a timeclock and then bury themselves in television and computers, not for life– relationships, self sufficiency, mental and physical wellness, hearth and home, good choices, enjoyable and meaningful work at a living wage, joy and participation in culture and community.

We have a terrible infant mortality rate. All but the most well to do and educated parents (usually  mothers, but fathers too) must make horrible choices from dangerous medical interventions that harm more than they help, from abortion to giving up breastfeeding and leaving a six week old or younger child in dangerous childcare in order to go back to work to keep a roof over their heads to risking financial ruin in order to give their children the best possible start– whether through allowing a parent to stay home or because of medical bills for kids born with some sort of special condition or need.

Adoption is a years-long marathon with a cost far beyond most people’s reach when so many people do want children, yet children and babies are desperately in need of a permanent safe and caring home.  And God forbid a gay couple or a single parent try it.

We do not allow GLBT who love each other to enjoy the benefits (and use of the word marriage, if they so desire) of marriage.  I’m with Dolly Parton– let ’em be miserable like the rest of us! Marriage sucks for most of us poor slobs who trot down that primrose path.  But marriage, heck,  even a nonsexual, nonromantic commitment just to live together and contribute to each other’s wellbeing as between roommates or family members is, in the main, better for our society, resulting in greater financial stability, reduced drain on environmental and societal resources, reduced spread of STD’s,  generally greater mental and physical health and life expectancy.

We need to drastically reduce prison population– legalize and regulate certain things which are currently not legal yet are less damaging than legal cigarettes and alcohol. Reduce punishment to fines and community service for victimless crime (or crime unlikely to cause injury to others– reckless driving or DUI, for example, is dangerous whether the person has an accident or not, and so deserves a good hard judicial slap).

Examine the reality that our prison population is overwhelmingly black. Be sure that disproportion isn’t because of racial and class prejudice and poverty and lack of access to competent attorneys and fair trials. If it is (and it is or I will eat my hat), fix it. Let nonviolent offenders go home with the education they need to return to society, take care of their families and build their communities.

I haven’t got my manifesto written yet, but it is going to go something like this.

1. Every American must have access to free basic health care and lifesaving (not dangerous, controversial, inadequately researched) treatments. I know this won’t happen over night, so can we start with those who cannot obtain healthcare for themselves– low income (which threshold needs to be revised upward drastically), those under 18, those over 65, the indigent, mentally ill or otherwise unable to care for themselves.

The face of health care and wellness must change drastically, from treating or attempting to simply cut out symptoms, to considering the whole person– preventive care. Lifestyle choices. Community and social support. Exercise. Pollution and environmental toxins.  Safety standards. Nutrition, food additives, and current agricultural practices.  Stress. Encouraging and making it easy (not just giving lip service to the idea and then making it impossible) for parents to bond with their infants and mothers to breastfeed. Removing the stigma from mental illness and seeing it as a result of a genuine medical condition or ‘dis-ease’ not a weakness, and making holistic treatment– cognitive, medical, behavioral, nutrition– accessible for all. Death with dignity and comfort, rather than drastic and devastating treatments which destroy quality of life right up until the end.

2. Education will prepare us not just to pass tests and punch  timecards and become wealthy regardless of the cost to others or to our environment.

It will nurture creativity and unstructured play, arts and music and expression. Those things need not cost a penny other than educating teachers and mandating curriculum that allows them.

Education will acquaint us with issues that affect us and our future– science, the environment, the political process, how credit and the economy really work, useful skills from balancing a checkbook to conflict resolution and nurturing babies.

3. Every person shall have the opportunity to live in decent, sustainable, comfortable housing with reasonable utilities costs and within safe walking distance,  walking on sidewalks a safe distance from the road according to the speed limit on that road, and/or easy safe and clean public transportation to:

*Decently priced groceries, the majority of which were produced locally and humanely.

*Decent education for children preschool through university including a separate public library built to the highest standards to support recreational reading and media use, cultural enrichment, and lifelong learning.

*Jobs that pay a wage that will allow them to live decently in their community.

*Large shared green spaces– parks, community gardens, playgrounds, sports fields

*At the very least, small private green spaces– yards, etc

*Access to offices providing public needs/goods– elected officials, medical care, government agencies offering aid or information, libraries, utilities, fire and police protection.

*Recreational and arts opportunities: Affordable opportunities for children and adults to take part in athletic teams, art or dance or music lessons, indoor and outdoor recreational sports and cultural facilities and programming.

4. Alternative energy (that means NON FOSSIL FUEL) NOW.

5. Smart development/growth including re use and mixed use zoning, substantial green space; walkable communities with wide sidewalks, bike trails, all needs within a mile or an easy public transportation or bicycle ride; sustainable/green construction of new residential and business buildings; preservation of local landmarks heritage and buildings;  education for quality of life and hands-on making a difference to our future (emphasizing subjects from true scientific method to protect us from big pharma and environmental predators to financial management and economics to personal wellness and conflict resolution); making it possible for businesses to thrive in communities while ensuring that they are at least as responsible for their financial misdeeds or mismanagement as us individuals.

This is the rough draft of my manifesto, and my apologia for Anarchy for the USA.

Let’s re-understand anarchy. It is everyone’s job to protect and nurture ourselves, our fellow human beings, our families, our communities and connections, and our nation. It is government’s job not to rule, but to facilitate that protection and nurture, and then step back and let us have it.

Government may also, sadly, have to enforce and protect and so must stand ready to do so on a realistic (but not wasteful) level.

But I guarantee you, with the right combination of education, nurture of community and connection between diverse fellow human beings across the arbitrary lines that we try to allow to divide us– Kids, no kids. Black, white. Old, young. Cool, uncool. Educated, uneducated. Rich, poor.–  and decent living conditions, the need to enforce and protect will drop drastically, in our small communities and around the world.

And I know you and the team you’ve assembled– from your family to your cabinet and staff– are the ones to do it.

I am so glad you are here.


December 28, 2008

Clean Coal Isn’t

Dearest President Obama,

I believe in you. I am awed by your elegance,  your incredible humanity and genuine decency, the way your heritage and upbringing mix so many aspects of the American experience– cream of the crop as well as genuine struggle and loss– in a way we desperately need in our White House. I pray for your safety, your health, your joy and success. Your intelligence, your attitude toward your wife (a woman of considerable personal and professional gifts, and you never, ever allow anyone to ignore or take away from that) and your immediate and extended family, your willingness to look horrifying social issues right in the eye and apply your considerable calm honesty and intellectual and analytical powers to them– heck, I’m awed by how smooth you look whether you’re in a track suit and a ball cap like Chuck D or Russell Simmons, or an Armani suit. I’m awed that you struggle with nicotine addiction. Welcome to the human race.

I’ve had so much to say but haven’t had time to blog– the months from the second-happiest day of my life– the day you were elected (the birth of my little one being the happiest) until now blew by me like a storm wind.  But now I have to speak.

Clean coal isn’t.

I knew this, because I did some serious reading in books by real scientists about our alternatives for energy in the future. Clean coal is a ‘Hail Mary Pass’– we’re years away from it, it isn’t practicable, the ocean cannot tolerate or absorb the byproducts we expect to inject to save our environment– at our current level of CO2, if we simply stopped producing, it would take 80 years for the oceans to get us back to a healthy equilibrium, and you know we’re not going to stop producing.

The horrendous coal ash sludge spill in Roane County Tennessee is the biggest environmental disaster in the Southeast EVER. I graduated high school in 1987 in a neighboring county, and my brother and the mother of my nephew a few years later.  We all returned with our loving extended family in 2002 when I got married at my little Cumberland Plateau Victorian-era Episcopalian church, and again the last two years to vacation with loved ones at the Wilderness Resorts cabins at Station Camp.

The  mother of my almost three year old nephew  is there, meeting with the scientists and coalitions to protect the environment and those of us who need it to live, crying with exhaustion and consciousness of the effect and how little is being done at the end of a long day waiting anxiously at the site for geiger counter readings, begging for fragments of truth that can be used to protect those affected, dealing with officials who first denied any danger whatsoever and now say a dangerous level of a contaminant they refuse to name is present in the water supply, getting detained by police for trying to bring clean water to a trailer park affected by the spill.

These people are being told to boil their water.

You can’t boil out radioactivity, beryllium, arsenic, mercury.

I love you man, and I voted for you and danced a dance of joy made the more joyful by the fact that I live in Alabama, where people once denied the right to vote, who watched their brothers and sisters die for the sake of simple civil rights and human decencies for African Americans, found themselves able to vote for an eminently qualified (first) African American (second, but pretty damn good when you are voting in Alabama).

Clean coal isn’t. When I heard you use the words ‘clean coal’ in the debate my heart just sank. Not that it changed my joy at your election, not one bit. I know your intelligence, moral compass and calm will shine a much-needed light of honesty and scientific reality on this problem and move us toward solutions.

Coal is NOT an alternative energy source. It is a fossil fuel. It is not renewable or sustainable. I  knew this. I knew that we need to go straight to renewable and sustainable– community supported energy resources, depending upon the geography and values and resources available in each local community– smaller scale solar, hydro, wind, even methane from garbage dumps– I knew this.

I knew Clean Coal was an oxymoron– not even worth pursuing.

But I never knew such a  horrible disaster was possible. How cleverly the risks are covered up by the industries and people who profit from fossil fuels!

Please send– or ask outgoing President Bush to send– real scientists and real medical professionals who have treated the sicknesses caused by these levels of contaminants, not puppets of the coal industry, to the scene immediately, and then consult with them at enough length to get a true picture of the consequences of this situation,

Please get the facts, Mr. President, and force them to be released to the public– the exact levels of each contaminant and radioactivity in the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers, the scientific data on the medical outcome for those whose water supply and the very air they breathe– because coal ash is about the consistency of face powder, easily breatheable–are in the path of this spill. Please send all the aid and assistance you can to the people and the land affected by this horrendous disaster.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the “amount of coal-ash sludge released Monday…was triple what TVA estimated.” The current amount is estimated to be 5.4 million cubic yards, according to the TVA. This is the third estimate released this week, each one more severe than its predecessor.

The Kingston spill is over 40 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, if local news accounts are correct. This is a huge environmental disaster of epic proportions; approximately 525 million gallons of nasty black coal ash flowed into tributaries of the Tennessee River – the water supply for Chattanooga and millions of people living downstream in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Environmentalists said the spill, more than 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill, belied the notion of the “clean coal” technology that the industry has spent millions to promote.

The Sierra Club’s Bruce Nilles, writing at DailyKos, notes:

“There are literally hundreds of these sludge impoundments across the United States. As coal has dominated Appalachia, it has left behind a toxic legacy for residents, a legacy that will haunt the region for decades. For example, in Sundial, West Virginia, an elementary school sits just 400 yards downhill from a massive impoundment containing 2.8 billion gallons of toxic coal sludge.”
Greenpeace notes that, like Exxon Valdez, the millions of gallons of coal sludge released Monday could take years to clean up, and some of the damage to the ecosystem could be irreparable.

“If the Exxon Valdez was a symbol of pollution 20 years ago, the Tennessee Coal Spill of 2008 is the symbol of it today,” said Kate Smolski, Senior Legislative Coordinator for Greenpeace.

Smolski added that these local impacts represent only a small fraction of coal’s negative impact.

“The really sad thing about this spill is that it’s only a small example of the damage coal causes,” Smolski added. “Add in global warming, tens of thousands of annual premature deaths from power plant pollution, and hundreds of mountains leveled across Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia, and that’s the real picture of coal.”

And as you move forward with energy policy, please read David Steinman’s Safe Trip to Eden, Fueling Our Future: An Introduction to Sustainable Energy by Robert Evans, The Citizen Powered Energy Handbook by Greg Pahl, and The Plot to Save the Planet by Brian Dumaine.

I believe in you man. Don’t let us down.

“So it seems you been runnin in circles
Now you can’t even get to first base
& you feel like the tide has turned against you
Welcome to the human race
So you feel like the gods are out to get you
You feel like you’ve fallen from grace
& you’d run again if they’d only let you
Welcome to the human race
Welcome to the human race
So your prophets of finance have fallen
On their collective proverbial face
And you hear muffled voices callin
Welcome to the human race
You made a killin dealin real estate at NASA
Sellin cemetery plots in outer space
Til some fallin coffins crashed upon your doorstep
Welcome to the human race
Welcome to the human race
Open up your heart…

So you sold your ocean home ain’t that a pity
And your mermaids disappeared without a trace
Now you comb the streets of sandcastle city
Welcome to the human raceWelcome to the human race
Now sometimes the truth is hard to handle
But lately it’s much easier to face
We’ll just write it off as just another scandal
Welcome to the human race
Welcome to the human race
Welcome to the human race
Open up your heart”

Timbuk 3

You can hear this hauntingly lovely and timely song from the 80’s at

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