Wednesday, March 21, 2012

So What?

I moved to Florida to work on a Ph.D. in Criminology. I also have a degree in writing from Kent State University. In one of my many writing classes, I had a teacher toss my paper back and me and ask me, “so what?” I was stunned and (surprisingly) speechless. What do you mean so what???? She explained, and I have since used it on my students at FSU, that every paper has to draw the reader in and make them care about the character. If they don’t care, they won’t read. The reader needs to know the ‘so what.’ Here's my so what.

My husband and I grew up in small town Ohio. Ohio, like Florida, is full of farmers. Having grown up in the country, I wanted to get out and explore the wildness that is Florida (it's really more rural here than most realize). It was interesting that everyone warned me to stay in the city limits because outside of the city was Bubba-ville. Even though I was accepted in the community of academics at the university, I still felt a draw to the country. It was many years until I understood that the yearning I felt was for the slower and simpler lifestyle of the farm.

The word ‘simpler’ may not belong here. My parents farmed, my friends’ parents farmed, school teachers I had were farmers too. I know there is nothing simple about farm life. The lifestyle is hard and neither for the faint of heart nor the squeamish. It is however, a more responsible life. I don’t mean that farmers are the only ones responsible, but life is different when you get out of bed to feed your animals, milk your cows, gather eggs, etc. There are other living things depending on you to be there and being engaged. In the city, if you don’t get out of bed, the boss gets irritated. I don’t know your boss, but mine isn’t anywhere close to being as annoying as hungry animals.

I don't consider myself a liberal (that would go against my Midwest upbringing) but there are several things I have in common with liberals. For one, I think EVERYONE deserves an education to become a productive member of society. Education is an investment in our future. I also believe in a safety net for citizens when the unexpected happens (i.e. limited unemployment, food for poor children, and health care for pregnant women and poor children). I don't believe that these safety nets should be a way of life - which makes me different from most liberals. People need to be responsible to others. If I’m going to pay my taxes so that you can have food, you better be trying to figure out how to get that food without my taxes.
Conservatives are no better than the liberals. Having studied the Holocaust in grad school, I see too many similarities between Hitler's propaganda and what is being put out there by some ultra-conservative talk show hosts and bloggers. We can’t solve this with knee-jerk reactions or more legislation. We must remain vigilant about our rights even, and especially from, those claiming they can HELP us make our country great again.

I am a libertarian. Along with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Thoreau, etc. I believe that which governs least, governs best. I don't believe the government is in the best position to make personal decisions for me. It wasn't designed to ‘give’ us anything. In fact, a government big enough to give you everything you need is big enough to be taking it from someone else for you. Our government was designed to provide for a common defense and a voice for the people. The conscience of the individual is not always inferior to the decisions of the political body. One thing I have learned from my studies of Criminology – enacting laws does not make people behave better. It just doesn’t, so quit trying to legislate model behavior.

To me, providing for the common good does not include telling me who I can marry, or what drugs I can use. The government is not there to protect you from your stupid self. So if you want to use drugs, fine. BUT, don't put yourself on the road where someone else can get hurt and don't have children because they will need to depend on you.

After much discussion, my DH and I have decided to change our lifestyle. We had been prepared for a loss of power for a hurricane, but because of some major set-backs we are starting over. In the past two years, we have both lost our jobs. That was scary and we almost lost our house. I have not found a job to replace the income I lost. I am one of the uncounted under-employed but not by choice. We now live in a house and neighborhood that we can barely afford. We are looking to become as self-sufficient as we can and to become engaged in an active community outside of our city.

All politics are local. We can only change the course of Washington by becoming engaged in civic action locally. Make no mistake. Change is coming. Things will die - including some of our current lifestyles. Things that are not sustainable will have to be replaced with things that are.

What does tomorrow look like? How will we get there? No one knows, but we can all make a choice to live more deliberately (another nod to Thoreau - who has counseled civil disobedience to unjust governments). Get to know your neighbors and neighborhood. Find like-minded individuals that want to make the changes you see in the world. Start local. When/If there is a collapse (and I believe there will be one, the size of the ensuing chaos is the only thing up for debate), your neighbors will need you and you will need them. There’s going to be a lot of work to be done. Let’s get started. Hoka-hey!

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