Civics Lesson?

I will preface this post by saying that I don’t want this website and blog to be political. I get too serious and on my almighty horse when I go down that path. Isn’t it more likely people will actually read these words if they are light-hearted and happy and relate to the machinations of our chickens? This is an issue I will get back to at the end of today’s post.

Earlier this week, Carl and I attended a political event hosted by Open Democracy/NHRebellion, a nonpartisan group working to heal the divide between our two opposing parties and to save the happy little experiment called democracy by getting money out of politics. Professor Lawrence Lessig was the guest speaker and presented, with his usual razor-sharp precision, the facts of our current state: there is a greater divide than ever in history between the two tribes called Democrats and Republicans. And a greater unity. Over ninety percent of Americans don’t believe the government represents their interests. The trust is gone. And without trust, a democratic system of government cannot survive because without trust, apathy infiltrates. People don’t participate or pay attention. Why bother when it makes no difference? And so they don’t vote or get involved or run for public office and the situation worsens, like a ping pong match, back and forth, the ball lowering until one day it doesn’t make it over the net because The People didn’t bother to pick up a paddle and lob the ball.

From whence flows this lack of trust? Money. Due to the undue influence of money in politics, the people elected to represent The People instead represent big businesses and deep pockets. As a result, government does not do what our Constitution demands: represent all people equally. Professor Lessig argues that we must solve this corruption of our government. We must fight for the core promise of representation and thereby restore the self-respect and dignity that this precious form of government demands: the rights of all people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He presented this as a moral idea, an idea bigger than the individual. We must put our country first, not our party, and be willing to sacrifice our mortal time and fight because this is more than a constitutional crisis. This is the future of our planet.

Too serious? I’ll bring in the chickens. The girls aren’t laying. I can’t blame them. The days are short. It’s dark and cold. I certainly wouldn’t want to lay an egg. And I don’t mind so much that the old hens aren’t bearing but the pullets? We have gotten five eggs out of them in total, and not one in weeks. They are eight months old. They should be producing. Carl and I have searched high and low and found no hidden cache, as we did three years ago when we found seventy-six eggs under the poop board. Strange. The most spoiled dinosaurs ever, in their relatively warm and harbored-from-the-wind bus stop.

Even Roo Schtude is wondering what’s up. Every morning he marches proudly down the ramp of the quonset hut coop and into the bus stop run and brings on the morning with his crows. He stands upright and mighty, his blond bangs dangling over his eyes, occasionally losing his balance during the passionate presentation of his daily news report: IT’S MORNING! THE SKY IS LIGHTENING!! DARK BLUES AND GRAYS TO OH!! WAKE UP! HERE COMES THE SUN!! IT IS RISING! PINKS AND ORANGES! YELLOW!! IT IS MY COLOR. MAGNIFICENT! GIRLS!! WAKE UP!! YOU ARE MISSING THE BEST PART OF THE DAY!

In response, the hens cluck and purr and snuggle closer together; time for an early morning nap.

Do you see the resemblance? Our hens are like too many Americans. They don’t participate. They could create an indivisible group, have (egg-laying) huddles, determine who might go broody, leverage an egg for more yellow cheese and mealy worms. The only significant difference is that our hens won’t endure any consequences. I’m not going to wring their necks just because they’re on an extended holiday. Their feathery butts are safe. Americans, though, are in the process of losing everything that the U.S. constitution represents.

Back to the political event. Dan Weeks—currently chair of Open Democracy’s board—presented, too. He spoke of a bill that Open Democracy/NHRebellion will be supporting at the state legislature this January that would create a “Civic Dollars” campaign financing system, a citizen-funded election system that would start to get rid of the undue influence of corporations and the extremely rich. Pipe dream? Variations of this legislation have been working, successfully, in Maine, Arizona and a few other states.

My point? Both Lawrence Lessig and Dan Weeks spoke about our democracy as passionately as Roo Schtude does the morning sun. They know what is at stake: our democracy and our world. We need no longer consider the seventh generation to determine what to do but to the next generation. Thus, in their respective speeches, ever so briefly, both these men choked up. Because every day, every hour, Lawrence Lessig and Dan Weeks have their children in mind. They want their children to have a future.

Carl and I live off-grid in the relative hinterlands of Jaffrey, New Hampshire. I have been asked by friends and strangers if we are preppers, readying ourselves for the apocalypse. My response is no. I have read my history. I know that, at times—these times—there is no hiding. The outside world will come in. I might not want to bring politics into this blog but by its very nature, my website is political. How so when so bedecked by chicken feathers? Because how we, as a nation and as individuals, choose to eat and grow and buy our food is a political act. Opting to drive or take public transportation or walk is a political act. How we treat each other is a political act; racism and slavery and sexism still exist because we have not as a country endured the deep and radical questioning that real change requires. In short, our lives, today, are political and it is Attitude Change Time. A.C.T.

If we are to save the world, we must first save democracy. It will not be a pretty fight. It will not be a short one. It is a necessary act, a moral one. As Paul Gilding writes in his book The Great Disruption: “it is no longer a case of what you want to do, but what you have to do.”