Sunday, February 26, 2017

Not Hopeless

  The news from Washington is nothing short of horrific, at a relentless pace.  News from places that Republican ideologues control--like the 17 states currently trying to pass new laws to stop protestors--isn't any better.  But all that isn't everything.  It isn't even most everything.  Even in a Dark Age there are areas of light.

Our Member of Congress, Jared Huffman, held a Town Hall meeting at Arcata High School a few days ago.  I didn't attend but I watched the entire video of the event, via Lost Coast Outpost.  Huffman is very smart, affable, courteous and witty.  In manner and appearance on the podium he reminds me of Kim Stanley Robinson.

After reflecting on what I saw, one impression that stays with me is that belief in misinformation isn't limited to the extreme right.  Among the estimated 1200 attendees were a lot of Bernie supporters (he handily won the primary in Humboldt) who were not very clear on what the Democratic National Committee can actually do, or actually did in Bernie's elections.  There are also a lot of stories prompting fears among immigrants.  Bad as things are, they aren't as bad (yet) as feared, and some of the stories just aren't true, according to Huffman.

For example, immigration agents aren't sweeping schools and hospitals looking for undocumented individuals, so people should not be keeping children home or avoiding healthcare.  There are some alarming instances in the news--such as the outrageous detaining of Muhammad Ali’s son at a Florida airport where he was questioned about his religion--but so far very little in general practice has changed, especially in California.

Similarly, Arcata and other cities are debating what to do about the threats made by Homegrown Hitler to stop federal funding to so-called "sanctuary cities."  Huffman said it is an empty threat--that it is unconstitutional to do so, and that the state of California in particular is ready to take the matter to court.  They've hired a lawyer for that, he said, the former US Attorney General Eric Holder.

Huffman was reassuring on other issues.  He doesn't believe Obamacare will be repealed, citing no less an authority than former R House Speaker John Boehner, who presided over an endless set of resolutions to do just that.  (And now, suddenly, Obamacare has visible political support.)

But his comments on the climate crisis were the most interesting.  While he doesn't dispute the obvious, that environmental protections and policies are being rapidly destroyed by the regime, he notes that there is enormous support for those policies built into the efforts of states and localities.

Huffman noted that almost 200 countries signed the Paris Agreement--which didn't simply state that they believed the climate crisis is real, but set detailed goals for addressing it that they pledged to meet.  Not only that, but some 700 non-state actors--cities, regions, companies and investors signed it right away, with more doing so since.   They include major cities, regions and corporations in the US.  They are still committed.  What the Washington regime does or doesn't do will likely not affect these efforts.  President Obama was instrumental in putting this together.  The current incumbent will not tear it apart.

For me this is another reminder that civilization is complex.  First of all, there are common decencies that people enact in their lives and work every day.  They may be under attack from political zealots, fueled by the darkness unleashed by fear, but these are long established behaviors part of institutional and personal identities.  They are resilient.

There is still hope when people represent what I regard as the most important phrase in common relationships: "You'd do the same for me."

Secondly, the demagoguery that moved enough votes to win an election did not as quickly destroy the regional, state, local, community and individual sense of reality and sense of values.  Even corporations cannot ignore reality for very long.

 The work goes on.  Success was never guaranteed, on the climate or anything else. The work is its own reward, as is life in community, life with integrity.  

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