Saturday, July 9, 2011


A river can wind.
So can a road.
A staircase.

The innards of a watch.
And so can a person's thoughts--the innards of the mind. It's not that I've had nothing to say. It's that I've had too much to say. And that I don't know how to compile it in a communicable form. But the thing (or one thing) about winding is that it's a continuous form, not a fragmented one. So here's one place I might begin.
     For my reading group, I've just finished a book called The Worst Hard Times, by Timothy Egan. Our group usually reads fiction, but this time the choosers chose nonfiction. And so this choice. It's the story of the Dust Bowl, the environmental disaster of the 1930s on the Great Plains of these United States. It's a horribly disturbing story (unrelentingly repetitive also, but that's another matter) of the human impact on the earth. The Great Plains area was once a perfectly adapted ecosystem--vast tracts of grass with deep taproots that could draw water from the earth during the endless droughts and hold on for dear life in the face of the endless winds. The bison who lived there, too, were perfectly adapted--able to withstand winters with temperatures of 40 below and summers of 110 above. No trees. Blasting sun. Continuous wind and drought. The Indians hunted the buffalo and used every single scrap.
     Then the land speculators came, and others looking for a place to settle and a way to earn a living, and they drove the Indians off and plowed up the grass, and train lines were built, and cities grew up--hotels and restaurants and stores and schools and hospitals. People who had lived in little sod houses built real houses--with windows and porches. They bought pianos, and their children took piano lessons. They had a few years of good rains and good crops. And then the drought years began, and with no grass to hold the earth down, it began to blow. 
     It's easy  to point fingers, or say whose fault it was. But the point is that people needed places to live, and they needed work, and they were interested in profits, in thriving, in getting ahead, for themselves and their families. And as we've seen in so many other cases, the means to these ends were shortsighted and disastrous. 
     This week, WBEZ ran a fascinating story about Canadian oil and the way it is boosting the Midwest economy. Of course, the Midwest economy, including Detroiters, who are benefiting from this Canadian oil industry, need the boost. One man who was interviewed has been out of work for three or four years. But the story also included the voices of people who live near the Kalamazoo River and suffered (and still do) from the oil spill last summer. I have written about these things before--the farmers versus the town folk when it comes to river flooding; the restaurant owner whose business is now doing better because people are eating a full lunch (including dessert) versus the obesity epidemic. It's not really "versus." We're all in it together. What do we do?

5 comments: said...

Too many people don't realize we are in it together. The rich do not realize that as the middle class ladder rung climbs, the more they, too, will be negatively affected. It's a matter of how the rich want to spend our money. Democrats raise taxes because they realize there is no choice. Rich Republicans don't get it; nor do they care. They foolishly believe they are above the it that is swallowing us.

If cars were still built in Detroit department, the people we brought from the South to work on the auto assembly lines would have had no reason to riot and Detroit would not have died. And if we continue to outsource and cut funds for the poor and elderly, even the rich will pay in worse way.

It's all about how our leaders choose to pay for existence. Additionally, history proves it is the nature of societies to gravitate toward the downward spiral because of fiscal irresponsibility and neglect of the infrastructure.

It is also applicable to note that the colonists took their land from Natives already on this soil. As a resident of the Southwest, this is as real as the recent Haboob that showed us the harm we are doing to the earth.

We are all in it together, but what does "together' mean?

Those of us who care can do only what we can. Like picking up trash, being charitable, living with integrity, accepting life styles that are not ours, and rewarding positive ideas, to state a few lame-sounding examples, but isn't that what together and doing something means?

Again, thank you for the opportunity to speak about these issues.

Susan Messer said...

Right now, I think it's hard for a lot of people to imagine what "being in it together" means. We are so shockingly polarized (the current deficit issues; Israel/Palestine, as only two examples). "Intractable" is the word that comes to mind. It's a scary word. But I do think that most people "care": it's just that they care about different things. said...

I think most people care too. But the thought of possibility on no Social Security checks after Aug. 2, according to today's news does not spawn positive unity. Instead people worry about how they will eat and buy their overpriced but necessary drugs.


Terribly difficult to be optimistic.

Hopefully after reading one of your Posts, I'll be able to show the comedic side of my personality. It's buried in reality now.

Susan Messer said...

Thanks for your thoughts. I know what you mean . . . that it's hard to be optimistic. I struggle with this a lot, trying not to give into despair, and to find balance. I usually succeed (at least to some extent) by seeing what I have to be grateful for. That book about the Dust Bowl really shook me up. Then I went to an open mic last night--a local one that's held every month. I go as often as I can. Most people read there poetry. I read short excerpts from my fiction. Being around people who take the time to create something beautiful and meaningful really help.s said...

We take pleasure in our little orange kitty and know how fortunate we are to be married for almost 47 years. And our son, who is finally making a small mark as a musician - another overnight success who has worked at it since he was four years old. We never told him to "cut his hair and get a real job."

When we can walk (weather permitting) I am also carrying a plastic bag to pick up litter on our otherwise pretty area. Thank you for suggesting that.