December 2008

Change comes from the bottom up

By Art Goodtimes

DEMOCRACY? … With politics considered a dirty word and Congress’ approval rating running somewhere around 9 percent, there’s a lot more that needs changing in D.C. besides just the leadership … It really struck me when I went down to Cortez to facilitate a high-school candidate forum before this election, “Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport.” – an annual exercise run by the Southwest Colorado Green chapter. Answering questions from civics-class seniors from all over Montezuma County, I explained to the students that we wonder why a sizeable number of citizens don’t exercise their franchise to vote – a right denied many people around the world. But think about it, I said. Are our schools democratic? No. They are run as an authoritarian system. There’s no freedom of the press. No voting for school policies. Power runs from the School Board down through the Superintendent and the Principal on through the teachers and down finally to the students. Students and their student councils are not empowered to control anything more than maybe the date of the prom, and which band will play … So, we educate our kids for 12 to 20 years in an authoritarian system, and expect them to somehow emerge as good democratic citizens after being reared and trained to authoritarianism … Hardly. These same students enter the workplace where we engage in democracy at our jobs, right? Wrong!. In the workplace we are under the authoritarian system of workers and bosses. Workers don’t vote on how to run their stores, plants or factories. The bosses set the rules, and the workers obey, or are fired … And so we educate our kids to authoritarianism, make them spend most of their lives working under an authoritarian system, and then expect them to behave as empowered, well-informed citizens in the political realm, where they are called upon to educate themselves and vote once or twice a year. How unrealistic is that? It’s amazing that democracy has survived so well in this country for as long as it has …

THE TALKING GOURD

Roadkill-ku

Trouble is, in deer country
going the speed limit's
too fast at night.

OBAMA MIA … Hope has triumphed over hate. I haven’t been so encouraged by what America can become since JFK was elected back when I was in high school. Kennedy inspired me to join VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) when I left the seminary. Now, for the first time since Kennedy’s still not sufficiently explained assassination, I am filled with that idealistic dream that I had as a youth … Yes, the challenges are many. America is at a low point in its history. But the opportunity for change is here. We have elected a leader who’s proven he can inspire this nation. But we can’t leave change to him alone to realize. It’s up to us, as citizens, to develop grassroots solutions that we can take all the way to the top for implementation … Yes we can!

OBRIGADO … Mahalo. Gracias … I have a poet friend (Judyth Hill) who wrote an internationally acclaimed poem, “Wage Peace.” One of her lines calls on folks to learn “thank you” in three languages … My constituents in San Miguel County elected me to a fourth four-year term (no term limits in this county) – rivaling the years of service of an earlier commissioner, Gene Adams, who once owned the Adams Ranch on which sits much of the present-day Mountain Village.

SAVING PARADOX … This past fall. Hiking the tortured, twisted piñon-juniper slopes into groves of yellowleg ponderosa & the chaotic fractured rockforms of the uranium lands between Paradox Basin and Uravan. Dry country, slickrock, criss-crossed with old roads and near-inaccessible escarpments. My hiking buddy & I stumbled, late in the afternoon, upon a copse of autumnal gold, young aspen, white-barked, all in a clone, backlit in sunlight. Hugging some deep seep below the surface soil. Ringed in lichened walls of rock & when we walked through, the gilded dusk light catching the amber leaves as they fell on us, we were transfixed. Caught off-guard, in “presumptuous amazement,” as Craig Childs would say.

MONTHLY QUOTA … The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. — Edward Bernays

SUSTAINABILITY HEROES … John Powers’ Denver-based Alliance for Sustainable Colorado hosted statewide Heroes of Sustainability awards in Denver this fall. What a good idea! If we’re going to move as a society towards sustainability then we ought to honor those that are leading the way … As it turns out, two of my favorite sustainability advocates were in the running. And Durango’s Katrina Blair, founder of Turtle Lake Refuge (and featured Telluride Mushroom Festival speaker — who hiked with a friend to the Galaxy Theater on foot from Durango this past August — received one of four statewide awards this year from Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, hers for the non-profit category … Local San Miguel Green Party member Kris Holstrom of The New Community Coalition, who’s done an amazing job getting Telluride moving towards resilience and wise practices was a runner-up in the same category … Both are amazing women, and we ought to honor them both.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.