Run For Your Burrow!
Punxsutawney Phil has done it again: consigned us, by myth, to another six weeks of winter. Naturally, after more than a month of gloomy days, the sun decided to appear from behind its shroud of clouds this morning. The shadow loomed, the furball ran for his burrow, and that was that. (And then the clouds closed in again, just for the record.)
Which is fine. I like weather, whether it be cold or hot, wet or dry. I go out into the weather every day, walking or riding mostly, and sometimes paddling or camping, or (for briefer forays) helping others in distress through various connections with the emergency services.
I like being in the weather. I like how it reminds me that I am not in charge of the conditions, but that I can be in charge of how I respond to them by dressing and eating appropriately. I’m always a little sad for people who become limited by their own lack of initiative to meet the weather head-on and enjoy it, who complain in winter of the cold not remembering that in six months they will be complaining of the heat.
And yet, the idea of “run for your burrow!” has taken on a different tone to me at the moment, in a socio-political sense. Please don’t stop reading, as you perceive this veering of topic. Rather, come to my table for a moment. Let me admit that while I tend leftwards, I regard myself as relatively moderate on the spectrum. The currently intense swaying of left to right reminds me of groves of tall trees whipping back and forth in a gale force wind. When I am in my woods and these are the weather conditions, I sometimes lie down and look up and simply watch the fray. I can enjoy the wild scene because I know the storm will blow over and equilibrium will resume.
I’m less sure of this when that same sort of tumult is occurring throughout the media and on the tongues of every friend and acquaintance, left and right. I believe that anyone who is paying attention cannot help but feel whipped and tossed by the events of the past few months, and it’s only gaining momentum. It seems no conversation can occur without participants eventually turning their thoughts to the national political scene.
In a way, this is good. People are noticing, and speaking up, and expressing their views! This hasn’t happened to this extent since my 1960's and ‘70's hippie days.
Yes, I went to Washington, D.C. on January 20, and was proud to be part of what was a giant gathering where people were polite and, although determined to be heard, quite amazingly friendly and helpful to others. Despite the hours-long crush of humanity, again and again I witnessed humor and goodwill. If someone needed passage, the crowd somehow parted and let them through. It was very pink, and common ground was certainly palpable. Yet the thousands of signs showed wide-ranging evidence of concern that extended beyond the obvious (women’s issues of reproduction freedom, equal pay, etc.): protection of the natural world, civil rights, immigration, health care, good jobs and adequate housing for all.
But upon coming home (to highly-conservative western Michigan, bless it), I find myself wanting to run for my burrow. Stop, I tell myself; that’s just the knee-jerk reaction of an adult child of an alcoholic feeling the daily bodyblows against things I hold dear. Someone to run the EPA who is suing that agency? Someone to run the Department of Labor whose main qualification is his role as CEO of fast food chains? Someone to run the Department of Education who is utterly unqualified and who we resisted here at home for her stance on vouchers? A Health Secretary who would throw the baby out with the bath water, defunding Planned Parenthood over just one of their many services, a tiny (1%) fraction of its range of services to help protect reproductive freedom and the health of both men and women? The Attorney General (and other nominees) who are so very radically conservative? I cringe. Reports of potential wrack & ruin arrive daily—and those are just from the vetted news sources (BBC, New York Times, and yes, I even look at Fox, for “balance”). Run for the burrow!
And then I haul myself up short. Stop. Don’t run for the burrow. Get out your pen and ink. Warm up the keyboard. Get decent, correct information, and find the words. Write the postcards and letters. Email the federal legislators who stand to ruin of so much that the collective “we” have worked to build in the name of a better, more just and inclusive society for most of my life. Walk amongst like-minded souls for strength; walk among those who have opposing views to hear them. Try to understand. Try to find the way forward.
“Lasting change does not come because you yell at a problem. Lasting change comes because you work at it ... Bluster is not governance and the world doesn’t stop being complicated because you tell it to.”
Leonard Pitts, Jr. 01/26/17 editorial
Mostly, my fellow Americans, we need to edge toward that dull, comfy middle place where we can find moderation and common ground—and talk! We need to find the words to draw us all back from our various ledges. We need to take time (when few of us really have the extra time, I admit) to be informed. I’ve been really bad about this for awhile (been in my burrow). I intend to fix that.
These times demand more than passive sideline participation. Are you in?