It was the week that Nelson Mandela died that I finally realized I didn’t have to worry about everyone else’s future.
I just had to worry about mine.
Not just mine, of course. But my immediate family and genetically created future, that was what I had to worry about. Our financial well-being, our physical well-being, our time, our place, our education. I realized I’d spent a lot of time thinking about how to improve everyone’s situation in a community (or lack thereof) of people who want to live free, die. Whose very last preference is to collaborate outside of some pretense of religious community, whose very core is to be everything and all to themselves and no one else.
Okay. I get it!
Still, I agonized over a purchase of Alpen cereal the other day, a current favorite. So far the only place I have found said cereal is at Market Basket, and the closest Market Basket is 35 miles away. Then I found out I could order it on Amazon and have it delivered to my house for the same price, minus time, gas and energy, that I could get the product at Market Basket. Instead of jumping at this obvious no-brainer, I started to worry that by going with Amazon I was succumbing to their McWalmartization of the internet, undercutting local jobs, contributing to the carbon footprint and possibly going against the very morals I had until then subscribed to. Should, I, instead, make the long trek to the brick-and-mortar which supplies local jobs..albeit lousy ones? Was I solving something by going with Amazon, by reducing the number of distribution centers the cereal travelled to before it reached me?
Was I, in actual fact, worrying about the purchase of a processed granola cereal, when it was possible that I could make the same thing myself?
Anyway, gentle reader, you’ll be glad that I finally found that door. I’ve installed it, closed it, locked it, and put in earplugs so I can ignore the incessant pounding. And I’m purchasing the f-ing cereal online. And maybe some other stuff as well. And I will happily receive the benefits of time, energy, gas, and money, and I will. not. care. about the rest of it.
But I’ve made sure I can open that door, still. Because I still want to Think Globally, Act Locally. It’s just that this is not the locality to do it in. I really want to be a part of a vibrant community, and help strengthen that community so we can all have a sustainable and prosperous future, despite the growing threats of pollution, climate change, population growth. It’s just that there is no such community here.
Lionel and I have always taken an interest in Town affairs and in various ways been on different committees and commissions. For a time I was the Chair of one. Lionel was elected to the Planning Board. We’ve always gone to Town Meeting and been deeply committed to the affairs and well-being of this Town we’ve chosen to call home. But recently, as we’ve pushed against brick walls and come up short, time, and time and time again, as we’ve been repeatedly reviled and ridiculed and outright ignored, we’ve begun to pull back. Lionel quit his position on the Planning Board. Recently, one day, instead of stopping at the Selectman’s office to let them know of yet one more County event that, in the end, they would completely ignore, Lionel came home instead. “I figured I could get home ten minutes earlier,” he said, the silver lining of being completely disengaged. I stopped going to the Farmer’s Market, either as a Farmer or as a buyer, and gained a whole lot of time on the weekends. We didn’t go to Town Meeting this year.
The latter was a big deal. There was no good excuse for us not to go except a deeply personal anger and a sense that we could no longer allow ourselves to be angry at a populace that simply didn’t want to go where we wanted them to go. So we deliberately didn’t. We deliberately shirked our civic duty. Lionel happily went to his day job and made money for us as a family, and I bundled up the kids and went to a jacked-up arcade in Nashua called, appropriately, Fun World.
And you know? Although the day and night before I was wracked by a weird and persistent anxiety, by the end of the day when it was clear that it had not made one whit of difference whether we were physically present or not, I felt free. Why I have felt that the future of this Town was somehow in my hands to decide I don’t know. I do know that this place is not a place where I can speak my mind, or where I can trust the leadership, or where a community of like-minded individuals live. But I now know that I am not responsible for them. And that’s fine. Because it’s become very clear that they’ve never wanted help from the likes of a progressive liberal crazy socialist like me. And that I, progressive liberal crazy socialist though I am, deserve to live a life of liberty and happiness, you know, that ultimate American ideal, even if it doesn’t mean anything in the end, even though it means I have to drop everything I believe in to get it.
If you close your eyes, and your ears, and most importantly, your mouth…the taste of being the minority slowly dissipates until you’ve got nothing left. At least it isn’t sour anymore.