“Americans who read and think are patriots of the first order . . .”
It was a dozen years ago. July 2003. It was hot in Phoenix, so we decided to head for the high country, to an old favorite camp spot on the edge of Arizona’s grand escarpment, the Mogollon Rim. The elevation at that spot is close to 8000 ft., so the air is cool and pine scented. Plus there’s the stunning view one might typically expect when standing (fearlessly, of course) on the edge of a 2000 ft. high cliff.
We traveled light, back in those days. Camping gear, chow, a couple changes of shorts and tees, a bottle of sunscreen, jug or two of wine, and several books. One of the books in the pack was by Barbara Kingsolver, titled Small Wonder; she had written it in the aftermath of 9-11 — a series of personal essays that were largely concerned with current and newsworthy topics such as the environment, war/peace, societal issues, etc. So, I kicked back, settled into my easy chair near the edge of the Mogollon Rim and within minutes found myself riveted; couldn’t put it down.
The final essay was titled ‘God’s Wife’s Measuring Spoons’ in which she recounted many of her personal experiences, her travels, and her attitudes concerning both national and global issues. One portion of one section caught my eye and tweaked my interest to the point that I bookmarked it (with a small black feather, presumable ‘donated’ by a crow) for transcription once I was back in the vicinity of my keyboard. It’s not very long, but most surely manages to sum up a whole pile of my own (admittedly Socialist) ideas and ideals. Kingsolver’s formula for a much better world:
“RESOLVED to live with a little less so we can all share in the safety of having enough.”
In many countries, they give you that option. Our leaders tell us that these problems of ours are insoluble except by force, and that we must cede certain casualties to poverty and violence, and yet nearly every problem has already been solved by someone, somewhere; I’ve witnessed first-hand the blessedly kind health-care system of Spain, and I’d like to see ours follow its example. And the examples of Curitiba, Brazil, which recycles 70 percent of its trash, and Freiburg, Germany, which has brought back its streetcars and made automobiles unnecessary. Paris, Tokyo, and a hundred other municipalities have efficient public transportation systems that I’d like in my own city, thank you. I’d like to see an end to corporate welfare and multimillion-dollar CEO salaries so we could put that money into ending homelessness, as many other nations have done before us. I’d like us to consume energy, on average, at the modest level Europeans do, and then go them one better. I’d like a government that creatively subsidized renewable energy and conservation, as Canada has done in some of its public school buildings, earning more than a 100 percent return on the investment – which is returned again to the schools as equipment and teacher salaries. I would like us to ratify the Kyoto Protocol today and reduce our fossil-fuel emissions with the help of legislation that will ease us into safer, less wasteful, sensibly reorganized lives. I’d like to stake my pride on a nation that consistently inspires rather than bullies, that brings unconditional generosity to the table, and that dispenses justice over the inevitable bad deal with diplomacy and honor rather than with more bad deals. If this were the humane face we showed the world and the model we brought to working with it, every time, I believe our children might eventually be able to manage with a military budget the size of Iceland’s.
So there it is. In less than 350 words she managed to completely and precisely sum up MY attitudes on society and what should (and by inference, should NOT) be its goals, its aspirations. I was, needless to say, muy impressed!
My soliloquy was interrupted by a loud clap of thunder and a rather sudden blast of chilly wind. I looked up, and WOW! Grabbed the camera and headed for the overhead tarp. Nothing like the sudden onset of a summer monsoon mountain rain event to cut short one’s time in the high country!
In any case, a week or two later, after having transcribed the marked text from the ‘God’s Wife’s Measuring Spoons’ essay, I caught myself wondering how the bulk of her premises as stated and described might impress, say, your typical (pre-teabagger) Republican. I decided the best way to find out would be to put one to the test and see for myself the reaction. So I emailed the transcript to my Wingnut cousin and asked what were his impressions. His response was no big surprise.
“I could shoot many holes in that composition, but I won’t. Sounds like it was written by a feminist liberal. Ain’t got no time for them.”
I suppose there must be a lesson embedded somewhere in that, but damned if I can figure out what it is. Suffice to say that it’s a grand thing to realize there are other worlds ‘out there’ — worlds that allow communications with Nature, with stimulating ideas. And no Republicans!