Two truths: President Biden’s call for unity, versus the reality of bitter opposition between two halves of the effective political energy of the country. Can we wait for slow dickering and compromise to produce unity?
Not easy, when each half believes the other is itching to scrap the Constitution and the vision of a democratic America. Worse: Not possible at all when one side has hard evidence that we are mired in an existential crisis of an Earth that does not wait for slow dickering and compromise – and the other side thinks the evidence is a hoax. The disagreement threatens paralysis.
Paralysis spells catastrophe. Is there any way beyond it?
Action. Embodying the future in the present makes it possible for the change to become the present and the future. Just as large numbers of Americans bitterly opposed “Obamacare” when it was still mere ink on paper, yet came to support it once it went into operation and affected their lives,
Let us enact a program of Federal grants to neighborhood co-ops in all sorts of neighborhoods –- rural, small-town, metropolitan center, middle-sized cities, and suburban –- to initiate and support solar and wind energy co-ops. The new energy systems would radically reduce the costs of electricity; radically increase the rapid spread of renewable energy and its jobs; reduce asthma and cancer rates in neighborhoods near coal-burning plants and oil refineries; and greatly reduce the CO2 emissions that are poisoning and scorching all Earth.
For some neighborhoods, the co-ops themselves might become grass-roots political challenges to the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs that are making hyperwealthy profits by burning Earth, sowing the anti-life seeds of enormous floods, hurricanes, droughts, fires, and famines. They might even for some secular folks bring back almost forgotten memories of biblical plagues they thought were only legends, until Covid 19 came along.
And for other neighborhoods, the co-ops might mean not global change but serious jobs and serious money in the pockets of people whose factories were shuttered, windows broken; who couldn’t afford the taxes to pay for the schools to educate their children; who couldn’t afford the seed to plant the crops next spring. Earth and human earthlings?
Perhaps for some farmers these solar or windmill co-ops would nourish a memory still vibrant, for some still present in their lives -- the Rural Electrification Act, by which the New Deal through farmer co-ops brought electricity for the first time to farms in the 1930s – would open some emotional and political doors. And perhaps in some situations, the REA co-ops themselves are ready for a revitalization through wind or solar power.
This approach might serve as a model of what a community-based, compassionate, justice-seeking America –- simultaneously “global” and “neighborly.” appealing as a Green Neighborhood New Deal to people who might have started out opposing the national top-down program for the Green New Deal, just as Obamacare when it actually went into effect appealed to people who started out opposing it.
The point would be to emphasize neighborhood co-ops. The possibility of energizing folks who live down the farm road instead of a suspect Federal bureaucrat who appears out of nowhere could make a great difference, and the same dynamic with different faces could make a similar difference in poverty-stricken North Philadelphia.
To look at this through eyes more attuned to conventional politics: With Democrats barely control the next Senate, could the initial money be appropriated at all? Possibly, first of all if by using the majority-vote provisions of the “reconciliation” process in Congress; secondly, by shift agro money to that purpose by executive order without breaking the Constitution. Third, if enough grass-roots energy for such an infusion of money and jobs at the neighborhood level could be ginned up in the rural/ small-town areas in the states of Senators who are campaigning for reelection in 2022.
Where could new energy come for such a change? In some of the communities of faith that have at some momemts of the past empowered social change, there remains enough compassion to affirm those on the “other side” of the great political/ cultural/ social divide that has paralyzed us. Many of the faith communities that have brought great social change in the past have been not asleep but sleepy, facing a crisis bigger than human society, but endangering it. Add the desire of good pastors to heal the rift between “forgotten Americans” across the street.
There is a great teaching at the very end of the last of the classical Hebrew Prophets, Malachi. God proclaims that Elijah will come to turn the hearts of the parents to the children and the hearts of children to parents, so that the Breath of Life, the Wind of Change, the Spirit of the World, will not come as a Hurricane to devastate all Earth. The children’s movements like Sunrise have turned their hearts to their parents and grandparents. Let us hope that in neighborhoods of every sort the elders can respond with neighborly and open hearts to heal the folks nearby, and all round Earth.