Healing Earth & Healing America, Both Halves

Yesterday, Against Disaster; Tomorrow, For a Fuller Democracy

We members and readers of The Shalom Center have been struggling to understand how we can meet the real needs, economic and cultural, of both the American electorate who voted for Trump, and those who voted for Biden.

We know from direct contact that “the others” are mostly lovable people. We know from political experience that our common house cannot stand if we treat each other as enemies, with hatred and contempt.

Trumpism did its best to treat the two as if we were enemies of each other.  We must create dialogues in which we all listen. We must also create policies in which we meet the economic and cultural needs of both great clusters.

And there is a third segment of the people––many many fewer.  We can try to pursue dialogue with them, but we must be prepared to learn it is useless, and we must be ready to politically defeat them. That is the inner structure of one political party that has decided it can never win elections if the whole American people gets to vote. So it has decided the ”real people”are not the whole American citizenry but only white Christian males and the women who obey and serve them.  Since that segment of America is increasingly a minority, for them to insist that they are the only people who count requires more and more force and violence to keep “the others” from winning elections and sharing power.

But addressing the needs of “long-forgotten America” (Blacks, Ladinx, Indigenous nations, women, LGBTQIA communities, immigrants and refugees) does not require forgetting the needs of “newly forgotten” Americans (rural and small-town folks and their suffering analogues in city neighborhoods).  

Can such a program bring together those who now live in the great metropolitan areas and see through their windows a wider world and a newer culture, with those who celebrate the old economy and culture of small stores and churches and who fear they are now the “forgotten Americans”? We cannot have a healthy and democratic America if either of these great clusters is left out.

A lesson from the past: In 1936 the New Deal met the needs of farmers and involved them in a fruitful coalition through the Rural Electrification Act. It provided federal loans for the installation of electrical distribution systems to serve isolated rural areas of the United States.  The funding was channeled through cooperative electric power companies.

Imagine a Neighborhood Solarization  Act that offers grants and loans to neighborhood co-ops in small towns and rural areas as well as urban neighborhoods, to solarize homes and businesses and schools that become co-op members, and also pays for training new home-grown solar and wind engineers and then pays them for new green jobs at decent wages.

Grants to neighborhood co-ops bypass state and local officials. The new solar systems 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. Infusing national money into this hyper-local transformation would create millions of new “green jobs” in communities now hollowed out and dying. And the new solar systems would greatly reduce CO2 emissions that are scorching and burning our home – our planet.

What’s more, the co-ops themselves would 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.

I sketch this approach as a model of what a community-based, compassionate, justice-seeking America – simultaneously “global” and “neighborly” -- might look like. I suggest that it could be good practical politics as well as good value politics – appealing as a Green Neighborhood New Deal to people who started out opposing the national program for the Green New Deal, just as Obamacare when it actually went into effect appealed to people who started out opposing it.

For that very reason, it may be bitterly opposed by the same politicians who bitterly opposed Obamacare, and still do. All the more reason for us to vigorously support it!

It's time to start preparing for the eight days of Hanukkah (starts the evening of December 10) and the twelve days of Christmas (starts Christmas Eve, December 24). When better for a healed economy, a healing Earth? More coming! 

Shalom, salaam, paz, peace!--  Arthur

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