RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

Support Your Community

Qsh5 wfwr wh5w [-54e6 0fguw jy4=0; Oops. Sorry. I started typing with my hands on the wrong keys. It felt right, and sounded right, but when I looked at the screen, well, it wasn’t right.

What I meant to type was, “Abracadabra, presto change-o. Everything old is new again. The Chinese character for danger is the same as the Chinese character for opportunity.”

Or something like that.

After the most expensive campaign in history, the tea party alliance has put us, in the metaphor used by Barack Obama, back in the ditch. And the corporate flaks are holding the keys.

For rural people, that means a harder time keeping corporate control out of our pastures and fields. Expect money coming to your community from unknown places, and with plenty of strings attached. Expect a new glut of confined animal feeding operations, genetically engineered crops and their superweeds, fewer regulations for corporate pollution and more regulations and fees for small farmers and processors.

This is not what the Tea Party membership wanted, in their rallies for freedom, but in their excitement they typed in the corporations that exported jobs and forced us into the war economy. The Baggers think they’ll take back America, have low taxes and reduced government spending, but they’ll quickly learn the low taxes will only help industries turn in bigger profits to Wall Street. For citizens, reduced government spending means less money for health care, schools, garbage pickup and jobs.

For Progressive Populists, it’s imperative to keep our independent media alive. This paper is one of those outlets, and you should make it a holiday gift for everyone on your list. And, if you’re lucky enough to have a community radio station in your area, send them a check. Today.

The strange bedfellows came into power on a wave of media, and the media blitz will continue long after the last voters give up. The day before the election, I was a canvasser in a hotly contested area, handing out reminders to vote for people on our side. When they came to the door, the message was brief: “Voting day is tomorrow and we’re counting on your support.”

The voters were exhausted. They’d been worn down by TV ads, mailers, robo-phone calls, yard signs, pollsters, text messages, newspaper ads, all the usual predictors of doom. I felt guilty asking them to come to the door. The campaigns were too dirty. Too many lies, most of them transparent to any thinker, but lies that put doubt in the voting mind.

In the future, the ads will be incessant. Less dirty, perhaps, and posing as informational. They’ll be sponsored by groups you’ve never heard of, with inspiring names. But, as soon as a targeted politician wears a plaid shirt with striped pants, or reprimands their kid in public, or goes out for a drink with a co-worker, s/he’ll be fair game for the political paparazzi. The ad will open with the ridiculous charge that s/he hates America, then proceed with a litany of offenses, from votes cast to speeches made. As the ad closes, expect more calls for wars against terror, more racism, more violence against Muslims, gays and immigrants, and more gi-normous weapons sales to our so-called allies. Weapons, it turns out, are the only things America still manufactures.

There are many things we can do. Besides supporting independent media, like this paper, we can keep our dollars in our community. Studies show that money spent with small entrepreneurs stays in the community, passing from hand to hand. We can buy groceries at the Farmers Market and holiday gifts from our local artists and artisans. We can find repair people that share our values and help someone through the recession.

And, we can have fun.

The day after Thanksgiving is celebrated as “Buy-Nothing Day” in neighborhoods around the world. People get together to play board games, clean up parks, insulate windows at the church, make holiday gifts, cut up their credit cards.

The celebration reminds us that we don’t need the mall, with its million baubles from China, to have a good time. We need each other.

In the words of one young mom, “I can keep the sustainability thing going, and I can buy local and live simply all year long until it comes to the holidays, and then it’s just hard. All these shiny toys, with batteries, that sing songs and have buttons to push and lights going off.” She was especially worried that the toys might contain lead.

When I said, “you don’t have to buy them,” she answered, “No, it’s not me. It’s the grandparents, and the aunts and uncles and the friends who just think the kids just have to have all this STUFF.”

That, dear reader, is typing on the wrong keys.

We need each other. Support your community.

Margot Ford McMillen farms and teaches English at a college in Fulton, Mo. Email:

From The Progressive Populist, December 1, 2010

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