The Chicago Transit Authority (and no, I don't mean the band) is in bad shape right now. If you're a Chicago local, please check out Keep Chicagoland Moving and find out how you can help the CTA get the funding it needs to continue to provide mass transit as an alternative to traffic congestion, road rage, air pollution, and outrageous parking fees.
As I was reading the 161 page budget report for the CTA, it suddenly occured to me that once we get Bush outta the White House, there are still going to be so many issues that need support and attention, like the CTA's budget crisis. I've always been a political sort, but I've never really been politically *active* other than casting my vote whenever possible and doing my best to stay informed. Now, though, I really want to open up the channels of communication between me and my government. I want those folks I cast my vote for to know what I, personally, think, and I want to let them know when something is important to me. That's a whole new kind of politics for me....and I think I like it. It makes me feel like I'm engaging with my world, and trying to contribute some change for the better.
Next? Pre-snowfall park cleanups? Recycling outreach? Who knows. Kind of exciting thinking about it, though, isn't it?
I was thinking about the community I'm in - specifically about politics and how they relate to community. Politics are (obviously) becoming more and more present in my life, and I really feel like being politically aware helps me to integrate my values into my everyday life. Not to mention that governmental policy has a big effect on my life (for example, Dubya's brilliant economic policies have led to cuts in my health insurance and higher deductibles and co-pays, as well as his manuevering against reproductive rights and religious tolerance having an impact on my opportunities), and that makes it important to me.
So, for me, being politically active is a way to live by my values, or try to. Expressing myself politically is expressing myself spiritually, if that makes sense.
Community, to me, is a group of like-minded individuals who choose to come together for the enjoyment of each other's company, and to co-create the shared environment and circumstances they all want to share - or at least that's how *I* see community. I mean, when you and a friend go to a movie, you both want to see the movie, and you want to enjoy each other's company....so by going together, you create circumstances where both of those criteria are met. Larger communities, though infinitely more complex in their aims and interactions, are basically created for the same reason. Why do you choose to spend time with any group? Because you like the people, and you like the activities (or sometimes just one or the other, but ideally, it's both).
The community I'm part of here in Chicago is brought together by shared interests in the Reclaiming tradition, in earth-based spirituality, in the amazing connections that can be formed between people and the elements and the earth and divinity, in the joy of sharing those connective experiences, in committing to deep personal work that can help individuals contribute to community in a healthy manner, and the fact that we really like hanging out together. (I'm over-simplifying for the sake of space....there are too many other reasons we come together to name all of them.) So, we work together to create opportunities to express our shared values in classes, in rituals, in meetings, in outings. Do politics fit in this model?
Let's first look at the larger community we're talking about - why do "we, the people" live in these united states anyway? Why have nearly all the peoples of the world come together in these vast nations, formed governments, and all decided to live by the same set of rules, or slight variations thereof? And what, specifically, keeps the community of the U.S.A. still a community?
Right, so back to the history. Pilgrims showed up here, fleeing religious persecution and seeking freedom. Convicts, tobacco farmers, merchants, explorers, people who needed a fresh start all came here over the years. England put her stamp on the coastline and bossed the colonies around for awhile...and then the people who were here revolted, banded together, and formed their own community, where freedom was important, where every man (at the time, it was every white man who owned land....thank goodness we've evolved) had a right to voice his opinion and have a say in how he was governed. Now, in my opinion, every other law and statute and guideline comes from those two concepts: I am free, and I have a right to a say in how I can express that freedom.
Set aside all the other resultant bullshit because mankind is such a flawed species - set aside corporate behemoths and tricksy politicians and corrupt legal systems and environmental irresponsibility....set aside all that stuff for just a minute and reflect on the beauty and simplicity of those two statements.
I am free, and I have a right to a say in how I can express that freedom.
God, I fucking LOVE this country!
Pardon my digression. Back to the smeat.
So, yeah, this community, this country, came together to support those two ideas, and everything else we've done has been related to those two ideas. Because we're human, we've often lost the message, but it's still in there if you look for it, and that's what makes this place great - the fact that you still can exercise that basic principle.
So, how can I - and should I? - integrate the intentions, the purposes of these two communities? And how does my individual self fit into that picture?
Ye gods, my head hurts. To be continued....
Loud-mouthed liberal feminist. Anarchist knitter. Tequila-drinking artsy-smartsy fat chick. Bluesy folk-rock singer-songwriter. Rebel with too many causes. Quirky eclectic pagan poet. Paradoxical intuitive smartass. Sarcastic brainiac insomniac. You know, for starters.