In 1999, I voted for the Green Party in the Governor’s race. I was young and idealistic. I voted for a candidate who really fit with my values. After Jesse Ventura was elected Governor, a lot of people told me it was because of people like me not sticking with the Democrats. Back then —whether the corporate world had already purchased our government or not, I don’t know (I was young and idealistic, remember)— I believed everyone’s vote made a difference, so I believed my vote had ultimately been a bad decision.
Here we are again, but the stakes are much higher. The idea of voting for a candidate who truly represents my values is terrifying. The consequences could be deadly, without any exaggeration (a President Trump would lead to many deaths around the world, I have no doubt).
At this point, I have no allegiance to any party or any candidate. People who know me are surprised to find I’m not an avid supporter of Bernie Sanders. It’s not that I think he’s not an amazing politician; I just don’t think he’s radical enough to change our broken system. I’ve given no energy in the time of primaries as the Democrats have selected their candidate. If I’m going to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” I’m simply going to vote Not Trump.
A lot of people hate Hillary Clinton. I don’t. I think she’s about the same as President Obama. Both are owned by Wall Street but both care deeply about trying to do the right thing with the cards they feel they were dealt.
What if everyone who recognizes Donald Trump for what he is — a very, very dangerous man — took some time to look at Jill Stein’s plan? What if there was an actual revolution in our political process? What if we tell the corporations we’re sick of them making all of our decisions, that we want to create a government by the people, of the people, and for the people in ways it never has been before?
“Mama? If Trump or Cruz become President, will the world become a dystopian nightmare with a black sky?” (She reads a lot.)
“No, hunny, the sky won’t be black.”
On second thought, with the environmental crisis, the sky may be going black…
“What will we do if Trump or Cruz is elected?” she continued.
I realized my answer — that we would go to organizations like the Maine People’s Alliance, 350 Maine, or the Maine Women’s Lobby who are already doing the work and get involved to fix our broken systems — must be the answer to the question, “What will we do now?”
We also discussed the seductive and incorrect idea that it’s “them” who are the racists; that it’s “them” who are greedy and scary and sometimes evil. We talked about how the overt racism we recognize in the Trump supporters is frightening, of course, but that a well-meaning white person who doesn’t consider themselves racist might deny someone a job because they feel personally that interpersonal relationships with people of color makes them uncomfortable. [We were in a car burning fossil fuels. We shop in stores where people are paid insufficient wages. The list goes on…] We talked about how we should take the overtly ugly and dangerous seriously, but that we shouldn’t use it as a way to imply the rest of us are innocent.
These are big issues to be discussing with a 12.5 and nearly-7 year old. They are necessary subjects of discussion, though. That said, I want my children to live in a world that feels safe and full of joy and hope. Can we have both? Can we expose them to reality, work together with them to make changes in the broken system, while also helping them know they will always be safe?
The solution for me is to involve my children in direct actions to help those organizations who are working on the issues that matter to us (see those I mentioned above, though there are so many!). I will help them stay in hope and optimism in the face of the terrifying realities of our world by showing them that we are not entirely powerless. Much is beyond our control, of course, but one of our realities is that we have a safe home, a loving family, and involvement in incredible wider communities who are all engaged in good work.
Next on my agenda after hitting “publish” on this post is to reach out to those organizations to find out where my daughters and I can actually help.
After only two weeks, I went to the grocery store. I could’ve made it longer if I was truly out of cash (and SNAP benefits), but, I wasn’t. I got some staples and some fresh fruits and vegetables. And fig newtons (“fig bars“) because my younger daughter had asked to try them a few days before. On Saturday, I stocked up at BJs on some bulk items. Out of habit, I bought paper towels (that I returned before I left the parking lot). I ran out when I wasn’t going to the market and I’ve become a no-paper-towels aficionado.
The length of time I go without visiting the grocery store may not be impressive. Despite this, the life changes for me have been significant. I value leftovers. My cooking is more efficient. I know (pretty well) what’s in my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. I don’t get sucked into “screw it, I’m ordering a pizza.” We eat much, much, much better (whole) foods.
I suspected my cooking habits would return to the glory days when I was a new mother with my first daughter. Freezing garden harvests, quinoa with molasses for breakfast, yoghurt in the crockpot. What I didn’t predict at all was the impact on my garbage.
After picking a bushel of apples only to find they were infested with grubs, I needed to get rid of them. Certainly, I wasn’t going to put them all in the trash. I found a place for them (a woman who lives by the Starbucks I work at who has chickens and, it turns out, horses). I was nudged into finally signing up for Garbage to Garden. My ex-husband and his fiancé have been using this service for ages. Now that I’m using it, I can’t say enough good things. It’s amazing. AMAZING.
Garbage to Garden: $11/month, a large plastic tub with a lid, all my organic waste goes in there, put it out with the trash, it gets picked up, new plastic tub is left for me. I also put out a jar with cooking oil (I made potato chips) that will be used in making biofuel.
One significant effect of the no-groceries challenge, combined with Garbage to Garden is visually stunning to me:
That’s it. That’s our family’s garbage for the week. Mostly recycling, a 1/3 full Garbage to Garden, and one very not-full garbage bag. We used to have at least two, if not three bags so full I had to double bag them and put duct tape on the bottom. We rolled out our big trash can to hold the bags. Twice I dealt with maggots because the trash collectors don’t deal with broken bags (and I found that out the first time in the summer, once I just didn’t notice the broken bag was still in there).
Assuming this will be a pattern, that I stick to mostly not going to the market for a couple weeks, then I buy staples, some fresh fruit and vegetables, and some treats (school lunches, etc.), then I waft back into “I’ll just grab some bread since we’re almost out…” ending up with $75 of groceries. I’ll return to the “no groceries” challenge for myself. Restart. In any case, it’s one of the best things I’ve done for me and my family in a long time.
(Plus, the meat share I’ve been making payments on for several months starts delivery soon! Yay! I’ve not bought meat for ages. I simply can’t stomach eating miserable, disgusting, tortured, unhealthy meat.)
For more than 40 years, my parents have had a large organic garden in the mountains of Maine. I grew up with that garden. For me, normal summers included picking anything I wanted at any time and eating it on the spot. I probably played more than I actually helped with the garden, or as a teenager I probably complained more than I helped, but working in the garden was just something my family did.
When I imposed the “no groceries” challenge on myself before, it was May. Our garden had not yet started for the season. Not going to the grocery store is easier now because it’s also harvest time for the plants I put into my plots in my parents’ garden.
As I was picking the old beans (to be shelled and cooked like lima beans), the green tomatoes (fried with corn meal, pickled, ripen some in newspaper), and the basil (puree and freeze), I was connected to how lucky I am that these are easy tasks for me. I knew that we would be going back to the garden in October and that the kale would be fine (it will last forever, the magical vegetable that it is) and the cabbage will be, too. I know what to do with the vegetables, too. I know how to cook them in ways to allow for freezing for later use, for example.
So many people have never even picked a vegetable off of a plant, let alone planted the seeds that grow into plants to pick from. My parents have nurtured this garden space for decades. They’ve planted a cover crop on 1/4 or 1/2 of it, rotated the area where they plant, identified organic methods of pest control, and learned so much from their experiences. I’ve picked up a bit of what they know and it’s enough to grow a lot of food (with their continued help). I’m deeply grateful and very aware of how unusually lucky I am.