Sunday, April 17, 2011

On The Rocky Road to Authenticity

Spring certainly is beautiful in Eugene. Many trees have positively exploded into bloom, and there are wildflowers - mostly bluebells and tiny daisies - in people's front yards, on the right-of-ways and the broad lawns of Monroe Park. Hell, even the dandelions look good.

One of my reasons for moving here was to use public transportation on an everyday basis. Eugene has one of the best bus systems in the country, and I want to really work at seeing how much I can curtail taking my own car on the road. Besides, I live three blocks away from Eugene Station, a main transfer point.

I have managed to land another temp gig, and this one is very close to a bus stop (unlike the last one, which was all the way on the outskirts of Springfield, and nowhere near a bus stop). So I decided to take the bus to work a couple of days a week. I can either walk to Eugene Station or take the 43 bus, which has a stop directly across the street from where I live. Once at Eugene Station I take the 66 bus out to the office park where I work; going home it's the 67 bus back to the station.

I am happy to say that it worked out well: I don't have to get up that much earlier, and as long as it's not raining the walk to Eugene Station is quite pleasant. I also like taking the bus, like not having to think about driving or traffic and just enjoy the ride. I find I arrive at work much more relaxed and ready to face the day. However, I haven't come close to my goal yet: on Wednesday, I drove my car because I do laundry right after work (and I can't really have my dirty laundry hanging around at the office); on Thursday I do grocery shopping at the cheapest place available which unfortunately is all the way on the other side of town; and on Friday I needed to get home in time to pick up my son.

Two days out of five; it's not perfect, but it's a start. I realize I have a long way to go. And this is just one aspect concerning how often to use the bus system. There are many changes which need to be made - or at least start on the road to making - before I come anywhere near living what I would call an authentic life. I have to learn to balance time constraints and expediency with a real desire to reduce my own personal footprint.

In viewing the larger picture, we as Americans are also flailing about, attempting to reconcile what we know in our hearts to be right with what we are taught to want by the corporations who are only looking at their bottom line. Public transportation and indeed many crucial public services are being gutted in favor of tax giveaways to wealthy individuals and corporations. Yet we are bombarded with all kinds of exhortations to buy, buy, buy; marketing and mass media pound the airwaves day and night trying to convince us that we certainly can't be happy unless we own a 60" flat screen television, or a brand new truck, or a piece of expensive jewelry.

Americans have been reduced to the level of "consumers"; these corporations and those who control and profit by them WANT us to be up to our eyeballs in personal debt, they WANT us to accept any crumbs thrown our way and be grateful for it. All our high ideals of equal justice, equal rights and a government that truly serves the people (instead of the other way around) now reads to many as just archaic words in a dusty history book. We have been betrayed on all levels by many of our own elected officials; as evidenced in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states, politicians who ran on one set of values turned round completely after taking office into ideologues with an agenda their constituents certainly did not vote for. Many of these politicians are now involved in bitter recall elections, which may be good for the long run but the problems they have created will take years to iron out.

That's why the idea of a Second Constitutional Convention appeals to me greatly. It's a uniquely American solution to the real problems of societal decay and disconnect. What was done once can be done again, and whatever our faults (and there are many), Americans do have the ability to build a consensus out of many disparate groups. Sometimes fragile and tense, but a consensus nonetheless. And most importantly, one major reason why this worked in the past was due to working folks' realization that together they were stronger than the moneyed elite who only thought of exploitation.

A Second Constitutional Convention could provide the framework for a sincere, robust national conversation about the future path for us as the United States. There have been some who say that this could also be the opportunity for the succession of a few states whose politicians have blowviated about it for years. There are others who say that this could possibly lead to the United States breaking up into regional entities, rather like city-states in a loose confederation.

Let it all be on the table. We need to get the word out, confront our problems boldly, without fear, and look clear-eyed into these knotty and seemingly implacable dilemmas we face. This Second Convention will NOT be made up of well-heeled businesses and corporate lobbyists but will be an accurate reflection of our citizenry, i.e. blue collar, pink collar, white collar, middle management, trades of all kinds; farm workers, domestic workers, all service sector workers; nurses, teachers, cops, firefighters, municipal workers like trash collectors and meter readers. There will be unemployed, retiree and poor delegates. Watching the process will be open to anyone and everyone. It will be raucous, messy and somewhat frightening; it will also be courageous, compassionate and forward-thinking.

No matter what the ultimate outcomes are, any change done in an organized fashion is far better than chaos and wanton destruction. Besides, for all their talk of succession, I believe that the "lower 48", at least, will realize they would be much better off together than apart. If any group can pull off a bloodless revolution, Americans can.

This is not to say it will be easy. There are many details to thrash out. But this is what a Second Constitutional Convention can do. We will disagree, we will shout and demonstrate and, hopefully, have massive rallies in the streets. But we will finally be engaged in that long-overdue debate as to who we really are, and in which direction we need to go.

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