Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day - Time to be Local


I began writing these daily messages in a virtual bottle on Halloween 2011, so it seems appropriate to begin again on Independence Day. What the two have in common besides both being holidays is beyond me at the moment, but I'm not going to worry myself over the details. Instead, I want to think about Independence Day and the country and where I am as a citizen.

Over the past year or so I have been pretty glum about the direction of the United States. I have bemoaned President Obama's lack of initiative and the loss of the hope I felt during the last election. In general, I've been a downer and a half about things. Friends are still trying to convince me to vote for him (rather than leaving the Presidential line blank) and I can see their point, but still, there is something keeping me out of the national political scene.

I used to be all about national politics. I listened to NPR most of my waking hours, checked the political news online, and believed that something could be done about the problems in our world. I was excited about all of it and, during the 2008 election, I was on top of the world, ready to move into the real 21st century, the one without Bush. I was full of hope for change.

In other words, I was naive. I'm a little lamb who's lost in the woods...

And now I'm disillusioned. So it goes.

But there is a way forward (even if I want to leave the Presidential line blank on my ballot) and it has a lot to do with the beer I'm drinking as I write this. The beer in question is Ubu Ale, made by Lake Placid Craft Brewing which works with (or is owned by, I can't quite tell) Matt's Brewing in Utica, the makers of Saranac beer. In the fridge along with Ubu are a few beers from Middle Ages Brewery which is right here in Syracuse. In a little while I need to get ice cream for a July 4th party and I will travel to Gannon's in the Valley neighborhood of Syracuse for some locally-made ice cream that is to die for. I stopped going to Panera, Applebees, and (god help me) I'm cutting out some of my Starbucks in favor of locally roasted espresso.

I can't do much about the national scene. Citizen's United put the nail in that coffin, though the situation was largely a lost cause before even that. Instead, I can pay attention to where I shop, the politics of our city and county, and I can work with people directly through organizations such as the Seven Valleys Writing Project which is a group of teachers thoughtfully building better learning opportunities for our kids. I can be involved in my kids' school (we're going to buy an air conditioner for one of the classrooms which is a particular inferno summer and winter). I can stay close to home and affect what I can affect.

Of course, there's a larger issue than the politics. Or maybe it's a smaller issue. Whatever the case, it's more local. I am more focused on myself and the things I do. Not in a selfish, "me first" kind of way. Instead, I'm thinking about my actions and what  I do and don't want to do. For example:

I want to run and get healthier. So I do. It doesn't cost much of anything except when I buy things at the locally owned running store or enter local races.

I want our kitchen to be redone and have hired a contractor who lives in our neighborhood and comes highly recommended. If the work comes out well, I imagine many more chances for him to come over and earn my money.

I want to listen to music instead of the national news. Sure, I keep up with a few things, but for the most part I can't see the value of John Boehner or Barack Obama over the Brad Mehldau Trio or Radiohead. Can you?

I don't want to buy packaged food that isn't good for me and isn't going to contribute to the livelihood of those in my neighborhood. I'd rather buy local corn, stop in for a macchiato at a local roaster, and take a trip to Middle Ages for a growler full of beer. Then I want to go to Three Herons for some ribs!

I can't change the national government. I'm not invested enough to even try any more. But I can make sound local decisions about economics, politics, and best of all about happiness. And as always, I can and will choose to write on.