The Gardener’s Guide to Politicking

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By: Grainne Rhuad

My mind has been in the garden lately.  The fruitful season is winding down; I think the last harvest is on the vine and the busy time, the time when I spend at least two days a week in the kitchen canning and making is almost done.   I’ll have a little bit more cutting and drying and storing and mixing of herbs to do then everything gets put to bed by the end of October.  It’s tradition.  The garden has to be to bed before we celebrate Samhain.

So I have been gearing up because for the garden, this is the last big push.  There’s actually a lot of work to put everything to bed in about 2 weeks time.  Everything has to be cut down, potential disease spots cut out, and compost laid on. Where I live now is the time for planting for spring so I have to work with some imagination to see what shape I want things to be in later.  I have to see ahead to what could be and try to plan for when my ideas go astray because I am working with living things.  They do their own thing all the time.

Then last night I was up late alone as I often find myself.  I chanced across a period piece on cable, some light ghost story at a manner house involving Maggie Smith and Timothy Small.  Timothy Small played the elderly gardener.  What I noticed was in every scene he was pushing around a barrow and cutting or carrying something about.  Even in the dead of winter.  Even on Christmas, which he explained to Smith’s movie grandson, he did not take off, but maybe went home early, after dinner.

It made me think, yes there really is no off time with a garden.   If it is to do well, and look beautiful and lovely and be healthy you are in it every day.  Something always needs to cared for, redirected, cut back, replaced, and if it’s not performing or has lived its life, dug up and taken away.

It made me think of our managing of people, and of course of politics.  Everything comes back to politics, especially now when we are about to go through the process of choosing our figure head.

Everyone has something to say when a president is being picked.   Even people who don’t care, and there are an awful lot of those out there, about politics and wouldn’t normally follow it pay attention just now.  After all, it is a grand spectacle.

But after November, when we go through the motions of voting things will wind down and less attention will be paid to how our government is managed.  Unless of course someone forces attention, I suppose the equivalent of that in gardening would be those indoor lilies that we force in the heat of our homes and green houses to bloom out of season.  But those take tending and people like to get on with other things mostly.  Or sit quietly by a fire.

After a president is chosen and we all mostly accept it will be one of two people, there will still be things to be done.  Really the more important things will keep happening.  The cutting and pruning of our government, or mishandling of that in which case as a gardener knows, you get an overgrown mess, that could take years to clean up.  Things will need to be taken out and re-imagined.

In our lives, in our governing policy, there are some important things to watch for; pay attention to after the President has been put to bed.

1. Your right to vote.

It has been brought up and in some stated implemented, restrictions on voting rights.  But trends seem to be taking us even further backward than needing a form of “acceptable” identification.  This small roll-out is a practice run to judge public reaction and to adjust to it.  The thing we should be concerned about is the likelihood that real right wing reformers want to go back to the days when only land holders can vote.  And that will put an awful lot of us out of the game.  However you feel about voting in general, you should be aware that less pretence that public opinion matters is the goal.

2. Your right to basic human comforts.

Let’s forget a minute about the health care and unemployment payments.  Currently state, local governments all over the country have been voting against requirements for basic needs of people, mostly those who work at unskilled labor.  California just voted down a bill that would require farm workers to have access to things like shade and water and bathroom facilities.  Farmer’s lobbies argued that requiring by law something that in their minds should be obvious would cost farmers more money.  If it’s so obvious why would it cost them more money you ask?  Well just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean they provide it.  Don’t care because you don’t grow food in your state?  That’s really a sorry thing because if you don’t grow food you will eventually be hungry… However there are bills on your state ballots too.  Like ones that apply to domestic help and whether or not overtime and work hour limits are or should be enforced.  Or the fact that domestic work like Nanning and tutoring is all lumped into “Childcare” by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics who pays no attention to statistics on wage earning making it hard to enforce any mishandling of wages.

3. Your Food

This could have gone under basic human comforts, I guess, but all the jokes about Soylent Green are really not so funny anymore as we get closer to the actuality of something of that sort.  We all by now know about the evils of Monsanto and really what they and other companies are doing is in fact very bad, especially for vegetarians as most people do not go out and grow their own soy and make homemade tofu, tvp or other soy products.  Most of the companies supplying vegetarian food are in collusion with Monsanto and are campaigning against labeling for GMO/NonGMO.  Even when they do label they are finding ways around it.

But in addition to this, regulations around providing food for yourself has been on the uprise. Just recently Governor Jerry Brown signed into law more regulation around hunting by making it illegal to use dogs to hunt for bears.  Also in place in some states are regulations around hunting rodents.  It can be illegal to kill a squirrel without tags in some states.  And, just like with deer, which means on your own property.   Did you think the regulations on hunting in the teen movie Hunger Games was some kind of future world governmental abuse?  Think again.  You can get arrested for shooting a squirrel without paying the proper fees. Or a prairie dog, or really anything.

While we also know many cities have stupid seeming bans on gardening and chicken raising, etc. in some areas.  Most of us do it anyway for now.  But we shouldn’t have to break the law to have tomatoes that taste like tomatoes or fresh rosemary.

A lot of us do our shopping at farmer’s markets, some of which are “Certified Organic” But it is the FDA that offers that certification, so keep track of what it allows.  And keep track of limits on small farmers; the farmer’s market can be very easy or very hard to get rid of for cities.  It depends on you and your involvement.

4. Protest- Your right to Do or “Not” do something.

We have seen with attacks on Occupy organizations, camps and outings what the policy force and paramilitary support are willing to do.  Generally, however we feel like we are still safe in our own little areas to speak out.  Make no mistake, our right to speak out is being steadily chipped away at.  And this will affect you in ways you may not have thought of.

For example, a town hall meeting is a public forum for protest.  If you are not allowed to congregate for the purpose of sedition you may see your city council working together better, mostly because they will be able to do whatever they want without opening it up to the citizens.  This is going to affect you even more and more quickly than anything congress does or doesn’t enact.

Or how about fundraising?  Your fundraising for things like cures for cancer or research for Alzheimer’s or even funding Schools for ants.   This may not seem like seditious activity but it doesn’t really matter as long is what you are working on is working against something else, which in reality everything is or could be, your feel-good effort could be shut down.

5. Congress

Congress, in case you’ve been all caught up in Michelle Obama’s nail polish and not paying attention is doing exactly nothing.

I recently received a forwarded email from one of my ultra conservative acquaintances.  The jist of it was Obama has used his power of Executive Order more times than any other President in history.  The count in the email was 923 executive orders.

The reason for this in reality is because Congress has failed to pass anything meaningful and have just announced they will stand in recess until November 13, 2012.  Leaving un-voted on important acts like:

  • Violence Against Women Act re-authorization.
  • The American Jobs Act.
  • Tax cuts for working families
  • Veterans Job Corps Act.
  • Sequestration.
  • The Farm Bill.
  • The Wind tax credit.
  • Drought assistance
  • Postal service reform
  • Addressing the Estate Tax,
  • Cyber security legislation
  • Fixes for Medicare reimbursement rates and the Alternative Minimum Tax
  • 12 of the FY 2013 Appropriations Bills that remain unaddressed.

Now this is a cyclical thing.  The cycle following whosoever is in charge, we expect this from Congress.  As many have pointed out, Republicans objected when Four years ago, Nancy Pelosi adjourned Congress for a five-week August recess without bringing up their energy legislation. Rep. Ted Poe shouted “Madame Speaker, where art thou? Where oh where has Congress gone?” Now, they plan a two month vacation, even if it means allowing vital programs to expire and working families to suffer.

But even if we have grown to expect it, it doesn’t mean we should allow it to continue.  These are people we vote for at a state level.  We have actually a little more control, so far in how they are chosen.  This is something we can still do something about.  Yet, we are consistently confused by the congressional sleight of hand that is Term Limits.  We need to stop voting for people based on their projections and start re-imagining some of our own.

All of these are just a few things that stood out to me last night as I meditated on what can still be done with this “garden” that is our nation.  You know, it’s no accident that the young Rabbi history calls Jesus, who everyone likes to fight about (was credited with) using the parable of the Grape Vine. The Master of the garden tried, he really did to re-direct and get good fruit.  But we know most of us, that eventually the damn vineyard had to be razed.

It’s a good thing no law had been made against razing your vineyard. We’d really better take a look at things while we can, and in the winter, when the leaves are off is the best time to see the bones of your garden.

I’m suggesting this year we spend more time with our barrows and our sleeves rolled up.

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