July 24, 2009: Skip Gates, local resilience

Since every Greater-Boston commentator, black and white, is weighing in on the recent Skip Gates incident, why should I be any different?

Because I’m presently hyper-aware of nothing less than ENORMOUS COLLECTIVE VULNERABILTY* I’ll be brief: To arrest Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. on his own porch because the Harvard scholar, possibly exhausted and certainly pissed, refused to kowtow to a police officer, was racially motivated. And maybe, although Gates’ friends claim otherwise, the possibly exhausted and certainly pissed prof pushed another button belonging to a white, working class Cambridge cop by being indignant—perhaps by being haughtily, righteously indignant: “Do you know who you’re dealing with?”

But here’s what I want to say: We don’t have time for this. (And we certainly don’t have time to pay a lot of attention when every Greater-Boston commentator, black and white, says exactly what you’d expect. When it come to race, we don’t need pontificators. We need dialogue.) As Richard Heinberg boldly states in the foreword to The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, “We humans are facing tough times.”

Humans. That’s all of us. Black, white, the police, the formerly incarcerated, Mayflower descendants, the undocumented; all of us. Given that the Age of Cheap Oil will end in fifteen to twenty years, how are all of us going to work on local resilience—and, as the crow flies, Gates’ ritzy Cambridge neighborhood and my Somerville neighborhood, while socio-economically miles apart, are most certainly LOCAL—if we keep focusing on what’s different about us? Huh?

Schooled, first by Lynda and Owen and now by formerly incarcerated men, that, yes, racism is real, present, disturbingly operational, I (mostly) see the world differently. (Also disturbing is how easily I can lapse into age-old cluelessness sometimes.) Now I’m being schooled to be mindful of something else, something equally pervasive, huge, and absolutely critical to constantly consider: Life’s about to profoundly change.

A story: Last night, while reading The Transition Handbook, I suddenly had a terrifying thought: “Ohmygod, David, how will we heat this house?” (We’re going to run out of natural gas, faster than you might expect, too.)

My wise husband, David, who is building us a greenhouse, who built raised beds last year, and who, like me, is intricately connected to his neighborhood community, his faith community, and his Wednesday night community of the formerly incarcerated and those who care about them said, “That’s something we can’t do ourselves. That’s a problem to be solved collectively.”

As usual, he’s right.

Officer James Crowley, the man he arrested, Professor Gates, David and I face shrinking resources and cold New England winters together. A woman of faith (and the mother of a daughter named Hope), I believe that we WILL figure out how to survive. And WILL create a Blessed Community.

Collectively. Resiliently. Locally. And with compassion.

* Another quote from The Transition Handbook.