A few weeks ago, Craig and I went down to Seattle to hear Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speak. We left the auditorium thinking, When can we vote for him? A very impassioned and brilliant man. The most thought-provoking idea I took away with me was this: when asked what the single most important thing each of us can do to protect the environment is, he answered: get involved on the federal level. I was quite surprised, as I am a longtime advocate of “acting locally.” But he said that the Big Corporations just love the books and articles that come out that are titled “50 things you can do to save the earth,” etc. because those books put the responsibility on each of us instead of them. Not that we shouldn’t recycle, carpool, etc — all those things that help to minimize impact on the environment — but, he said, lasting change will only occur at the federal level. For example, he said, there is no reason why all auto manufacturers can’t make cars that run at least 40 miles to the gallon — but they won’t unless they are forced to, by law. So he encouraged everyone there to join and support the Sierra Club and/or the National Resources Defense Council (he is on the NRDC staff) because he said they are the two most effective lobbyists for the environment in Washington.
Meanwhile, in my own little community here, there’s a controversy over a parking lot that the county plans to put in near the ferry dock. Some of us want to preserve the cedar trees, old growth snag and house that are on the property and convert the house into a center of some kind — a new home for the Boys and Girls Club, a senior center, a community kitchen, a health clinic — there are many ideas being discussed. We have a plan for providing parking on an adjacent lot. Other islanders are outraged at the idea of delaying parking because of the traffic jams and illegal parking that happen during peak summer months and the annual period when the ferry is out of service. Safety and difficulty in navigating crowded roads is the issue for the firemen. Both sides have good points to make, and they were made last week at a community meeting and again last night at the County Council meeting. It’s OK to have opposing viewpoints as long as we are civil to each other, right? Call me naive, but I was pretty shocked at the obscenities and hateful words thrown at some of us by some of them. Not all of them, but enough. “F-ing communists!” one man spat at us. I suppose it should just be hilarious, but I was shocked. Are they seriously that divorced from reality?
One islander old-timer told me that this division among islanders (dare we call it red and blue?) is nothing new, that it has been here for 30 years or more. We all care about this community and this place, but we sure express it in different ways. It leaves me feeling extremely discouraged about building bridges between the two groups. (When a friend tried to talk to them about us working together to solve problems, one man called her an obscene name I won’t repeat here. Totally uncalled for.)
And yet . . . all of us got on the same ferry last night, and rode across the inky black waters under a full silvery moon . . . to the place we all call Home.