It’s been a long time since I left ya’ll with a #WednesdayswithWendell.
After spending 10 days in Ireland, I’m back in Los Angeles.
In LA you have to stretch to reach Berry’s vision of an agrarian centered lifestyle, but in Ireland, Wendell’s ideas feel more accessible. Especially, in rural Ireland where I spent most of my time.
There, even in wealthy County Wicklow, and definitely in more middle-class County Galway, arguments for an agrarian lifestyle, and against a consumer economy, are not conceptual but rooted in daily routine.
Instead of an amusement park, we visited centuries old stone towers and cemeteries surrounded by lakes and forests.
Instead of going out for dinner, or watching TV while we ate, we prepared it, usually from locally acquired ingredients, and ate it together, conversing the whole time.
It seems Berry’s vision of a strong, small community is alive and well in rural Ireland.
On the plane back from Ireland I watched Loving on the the in-flight entertainment system.
In the movie, a young couple living in a strong, small rural community attempts to build a life together. They hold jobs in the community, they purchase land in the community and they prepare themselves for raising a family in the community. Unfortunately their community is in 1950’s rural Virginia and they are not of the same race. So the sheriff promptly arrests them, throwing the white husband and his pregnant black wife in jail. He releases the white husband the next morning, but brutally decides to hold the wife for the entire weekend. He, with the help of a local court, ultimately drives the couple out of the county, and away from their friends and family.
I would be interested to know what Berry thinks of this movie. Perhaps he would argue that the story misrepresents true events in pursuit of “dramatic conflict”. I don’t know enough about the story to know if this is true or not, but I know it is not out of the realm of possibility. If once accepts the authenticity of the story though, it is hard to see how one could avoid pointing out rural communities own participation in their ultimate decline.
For hundreds of years, rural communities all over the country selectively enforced laws, abusing members of their community, without offering them the possibility of correction within the community.
What happens when local communities do this? The abused understandably seek redress outside of that community.
In the case of the Loving’s, justice did not come until their case reached the highest court in the land.
I would suggest we consider that this crumbling of local communities not simply as a product of global forces, but also a result of a crisis in leadership and faith in local communities all over the country, but especially in the South.
And the crisis continues, as the South continues to limit the opportunities of members of its communities under the guise of socially conservative values. Conservative politicians and pastors cry out for moral standards and fiscal empowerment in local communities that have pretty much forfeited any moral legitimacy by mistreating members over and over again.
The ability to to execute fair and just laws in respect to all of their members is one of the most essential elements of a healthy democracy, yes?
Without just laws, fairly executed in defense of all community members, the core of democracy crumbles.
Even some critiques and defenses of Berry’s fiction floating around the Internet seems to be limited in scope. Nobody addresses this essential, historical crimes that occurred in local communities all across the land. Nobody suggests that perhaps these local communities participated in their own marginalization when they defended the murder and abuse of the most vulnerable members of their communities.
As Berry says, we must be hopeful. And if I am going to move forward, hoping this American experiment can work, I must somehow find a way to believe that we can return small communities to health and heal the wounds that those very same small communities caused to our nation.