Keeping up with the news
by Peter Rashkin
It was early January, 1980. We were
staying in a motel in Murphy, North Carolina, while they were setting
up a mobile home on the eight acre parcel we had bought twelve miles
outside of town. We watched TV. It was the time of the Iran hostage
crisis, and it seemed like the world was in a lot of trouble and could
fall apart at any time.
Then we moved out to the woods. It was cold. We huddled around a kerosene
stove, poured over seed catalogs and the Audubon Field Guide to Wildflowers
of the Southeast. We built a chicken coop, planted asparagus, bought
some rabbits. It was months before we got a radio, and after that
we listened to Prairie Home Companion every week. Once a month or
so I got the Sunday paper, and once, I remember, I found something
in it that interested me.
We had our worries....There was never enough money...a hawk made off
with my best hen...if it didn't rain soon we might lose the corn...But
I didn't think much about Iran, or Washington, or any other hotspots.
While I wasn't paying attention, the world didn't fall apart.
Every few weeks we would go into town for provisions...the A&P, the
feedstore, the hardware store and the library. Occasionally we had
company. Once in a while we took a little trip, but we couldn't leave
the livestock for long.
For those few years, I pretty much lost track of world events, but
I watched a series of beaver dams go up on the little creek that ran
by our land, and once during a storm I heard a loud crack and, walking
up the path a way, found an oak tree newly struck by lightning. I
was like Pope's happy man, "whose wish and care one lone paternal
Now I live in LA again. I read the newspaper, and listen to talk radio
and NPR. My friends talk about the OJ case. I'm on the internet and
I'm Really Paying Attention to What's Going On. I write to my congressman,
and send faxes to CEO's, urging them to Do the Right Thing. I worry
about Chiapas, Bosnia, Chechnya, Rwanda, the bullying of the World
Bank, the senseless, destructive War on Drugs, and the Globalization
And although I feel a little foolish about it, I pretty much think
that I have this responsibility to play my small part in the political
process, because if I don't work for my ideals and values, who will?
In fact, when I look at the injustice, the poverty, the onslaught
of reaction, the threats to the environment, I don't really think
I do enough.
But it seems a long time since I walked in the woods.
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