Happiness, Liberty, Life
These classic American rights are being reborn. Vote towards our renaissance.
This morning, before the heat of the day arrived, I picked up my little battery-powered weedeater and headed outside. Although it won’t tackle large jobs or immensely high grass, it is good enough to keep the area around the house neat, and my arms and the battery power last about the same time, so it works for me.
I have been working this year with the mantra, “it’s better than it was.” I like to feel forward momentum in my life, I like to strive toward consistent improvement. Because of the current gas prices, I didn’t mow the yard after I whacked down the wild onions and taller grass clumps, leaving the dandelions and sprouting wildflowers. “It’s better than it was,” I said to myself, and moved on to other tasks.
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I have also picked up the phrase, “…and that’s okay.” As in, “I didn’t mow the yard today… and that’s okay.” The grass isn’t completely grown up, and although I would typically mow at least once by now in the season, I know I don’t have to maintain my previous expectations. This is the country — there are no ordinances that restrict the height of the grass. There’s no one insisting that the grass be kept at a neat 2-inch height. No one but me.
In case you didn’t notice, I also didn’t write for you last week… and that’s okay. My return to work at the library was overwhelming and exhausting, and it came at a moment when I was in the middle of several projects. I’m wallpapering the bedroom, decoupaging my basement ceiling, reorganizing my closet, launching a new website (for tourism and information on the features of Calhoun and Gilmer counties), and taking two online courses for certification as a mindfulness coach and life coach.
I have too much going on, and I move forward as time and energy allow… and that’s okay. I got into this chaos working around power outages, internet outages, and spring weather challenges. But, even half-finished, the bedroom walls are better than they were, even 3/4 finished, and the basement ceiling is better than it was. As long as the projects move forward, even bits a time — that’s okay.
I remember, in the spring of 2020, wondering how the pandemic would change our world, our culture, us. I remember wondering how the pandemic would change me. Two years later, I know I have changed, but am just now coming to grasp what those changes are. Our world, our culture, we have all changed, and I think too we are also coming to grasp how our communities and country have changed.
During the pandemic, so many of us waited for a “return to normal.” But somewhere along the way, we realized that the pre-pandemic American normal wasn’t so great after all. We re-learned the value of our time, our homes, and our families. We learned how our employers, and government, value us, our health, and our safety — seeing clearly that money and economics are more important than we are.
I named this publication “Two-Lane Renaissance” for two reasons. One, I still had the twolanelivin.com domain name and hoped to reconnect with a long-lost audience. Two, I believe we are at the beginning of a renaissance in our country. At least, I WANT to believe that.
A renaissance is a rebirth, a revival. The European Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries moved their culture from the Dark Ages into a modern era. That renaissance is conventionally characterized by a surge of interest in Classical scholarship and values — bringing about a surge in art and literature and the birth of modern science.
What are American classical values? At one time, they were listed as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” If I were to consider the values held by my grandparents, I would likely list faith, family, hard work, pride, and self-reliance.
Americans were once given the right to live. How many Americans currently have that right infringed by contamination of their water, air, and questionable ingredients in their food?
Americans were once given the right to liberty. Liberty: the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges; the power of choice. How much liberty can we have in a two-party voting system? How much liberty can we have when we are underpaid, undervalued, and overworked? How many Americans have “positive enjoyment” of anything in their lives? The many? Or the few?
Americans once had the right to the pursuit of happiness. Happiness: a state of well-being and contentment. We have a right to seek out and enjoy our own well-being and contentment. But how can an overworked, underappreciated, corporately dismissed population ever be content?
Our classical values and rights - once held so high - have been dismissed for the majority. Corporations and special interests value profit over people. Yet, so many now are saying, “I want to live, I want to feel free, I want to be happy.” Many more are realizing that money does not equal happiness.
But life is not that simple. Change is not that simple. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” I agree. I could be unhappy about gas prices and mow the yard, or I can be okay with the yard not mowed and watch the butterflies and bees visiting the dandelions.
Robert Louis Stevenson said, “The habit of being happy enables one to be freed, or largely freed, from the domination of outward conditions.” For him, the habit of being happy provided liberty. I have also found this to be true. My New Year resolution this year included giving thanks for my blessings. When I find myself obsessing over something wrong, or imperfect, or not up to par, I stop the negative thoughts by counting the good things in my life.
Does that mean I’m okay with the world? Clearly not. I am not blind to imperfections, neglect, injustice. But I’m tired of fighting, and I’m choosing my battles more wisely.
Which brings me to the upcoming election. As the library director of Gilmer Public Library, I have been quite flabbergasted by local leadership. A school board member was quoted in the newspaper that me contacting board members directly to request funding support was “improper proceedure.” Since when is it improper for a citizen to approach their elected officials? Do they teach basic government and civics at Gilmer County High School?
I have had fights over speeding on Walnut Street that endangers our patrons and my staff. I compromised with a 25 mph flashing light to tell folks to slow down, when the city ordinance clearly states Walnut as a 15 mile per hour street.
I have seen city officials go into executive session for subjects that do not qualify for executive session, just to shut out the local newspaper reporter. I have elected officials tell me, “Robert’s Rules of Order change every year. No one knows what they are.” Well, the dictionary changes every year too. Does that mean the definitions within are no good?
The City of Glenville feels that posting the agenda for the upcoming meetings on the mayor’s door is enough to meet the Open Meeting Laws, and have seen all kinds of shenanigans to work around me instead of doing things right.
For me, it was a losing fight. I will take my fight to the voting booth.
Needless to say, I’m hoping for a renaissance in Gilmer County, and I can see that same sentiment reflected in neighboring Calhoun. Our county, our region, our nation needs a renaissance! We need a new attitude, new leadership, new names and faces. I am so worn out on the way things have always been done.
As a librarian, I am not permitted to lobby for the local levy that supports the library, but I can say that I have seen minimal support for the library and other vital services in our county from current and past leaders. I’ve seen new non-profits pop up in the region to offer services that existing non-profits have not been given the resources to provide.
I’ve had elected officials look me in the eye to say they could not possibly afford to provide the library with full re-imbursement for Covid costs from their Recovery Funds, then turn around and spend $27,000 on traffic cameras for a traffic circle. (If you don’t know already, there are no traffic lights in a traffic circle. What are they gonna watch? Cars diving around and around?) Officials with ordinances that bind them to support the library, and then give the same funding level to a faith-based non-profit for men.
It makes me crazy. I lose my sense of well-being and contentment. I lose sleep, and no one likes me when I lose sleep.
If you are registered to vote, I truly feel this election is especially important. We can elect leaders with their own agendas, or we can elect leaders who have the community at heart, children in mind, and value community development over economic development. (The first has to happen for the other to happen.)
This year, this election, support your vital services (libraries, senior centers, health departments, extension offices, recreation centers) levies — because our leaders didn’t and don’t. Vote for leaders who are NOT politicians, back-patting their pals and posting Bible quotes while they cheat and deceive. Vote for candidates willing to admit they don’t know and willing to commit to finding out. Candidates willing to play by the rules, for the PEOPLE, not bend and break rules for themselves.
This election is our chance to start our renaissance, a rebirth of classic, simple values, communities that offer quality of life, value liberty, and let us focus on all our assets and blessings instead of injustices and embarasment.
Vote. Vote for new leadership, a new path for us, new blood. This election, let’s launch our renaissance. We may not have perfect options, and that’s okay. At least it will be better than it was.
I am no longer the only writer for Two-Lane Renaissance. On Sundays, Rev. Robin Holstein adds her column to our website, though you do not receive it in your email box. I will also, as time allows, be adding installments from the Two-Lane Livin’ archives. Feel free to visit the site regularly to peruse all we have to offer.
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