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On Awareness and Becoming Jefferson’s People

SIGMA — Don’t worry, political junkies, the space between elections seems to be getting shorter. Those who live for this should just take a deep breath and dive right back in. I’m just glad the ugly ads on radio and television are over for a while. I don’t care for the vitriol and the tribalism. We have to discuss politics, hash it out and make decisions. How will we do that going forward?

I didn’t vote in my early years. I admit it. I thought it was too corrupt for me to even participate. Nixon resigned while I was in high school, and I saw some of my older brother’s friends come back from Vietnam without legs and with habits.

Later, I watched as my chosen career vanished before my eyes because of politics. I was training to be a solar builder. After the election of 1980, a major percentage of all solar industries went out of business due to the big money from the oil industry influencing politics.

I was forced to choose a different career. I just worked for money instead of values and money – until I came to organic agriculture some years later.

I vote now. I have voted regularly since I first heard “The Thomas Jefferson Hour” on the radio. This is a thought provoking, intelligent and sometimes inspirational show on WHRV public radio, airing locally at 1 p.m., Tuesdays. It’s worth planning your lunch around it.

Clay Jenkinson, also the author of Becoming Jefferson’s People, is the brains behind the show. He often does the first half of the show portraying Thomas Jefferson. While in character, he will answer questions about our time from the perspective of Jefferson. It is as if he has time traveled to us from 1776 to answer our questions.

I was galvanized by this perspective on public life. I began to vote. I knew this democratic experiment was worth my time and thought. I realized I had an ally in politics, albeit one from another time.

Please set aside, for the moment, his well-known faults. He was of his time. Jefferson was, none the less, a genius, a practical visionary essential to our country’s founding.

You can guess why I like him. I am a farmer. Jefferson was struggling and arguing for this to be a nation built on a population of educated farmer-citizens. Maybe they could even debate in Greek or Latin. He believed in small government and, whenever possible, decentralized decision-making. And he wanted as little intervention in the affairs of other nations as possible. I am oversimplifying this and his views. The point is we need to adapt some of his views for our time. We need it desperately – especially the farming part.

While we were arguing and shouting and sending accusatory social media posts, often untrue, at each other, regarding President Trump and more, some big news came in. The U.N. just issued another report on the seriousness of climate change and how it is worse than previously thought. I am guessing most people did not pay much attention to that.

A nation committed to agriculture may have a chance of survival.

And here I must be specific. I mean carbon catching, sustainable, regenerative farming. With this type of farming we can sequester as much as 40 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, by most estimates. In the process of photosynthesis and good farm practices, we put it back in the soil from whence it came. And many other benefits accrue from there.

The carbon catching alone makes it worthy of being a major national goal. And if, in the process, we make our food system more local regional and decentralized,  we are on the way to becoming Jefferson’s people. Add to that our improvements from 1776, like having all races and genders in the halls of Congress, and we really have something.

Maybe we can start a new political party, The Farm Party. It has a nice ring to it, and it sounds fun. In the meantime, go out of your way to support your local farmers. Do what you can to save water. Send a thank you note to your worms and soil microbes. Support politicians who support local and organic agriculture. Support initiatives that help us become more environmentally friendly. Take your own cloth bags to the farmers market and other stores. Maybe be kind to people even when you disagree on stuff. Jefferson, among other things, valued politeness.

Originally published January 1, 2019 by The Princess Anne Independent News

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