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02/03/2005 Archived Entry: "Gardening as a political act"
For years I have argued against the idea that "the Personal is Political"; this is the concept that there is no meaningful line between the private and public realms because so-called personal matters (like the uttering a sexist joke) have cumulative political impact on the lives and welfare of others. Therefore, so-called private matters are correctly targets of others in society who a "right" to protect themselves. In some arenas -- e.g. academia -- the concept has been used to eliminate freedom of speech, privacy rights, and the right to free association (aka discrimination). It is with the need for some explanation, therefore, that I make the statement "I consider my personal life to now be a political act."
The world of late has been a discouraging place. Not in my private life, thank God, but almost everywhere that isn't my farm. Virtually every ideal embraced by libertarians, like me, has taken a body blow from which they will not soon recover: privacy, civil liberties, the prospects of peace, true tolerance... Because I am a history buff, specializing in the history of radical movements in 19th century America (such as abolitionism, anarchism, feminism), I know that periods of freedom and government repression go in cycles. I remember reading of the extraordinary repression that following the assassination of President McKinley and the Red Scare of post-WWI. I believe we are living through a period of social madness when the worst aspects of human nature seem to hold sway. But I also believe that, as with the McCarthy era, there will be probably be a tipping point in the coming years when the madness ends...and, perhaps, with something akin to suddenness. Which doesn't mean there won't be a lot of clean-up and restoration work to do on individual rights.
What does this have to do with the personal being political? I am looking at my farm, my house, and especially the vegetable garden I am planning for Spring as political acts because I believe the most important thing that people who care for individual rights can do is to survive the next few years with their spirits intact. The most important political act is to take care of yourself so you can continue to speak out and function. For me, that means growing vegetables in the sunlight while yelling at the dogs to stay away from the plants. (They are really good dogs but they become too easily overwhelmed with curiosity about what I find so d*mned interesting in the dirt.)
This Spring, I am going to try strawberries. I've ordered a batch of them from a nursery with a good reputation and I expect they'll be shipped as soon as the weather warms enough so that the plants won't freeze in transit. Specifically, I've order "Hanging Strawberries" because their description intrigued me. (Okay, okay, they also sound dead easy to grow! Hmmm...maybe I shouldn't use the word "dead" in this context.) The berry plants grow in containers on "an everbearing cascading vine," thus the word "hanging." They sound perfect for the wooden half-barrels in front of the house, especially since the dogs and cats circle the house all summer and they'll keep damage down from mice and other pests. Now where to put the raspberry canes I ordered at the same time?
Expect to hear more about the gardening. I've got some sagging spirits to prop up.
Best to all,