All politics are local. Instead of watching Obama fidget and fret on the stage as he tries in vain to convince us that he cares about anything, I went to my local town of Berlin’s ‘future planning’ meeting. This futile meeting was quite revealing because of the level of sheer insanity involved: it was as if nothing was happening. The refusal to understand that the State of New York is going slowly bankrupt and is cutting funds to our small town plus global free trade has utterly destroyed, one by one, nearly every profitable manufacturing business in town…all of this was studiously ignored.
At first, I was going to just sit and observe but this lasted about 10 minutes before we got entangled in increasingly acrimonious contention. To wit: the organizers of the meeting were bemoaning the loss of all our industries. I raised my hand. ‘Why don’t we all go to DC to complain in the House about free trade? All our businesses and farms were ruined by imports. We still run huge import deficits and this is bankrupting not just Berlin and New York but the USA, too.’
‘Well, you can do that. We have other things to do,’ one of the organizers told me, frowning at my audacity. She then began to chat about turning Berlin into a MUSEUM. I got mad again, ‘Museums are for dead things. We have to revive out town.’ We then discussed other manufacturing towns turned into ‘museums.’
Well, Berlin is a very unfriendly town when it comes to strangers. This is a classic characteristic of all hoot ‘n holler mountain towns. Some parts of my town are more like ‘Deliverance (1972)‘. Why, when I came here, bought some land and prepared to build my house, I was greeted, on several occasions during the first three months by thugs seeking to intimidate or hurt me. I actually had to haul out one of my guns and turn my dog, Duke, loose on these guys. One local family, I had to use the State Troopers to go after them and put them up at a state institution for the reform of the unreformable.
I thought I would fit in perfectly since I like doing rough stuff but no. I wasn’t ‘native’ even though my family came from here, long, long ago. The ‘old’ families in Berlin are very much like similar long-term people in other rural dead ends in America. Irritable with strangers, sparse with the chat and suspicious. So, at this planning meeting, they actually talked about having strangers flood into our tiny valley to view us as museum props? HAHAHA. Not very likely.
I lived here for 20 years, 10 of which were in a tent and not a soul here has shown even slight curiosity except for the guys with the guns who wanted to find out if l like shooting running targets. Mainly, I was ignored most of this time and I kind of liked this. But now, our town is DYING. Rapidly. I hate this because this is driving up my taxes, big time. Every time a business goes under, my taxes climb up. So I have a vested interest in stopping this madness even if no one else has a clue. So I raised my hand again and suggested our unfriendly town isn’t exactly prime material for attracting tourists.
So I said, ‘You all say this is a beautiful place. It is. We should encourage people with money to come here and build beautiful homes like my own, high up in the hills so they can enjoy the beautiful views. This way, we can have a bigger tax base.’ Well, this revealed the true feelings in my friendly town. Some recoiled in horror. ‘What, bring in people from NY city?’ cried one.
‘I came from New York City, of course, who else do you want?’ I shouted back, rather irritated by now. ‘But we don’t want second homes here,’ protested another person, aghast. ‘Why?’ I said heatedly, ‘They will pay taxes but won’t use our schools or demand services! This is ideal, I would assume!’ Well, it turns out the reason why the people at this meeting were none too friendly to me in the first place was because I took the trouble to build a road up the mountainside which I own 100%, and I built the highest elevation house in the village which meant, I look ‘down’ on them, literally. They wanted an untroubled view paid for by someone else who would humor them by not living on their own property, higher up.
Of course, many of my neighbors burn wood to heat themselves and the village below, in winter, is engulfed in billowing clouds of smoke. Especially from ‘smoker’s which are wood furnaces that are extremely filthy. I see this toxic layer of smoke every morning, from above. I often wonder how long it would take to either sicken or drive out everyone in the valley below. Eventually, lung disease will do them all great harm but no one can stop this. Even mentioning the smoke can be dangerous (see ‘Deliverance’). The main thing is, no sane adult will buy any houses in the village below if they care about staying alive. The smoke also smells foul and some of my neighbors burn trash wood like soiled plywood from the town dump, for example.
ICK. Anyway, one wit at the meeting suggested the only thing our village was famous for was a propane truck losing its brakes on Plank Road and flying into the village and blowing it up. I suggested that even if people came here for a visit, they wouldn’t spend much or any money here. A frantic member of the public said, ‘They can come to see the fall leaves!’ And I groaned. The fall leaves here are splendid and quite beautiful but fall is when the smoke from all the furnaces are at their worst since they run half-chocked all the time, creating thick clouds of smoke. No one is going to come here to stroll about with a handkerchief over the nose!
Of course, suggesting our town bring in the EPA to stop these people from polluting the air is verboten. On the other hand, being angry at outsiders coming in and building nice houses….I give up. I really think people are insane. Now that I understood that even though I am one of the top taxpayers in my village, they really don’t like me because I built my home here, I decided to egg everyone on. So the discussion went to another insane topic: getting money. ‘The state is going bankrupt’, I said loudly. When Fed money was discussed, I yelled, ‘Obama just announced he is no longer increasing domestic spending. He is increasing spending in Afghanistan! Maybe we can move our village there!’
All previous ‘solutions’ (which didn’t work, by the way) were pawed over with me shouting out that this or that was futile or impossible due to the bad finances of our state and nation and our insane government misspending money on wars. ‘Elaine, many industries left here are war related,’ hissed one of the organizers in exasperation. ‘And who is paying for this? We are! And worse, who is lending us money for this? China! And who is reaming us out and destroying our domestic industries? China!’ I rebutted her.
‘We don’t want to talk about international trade, we want to save our village,’ I was told. Well, I hate to say this, but this is like fixing the hair do and makeup on a woman who bleeding to death. You first fix the thing that is killing you, before launching grandiose plans for the future. Our village is rapidly dying and it isn’t the only one doing this: all villages in America that are isolated like my own, are dying from the same causes. Berlin, when I came here in 1990, had many small farms. All over the valley and up the mountainsides. Today, there are virtually none left. Including mine.
My sheep in 1993, sold at $250 per head. By 2000, it dropped to under $50 per head. I made no profit, the costs of winter feed finished me off. All the dairy farms, every one of them, vanished. The forces hammering us are hammering all villages which look like Berlin, NY. We are not a singular case, in England, all small villages are dying and their only hope is to become a museum or a vacation home for Londoners and foreign tourists. Only, few American villages are picturesque like the primeval English examples. Besides this, previous attempts at turning a town into a tourist trap usually ends very badly. Many places finally just give up and turn themselves into miniature Atlantic Cities or Las Vegas: high crime, a blight on the economic landscape and the people who live nearby end up on drugs, bankrupt gambling addicts or in prostitution. Not a place to raise children.
In despair, I mentioned to the committee that they should petition DC to recognize our contribution to cleaning up CO2 thanks to our vast forests here including the stand on my own mountain. I suggested we all go to DC and demand the government pay us for keeping our forests and thus, saving all humanity. Of course, no one really takes this CO2 stuff seriously and as I expected, the people at the meeting could barely figure out what I was talking about. When I mentioned the Copenhagen meetings, they were mostly puzzled as if I was reporting information from the Andromeda galaxy.
As I suspected, the hysteria about global warming is skin deep. If that. People in warm places are having fun in the sun and the villagers in Berlin, meeting in deep cold, were unaware of this whole business about carbon trading even though our extensive forests will be used for this purpose. As the farms vanish, the forests grow. I see many fields that once had milk cows now covered by saplings as there is no profit in even haying them and selling the bales of hay, anymore. This futile meeting that is planning to have no more industry and no more farming, closed with the organizers telling us how the process will work. Now get this: we are in a crisis. Our whole nation is going under and at every level, everyone is looking down the pits of hell here, there, everywhere.
So….there will be a second meeting to hammer out the details about how to turn our poor, alienated, rough, smokey village into a museum and of course, this won’t happen for three months. Then, another hearing which takes three months and then the final report…after October!!!! I said, at this point, ‘My ox team could walk faster than this! Our town is small. We have only a few people. We could do all of this on three weeks! This should be done by June, at the latest.’ Well, that got shot down. Heh. No, the slumbering residents of the village will stumble uselessly about and issue a useless report in the future and it will be filled with wishful thinking that has no basis in reality and no possible way of happening. And no one will go to DC to yell at our rulers about the destruction of free trade and how it must stop.
On the other hand, maybe people will get desperate and do this, in the end. I stand ready to go and hope someone does so, too. One person mentioned the Tea Party people and thought maybe I was right. ‘They got what they wanted (a cut in domestic spending0’ he said, a lightbulb flashing in the head. DUH. The Tea Party was just as insane as my village. That is, they want the past to return, via magic. They want to have their cake (cheap imported goods) and eat it too (rising incomes). Well, this ain’t going to happen. Our treasonous President, Obama, like his treasonous predecessors, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II, is promising us JOBS. There are no ‘jobs’ in the future if we continue to spend on wars while going into debt in trade. There is no future, for that matter. No one is going to rescue us, either.
One person at this meeting complained about the poor quality of Chinese imports. I said, ‘We let them export junk to our nation and we buy it. Why do they have to be nice about this? They don’t care! If we care, we can keep it all out, not passively let it in.’ Well, Americans have no idea, what to do. Mention ‘tariffs’ and it is like talking about selling heroin. One man, out in the parking lot, after the meeting, groused about how he was unable to tell the truth. ‘Hell, if we just demand they legalize pot, we could use the abandoned Seagrotte greenhouses to make millions of dollars, growing pot!’ Heh. True, very true. We should ask the Afghanis how to do this, their opium and pot business took off after the US invaded. Maybe we should imitate ‘The Mouse That Roared (1959)‘ and send a delegation to DC to tell Congress, our town is declaring war on them. Then, the government will spend $14 billion on training cops here. We have no cops, after all.
We could even imitate the Taliban in other ways, and maybe then, get the money we are being charged with, in the first place. This may be the only way to get our government to spend a trillion, here at home, not abroad. Maybe we could start a gnome hunting preserve, too. Heh. Invite Geithner to come visit during hunting season. Anyway, the despair I feel about our village is now overflowing. And the blissful unawareness here is sad to see. Our tiny mouse of a town has to scare the giant elephant in DC if we want to survive. This is life and death, everyone. And I do mean, all the villages in America (90% of which vote GOP, very foolishly). Remember: the city slickers in DC of both parties are screwing you guys. This is why ALL villages in America are dying. We have to figure this out, someday.