• The longest days
    June 21,2013

    Summer arrived early this morning. The longest days are here again.

    The Vermont spring was again wet, dampening the spirits of farmers eager to get into their fields. It was cold, except for a handful of days that carried with them extreme weather. And, the experts warn, welcome to the new normal, meteorologically speaking.

    We now know our government has been monitoring many of us under the charge of intelligence. And each day in the last month, the breadth and depth of that spying seems to get wider and deeper. The scandals have pushed the president’s approval ratings to the lowest in his presidency, and the public trust has officially eroded.

    Nine days into our summer, just days before we celebrate our nation’s 237th birthday, we could see a domino effect at the U.S. Treasury that could push our national debt over the $17 trillion mark before the smoke settles from the fireworks.

    Yet there are signs of recovery across Vermont — and our nation. Unemployment in the state suggests jobs are truly hard to come by. But consumer spending is creeping up in Vermont. Local home and land sales are brisk. And construction can be found on every street (and it feels like every Vermont road).

    In these long days, it seems apropos to reflect on the state of our nation’s affairs, and even the lessons that can be learned closer to home. We must be mindful and aware of the role of government, and be clear we understand its reach and our rights.

    We need to understand the factors that threaten our national economy with as much clarity as the drivers of our local economy.

    And, as we hear time and again, through countless examples across the nation (and right up the road in Marshfield), there is something going on with the weather that is making it more extreme and dangerous. We can argue the causes, but we all must heed the warnings.

    It comes down to being aware, understanding patterns, and knowing where we are in the loop — the cycle of history. Because we have seen all of this before — in one form or another.

    On these long days we need to consider what David McCullough said in his 2003 address to the National Endowment for the Humanities:

    “History is — or should be — a lesson in appreciation. History helps us keep a sense of proportion. History teaches that there is no such thing as a self-made man or woman, that we are all shaped by the influences of others, including so many we’ve never seen because they are back there in history. History teaches that nothing happens in isolation, or without cause and effect, and that nothing ever had to happen as it did. History teaches tolerance, and the value of common sense, and as Voltaire ... observed, common sense is anything but common.

    “History is about high achievement, glorious works of art, music, architecture, literature, philosophy, science and medicine ... as the best of politicians and generals have readily attested. History is about leadership, and the power of ideas. History is about change, because the world has never not been changing, indeed because life itself is change.

    “History is the course of human events. And it must therefore be, if truthful, about failure, injustice, struggle, suffering, disappointment, and the humdrum. History demonstrates often in brutal fashion the evils of enforced ignorance and demagoguery. History is a source of strength, a constant reminder of the courage of others in times more trying and painful than our own. ... I guess if I had to boil it down to a few words, I would say history is a larger way of looking at life.”

    In these long days, we need to look at the power of ideas, our role in elevating those ideas, and how each one of us fits into the history we are making.

    In the end, whether it is in repairing the environment, urging more controls on our national debt, or insisting that our government keep our privacy out of its business, we are — and have been — capable of change. We must not wait for the short days to point fingers and call from the darkness, “Someone should do something.”

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