The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette
| more

Photo Gallery

Savory Sonoma by Stephanie Hiller - January 2017


Savory Sonoma by Stephanie Hiller - January 2017

Keeping the Faith

“Chaos should be regarded as extremely good news.”
– Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Today I planted cute little succulents in the white porcelain bowls sent to my by my son and his wife for Christmas. The sun was shining, beaming its strengthening rays the day after solstice. Cars roared by on West Napa, weekenders arriving early for an extended holiday weekend. A Christmas carol I barely know whistled through my brain. Christ is born…and his divine birth promises all the things we cherish most in life: harmony, peace, love and happiness, most of our days spent struggling to find those precious Buddha jewels against the considerable odds life summons to challenge us, it seems, to evolve. 

By the time you read this, Christmas will have faded into the New Year, with its great push forward, its surge of productivity (got to recoup what we spent!). We’ll have passed through this annual dark tunnel adorned with colored lights, a time of precious intensity, and now the wheel turns again.

Everything on this fine afternoon seems normal. Except: Trump.

Every day the news – the real news, I might add, of which there is plenty, despite the smear campaign on the alternate press by the Washington Post and the New York Times, leaving us insecure about what is the truth – churns out something worse than the last about what is happening in Washington before the new pres is even inaugurated. Congress has made a couple of changes to the Defense Authorization Act to make nuclear war in space suddenly allowable [] generating a defensive statement by Putin (as expected) followed by Trump tweets vowing to build up our nuclear forces.

Amidst all the horrors of threatened deportations and registries, Cabinet appointees, Obamacare and Social Security, and jacking up fossil fuel production while denying climate change, this toleration, even enthusiasm for building up our nuclear forces yet again (we already have a $1 trillion budget for updating the nuclear weapons complex over the next ten years) is the ultimate clincher. Encouraged apparently by an election which is not a mandate, members of the present government are already preparing to behave like Darth Vader’s death squads.

Critics of the nuclear plan insist that nuclear weapons in space is a futile if dangerous proposition that will just waste money. Trillions.

Meanwhile, critics of the emerging economic plan foresee a possible crash. Even Mitch McConnell has warned that we can’t simply dismantle giant programs overnight. So Congress may resist, or squabble with one another at least. And it’s reported that the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates, making Trump’s plans less feasible. “Making America great” could actually bring the empire to its knees.

Then there’s the prospect of fighting in the streets as people actively resist and are met, like Standing Rock, with police brutality.

It looks like a helluva lot of fun in this new year.

Here in peaceful Sonoma Valley, people are coming together. Whether for spiritual inspiration, political action, or those much-needed warm-and-toasty winter parties, people are seeking sustenance and a renewed sense of connection. What to do? How to survive this bleak new era? What about friends and neighbors who might be suddenly and summarily deported, here today and gone tomorrow leaving abandoned families behind. Sonoma’s two key income streams – wine and tourism – depend on our Latino workers; but the pain goes deeper than that. What about the human rights of people who have struggled to survive, obstructed by a byzantine immigration system that the Republicans would not let Obama revise? To every story there’s a backstory, to every bit of black-and-white propaganda siphoned out of Washington, there’s a complex human situation. Remember welfare queens getting rich on the hard earned tax dollars of good (say, white) working people? Few worried so much about their tax dollars going to Raytheon and Boeing. We need weapons to bully and bludgeon the world…it’s called “defense.”

How will we respond?

A growing consensus is emerging. We can act locally. We can become more resilient by building our networks and relationships. Together we can strengthen our local economy and support city and state policies that affirm our beliefs in a fairer, more just society. We can think with our hearts. When so much is uncertain, there’s one thing we know: these are the times that will try our souls. We can face the challenge by living according to our highest values, our deepest truths.

There will be more: but I’ve run out of space. May this be the beginning of a new era when the ashes of the ensuing chaos give rise to the vision we’ve cherished all along.

And may the Force be with you.

What then are we here in peaceful, affluent Sonoma going to do? 

Immediately, the community sprang into action to find ways to protect out Latino neighbors who happen to also be the workers for the two main industries that keep traffic rolling through town, namely tourism and wine making. Latinos do the lion’s share of the work that sustains those income streams, without which this town and much of the county will quickly sink into the quietly depressed state that swung in when the apple market declined in the early 80s in deference to the Washington State apple.

But it’s more than that. It’s a human rights issue, and Latinos are not the only minority being targeted by the Trumpsters. 

The declaration

The sanctuary movement

The equity and diversity task force

La Luz meetings. El Verano meetings.

Environmental groups have come together to support those efforts and fortify their effectiveness in relation to climate change – PraxisPeace, Transition Sonoma Valley, EarthCare at the Congregational Church, are redrawing their boundaries.  

There’s an intensity and fervor that we haven’t seen around here until the election.

But while some groups are talking of outright resistance to specific policies, all of these things amount to damage control at this stage of the game.

We are not in a position to stop Washington from going completely berserk.

The bigger picture? When there’s a “perfect storm” it’s the time to hunker down and build community…to stay home, conserve resources, invite people over to dinner, share tools. To practice and strengthen the lifestyle we uphold and demonstrate the principles of compassion, caring, sharing we preach

Local control of policy helps. TSV the city council clean energy policy is a step. Governor Brown etc. 

Building stronger local economy, preparing for tighter purse springs, growing our own food, supporting our farmers. The society we have envisioned, the civil rights we have fought for generations to obtain, the respect for diversity…the beliefs we have championed, have not been diminished, cannot be abandoned now. “These are the times that try men’s [sic] souls” – we have to step up to the challenge and pay attention

Trump’s plans may backfire and we want to be strong to savor the chaos that might result – and the real opportunity to create a better society…