My Turn: A Massachusetts liberal looks at the new administration

  • JIM PERKINS

By JIM PERKINS
Published: 5/21/2021 4:24:06 PM

Editor’s note: Hands Across the Hills formed in Leverett after the 2016 election and bridged with Letcher County, Kentucky to foster understanding between communities that differed widely in politics and attitudes. Three long weekend visits to each others’ towns and continuing Zoom meetings keep the dialogues, conversations and friendships growing. In this installment Mike Gover of Eastern Kentucky coal country and Jim Perkins of Leverett share their views of the current administration. This is the second in a series of dual essays on topics meaningful to both communities.

By JIM PERKINS

I wasn’t a supporter of Joe Biden during the Democratic primary season.

I liked Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. I thought of Biden as a “middle-of-the-roader,” too old and set in his ways to tackle the big issues, even if he had the desire to do so. Our country is in deep crisis, and we Americans are on course to lose whatever democracy we have managed to build over the passage of our history. It is not democracy when power rests in the hands of a few fabulously wealthy people and a growing majority are losing ground, insecure, powerless, scared, and agitated.

Our lives are playing out against the onrushing menace of climate change. Global warming creates conditions causing farmers to fail, forcing them to pull up stakes and become refugees. Sea rise already threatens some low-lying cities and island nations. Fires, hurricanes, drought, and floods become more frequent and severe. That humans are the cause is increasingly difficult to deny.

The great tasks of our time are to make peace and to create a fairly shared, modestly prosperous economy operating in harmony with the needs of the natural world in which everybody has a comfortable, secure, fair share. There is good reason to fear that these tasks are impossibly large. It is tragic when politicians divert us from the work that needs to be done now, acting out our anger, frustration and despair, shining searchlights on people and groups of people to blame and hate while enabling the powerful to double down on their profit-producing, world-destroying ways.

Joe Biden is naming the real problems and betting that we have the courage, knowledge, and will to deal with them. He sees his job as uniting us behind a hopeful vision of a just and prosperous future. He cares deeply for the wellbeing of people and expresses that care through bold programs for good public health, employment, and education. He accepts the reality of climate change and promotes designs for our near and middle term future that combine plans for full employment with the greening of the environment.

I can see now that he is of the right age. He has an elder’s wisdom and compassion. He has no ambitions to interfere with the direct pursuit of the job at hand. His personal interest is at one with the public interest. His ego is quiet. His experience is unequaled. He knows how to get things done. He has proven his skill as a judge of competence and character by his choice of those to serve in his administration. He has demonstrated his understanding of the enormity of the challenges facing our country and the world by the breathtaking scope and scale of his policies, his administrative actions, and his legislative proposals. His personal modesty and decency give reason to trust him.

Our democratic experiment is endangered by fierce inequality and the influence of money on our politics. We, the people, have been manipulated, lied to, and deeply disappointed. Now we are challenged to overcome our racial prejudice, our feeling of alienation from others, and our fear that government will always be used against us. We need to kindle our hope and confidence, to inspire ourselves and others and find the spirit to rise to the challenges of our time. My hope is that a large majority of us may soon come to see that we have in Joe Biden a leader with whom we can work together for a hopeful future.

Jim Perkins has been a teacher, preacher, farmer, anti-war activist and nuclear resister. He is a founding member of Hands Across the Hills and for eight years served on the Select Board (governance) for the town of Leverett. Jim raised his children on a 300-acre farm in  Upstate New York and now enjoys cultivating flowers and vegetables in his Leverett gardens.

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