West Hartford Forums

“A candle is enough to light the world”

Happy 4th of July, West Hartford

Posted by whforums on July 4, 2008

I was in China earlier this month — a beautiful, smoggy, congested country (incidentally, I’m also congested, but that’s because of the plane, not China) with a strange relationship to its emergent capitalism (or, as they call it, “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”). The people, especially in the cities, are caught between two worlds — the freedom and independence the marketplace seems to promise and the absolute adherence to policy the government demands. In his book China Road, Rob Gifford sums this up by quoting messages flashing across a jumbotron in Shanghai:

“Sexual equality is a basic policy of our country.
Eat dove chocolate.”

Obviously, not all governmental policies are so fair, but there’s certainly no room for discussion if you think a policy is unfair. Returning to the states, I was left with a certain wonder — not just at our ideals as a nation, but at how often we manage to live up to those ideals. As much as we may despise our nation’s shortcomings — those places and times where/when our actions don’t meet our ideals — the good fortune we find in relatively free, clean and safe West Hartford — the good fortune we find in our discussion and bickering — is nothing short of historically remarkable. We may not agree about the budget, we may not agree about Slifka or Visconti, but the freedom to disagree that’s hard-wired into our government — the freedom to stand up and dissent — what a beautiful common ground on which to plant our mutual flags.

A teacher/mentor once told me: “It’s easy to be cynical. Everybody today is cynical. To be grateful, that takes work.” Through the fog of my own mind, today I’m going to kick back, have a bit of moonshine (despite my congestion, and maybe to thicken the fog) and do something that, for most people in my generation (maybe for everyone) doesn’t come so easy — I’m going to look around, I’m going to try to create some sort of slow-time, and I’m going to be grateful.

Cheers, West Hartford, with a spirit independent.

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