Sunday, December 17, 2006


The old saw advises us to “Think globally, and act locally,” yet that principle was never honored in my parents’ house. My dad was an introverted intellectual. To him, everything was global – in fact, once he built his telescope, even “global” seemed way too narrow for his focus.

I didn’t know there was such a thing as local politics until I was in high school and found a job interning for the Montgomery County Council. I lived then where I live now – in Bethesda, Maryland, roughly five miles from the Washington, D.C. line. Even as I worked for my county’s council, however, my father’s attitude brainwashed me into thinking that what went on in my own home town and home state was essentially trivial. The Middle East mattered. The Cold War mattered. National tax policies mattered. Local politics? Please – that’s only of interest to the small-minded parochial types, and I was a man of the world. Not a Marylander, but a Washingtonian.

It took me decades to change my outlook. But this fall, that finally happened. I actually gave a damn about local politics. I cared enough to walk into the ballot box during my state’s primary and cast a certain vote for Montgomery County Executive (our name for the CEO of the county government). I had never cared that much about the state government, and here I was, chomping at the bit to send a message about my county. Obviously, some issue had gotten under my skin.

The contest for County Executive pitted an African-American who rose from poverty to a County Council position, named Ike Leggett, against a man who sounds just like me – an Ashkenazi, Reform Jewish lawyer, Steven Silverman. The primary would clearly decide the election because in Montgomery County, men are Democrats, women are Democrats, and Republicans run scared. (Seriously, the smart Republicans know to move across the river to Virginia where they’re actually wanted.) When I picked up my ballot, I had a sneer on my face. I wanted Leggett to win, but I really, really wanted Silverman to lose. His campaign was more negative than Leggett’s, and that bothered me, yet what really ticked me off was that he took lots and lots of money from real estate developers. He was the enemy of all things green. Well, almost all things. Silverman raised $2.2 million to Leggett’s $830,000. How strange, then, that Leggett trounced my landsman by double digits.

I didn’t follow all of the local elections as closely as the Executive race, but I cared about others too. Walking into the polls that morning, I had one sheet of paper in my hands. It was a flyer my family received in the mail a couple of weeks earlier that identified which candidates took money from developers, and which ones did not. I voted straight up. Single issue, baby! To me, this was war – nature versus greed. Good versus evil. Up versus down. I hadn’t seen such a simple problem since first grade arithmetic.

I’ve never considered myself a stereotypical environmentalist. Nobody I know spends less time outdoors than I do. It’s sad but true. My vacation time is largely spent writing in front of a computer. And when I do go into nature, my ideal day would be spent studying a philosophy book and occasionally looking up to see what a beautiful place I have chosen to read in. But the fact that I haven’t incorporated nature into my lifestyle doesn’t mean I fail to acknowledge our debt to her. It also doesn’t mean I feel free to despoil her in the name of “economics” or “progress.” In fact, just as many of my fellow single-issue voters seem to care only about the defenseless, beautiful human fetus. I possess a visceral passion to protect the defenseless, beautiful natural world over which we have been given custodial responsibility. We’re sure making a mess of that responsibility, aren’t we? Seriously, it’s mid-December in Maryland and nearly every afternoon, the temperature has gotten into the 50s. Something here is awry.

A few years ago, my family had a membership in a local community swimming pool. In fact, we had been members for years. The pool owned a few acres of wooded land – one of the few such areas in Bethesda. One night, the pool “elders” convened an all-hands meeting and announced a proposal to sell some of the land to developers so that we could raise money for some of the pool’s basic needs. One of those ‘needs” was to build a gazebo. I stopped going to the pool right around then – in fact, we’re not even members now. The idea of a group that supported tree chopping simply left way too bitter a taste in my mouth.

Clearly, these feelings are running deep. They always do when you find yourself “single issue voting” and leaving organizations that you’ve supported for years. But I make no apologies for my views. Just as the virulent foe of abortion rights sees their issue in terms of “murder,” I see the above issue in stark terms as well. Who the hell are we as a species to “acquire” what nature has taken millions of years to perfect, only to pave and mine and drill right over it? If each of us needs to use up so many resources to satisfy our rapacious appetites, might we not either changing our lifestyles or at least reproducing a tad less often? Maybe you should look at my family as some sort of anti-procreative ideal. I have no brothers, no sisters, two children, and only one first cousin, who has no children of her own. I call that taking one for the team!


Anonymous said...

what is wrong with you? Pay attention to your family. Your daughter is selling herself for money...yes she is a prostitute. Please do something about it.

Anonymous said...

Please ignore previous post.