Flood stage: Swelled way beyond its banks, The St. Croix has overtaken Wolf’s Marina, made an island of buildings that usually hug its shore, including those at Mulberry Marina and P.D. Pappy’s Restaurant. The gazebo at the end of Myrtle Street looks like it has waded out until its waist high in the river, reachable only by boat.
We all knew with the amount of snow this year that the river would rise to all-time high, so we the people would need to work together to hold it back. As soon as the call went out for volunteers to help build a levee, the people got busy. 350 volunteers responded in just a few hours, filling all the shifts. Soon truckloads of sand and tarps were caravaned in. Bagging stations were set up and teams of women and men of all ages in neon vests cheerfully shoveled, tied and hoisted bags until the levee was at least 10 foot high and the town was now safe from the rising river.
Recently, a friend said to me that she wished we could build a levee around MN. We do have it pretty good here, with a Governor and Lt. Governor who have committed themselves to serve every Minnesotan. We have two good Senators not afraid to fight for us in Washington, and for the most part, legislators that listen to the people. (I do wish some MN legislators would spend more time hearing and voting on bills than fundraising for their future campaigns, however).
But seepage of bad politics in Washington will find its way in. We hold our breaths as healthcare is attacked in the courts, funding for education is slashed by our elite Secretary of Education who thinks in dollars, not children, and as people who have lived here for decades are taken from their homes and sent back to a place they fled in desperation. The problems are overwhelming, and we are just people, not politicians and not corporate CEO’s. Hedrick Smith, renowned journalist, author-historian would say that we the people are enough, but it will take all of us and there are many fronts to cover and lots of levees to build, but instead of despairing, we need to just start where we are.
Hedrick Smith is coming to speak the Stillwater Library on April 29th. It is really quite a boon to have a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of this caliber at a free event here in the Valley. In his distinguished career spanning over 40 years, Smith has examined and reported on human rights issues, wars, the economy as well as covered six presidents; he understands how we got here and what measures all of us must take to reclaim our democracy and set the power of our country back in the hands of the people.
According to Smith, 96% of American’s believe our democracy is being corrupted. Smith has studied in depth how we got to this place where most Americans are worried about our future. He attributes it to a shift in ideas and a shift in power starting in the ’70s. Before Jimmy Carter’s administration, the driving idea of our economy was a “virtuous circle of growth.” CEO’s were of the mindset to share the wealth. Raising wages meant higher consumer demand, which drove up growth and profit for everyone. With this model, the middle class held the power. If there was a demand for consumer rights or environmental protections, the government listened and corporations had to comply.
During Carter’s administration, however, corporations began to aggressively lobby for tax breaks and laws favoring industry and building a system of wedge economics which cuts out the working class in the profits. As most of us now realize, the amount of dark money and corruption has mushroomed out of control with the one percenters opening up all of the locks and dams that used to safeguard average Americans from the flood we face now.
It is easy to be overwhelmed, to think that middle-class Americans will be drowned out. That is why Smith would argue that it will take all of us getting involved in government to get back to the growth and people power ideal in our democracy. People are already on the move. Over 5000 grassroots organizations like St. Croix Valley Alliance NOW have formed since Trump was elected. But we need to keep agitating, engaging, protesting if we want our democracy back.
Instead of becoming cynical or despairing, go to Hedrick Smith’s website, Reclaim the American Dream, which is full of success stories, strategies and issues to consider before we let the tides of a corrupt system wash over us. Another great motivator is Smith’s series, The People Vs. The Politician. All of us need to be involved, and anyone in the Valley who cares about saving our democracy for our children should come to listen to what Hedrick Smith has to say on April 29th @ 6:30 at the Stillwater Public Library.
By Peg Ludtke