This was a week for getting buried, and digging out again.
Sure, there was the snowstorm. We got smacked by the snow, something like two feet fell here in Enfield, and I’ve heard things were even worse elsewhere in the state. I spent Wednesday alternately huddled inside watching it all come down, or out there with a shovel, making a snow canyon out of my driveway so my tiny, fuel-efficient economy car could escape in time for work Thursday. Somehow my wife and I carved a path out to the street. It felt like something of a triumph when I finally broke through to the flat, hard snow of the road. At last, freedom! Let the snow do its worst, we could get out. At that moment, though I was bone-tired and there was so, so much more work to do, I felt an overwhelming relief. It could only get better from here.
It was surprisingly reassuring to see our new governor so visible, intensely energetic (manic, you might say) and clearly bent on keeping the snowstorm relatively under control. It makes sense: he was a mayor, and mayors get yearly lessons in why snowstorms need managing, and how a bad one can leave a bad taste in the public’s mouth for years to come. Gov. Thomas Meskill didn’t get that back in the 1970s, and it certainly looks like New Jersey’s current Gov. Chris Christie missed the memo, too. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, however, seems to have been on top of things. It’s a nice change from the somnolence that marked the later Rell years.
I wonder if it will always be this way. Snow is one thing, the deep budgetary drifts left by Rell and a recalcitrant legislature another. At least Malloy has signaled that he’s willing to face the problem. It’s possible to hope that a turning point may have been reached, though even if the governor and legislature craft a real plan to get the state out of this mess it’ll be a long time before we’re completely free of it.
Buried by Rhetoric
I feel like we may be starting to dig out in other ways this week. Beyond Connecticut, the nation’s attention has been riveted by the shootings in Arizona. The violence itself was horrifying, but I was dispirited by the immediate reaction from both sides of our eternal political divide. My liberal friends were quick to point the finger at Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and the hostile, paranoid, toxic political climate the hard right has whipped up in recent years, though later it appeared that the shooter was only tangentially influenced by mainstream politics in any form. The right pushed back, accusing the left of smear tactics and, unsurprisingly, trying to cast the shooter as a liberal of some kind. The low point came when Palin released a video that gave voice to the outrage of her party’s right wing, something Palin does well, labeling the accusations of the left a “blood libel,” a phrase that has deeply offensive roots in European anti-Semitism.
It seemed like the same old awful, crushing blizzard of partisan rhetoric that we’ve been buried in for years. I was glad to hear the president speak on Wednesday night after I came in from shoveling the driveway, especially when he said this:
“But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.”
I’ve watched for years while the political world has become increasingly toxic, until it seems like all we can do is lob grenades back and forth at one another from behind tall concrete walls, trying to score points for our own side. That blizzard buried us all. Finally, on Wednesday, I saw somebody pick up a shovel at last.
It was a blessed relief to hear, and so the week is coming to a much more hopeful close than I could have imagined on Monday. Maybe now we can gather our strength, and start digging ourselves out towards whatever is out there, towards the road.
Susan Bigelow is the former owner/author of CTLocalPolitics.com. She lives in Enfield with her wife and cats.