A view from 152 Maple. Altamont soothes the spirit

To the Editor:

During the past six-and-a-half months, I have had the pleasure of spending working hours in Altamont, caring for grandsons whose mom and dad realized their long-held dream of living in this Norman Rockwell community.

What a lovely revelation it has been for me. Always a charming place to drive through, I have come to realize that it is a community with a fabric that is rich with the threads that have made American village life so warm and appealing and which in so many ways marks the American experience.

This has been particularly soothing to my spirit. For the past 15 years, motivated by the perplexities about the world and our national place in it engendered by the 9/11 experience, I have spent a great amount of time on macrocosmic  geopolitical musings. The microcosm of Altamont with its gardens and quiet and human scale reminds me of the beauty of the land and the desirability of peace and community.

At the same time, as I pick flowers from the garden, I can't help but wonder what our neighbors are feeling during this current electoral season. Though there have been 33 presidential elections during the lifetime of my son's home, I wonder if any have been so perplexing to the spirit.

In spite of the idyllic nature of the Altamont setting, there is much in the historical moment to make all of us feel uncertain about the future: rising inequality and all of the economic injustice that tears at the roots of personal sustainability; the seemingly endless proliferation of arms and war engendered by entrenched militarism giving rise to fractionalism, xenophobia, masses of border-flooding refugees, civil war, terror tactics, and unimaginable human suffering on all sides — and all of this made present on a 24/7 basis by a globalized media.

The serious, long-promised ravages of unaddressed climate change become evident month by month globally, promising disruption and human tragedy on epic scale. The renewed threat of nuclear warfare as a "viable" choice lurks within the bellicose mutterings and budgets of certain world leaders.

Even though one might imagine as one walks the quiet streets of the village that these are far distant threats, the world, encased superficially and ubiquitously in a 24/7 present to all news cycle impinges,  and I can't help but guess that even here concern runs deep.

All of these destabilizing realities require leadership as well as a population led to, prepared to think rationally and deeply about root causes and humanity embracing solutions. All demand a profound and deliberate turning to community, a global sense of human interconnectedness, mutual responsibility and civically engaged creativity, a clear vision that education and freedom of access to information is required, a determined belief that another way, another world is possible, the kind of world for all, held so tantalizingly close here.

Instead, preying on the frightening insecurities which these uncertainties engender, many tribal, ethnic, religious, political and even national leaders choose to engage rhetoric and policy which feed, encourage, depend upon a “politic of fear,” nurturing division, bellicosity, militarism, ignorance, and destruction. This dead-end politic would see the problems of this moment in human history as intractable and underscore that survival is to be had in isolation and a quest for greatness, victory, and supremacy over others.

 In the face of such a failed vision, I would like to share an opportunity with my Altamont and Hilltown neighbors. For 19 years now, in another idyllic setting, the Kateri Peace Conference has set out to hone our mutual capacity to develop a vocabulary, an analysis, and a praxis which can speak to the politic of fear in increasingly effective ways and add to the rising global voice which affirms that there is a way forward, concretized in village life, forged with love and in peace that can transform the seemingly intractable forces confronting us today as a global community.

For more information on this  all are welcome at an event to be held on Saturday, Aug. 20; readers can go to: www.kateripeaceconference.org.

Maureen Baillargeon Aumand

Altamont

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