A few months before the last presidential election, I found myself abandoning the consolation I had been giving to irate friends for a couple of years. I felt the need for something new; a new infusion of hope in democracy at work, and I went looking for it. For two years, I had been telling those who were upset about the behavior of our commander in chief that our government was too well designed for one political monster to bring down the country. They could take comfort in that fact, I told them. Now, I too needed some reassurance.
The first comfort came in the form of a parade of cars in downtown Montpelier. A long line of high school and college students paraded loudly using their horns in their cars and circling around the main streets, leaning out the windows with cardboard signs, and being a general nuisance until I realized what they were about, and I started to cry. They were objecting to the proposed cuts on several state college campuses. Their efforts yielded success in the withdrawal of the proposal. The kids and the democracy are alright, I thought.
Next I found inspiration in a vintage film of 25 years, “The American President.” Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin and Rob Reiner, it was the inspiration for the television series “The West Wing,” which was so instrumental in teaching Americans about the executive branch of the government. When the film first came out, I was not impressed. I didn’t think it was humanly possible to recreate on film a plausible fictional American presidency. But I was wrong.
The film, not the television series, was what I was looking for as something that would regenerate some patriotic national pride. The opening credits include a tour of the presidential portraits in the White House with a compelling theme song. By the end of the film, the President tells us out in TV land that democracy has to include those who believe the opposite as we do; that they also have a right to their beliefs and to express them freely. It was exciting news to say the least in the face of the last election. This equality under the law is what has made our country great and continues to do so. The film inspired me to be encouraged in recent history and not depressed. I was curious as we got closer to the election if anyone else out there had noticed this film for the same reasons I had, and I soon heard a female commentator on National Public Radio who was recommending it to us out in radio land.
Last October, I started working at Hunger Mountain Co-op. After my training, I began to see that this largest employer in downtown Montpelier, member owned and union represented, is alive and well as an experiment in capitalism and democracy. As a newly trained vegetable stylist, I found democracy at work.
One interesting detail I hadn’t counted on working at the Co-op is that many of the staff are left handed, many more than the generous number of 20 percent in the general population. I haven’t conducted any formal count, but informal counts have me believing that the percentage could be two or three times the average. People who are left handed “find” each other as if they have homing devices.
In reality, only one in three left-handed people have that magic creative artistic touch that was over publicized and went viral around the world 30 years ago. The truth is that two out of three lefties are brain organized just like the other 80 percent of the population, who are left-brain dominant and right handed. Two out of three lefties do not have the magic touch.
The rest of the story is that there is a corresponding group of right-handed people who are also right-brain dominant, who have the same creative magic that was erroneously only attributed to all lefties. In the Co-op staff, I have found a balanced anomaly group. The atmosphere of psychological freedom is a different climate than in the greater population. It is easier and friendlier.
Selling lettuce, I found new hope in our world-envied national democratic experiment. In spite of our weaknesses and failures as a people, the world still wants to come here. I found the hope I was looking for and needed to pass it on to other Americans.
Mimi Clark lives in Montpelier.