Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Thought for the day

"It is vain to summon a people, which has been so rendered so dependent on the central power, to choose from time to time the representatives of that power; this rare and brief exercise of their free choice, however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling and acting for themselves, and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity." - Alexis de Tocqueville, "Democracy in America" I'm thinking about a conversation I had with some American friends last Saturday. An old friend, we went to high school together in Texas, and now he and his wife are living in London for the year. They came down to Brighton with another couple, also American and also living in London. The conversation somehow came onto English people's perception of my friends, how they assumed that they were jaded Americans seeking refuge in the UK. My friend laughed - they were far from being weary escapees, but neither were they happy with Bush and his administration. He hastened to add that he felt a strong urgency to return. "I could never live abroad," my friend said. "I'd feel like I was abandoning it." I told him I didn't feel like I was abandoning our country. I explained that I could vote. "Yeah," quipped one of the friends, "but it's not the same." She said this with a meaningful look, and in the reflection, I saw the demonstrations and the other efforts going on over there. I wasn't part of that. The conversation made me reflect about the relevancy of me being in the States, and then on the work I do now. I work with local residents, often in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and in many different capacities - but here, in the UK, not in the States. I thought about borders, how they exist for so many, yet are invisible for others. In other ways, can you have borders if what you're doing is good, only not in your own country? I didn't feel bad or scapegoated by the conversation and neither do I feel I'm abandoning my country. What if it abandoned me? And - what difference would it make if I were there? It's something to contemplate. I'm reading "Rules for Radicals" by Saul D Alinsky, the Chicago community activist, which is where I found the above quote. I'm gonna go back to reading. My brain is weary from too much typing and staring at a computer screen.

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