Baltimore burns. Charleston prays. Two worldviews are at war in American communities.
Destroying to gain versus Gaining the destroyer.
Do these faraway realities touch Whatcom County? There is that takes for itself, and loses. There is that quietly gives amid pain, and gains.
What attitude rebuilds community after wars of aggression? It is “Hoping for nothing,” passing on to the next generation a legacy of selflessness in the face of ultimate sacrifice.
It is the ruler who submits himself to the rule of law.
It is the elected representative who sees community strife not as a shortselling moment to advantage his friends, but as a refinery that turns disparate metals into strong alloys.
It is the soldiering businessman who puts his life and business in the cross hairs of the bitter game of chance that is cultural war, tough love, risking the bullets of market retribution.
County Council has poured gasoline on local public policy again. Whatcom County’s Home Rule Charter has been made a burning rag in an ideological tug of war. Locals can go and watch the circle of fire Tuesday night, July 7, 2015 at the County Council Chambers.
What gives? What is really going on? Do not the community fathers do all things well?
Frankly, after months of paying relatively close attention to the Charter Review process, and after working on two proposed charter amendments, I have come to the conclusion that some leaders are ships passing in the night, and other leaders are privateers, ready to board and pillage.
Who have been the actors on the Charter Review stage? More importantly, who are the Geppetos, working the strings out of sight?
1. Elected leaders: the county executive and the county council.
2. Career city and county employees: managers of finance and natural resources, technical experts.
3. State and Federal bureaucrats: Department of Ecology, Conservation District, Environmental Protection Agency, Puget Sound Partnership, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, US Army Corps of Engineers…
4. Non profit, “third sector” ideologues, staffers, activists, lawyers: Whatcom Land Trust, ReSources, Futurewise, Sustainable Connections, Salish Community Solutions… oh, and the local Food Bank. Cathy Lehman could give you a list of twenty or more “key local players” she represents, including Tom Steyer.
5. Business owners and investors: Corporate globalists, small time entrepreneurs, farmers…
6. Media apparatchiks: Bored reporters, biased editors and owners, lucre seeking advertising agents.
7. Facilitators: legal counsels, clerks, facilities owners.
8. I almost forgot. The fifteen elected Charter Review commissioners.
Of course, if you’re reading this, you probably know that the major bones of charter contention are:
1) Should the whole county vote for all elected council races, or should county districts have partitioned voting, each district voting for two positions plus one at large position.
2) Should the Whatcom County Council be prevented from reversing any ballot approved charter amendments detailing voter districting formulas in Whatcom County?
County wide voting appears to favor candidates that appeal to Bellingham’s clientele, and district partitioned voting appears to favor candidates that appeal to the non Bellingham clientele.
The elephant in the room that most of the above actors do not want to deal with is the growing cultural divide between Bellingham and the rest of the county. Or is it a growing cultural war? Do the grant and government funding models that pay many Whatcom County salaries bring people together? Or enlarge cultural ghettos with protective taboos and suspicions?
After the decision by the county council to place four proposed amendements on the ballot, largely mirroring and countering the likely charter amendments of the charter review committee, it is again obvious that the dialogue and mediation that brings diverse groups together is not happening.
Listening to citizen testimony during the public comment period is says it all. County “conservatives” speak of disenfranchisement and the need to restore parity. City “progressives” push back against “power plays”, against being forced to share the public square with conservatives. Horrors!
Why is there such a heightened sense of battle lines? Why has the county council intervened so precipitously? What back room deals have been brokered to sacrifice predetermined county groups on the altars of business status quo and progressive cultural fadism.
There are two books, among others, that shape today’s political plays. The Prince, by Nicholas Machiavelli, and Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky.
George Bush (R) and Bill Clinton (D) know The Prince well. Dedicated to Lorenzo di Medici, the rules of The Prince led to the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre of emerging Hugenot Protestants at the hands of Catholic queen Catherine di Medici, a generation after the book was written. In the power plays of corporations, triangulation still makes and breaks men and their fortunes.
Hilary Clinton (D) and Barack Obama (D) know Rules for Radicals well. A protégé of Frank Nitti of Al Capone fame, Saul Alinsky absorbed mob methods, then modeled them, framed with legal cover for the New Left before his death several decades ago. Behind the disarming smile of progressive non profit advocacy is a cold dagger and the tightly clenched fist that seeks power.
Is Jack Louws a The Prince man? Is Carl Wiemer a Rules for Radicals man? I can not say for sure. I could try to interview them, but to what end? Would they tell me their secrets? What about Ken Mann? Pete Kremen? Rud Browne? What about the circle of power brokers in natural resources such as Steven Jilks at the PUD? Or George Boggs at the Conservation District? Or the leaders of ReSources, Whatcom Land Trust, Futurewise, and Sustainable Connections? What about the various bureaucrats embedded in city, county, state and federal agencies, lusting for the grant streams fed by the growing national debt?
The point is this. If the sharing of spoils in The Prince type proposals coming out of the County Executive Office do not pacify the power hungry Alinsky radicals on the County Council and local “green” non profit boards, the radicals and the triangulators will end up eating each other and us, leaving a burnt earth legacy. Just review the fractured path of the proposed Whatcom County Jail.
So, will Bellingham be Baltimore? Or will it be Charleston? Will we burn each other with anger? Or will we face down haters with determined, rebuilding openess?
Non profit agencies? Who grew the legacy of the non profit tradition? Francis of Assissi? Bernard of Clairvaux? William Carey of India? The Salvation Army in the slums of London? Lighthouse Mission? Catholic Community Services? These were and are people who largely “hope for nothing”. But, wherever there are givers, there are pretenders.
The “green” non profits of America are a different breed. Flying on the coat tails of good will of past generations, the current enviro activists talk kindly, but underneath the smiles clench fists of green, sustainable power. Their non profit vehicle is temporary, until government is fully socialist and communitarian. Their advocacy for first nations peoples destroys both the tribal youth and their own youth. Bake into their cake a fascist flavor of markets with triple bottom lines, and the world is redefined into a gray, grim Orwellian nanny state.
Churches? Redefining themselves as Lyndon Johnson 501c3 non profits, many churches act like monkeys, clutching peanuts in a gourd trap, waiting to be captured and eaten. American courts are systematically removing the hedge of honor increasingly saltless American churches have enjoyed. Persecution in the public square will unleash self persecuting churches, but until then, public policy is piously delegated to “others” by a majority of Christians. Most Christians are more concerned about paying back their loans on their single family homes, about pushing their children to get degrees from socialist educators who turn their Christian legacy of “hoping for nothing” on its head.
Educators? College appears now to be where environmentalist activists first learn to write grants, then maybe do a little work—not really hoping for nothing.
What is hoping for nothing?
It is delighting to give rather than get, trusting that the Creator of all men and means will repay sacrificial service in His time.
It is deferring immediate gratification for much larger, delayed benefits.
It is choosing to give, after working to earn, and leading others to work to earn.
It may be waiting long for the siren songs of materialism and power, progressive or capitalist, to be replaced by hoping for nothing, by giving away, yet ultimately gaining much, much more.
Baltimore or Charleston? Which will Whatcom County and Bellingham be?