When Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, he didn’t say "I have an issue." He inspired listeners with a dream, a vision. And that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Schoharie County is known as The Breadbasket of the Revolution. When General George Washington put his rebel army together, many times they were paid with only bread and beer that came from the farms on the western frontier, which is now where Schoharie County lies.
Long a hotbed of independent farmers, this region is now astir with at least four organizations that have looked at how things are, said "that’s not right," and are organizing to do something about it. Some are resistance groups, some have a single issue, but all are dedicated to positive change for our land and our families. Our rights are at stake, and only we can protect them.
One group, Rural Awakening, defines its mission as inspiring an obligation for action. The vision is to ensure human rights, respect for all, and the protection of our environment for future generations, and that pretty much covers what people have always wanted and needed for a healthy and sane society.
The dream is of a region, state, nation and world where every person is treated with respect, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental or physical health status. The dream is of an earth protected from the dangers of climate change, environmental degredation and corporate greed, that can only exist when there is a balance between people’s needs, the right to life and liberty and, yes, the pursuit of happiness in a society within a world that is fragile and sustainable. These changes can happen if we educate, advocate and make laws at our local and national levels.
The values of a kind community and a healthy environment can flourish while recognizing and celebrating our differences. Bringing this about will take work, and it appears these folks are rolling up their sleeves, ready to start.
Rural Awakening was born in the heart of the Schoharie Valley after many members took part in the Women’s Marches this past January, and their first meeting was two weeks later in Middleburg with more than 70 women, men and children attending. The March in Cobleskill surprised planners when over 350 people showed up, and the Marches all over the world that day may have been among the largest demonstrations ever.
There is now a core group of over 100, and they are still evolving. One project is to canvass Scholarie County between now and November 2018, focusing on voting and supporting candidates who share the dream.
Emerging groups cover the environment, racism and immigration, women’s rights, voter registration and neighborhood canvassing. There will certainly be more.
If you want to join their Facebook group, go to the public page titled Rural Awakening and see what they’re up to.
As Arundhati Roy has written, "We are many and they are few." Together, our chipping away can become a bulldozer.
And remember the fable about the two wolves, one vicious and deadly, the other gentle and friendly. Which one will survive? The one you feed.
Karen Cookson lives in Sharon Springs, in Schoharie County, and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Gazette Opinion pages.