Thursday, October 31, 2013

Is this another Civil War or Civil Rights Movement?

Is our country participating in another Civil War, or another Civil Rights Movement?

The media uses words like hijack, hostage-taking, ransom and standing down. These terrorist-type, war-like words reflect what Americans have been doing to each other lately: fighting over values, over racial and class issues, over right and wrong. Some say we have not been this polarized since the Civil War.

The government shutdown is reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement and before, when the Ku Klux Klan acted like vigilante warriors, out for blood, seeking to silence any voices that differed from theirs. The Klan performed all sorts of horrific acts of violence. Maybe more metaphorical, the government shutdown has also been highly expensive, risky, and dangerous.

Picture the Tea Party as the KKK. We beg them to be empathetic about the needs of the poor and the oppressed, but their ears are clogged with hate and fear-filled rhetoric, and they are unable or unwilling to discuss the issues. The Civil War was connected to slavery like our current times contain actions like Stop and Frisk and massive incarceration of black and brown people. And, let’s not forget the color of our President’s skin. Hasn’t that been an underlying trigger that has inflamed these extremists?

A minority of Republicans, the Tea Party, took ObamaCare and the country hostage. Why would they not negotiate for so many days, mediating the conflicts and developing a plan for all Americans? We can blame the left, we can blame the right, but maybe we need to listen to those in the middle who might have made the most sense of all.

Sometimes, human beings divide and conquer. Our great nation’s history includes our ancestors’ finding this new land and stealing it from its residents. We fought battle after battle with the American Indians, pushing them farther and farther west and then we confined them to reservations (like we did with the Japanese after WWII), as if they were less than human, while white European Americans reigned. I thought our ancestors came to this country to create a different kind of government, one led by the people, for the people.
Instead, our government is run by those with the deepest pockets. Elections are won by those with the most money. This is no longer a democracy. The term, oligarchy, comes to mind.

Our country was founded on violence and exploitation and since then we fought a bitter Civil War with more Americans being killed than in all our other wars combined. Fifty plus years ago, there was a Civil Rights Movement. We desperately need to create change within our society and our systems so that all of us are not held hostage by the few loudest voices, the biggest money, and the most sensational spin. If this is war, at least let it be nonviolent. And, instead of the winner take all, maybe we can share some of the wealth. 

Cohousing creates family you can choose

Imagine walking into a room and meeting your new family. As an adult. While entering the room, various people reach out to you and you see a few familiar faces. You sense the welcome and the curiosity of these 20+ people sharing delicious, home-cooked food.
This has been my experience while exploring a brand new concept in Nashville, its first Cohousing community, Germantown Commons of Tennessee, LLC, which is located at the corner of 5th and Taylor. This idea appeals to me and my family partly because of the intentional nature of this Cohousing community.

There are only120 Cohousing developments in the United States. Research tells us that living in community with others often prompts a long and healthy life. Perhaps “it takes a village to raise a child” pertains to even us adults.

Cohousing neighborhoods are privately owned homes clustered around shared open space and common facilities. Cars are parked outside the cluster for green space, activities and safety for children. The core values of this community are environmental sustainability, smaller homes, green building attributes, and renewable energy systems. The Cohousing model offers social opportunities, shared responsibilities, privacy, and economic benefits to those involved.

As I think about the people involved in the Germantown Commons, I see ethically just and socially active individuals who seek comfort and enjoyment while sharing meals and/or various activities together. Each of those I have met have been interesting and intriguing people, and watching them learn to communicate and process all that comes with building a home together makes for dynamics similar to those within our families of origin.

The difference though is that these people self-select. They choose to be part of this pioneering group that hearkens back to the old family compound, the extended family that lived together, worked together and built a life for themselves. We don’t choose our families but we can choose to participate in another kind of family, one that we explore first, learn all about, and as we get to know the systems and people, we may decide to join them, or not.

Diana Sullivan, a real estate broker and founding member of the Germantown Commons, says it best: “Cohousing is different. Instead of a developer leading this, it is the residents who initiate, design and partially fund the development.”

The Germantown Commons seeks to make decisions by consensus and by working through any and all issues until solutions are discovered. If you are at all interested in this possibility, please review the website: ( You may just find yourself a new family!