The Village Square held their first event of the new dinner season on Tuesday October 1st at St. Johns Episcopal Church. The theme for the season is “The Year of Living Locally”.
Tuesday’s event titled, Local Patriotism: The Goliath of national dysfunction vs. The David of local community, featured a discussion with author Stephen Kiernan and local business owner and former political consultant Sally Bradshaw.
The premise of the discussion was that the controversial national debate has created a toxic political environment which can only be countered by local action.
The printed program for the evening stated, ” The forces that divide us are big, strong, viral, international in scope and have seemingly infected every system of our body politic. ……Through this tumultuous time, we have come to believe that if we’re going to care about the American idea — if we’re going to truly live it out (and maybe save it) — it will be in hometowns like this one between neighbors like us. ”
Mr. Kiernan, who authored “Authentic Patriotism”, made the point in his presentation that over the last 8-10 years the federal government has done very little to address problems related to homelessness, income inequality, and the national debt.
Kiernan then pivoted to the view that “people are hungry for a new idea,” which is going local. He also argued people share more consensus on important issues than is reflected in the national media.
He cites a document he helped author called “Vermont to the Tenth Power.” The idea put forth in the document is that the federal government is not functioning at a level sufficient to address the needs of the day, and therefore, states and local governments must act on there own.
Kiernan told the crowd that the answer for state-local activism is laid out in the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution which provides each state with powers that are independent of Washington.
Kiernan then gave examples of how local action in his community solved local problems even when local government failed to act. By the close of his presentation, his idea of going local had boiled down to neighbors helping neighbors.
Kiernan stated that the well being of a community is ultimately the responsibility of the people that live in the community. He said, “democracy is more than 10 minutes in a voting booth.”
Sally Bradshaw, a well known political analyst and former Chief of Staff for Governor Jeb Bush, shared her experience of transitioning from a political operative in the 2016 presidential campaign to the owner of the Midtown Reader. Bradshaw talked of retreating to a more community setting after the bruising presidential campaign.
Bradshaw recalled the days when you could debate issues and policy without so much animosity. She added that it is important to accept people with different political views without retreating to destructive labels. Bradshaw believes she is helping foster this approach through her bookstore, which calls a “literary pool hall.”
The response from the gathering of approximately 100 was somewhat muted. There were few questions from the floor as it appeared the attendees were digesting the idea of going local versus focusing on the national debate.
The Village Square’s next program in The Year of Living Locally will be on January 28th, 2019. The program is titled “Local Press: Healthy local journalism and our deepening national divide.”