Utne Reader Visionaries share their latest projects, ideas, and visions for the future.
How could the State of the Union message reflect deeper values of equality and compassion for those in need? In a call to action, Starhawk demonstrates how to make that message a reality.
During Obama’s State of the Union message, I was scheduled to give a talk at Northern Arizona University on “Women Taking Action: Using the Insights of the Feminist Movement.” As part of it, I decided to write the State of the Union as if Obama were suddenly possessed by the spirit of the nurturing, caring, life-sustaining values that women have often carried. Here it is—you can compare his speech and see how well he measures up! I am indebted to astrologer Caroline Casey, the brilliant host of the Pacifica radio show Visionary Activist, with whom I spent much of the weekend at the Conscious Life Expo in L.A., for the phrase “until now!” She uses it as a mantra when people get all caught up in how bad it is and how wrong we all are and how doomed we are—she just adds “until now!” Try it when you get caught in a downward vortex!
My sisters, brothers, frères and countryfolk,
The State of the Union is not well. We have defined aggression as strength and poured our resources into killing, starving everything that serves and supports life. We have served the greedy at the expense of the needy, allowed children to go hungry, the poor to lack shelter, the sick to lack care, the wounded from our wars to go unhealed, the aged to be abandoned. And we have utterly failed to address the greatest challenge of our age, the destruction of the earth’s climate and the meltdown of our global life support systems.
For now we will work together to heal this mess!
We will siphon away money and resources from war and death to life, to health care and education that inspires and empowers, to arts and imagination and invention and research, to the protection and regeneration of our wildlands and farmlands, to things that enrich our lives and help us to thrive. No longer will we meet the dangers of the world with brute force and firepower—but instead we will look at the causes of violence and change the conditions that breed hate.
Now we will feed the hungry and house the homeless, care for the sick and the wounded, assure the comfort and the security of the elders, because that’s what decent people do. And if our society can’t do this, it’s not worth protecting.
We will cease rewarding greed. Those who benefit from the system will now pay their fair share to support it. We will change the laws that in the past have allowed them to control it, and return power to the people. And—here I’m speaking to the 1 percent—you know what? Your lives will actually be better. You might have somewhat less stuff but richer relationships, less control but more time, more sense of wonder, more peace of mind. And if you really need it, we’ll name some bridges after you and let you cut some ribbons and open some health care clinics and child care centers, just like the Queen of England.
Most importantly, we’re going to address the destruction of the living systems of the planet. No longer will we allow practices that imperil our climate or our aquifers, or threaten to release radioactive poison over the land. We know that we must make big changes: in our energy systems, our technology, our economy, our food growing systems, our ways of living. But we also know that together, we can do this! We can work together and make the shift to a new world in balance with nature.
We already have the technologies we need—solar, wind, renewables. We can make the transition wisely and swiftly. And we will invest in the research that will bring a thousand new ideas into production, using the resources we still have to create what we need for the new world.
We will protect our forests and wild lands, our arctic wastes and our desert refuges. This year we will plant millions of trees, to suck up carbon and to provide shade and habitat, fruit and nuts, wood and mulch, quiet and beauty.
We will nurture our soil, for building healthy organic soil is the best and fastest way to broadly and safely sequester carbon. That soil will grow healthy food close to where we live, creating true abundance. We will support our farmers to make the transition to humane, organic agriculture, and support our young people to connect to land, to start urban farms and schoolyard gardens, to plant groves of fruit trees and food forests, to grow true abundance for us all.
We will root our industries and enterprises back into local communities. No longer will we subsidize, with cheap fossil fuels and tax breaks, their flight to far-off places with the cheapest labor and the most lax environmental and safety standards. Instead we will demand that they provide for real needs in ways that assure lives of dignity and security to those who do the work. We’re redesigning our cities so that people can live and work, learn and enjoy their pleasures in true community.
We can do this—and more! Imagine how it will be, next year and in years to come, when I can stand before you and say:
This is the State of our Union—we have fed the hungry, cared for the sick, comforted the aged, restored the homeless to their homes, sent our young people forth into life well-educated and debt-free, built thousands of acres of healthy soil, planted a billion trees. We are still challenged by the results of generations of degradation, but we have turned the corner. We’re well on track to an energy-rich world of 100 percent renewables. We’re happier, healthier, more creative, more inventive, safer and more secure. And most of all, we have that wonderful feeling of unity and enthusiasm that comes when we work together.
God—Goddess, Creator, Great Spirit—whatever you want to call it, including our collective human power—bless this great country, and blessed be you all!
Starhawk, committed global justice activist and organizer, is the author or coauthor of twelve books, including The Spiral Dance, The Fifth Sacred Thing, and The Earth Path. Her latest is The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups. She is a veteran of progressive movements, from anti-war to anti-nukes, is a highly influential voice in the revival of earth-based spirituality and Goddess religion, and has brought many innovative techniques of spirituality and magic to her political work. Her web site is www.starhawk.org. Starhawk was recognized as an Utne Reader Visionary in 1995.
Editor's note: This post originally appeared at Dirt Worship, Starhawk's blog on earth-based spirituality, permaculture, magic, politics, activism, and Paganism.