An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].
Monday, September 06, 2010
The Politics of Fear in Prince George’s County
Sadly politics in Prince George's County is rarely about the issues but rather always about the cult of personalities. Instead of debating differences in positions, some of the political class tries to make the pressing issues of the day disappear in favor of sign stealing and assorted non issue tricks of the political campaign trade such as information obfuscation. While things are bad at the council level campaign, it is worse in the county-wide executive race. Here issues do not matter at all. The history of race relations "colors" the political calculus, and one candidate may win by taking advantage of the split with in the African-American community. Environmentalists, conservationists and preservationists are lining up behind the candidate who is supported by the same interest group that wanted to develop east along the Patuxent. At this point, the traditional environmental community that has no connection to the existing African-American communities and rarely addresses issues of environmental justice wants to elect those who believe development consists of paving our way to prosperity.
Meanwhile, the traditional African-American power centers are fighting each other much in the same way that Baltimore fights Prince George's County in State policy questions rather than building a coalition of political dominance. By having two strong determined candidates focused on one another, the possible front runner is allowed to finesse his divergent constituents' positions and needs It is amazing that environmentalists have so soon forgotten the way of the world under the previous administration in their haste to latch onto a personality with whom they feel comfortable at the expense of their ideals and causes.
Which candidate do we really think is going to protect the last open spaces? This is the question that is not being answered. For many it is a needless question for they see plenty of land crying for development and pavement. Which candidate do we think the "land development at any cost means prosperity" special interest is more likely to support? The inability to talk about development as the only tool of economic prosperity of course presumes that land is infinite. The short term thinking has no plan for what happens when all the green space is covered, because the interested parties will have made their money and moved on and out. Instead of debating the pros and cons, I hear conversations about intellect and judgments of personal capabilities made by people from afar through the lenses of factoid journalism handed out in 30 second sound bytes.
So let me be clear: the issues of development and the environment are being subsumed by issues of race and class. This is outrageous, unfortunate and dangerous to the future of the county and its ecosystems that provide services to all the people who live here. Which team of interest groups will be more likely to defend green spaces and river ways, clean air and clean water, parklands and natural areas: those from the administration that came before the Johnson team or those who struggled to right the environmental wrongs and set us on a new course of action. Who is going to stand up and say no to more pavement and concrete in the rural tier and work to bring true quality of life development to our established communities beyond the building of an occasional strip mall or industrial storage units?
Prince George's County is steeped in the politics of patronage, in itself not a necessarily bad thing, but here taken to an extreme. Once one publically endorses a candidate woe is to him if his candidate does not win. So we speak not of issues but of personalities couched in the racial code of intellect and charisma ignoring the actual discussion of the best policies for the county. Should we develop the rural tier? Yes or no. Should we encourage more mall retail services into our developing tier? Yes or no. Should we be concerned about the demands on our service infrastructure development in the south county will bring and who will pay for this over the long run? How come it is more cost effective to build a new mall than to rehab and old one? How can we bring quality jobs through business development initiatives to our established communities instead of encouraging more bedroom subdivision development for people who work outside of the county? The discussion and debate between those who believe in developing everything and those who believe in limitations on developments as a sole economic engine is a necessary and needed conversation with the truth most likely being somewhere in between.
In the end, politics in Prince George's County is based upon fear born of history and kept alive by self-interests. Fear of having no influence, fear of race and fear antagonizing the land development industry and the unions. This fear is why we steal campaign signs and why we are constantly chastised by the Washington media which, through its negative reporting, encourages the fractured, parochial politics that infest our discourse and actions in Prince George's County. We are better than this Prince George's; we have nothing to explain to anyone; we have only to stop being afraid.