8.15.2011

WHY I AM WRITING AT SLOW LOVE LIFE ABOUT POLITICS AND THE ENVIRONMENT: A MANIFESTO, SORT OF!


There's been an interesting and provocative thread of commentary around my recent post about Governor Perry as a candidate, or another about prayer and drought. The comments pick up on thoughts that have been expressed whenever I write about politics or the environment. I've decided, rather than answer in comments, as I normally do, I will answer in a post, so I can better explain what I'm doing and why.

I have to admit that I've been fearful--or perhaps shy, or hesitant--of approaching political issues. I've never done it before, publicly--or rather, not since high school and college, when I became a feminist. When I went into the working world, I put politics to the side, and chose to make a difference in my career by modeling "break the ceiling" behavior--and expanding choices for other women.

But these days, I find myself thinking a great deal about what's going on in the world. I watched the moonrise over the marsh, and thought about how my time is passing. My children will inherit what we leave behind. What am I doing about that?

Just because I want a life that bends towards gratitude for the small things, (which makes them big things!) doesn't mean that I want to lean away from the large, communal activities that citizenship requires. If anything, I lean in harder, now. The more deeply I fill with gratitude for this gorgeous world, the more fiercely I want to protect it, fight what threatens it, do what I can to make things better so that my children can have the same blessings bestowed upon them that I have had.

I've thought about starting another blog, one that is pure politics. But you know what? Right now, at least, I don't want to buy into that old dichotomy--that the person who cares about and takes seriously her house and garden is not the same person who cares about her home in this garden of a world. I think I can find a balance here--just as I have to find one in my life.

There must be a way to be a "slow love citizen". For me, that means first, I learn about issues--which is fun, exciting, interesting. That's one reason I share what I'm learning here. Of course I read the counter-arguments--though frankly, I can't see an argument in defense of pollution, or poverty. (I do, however, know full well that there are many ways to accomplish the same goals--and in some things I bend leftward, in others, quite rightward.) Second, I keep my moral compass firmly in place: what makes life better for people? what causes harm? what distorts reality, where is the truth? Then I take my stand--and that's what I write about here. My stand.

I have not waded into these subjects without carefully examining the waters. And I see that they are deep, indeed. Political and environmental issues make waves. These days, even writing about light bulbs is controversial. I've recently dipped a few toes into the surf--partly to see how I like writing about these subjects (very much) and partly to see how readers respond (also fascinating.) I don't even mind the riptides.

These are turbulent times. A wobbly economy, in which we watch our savings shrink, is terrifying--especially to those of us who don't have full-time jobs. Unemployment levels are frightening--and they loom larger to our children. The waste and pollution we generate is staggering--and every month we learn more from doctors and scientists about how those contribute to poor health--and death.

I have some insecurity, or hesitation, in speaking my mind on these subjects--and yes, sea glass is easy by comparison, till you start to wonder about all that plastic...But I think it is necessary to speak up, to learn together, to argue, to make choices and take stands. To learn how to talk about subjects that are often divisive. We should be able to do that.

It is one thing to be uncomfortable with talking about politics at all. It is another to be uncomfortable with an opposing opinion. I'm trying to learn how to engage in these subjects with the urgency they demand.

Frankly, I think we should all be developing and practicing ways to approach politics that get us beyond the name-calling, the stomach-heaving nastiness, the destructive, superficial and distorting rhetoric. We should all be helping each other set our moral compasses: what's important in keeping our bearings? We will find different, equally legitimate paths to get to the same places--but what's important is, where do we want to go? --as individuals, and as a country.

I'm sorry that some readers are alienated by the inclusion of politics and the environment in this blog--but then again, I can't think of a single publication, online or off, in which I agree with absolutely everything that has been included--subjects or opinions. And I'm delighted to engage with your thoughts and opinions. You'll let me know when I'm off on my facts--or my tone.

I have to live with myself--and the self I am now feels morally compelled to speak up about difficult, unpleasant, and even frightening subjects.

I like to think that this blog is big enough for all of life, from sea glass to glass ceilings to debt ceilings. All are welcome to read, skip, delete, unsubscribe and come back! All are welcome to comment on any subject--regardless of political or aesthetic persuasion.

Bear in mind: the slow love life is neither slow nor escapist--not all the time, anyway. We're all caught in the mad, maddening, thrilling swirl of work and love. We all want to learn how to dig deeper, ground ourselves. Total escapism doesn't do anyone any good--including the person who has put herself into hiding.

You can shut the doors and windows, lock the garden gate, tuck yourself into an exquisitely-appointed bed--but no matter what you do, you live in a big, booming, buzzing world that is going to touch you wherever you hide. It is a world that urgently, more than ever, needs intelligent attention, and the generous care of our hearts and souls. Let's keep talking.

55 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Amen.

And onward.

Madgew said...

Right on as we said in the 60's.

frances palmer said...

Beautifully written. It is so hard to glean the truth through the news. Perhaps these sorts of discussions will clarify what is really happening with the world.

laurie said...

I have read, cried, laughed, been moved and informed by all you've written for years. My primary motivation for keeping my subscription to House & Garden was most definitely for the editorials- which are torn out of long discarded magazines and filed for late night re-reading. Please keep sharing your thoughts about EVERYTHING. It is with great heart that you impart your perspective. And we surely need that on a wide array of subjects- most definitely politics.

Jerry said...

Your best posting yet! Thank you for standing up for what you believe, this adds an enormous amount of credibility to your blog.

Tricia O'Brien said...

Dominique,
I agree, whole-heartedly, with your blog piece. We have to be political if we want to see positive changes. We cannot shrink away from our collective responsibility, even if it makes us uncomfortable. It is ok to have opposing opinions and that is what makes the world go round.
However, there is no place for fundamentalism in any culture. It alienates people, creates a division that is uncrossable and is destructive to our culture. We needn't look to the Middle East for it, we have it right here our country at the moment. Whenever anyone puts their opinion above all, HOUSTON, we have a problem!
Thanks for your slow Love Life blog...l.it keeps me sane. Tricia

Mimi said...

You go girl! We all need to speak our truth... with love, kindness, honesty, and compassion. xo

profA said...

Blogging should be enlarging for the Blog-keeper as well as for us readers. Why shouldn't you care as much for the environment as for sea glass or Hancock Village, or beautiful vases, or your dear friends and family. The one blog informs the next and the blog before. We are the richer for that and I thank you.
I am deeply appreciative of the thought and attention you lavish on your readers.
That there is sometimes spirited posting in the aftermath is a glorious tribute to the principals our country holds so dear.
I look forward to each post not because I can predict what it will be or how I will respond, but because I know the process will be delightful and
that my little grey cells will be fully engaged. Post on, please.
Linda B.

Judith Ross said...

Dominique,

Thank you for this thoughtful post and all of your previous ones. I greatly enjoy the conversations you spark. You continue to model "break the ceiling behavior."

Peony said...

Bravo Dominique...well done. I was upset by the nasty comments to your post on Perry, particularly since two widely-read bloggers in the interior design subject area addressed patently mean-spirited comments during the last week, as well.

Ann said...

Like Laurie, and many others I'm sure, my favorite part of seeing the monthly House Beautiful arrive was the anticipation and reading of your editorials.

IMHO you have always written about the intersection of caring about, creating and tending beautiful personal environments and personal engagement with the larger political environment we all share.

That you share your knowledgeable, insightful, questioning, activist journey here with such humility, grace and exquisite writing is a gift to all of us.

You are so right, there is no real separation between the personal and the political.

HUZZAH for you, please keep it up!

Valerie said...

I am persuaded. Thank you.

Lost in Provence said...

Hurray! Oh, this made me so happy to read. One of the things that I forgot to mention in my fervent comment yesterday is your subheading: "a conversation"--I can't wait for it to continue during the rocky times for our country that are most certainly ahead.

One of the things that I admire here in France is that folks have no qualms with speaking up, with taking to the streets to demonstrate. Sometimes it works, sometimes not but at least they feel that they are a part of their culture, not a victim of it.

Merci!

Mary H. Miller said...

Thank you for taking a stand and sharing your thoughts with us. You are doing Exactly the right thing, and I applaud you for it. I don't always agree with everything you say, but I thoroughly enjoy the way you push me to think about things from a new perspective. Keep up the good work.

Beth said...

Right on! What are our lives if we're not speaking our truth...?

Well done, Sister!

My Dog-Eared Pages said...

Perfectly stated. It's hard to understand why a reader feels compelled to unsubscribe for not agreeing with some political opinions expressed here. And, the world does need our urgent care. BTW, I rarely find sea glass on the beaches of Newburyport any longer; but boat-loads of plastic after an ocean storm.

Cheryl Baptista said...

Well, Dominique, this last posting has compelled me into looking into joining up with the "Moms". It is an issue I care about, though what horrifies me most these days is the terrifying accumulation of trash, particularly the plastic kind. Thanks for the prod.

Lisa Stockwell said...

It's obvious from some of the comments on your earlier posts that the home and garden topic transcends politics. What would be wonderful is if your political columns could provide a forum for those with differing opinions to voice them. It's human nature to listen only to the viewpoints we already subscribe to, but we don't learn much from that. While I am personally afraid of someone who puts our government in god's hands, when we should have the capability to clean up the mess we ourselves have created, I'd love to hear from those who don't agree with you about why (rather than simply that they hate your column).

That said, there is a place for your meditative columns on home and garden. They aren't trivial. They provide a great respite from the chaos that surrounds us and are as useful and important as the political ones.

Anonymous said...

Lisa Stockwell says what I had tried to say earlier, but I so obviously lack the writing skills to communicate clearly. I, too, am interested in comments that may disagree, but only if they inform rather than insult. Dominique, keep writing about all your passions. Your blog is a gift. Thank you.

- A Texan

Leslie said...

Garden plot=>mountain top, conservation is conservation. We've got an election coming up...it's your blog, you can opine if you want to!

Anonymous said...

As a Christian and a progressive, I have no problem with your post on Gov. Perry. It was insightful. Unfortunately, many Christians today confuse their "beliefs" as being tied to their "faith," in much the same way the Pharisees did 2,000 years ago in condemning Jesus.
I would encourage you to read some of the writings of Gabe Lyons, Tim Keller, Donald Miller, and Brian McLaren. They are bold enough to ask the question that if we as Christians are called to evangelize, why would anyone follow us if we are hateful, scorn the poor, and exploit our environment?
I pray that new Christians will engage to restore love, conversation, and help, not just use their faith to run for a political office.

Magistra said...

Thomas Jefferson wrote of a founding principal, "Truth is great and will prevail if left to her self; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition, disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate." The old democratic model for the promotion and dissemination of Truth was a nation of New England towns filled with well informed farmers. Now days it must fall to the web, the internet communities to continue the debate on presidents, policies and proposals. These communities, including this blog, are necessary for the "vital habits" essential for the survival and promotion of democracy-a platform to deliberate, discuss, and debate perspectives. Long may the conversation continue.

SuzyMcQ said...

Stand proudly upon the soapbox, Danielle. On occasion remind us of the gardens that surround it, your family and friends who rally around it and continue, always to implore us to discover all that encompasses life and love, however slow.

Wendy said...

Well, you can't please everyone so you must only be true to yourself. I believe there is a real need for more civil (which I have always found this blog) discourse regarding politics and the environment. I am also feeling a lack of modern political protest songs; if you are so inclined.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. When we do not connect with people with opposing views we are lost. We have surely become a nation of far too many people reluctant to air informed opinions. Please carry on and know that your thoughts are respected, as is your right to air them.

Most sincerely.

SweetRetreat said...

Bravo for standing firm. I hope you don't waiver.

I'm Canadian, not eligible to join Moms and won't comment on American politics, except to say that someone Rick Perry scares the life out of me. U.S. politics and leadership affect the world, especially a close neighbour.

Marianne Fineberg said...

Of course, one can't separate life from politics! I can't imagine SLL without an occasional post where names are named. Keep it up.
As for the sea glass issue; I have lived in the middle of Illinois farmland (our own Midwestern "ocean") for 35 years and watched as the number of plastic bags littering the fields and roadsides has increased to a frightening level. I see the combines tilling the fields in the spring, simply grinding all that plastic into the earth, and I fear some sort of leaching, if that is possible. Dominique, have you come across any studies about this issue?
Thank you for all your posts. Your writing is so clear.

Sallie Ferguson said...

I have read the other comments and they stated my sentiments so well that I won't repeat. This is just to say, "Keep on, keeping on," and thank you.

Candace Mann said...

as your fifth paragraph says, it is all about balance. there is no reason that a person whose expertise may be in design (or writing or art or ...) should be precluded from having an opinion about a political figure or matters of national policy. actually, it's a better world when everyone is engaged in those things that affect our world, not just a person who is labeled a politician or a pundit. i applaud your decsion.

Manolo blahnik said...

That was a great piece of information, I enjoyed reading it.

William said...

I've never quite understood why people get so 'offended' by reading political views of others that are not consistent with their own. Is freely expressing our views not part of the freedoms that we are afforded by the constitution? Frankly, I find the views of others whom I don't agree with to be the most interesting and engaging and challenging.

The Republicans are going to handily walk into the White House in 2012 - in all likelihood it won't even be a close race. I voted for Obama and I like him very much - but he is not doing it. He has lost his base and slowly he is losing the Independents that he needs in order to win.

The problem is not that a Republican will be President next year - in some respects it will be good for the country because 'business' trusts Republicans more than Democrats - the problem is that the Republican party has been hijacked by those who carry a strong 'social agenda'. A 'social agenda' is a strong contradiction for the party that claims to stand for individual freedom. Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman seem to be the only 2 sane ones in the field of contenders. It will be a nasty and unsettling process going forward through 2012.

The good news out of all of this bitter political divisiveness that exists in this country today is that maybe it is the beginning of the end of the two-party system. One can only hope.

2.8 BILLION dollars a week is being spent in Afghanistan for what exactly? and it is being funded by Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress and the White House and being paid for by all of us. Deomcrats who are supposed to be 'anti-war' and Republicans who are supposed to be 'fiscally conservative'. Enough is enough.

Warren said...

Thanks for getting us all stirred up. I hope that we can all agree and disagree politely. It will be harder and harder to listen to each other -- the examples we see all around us are truly depressing. Today it is about shouting loudest and not listening. I've learned a lot by reading you.

I am all for learning and improving from each other, not for tearing 'it' down and rolling it back. However, it is sad but true that economics like science have to build upon past experiences. On the other hand politics and politicians never seem to.

mary said...

I love that you are true to what you believe gives truth and life. Your voice grows more important with each post. Thank you for pointing me in so many directions where I can make a difference (however small). Be well. Mary

karen said...

good for you, Dominique- from a long-time admirer!

as you said:-this sums it up for you and for me too-Right now, at least, I don't want to buy into that old dichotomy--that the person who cares about and takes seriously her house and garden is not the same person who cares about her home in this garden of a world. I think I can find a balance here--just as I have to find one in my life.

You are one in the same person. I do the same thing myself- post about beautiful inspirational things- then post about a political issue that is something I have a strong opinion on- I suppose some think I'm schizofrenic, but YES! we all house these thoughts in one and the same body! great job, Dominique - and good for you!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

You are fabulous, as always. I agree with the others encouraging you to continue to be yourself, be true to yourself and KEEP WRITING (on all subjects you choose)! The world needs your voice and so do we. Love the positive conversations in the comments. Kind and polite, even when vehemently disagreeing is best! I look forward to your posts every day. Sheryl Finley

Raconteur, Southbound said...

I have read your blog with great pleasure and admiration since I read Slow Love Life ( and I only recently learned that we share an alma mater). This is my first comment.
I am also a blogger (just for friends and family to keep up with our sailing trip to the Caribbean) and ocasional FB poster, and I have struggled mightily with whether to write about politics-religion-social justice etc. I was happy to see your post about Gov. Perry, and think your post today is just brilliant on the subject of trying to integrate one's whole self. Thank you, as always.

Joeth Barlas said...

Having read all your books and enjoyed your insights and your candid uncertainties along the way, I, too, salute your assertion that our world, more than ever, "...needs intelligent attention and generous care." I do not consider myself "politically active", but we ignore the larger picture at our own peril.

May I add to the conversation a great article from the New Yorker, ("A Woman's Place," July 11/18 2011 issue) about Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. As she recounted her address to graduating Barnard women, she included a number of quotes that are apropos here: "As Barnard women we will never quit..." She remembered Anna Quindlan, a Barnard grad who "majored in unafraid..." and asked, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" And she added a call that echos the thrust of this post: "Lean in, do not leave before you leave. Work hard, stick with what you like, and don't let go."

Maureen said...

Change nothing, Danielle. You correctly point out that good citizenship does not end at the garden gate. I'm a firm believer in the immortal words of Mother Jones who said, "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."

I, for one, will read whatever you write and on whatever topic. Thanks for being so forthright!

Sandy Donn said...

Onward I say, with gusto! Voice your opinions with passion and keep to your truth telling without a whisper of guilt. It's your blog and your life!

Here's a female artist (Dale Wayne) who takes plactic bottles and turns them into beautiful sculptures. . .leads her class to create a gorgeous Christmas tree for the Orlando (yes, Florida) Christmas Tree Festival. Quite extraordinary...a good use for plastic bottles, not to mention the collection of them. http://www.artprize.org/artists/publicprofile/91443

I just wanted you to see this as I thought of you immediately when viewing myself. That's the beauty of blogs...they send you somewhere! Thank you so much for your writing and passion.

Magistra said...

A poster leaving a comment regarding your earlier entry on Perry, invoked the name of Molly Ivins, who once wrote, "You can't ignore politics, no matter how much you'd like to." Which I must think is the point of your "manifesto of sorts"; that we all must be engaged in shaping the conversation if there is to be any hope of progress.

Doug Hein said...

I'm puzzled a bit by people's reactions to political topics on this blog. I'm not interested in all the topics discussed ($100 neckties to name one), but it's Dominique's forum. She gets to write about her passions, whether it's bespoke neckwear or the environment. It's unlikely her readers will be interested in all of the them. We're in a world full of trouble right now. I would be disappointed if a smart person like Ms. Browning didn't write about it.

Dona M said...

Thank you a million times over for using your gifts of clarity, of vision, of caring, along with the ability to put into words so many thoughts, feelings and fears for the future that we all share.
Please just "DO IT" become a political voice in this insane time.

karenleslie said...

the CNBC boys were yukking it up this morning, ridiculing warren buffett who thinks the rich should be paying their fair share of taxes. hmmmm... what a concept. but the boys at CNBC just thought that was hilarious. can't we do better than this in discussing subjects that deserve gravitas, rather than frat boy style joking?

marilyn said...

Thank you for the blog. I have never visited here before and have to say that I really like the respectful way that you have entered into a conversation about life and the political world. Thank you for having the courage and boldness to do that.

Maybe it is time to take a blogging lesson from you. What's more important......to show pictures of my garden or to show pictures of the plastic-one-time- bags that line the fence rows in our rural area?
Again, thank you.

Karen said...

Dominique,
Thank you for your perseverance, civility, thoughtfulness and voice of reason.
It would be beneficial to the whole if more individuals put as much learning and reflection into their opinions and comments as you do.
Karen

flamingodancer said...

Yes, yes, YES! I am glad that you are showing that women can care about home, and the world, and other people outside their own family at the same time. That we have a global perspective too! We are multi dimensional and not shallow little shopaholics.

I am woman, I do think!

jen said...

thank you for speaking your truth, dominique...this post is beautiful and EXACTLY what's been on my mind lately. it is not our responsibility to please all the people all of the time but to boldly go where it is not always pleasant to go...the earth needs our voices.

as bloggers, mothers, women, citizens, humans and sentient beings, it is our right, privilege, and duty to speak up in defense of the planet and share our truth.

thank you for your work in the world.

may you be well.

peace,
jen

Priscilla said...

I can't put my finger on it Ms. Browning, but something has changed in you to be so soulful, so introspective, so mindful of even the smallest joys of watching the moon over the marsh. It's like you are watching a life clock tick and you want everything on your mind to be said now.
I can't decide what I make of your foray into politics (and religion by choosing Perry as your dead-center target) but for me, it changes the dynamics of this blog. You say, on one hand, that you want to be above name calling yet you singled out Perry, an easy target for many, because he not only wears his religion on his sleeve, but he takes a stand on many issues that you find repugnant. Sooo, if you have decided that politics is now a part of your blog, let's find an honest an open format of sharing our thoughts on Obama too, on the bus tour that we taxpayers are paying for, on the fact that his buses that are made in Canada, on his failed economic policies. I don't think you can open the door to politics and religion and let it be a one-way street.

Anonymous said...

The best read on your blog so far, you are a joy to follow, keep it up.

Aaron (Great Dixter)
XXX

sandrajonas.com said...

FABULOUS!! There is nothing left to add to the above comments.
I am in accord.
Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps rather than nitpicking Mr. Obama, who has done all that is humanly possible to be decent and balanced in an impossible situation, it would be good to consider how things are likely to be when one of the right-wing loonies takes office.

Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, Interiors said...

Well said: Dominique!

Betty Kurecka said...

It's a few posts late but thank you so much for letting rest of the world know what Rick Perry really is. I live in TX and it scares me so that he may actually be elected to the Presidency! Please keep up the good work and the great blog. I read them all.

Thea said...

Did anyone see "Too Big To Fail" on HBO? That scared the heck out of me. Not because we were on the brink of financial disaster - but the arrogant selfish, egotisical, testostermoronic behavior of the bankers, w streeters and blithering politicians. eeergh! Honestly, we just need a woman president and the Hil better get out there cause Bachmann isn't going to cut it. Even Palin is better than she is. Why do these people think they own God? See? This is why I need my garden gate locked at the end of the day. And sometimes at the beginning, too!!

Judith Ross said...

If you can be brave Dominique, I can too.

http://open.salon.com/blog/judith_a_ross/2011/08/22/the_end_of_summer_maybe_its_a_new_beginning