History Is About Community & Perhaps Stardust
A letter came in this week from a friend of the Journal. It had been written on behalf of a CEO for a top online retail company marketing clothing for women and juniors who stated matter-of-factly that he's "grown increasingly concerned about the cyber bullying and body shaming that I have seen online." His response? To travel throughout the U.S., delivering dresses to underprivileged girls and bring in speakers to talk with them about building a positive body image.
We've heard some call such talk politically correct. We here feel it's more a matter of character, and the sort of beliefs that bolster strong communities. It's about reaching back beyond the tyranny of now, and all that's popular for making money, to stronger precepts and concepts... the sort of things our history is still filled with if one looks closely, with the acumen to sift through myths to get at the ways Americans have always faced challenges, and their own weaknesses, to better ourselves.
We have also been receiving emails about the need for local communities to acknowledge their history. They came with suggestions: that we work to do a better job reaching out to all our schools to include local history; that we better reach into our communities through their civic, social, and religious organizations; that we unearth the music and theater our communities have created over the years; and that we include today's civic and political involvement as part of an historical continuum.
Furthermore, our historians are telling us, we need to pay better attention to, and preservation of, all elements of the "physical fabric" our communities are woven from, meaning more than just the highlights, but the ways in which our communities incorporate nature, different ages and backgrounds, and walkability. We need to remember all our buildings' histories, as well as those of our roadways, our water sources, our religious and social backgrounds.
Did you realize that just up the road from here was America's first Utopian Jewish agricultural experiment. It only last five years in the 1840s, but that fact alone speaks to something in our landscape that has always spoken to dreams and aspirations. Or that some of the key moments of the Civil Rights movement occurred in Kerhonkson, that Pine Bush was once known as a hotbed of Confederate sympathies, and that much of our film language was first tried out just south of the Basha Kill?
These things are part of who we are. They're shared. They are about community, and reach beyond studied or dogmatic beliefs in how we think the future should unfold.
On which subject, to close, we have to commend the state for its new program ferreting out those who underpay employees by ignoring prevailing wage recommendations and laws for public works projects. Turns out the Mid-Hudson region is New York's worst offender after the western portion of our great state.
Why is this important to us? We recall discussions of these matters when matters were being hammered out for economic development in the region set to be paid for by New York City. Local officials said they didn't want to pay downstate wages. They prevailed and the result was years of stagnation only now starting to shift as urban transplants build new lives, and businesses, that draw from the local talent pool as well as those elsewhere. Things do even out... and knowing our economic history CAN allow us to break bad habits and succeed in new ways.
But let's try closing, again, on a more upbeat note. How about the fact that the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair in Sullivan County has finally been officially placed on the State and National Register of Historic Places? Seems we finally made it past those days when many in the region still scoffed at that instant city of 400,000, feeling it was more an aberration than a youth-filled miracle, a short-lived Utopia, with bad trips and rain as well as great music and a sense of half-formed dreams realized beyond hopes.
Hey, with Bethel Woods, it's become part of our contemporary economic scene. But also a reminder of the draw our region continues to have for several worlds.
Yes, we are stardust! And we may yet make our ways back to the garden...