by joe courter
The clichéd expression about living in interesting times has been in my head recently. These times certainly are interesting, full of highs (some) and lows (a lot) as things have been playing out.
The horribly predictable election results followed the historical trends nationally, as the 6th-year election of a two-term President is usually pretty dismal for their Party, but this one sunk lower with the rather horrid lack of fight over principles such as preserving Social Security exhibited by the Democrats. The type of folks who can afford to run for office, the consultants they hire, and the media happy with the system that enriches them leaves us with depressing choices for the most part, especially higher office. However, our little blue dot of a county ran strong though, so yay for that, and Medical Marijuana showed strong support at nearly 58 percent statewide. Let’s see if there is courage in the legislature; so many people will benefit so much. I got to see something for the first time in late October, and that was a very visible International Space Station pass overhead with the evening sun lighting it up brighter than any star, traveling from NW to SE, at a pace not that different than what an airplane appears to fly, but in actuality going about 17,500 MPH!! Couple that with the landing of a European space probe name Philae on a comet (!) named 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and you have just marveled at what humans can do. Both of these, for me, are real highs. But these same humans can also create some horrendous devices, practice barbaric acts on each other, and choose to deny or ignore science and empathy in favor of superstition, vengeance, and greed. When the space program sent craft to the moon decades ago, one of the bonuses was the pictures of our beautiful planet; browns, blues, white and greens, demarked not with artificial lines but rivers, mountains and coastlines. And now with the Cassini spacecraft, Earth can be seen as a dot of light as seen from beyond the rings of Saturn.
Speaking of Earth, the denial of the overwhelming evidence of human-caused climate change on our planet continues, and will have a further “boost” with one of the most anti science Senators, James Inhofe, lined up to be chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. This should be interesting. Another low in science appreciation was the completely hysterical response to the ebola outbreak in a relatively small part of West Africa. The “high” on this goes to Kaci Hickox, the courageous nurse who refused to knuckle under to the hysteria and fought back against her drastic quarantine restrictions. She did more to bring sanity and science to coverage of this disease outbreak than most of the largely fear-mongering media.
Okay, no more lows … Post-election too many people seem to be wallowing around and feeling down. I want to point out and give credit to the many just plain folks in this town who are putting together lasting endeavors on the cultural front. Much as the beloved Hippodrome Theater, which began as an optimistic acting troupe in an abandoned 7-Eleven on Hawthorne Road in the mid ’70s, there are equally optimistic people making positive change downtown. On their own. And in doing so creating community spaces which should be lasting assets to our town. North of University Avenue on Main Street you have The Top, the Atlantic, The Wooly, and the Bodega. By investing and reinvesting, they have created a great hub of activity. Likewise, Boca Fiesta, the Palomino and the Backyard, all right next to the Hipp, have taken neglected spaces and built a great thing. Same thing 4 blocks south with the South Main Arts Complex with the CMC, Wild Iris, Co-op, and Sequential Artists Workshop. Smaller creative spaces are popping up elsewhere, too.
Nothing speaks of the special buzz in this town like The Fest, and #13 was a huge success. Hundreds of volunteers, great planning by No Idea Records, and this year the fantastic cooperation of the City to trust the organizers with the use of the Bo Diddley Plaza led to over 7,000 people from all over the country and world having a great, trouble-free time.
There’s a saying about “Pessimism in the head, optimism in the heart.” The heart of Gainesville is beating strongly. Get out and feel it.