The Hook and The Ties That Bind: Thoughts on Political Struggle in America
The cool rainy weather returned after a brief, but sunny and welcome, break. I’ve been trying to talk myself out of consuming carbs, hoping for a flatter belly and firmer thighs this summer. Yoga a few times a week can only do so much. But I needed to bake bread today. I needed the zen of a time consuming slow food project. I needed the sweet smell of yeast and flour in the kitchen. I needed to get my mind off so many things that have been percolating in the background lately, making me feel ill at ease.
I warmed milk, butter, sugar and salt on the stove and combined yeast with a little sugar and warm water in the Kitchen Aid bowl. It took a few minutes for the yeast to bloom and the warm milk mixture to cool down enough to add it to the bowl. I sprinkled spelt flour into the liquids and turned on the machine. I stood quietly and watched as the dough hook circled around in the bowl, comforted by the familiar rhythm of the hook in the bowl and the low growl of the motor grinding away on the kitchen counter. As the machine did it’s thing, pushing the flour into the liquids and then shoving it all around towards the sides of the bowl, my mind wanted to create a metaphor that might connect the action in that bowl to the things going on in my heart.
If you’ve ever used a bread mixing machine, you know that things in the bowl don’t come together without some work. At first, the wet and dry ingredients get pushed down and out to the sides of the bowl, and as long as the dough is too wet, the dough hook just pummels away and keeps pushing everything aside. The ingredients get mixed but are not a cohesive unit, and everything continues to cling to the sides of the bowl as if to avoid the abuse of the hook. Kind of like life. We get pushed around by time and circumstance and we recoil. We pull away from the hard stuff and the pain. We retreat to a corner. We don’t want to get into the middle of that mix and be kneaded and knocked around by the hook. It’s easier to try to avoid it.
But avoiding the hook makes for a weak internal structure. Good bread needs a thorough beating to develop muscles, the gluten fibers, that provide strength to the loaf and give bread a chewy texture and a good crust. You have to slowly add more flour to the bowl, a little at a time, and let the hook pull and push and pound it until the magic happens and the dough abandons the sides of the bowl and clings instead to the hook. Without the addition of the proper amount of flour, the dough won’t coalesce, and you won’t make good bread. But once it forms itself around the hook, it holds together and gets stronger as the hook continues kneading away.
So here’s my take away from this. We need each other. We are being pummeled and we are clinging to our prospective sides of the bowl. We are not coming together.
Progressive Americans are taking a beating as they watch the things they value–a strong environmental ethic, an inclusive sense of community, and a belief in our shared responsibility to one another and to the world, being berated as un-productive, un-fair and un-American.
Conservatives are taking a beating as they watch an administration that promised to represent everyday working people cater instead to the interests of big business and the insatiable ego of the man they elected.
Partisan zealots continue to promote divisive agendas, some that embolden the worst and most extreme factions of right wing ideology and inflame unstable adherents to attack fellow citizens in the name of Donald Trump, further alienating moderates and liberals and feeding the resistance movement.
We are all being manipulated. The hook is pushing us and pounding us and the manipulation is not pulling us together, it’s pushing us apart. The idea that we can build walls and ban travelers and abandon long held principles of liberty, freedom and justice and in the process somehow make a good result from it makes little sense. Negativity begets negativity.
More exclusion, more division, more separation can’t possibly make us a more cohesive country, and without cohesion, we are not the United States of America.
Our president promised to make America great again. But he never told us much about how he was going to do it. He told us to trust him. And lots of people did. Now I see his “progress” and ask myself and everyone I know:
How does taking away meals for vulnerable seniors or school lunch programs for hungry children make America great again?
How does slashing funding for EPA programs that are cleaning up Puget Sound or Lake Michigan or Chesapeake Bay or toxic waste dumps make America great again?
How does opening up our national treasure of public lands to intrusive, ugly and potentially dangerous industrial extraction practices make America great again?
How does endangering peoples lives by raising health insurance costs for the sick and cutting routine screening exams and funding for pre-natal care and mental health services make America great again?
How indeed does this man’s vision of greatness–which has more to do with profiteering, branding and personal ego and less to do with any traditional measure of greatness–make America great again?
In the mean time, the hook continues to tear at us. Everything they tear away weakens us.
Today my dough came together beautifully. As I stood at the counter staring down into the mixer, I found myself hoping that Americans, too, can find something that brings us together beautifully again.
Like the addition of the proper amount of flour to the bowl, we need something to bind us back together and make us into something viable and alive and strong again. I can’t tell you precisely what that binder might be, but I know in my heart, it’s not what Donald Trump is adding to the mix.
©2017 by Ilona Elliott