Teri Orr: Random thoughts from the week’s news feed
Some days the incoming noise lands so fast and nonstop I want to cover my ears and divert my eyes. It is summer officially now — I should be porch-sitting and trail moseying and digging a bit in the dirt.
But I am over-stimulated by the news that surrounds me even more than the smell of my flowering lilacs. I feel obligated to worry and consider my responsibility and what can I do, what should I do, what will matter if I don’t do it, to be a responsible citizen on planet Earth.
Locally, I know the traffic issues are real and growing. But the Utah Department of Transportation’s latest solution on how to better move more people — from Quinn’s Junction into the center of town — lacks the nuance of having any of the humans involved who will be impacted by dramatic cuts to the land and by the possible elimination of existing business spaces. The recent hearing had a total of — I think — zero residents — speaking out in support of the exact proposed changes. All the while these same concerned folks are conceding the current route is clogged and broken. The town has always been a kind of box canyon with limited access in and out due to our geography and weather conditions and most practical solutions. As we learned this winter when Interstate 80 was closed one stormy day and Google sent folks up the mine road. Where 18-wheelers had to be rescued trying to forge a path onto an impassable pass at Guardsman before that road was closed down also.
In contrast — is the land not yet saved as open space abutting the Armstrong barn and the snow meadows that could be developed for nearly 50 new homes. Since the 1990s this community has had the tradition of buying up open space, and we are richer for the preservation of the land moat we created. But a longtime resident surprised me this week when he said maybe we had purchased enough land to remain open and maybe we should be purchasing land to create housing to care for our young working families and those who want to age in place here and find step-down housing. He feared the number of second-homeowners was crowding out the essence of a community of full-time contributing residents. Those you see at the market and the Post Office and the liquor store. I have to admit I struggle with my love of open space — which defines the West — and my love of community made up of all flavors of people.
And just like that — on my news feed anyway — comes a story about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that state regulations about controlling the sales and shipping of liquor are not valid. The Feds win over states’ rights on this one it appears. And while we don’t know yet the implications of what that means — it looks like those folks who have been driving to Evanston to pick up their shipments from wine clubs from various postal options could be able to have them shipped right to their front doors. Can you imagine how normal that would be? Me neither. All my years in Utah have been a dance between the quirky laws and the quirky folks who work a myriad of ways around them.
As background noise as I was really to trying to do chores around my house, I had the Democratic presidential debates on for two nights. And I was struck by the new world order of refusing to stop speaking when asked and the need to shout into the cameras. These behaviors were not defined by age or sex or even the weight of their words. It was a kind of expected pushback rudeness that nearly every candidate felt required to exhibit. The news anchors seemed overwhelmed in their attempts to maintain order.
Another quick check on my news feed showed a wildfire had started in Spain because a pile of manure had self-ignited in the extreme heat. It is perhaps an apt metaphor on the state of our lack of attention to climate change.
The story of Mackenzie Lueck — the missing young woman in Salt Lake City — has taken a dark spin and instead of focusing on where exactly that young woman might be — the drumbeats have reverted to the ugly game of victim shaming — questioning her lifestyle choices as possible reasons for her disappearance. She is missing. Her family and friends are distraught. Find the young woman. This was the same kind of misinformation and misdirection that caused kidnapped Elizabeth Smart to be lost by law enforcement for nine months. She hadn’t run away from home — she had been taken out of state and tortured. Stop the speculation — just find Mackenzie.
There are other stories for other columns that I don’t yet have the full energy to tackle. The anger and shame and frustration and embarrassment and fear I hold over the situation of the children who have been become the tired, dirty, sick, mistreated, huddled masses at our borders seeking refuge — are the ghosts of all our collective relatives who came here seeking a better life. Our responsibility to our ancestors demands we not stand idly by while this national tragedy unfolds on our teeming river shores. We need to lift our lamp as Lady Liberty — that gift from the French — would demand. And we need to fight like hell for those kids to be treated humanely. The ghosts of our great grandparents are expecting us to repay the kindnesses shown them … and therefore us. This is not about anybody’s politics. This is about everyone’s humanity.
Random thoughts … all these … offered for your consideration this Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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