The Gales of November Come Early


November is Ride the Bus Month in the greater Bangor area. I’ll be writing a series of pieces on the Community Connector bus service. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, there’s another event in November we’ve all been anticipating for some time now. The Community Connector will provide free service on November 8, all day, to anyone. Make sure to get to the polls and vote for bus-friendly City Council candidates, those who have expressed support for later hours and improved service.

Slower Traffic is not a political blog. The long process of weaning Americans from car dependence is, or should be, a bipartisan issue anyway. It is smart fiscal policy and good for the environment. It promotes individual health and spawns new jobs and new community development. You don’t have to be liberal or conservative to see this.

But there’s so much invective flying around in these last weeks that some of it even hits harmless little blogs like this one. I especially get flak when I write about the rights (and plights) of bicyclists.

I’m ready for the arguments to stop, and for us all to take a deep breath and to realize that compromise is not a bad thing. Then perhaps we can get to work making things better. More public transportation means more options and more available parking for everyone – a win for drivers and non-drivers alike. Increased bicycle traffic leads to safer, better-marked roads, another win-win. As I wrote last week, transportation policy should nudge people gently away from their cars. Not all, or even most, will respond, but some will, and everyone will benefit.

The same principle governs our politics in the best of times: compromise between regional or ideological differences, leading to workable solutions. These are not the best of times. This endless election cycle has been dominated by talk of revolution, accusations of election-rigging, threats of jailing political opponents, sleazy sexual pasts. It’s been ugly.

I think the word I’m most sick of hearing, and reading, is “hypocrite.” I’m sick of seeing it spelled wrong in online comment sections, for one thing. And I’m tired of seeing it used as the first line of argument, on everything from guns to climate change. We seem to have lost the sense that public policy has nuance, that it is often complicated, and that public officials, like the rest of us, don’t always match their actions with their ideals.

I’m a hypocrite 20 times a day. I believe in preserving the environment, but just yesterday I used a plastic fork and tossed it in the non-recyclable trash when I was done. I’m committing heresy to my cause every time I borrow or accept a ride in a friend’s car. Worse – I’m a freeloader. I wouldn’t work in a slaughterhouse, but I’ve eaten many a burger that began in one. We should be courteous to one another in our day-to-day interactions, but sometimes I want to snap at the rude bus rider a few seats away yakking on a cell phone.

None of us are ideologically pure. And is rigid adherence to an ideology what we want in our public officials – or in our friends? Why do we demand it of our public officials?

In a few weeks the hysteria of the presidential election will be over, and we can all go back to being friends. It seems that the level of hysteria rises with the level of the office. Local elections aren’t usually that rancorous. That’s because the candidates are your neighbors, people you might see at a bar or an event, faces you can talk to about the need for longer bus hours and better bicycle infrastructure. They are real people interested in solving real problems. We often lose sight of that in the media storm that surrounds a national election.

Meanwhile, there’s a new bike rack outside the atrium at the reopened Bangor Public Library. A gift from Bangor Greendrinks, Lowly the Bookworm Bike Rack doubles the bicycle parking capacity in the immediate area, and manages to look good doing it, too.

For some reason this pleases me, in this rancorous season. People coming together in small groups can still get things done, and move the world forward in small ways. I want to see more of that, after we’ve weathered the gales of November.


Hank Garfield

About Hank Garfield

Hank's writing has appeared in San Diego Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Downeast, Bangor Metro, and elsewhere. He is the author of five published novels, and is now seeking a publisher for his recently-completed novel, A Sprauling Family Saga.