John Howell Column

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 29, 2008

Thoughts on ‘New Normal’ include community activism

Community activism had long been woven into the fabric of our society before the presidential campaign of 2008 distracted us. We got so caught up in the argument about whether then-Democratic nominee Barack Obama’s background as a community organizer could be credibly cited as contributing to his executive experience that somehow the idea finds itself in danger of being disparaged.

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That’s behind us now, and as we face the daunting task of coping with these strange times of which these economic challenges are only a part, we need to think more about our concept of community activism. It’s nothing new; it’s something we’ve done all along. In the South and particularly in Panola County we like to think community activism is something we’re good at.

For us, community activism is often interchangeable with neighborliness. With each edition of this newspaper we see photos of community activists/organizers who’ve done something or the other to benefit somebody else. There’s usually a rash of it at Christmas time, but it goes on year-’round.

And we will likely need more of it as we adjust to the “new normal” of current economic conditions. More of us will need to be willing to step in to the assistance of the people around us. Again, nothing different from what we’ve been doing. Just more of it and a heightened, ongoing awareness that help for people who will likely be encountering various versions of economic distress will likely become less available from outside sources. We are going to become more dependent on each other in this community than we’ve been before.

The opposite of what I’m getting at might be best conveyed by recalling that ugly Black Friday incident at a Wal-Mart on Long Island when a part-time worker was trampled to death by a frenzied crowd waiting not to get their hands on food or water or some life essential which had been denied them to the point of deprivation but for televisions. That illustrates an every-man-for-hisself, devil-take-the-hindmost that our race can so easily devolve into.

But people will become active to help others in their community as long as they believe that what they are doing makes some difference.

We will need to keep that thought before us in the face of mounting challenges in coming months. We will need to help each other as we have always done even though we will do it imperfectly.