Before I tell you about Erik Hagerman, a man “living a liberal fantasy” as a story in The New York Times suggests, I want to encourage you to listen to this week’s podcast, which includes conversations about 5G cell technology, hypersonic nuclear weapons, misconceptions about organized Labor, and the exclusion of Black and Indigenous farmers from America’s history books.
I don’t know Erik Hagerman. I imagine I’d like him as a person, even though I strongly object to what he’s doing.
What’s Hagerman doing? Well, nothing, sort of. After Donald Trump’s election in 2016, Hagerman went on a news fast — what he calls a “blockade.” He vowed to avoid learning about anything that happened after the 2016 election.
Hagerman had been a corporate executive at Nike. He made a bunch of money and decided to retire in his early 50s, buying a farm in Ohio. He begins his day with a 30-minute drive to get a cup of coffee. To make sure he doesn’t hear any news while at the coffee shop, he listens to white noise through headphones. The baristas are careful not to talk about anything newsworthy around him.
It takes a lot of effort to keep Hagerman ignorant. In 2017, he visited his brother. To remain insulated from reality, the Sunday newspaper had to be hidden, the TV switched off, and his brother’s kids and visiting friends were told to, basically, walk on eggshells.
But Hagerman says he’s making up for his abdication of civic responsibility. He bought 45 acres that used to be a strip mine and is putting in a lake there to “restore” the land. Well, it turns out the land’s already been restored. As the Times article points out, over the course of several decades, the strip mine has been “reclaimed by nature — deer, beavers, salamanders and canopies of majestic trees are thriving.”
Only by virtue of money and privilege is Hagerman able to create and sustain this sanitized alternative reality. Avoiding current affairs is a luxury most of us couldn’t afford, even if we wanted to.
Black Americans? Good luck avoiding systemic racism.
Immigrant families? Good luck ignoring anti-immigrant policies, the hateful rhetoric of President Trump, and the imposing wall being built along our southern border.
West Coast residents facing unprecedented fires? Good luck avoiding policy discussions about oil and gas subsidies, about rising global temperatures, about rising sea levels, about a president whose solution to wildfires is better forest management.
If you live in a state ravaged by fire and toxic air pollution, and you aren’t a person of wealth and privilege, you can’t escape to a farm in Ohio and ignore the news.
Not only do we in the US have the opportunity to take action, we have an obligation to do so. It’s our duty. Our civic responsibility. What we CAN do we MUST do, not only for our fellow Americans, but for our fellow humans around the world, and for the other species on Spaceship Earth whose survival is threatened because of our actions.
Perhaps the strongest voice for civic engagement is … Erik Hagerman himself. In that Times story, Hagerman says, “I had been paying attention to the news for decades and I never did anything with it.”
Well, that’s your first problem, Erik. You should’ve done something. Because as my friend Miriam Kashia likes to say, “Action is the antidote to despair.”
Hagmern goes on to say, “The first several months of this [blockade] thing, I didn’t feel all that great about it. It makes me a crappy citizen. It’s the ostrich head-in-the-sand approach to political outcomes you disagree with.”
Enough said! There you have it folks, from the mouth of the man who checked out big time. Don’t be an ostrich. Don’t give up. Don’t abdicate your responsibility to make a difference. Get involved. Do it now, while we still have a basically functioning democracy.
Here’s our line up, with time stamps:
(01:31) Climate Report: Are you checked in or checked out?;
(13:34) Concerns about the health, safety, and impact on historic neighborhoods of 5G cell towers, with Jack Porter, founder Sherman Hill Neighborhood Association;
(26:47) Hypersonic nuclear weapons, with Liberty Potter, research intern, Physicians for Social Responsibility;
(38:51) Tackling misconceptions about Labor, with Mark Cooper, president South Central Iowa Federation of Labor;
(52:38) America’s rural history excludes Black and Indigenous farmers, with Kathy Byrnes, Birds & Bees Urban Farm.
CLICK HERE to watch our segment with Kathy Byrnes.
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