Politics and Cheese

Summer Solstice.  Eight years ago, I was preparing to embark on a journey to the Northeastern European country of Estonia.  I’d read that there, it is considered bad luck to go to bed the night of the Solstice.  But since I was still in Indiana, at my Aunt and Uncle’s house, I went to sleep in a camper out back to a thunderstorm brewing in the distance.

Should I have stayed up?  Had Estonia already crept into my mind, in a place it still lingers, unwilling to let go?  I oftentimes yearn to go back there, to wander the narrow streets of Old Town Tallinn, and re-explore the romantic castle of Kuressaare, set at watch over the Gulf of Riga, forever waiting for invading ships to appear.

It is possibly the biggest regret I have in my life: that I didn’t stay when I had the chance.  At the end of my visit, I was encouraged by my peers to stay; English speakers were in demand to teach English to Estonians.  But I’d returned to the States because I thought I had to for some reason.  And here I am, eight years later, missing it and still desiring to someday live in a foreign country and learn the language in full.  It could have been then, but I guess I wasn’t ready for it.  …and you know the story: things happen for a reason and who knows where I would be now if I had done that blah blah blah…

Eight years ago, we were in the last year of the Bush administration.  Can you believe that?!  Only eight years ago.  I remember how cautious I had been upon traveling to Europe and revealing myself as an American, because I had heard that many Europeans have negative views of us.  A few weeks later, I sat on my Couchsurfing host’s couch watching reports of “The Americans” celebrating Independence Day on the 4th of July, which then clipped to footage of anti-Bush protesters.  I was surprised when my host later told me that Estonia actually supported us in the Iraq war and had troops there with us.

Except for one of my French companions on the farm I later WWOOFed at quipping that it was sad that most Americans don’t know more than one language and some punks on the streets of Riga, Latvia, calling out to me “Hey American!” (I later joined them for vodka shots), the rest of my stay was uneventful, at least as far as my nationality goes.

I’d again travelled abroad in early 2010, to the Caribbean, on a boat full of Texans.  Obama had been in office for about one year at that point.  The people in the places we visited saw us as mostly dollar signs and weren’t up-front with critiques of our country.  Of course, I didn’t stay long enough in these places to meet those who might be.  I haven’t been abroad since the era of Obama set in and I wonder if the attitude would be different, and how quickly perceptions change.  I guess it might depend on where I went in the world.

I did two things this past week: I read through old journals of mine from 10 years ago, and I became immersed, once again, in politics.  So much so that I had a three-day weekend and did not make cheese!

Two things I discovered while reading through my journals.  One: back then, I most likely would have LOVED Bernie Sanders.  I had just graduated from college and my head was full of idealism.  I’d gone to Colorado to live in a tent and work on an organic farm and the pages of my journals were full of rants about the environment, corporations, and the need for a revolution!  Two: I had stated, all the way back then, that I wanted goats and wanted to make cheese.  It was written as more of a whimsical afterthought than an actual goal at the time, but it was there, brewing in the back of my mind, nonetheless!

I have been going through a bit of a lull, as far as cheesemaking goes, lately.  After my workshop when I was introduced to many different cheeses and acquired my cheese press, I have to figure out what my next project will be.  I’ve grown a bit tired of my usuals: quark, paneer, ricotta and want to get into something different, but can’t settle on what exactly, which halts the process of getting necessary supplies, etc.  But maybe lull time is just what I need.

Summer heat has set in and my mind has been a-buzz with politics.  It is so easy to sit at the computer and go down the rabbit-hole of article after opinion after commentary.  I have realized my truth, defended it, and am on the verge of (dare I say) revolutionary revelations.  About our country and the way our political system works… things my self who would have loved Bernie Sanders ten, probably five years ago even, would not have given consideration to.

Which is correct and what happened to change my opinions?  Is it correct to base decisions on who should lead the most powerful nation in the world on ideals alone, or should the realities of how our Democracy works and who best to work within that system be taken into consideration?  During the fervor of caucus night, I’d forced myself to blanket such realities in a heavy cloak, realities that had been screaming at me from years of watching Obama try to accomplish anything with a stagnant, Republican-controlled House, and blindly forced myself to join my friends in screaming “revolution”!  …but I never really believed it.  I wanted to, badly, which was why I so relentlessly kept prodding my “true believer” friends on Facebook, begging them to give me what they could see but I couldn’t because I suddenly felt like I was the boy’s sister in the Polar Express who could no longer hear Santa’s sleigh bells… but I was never satisfied with anything they (or Bernie) had to offer.

So what happened?  Age?  Maturity?  Republican boyfriend?  A disillusionment with the more extreme hippie ideals and convictions?  Mostly, I believe, it’s that I’ve realized that extremism in any form isn’t good, which is probably the biggest thing that turns me off about Bernie’s message and the fact that it’s amassed a legion of supporters who now can’t fathom compromising in the slightest, or even listen to another person’s opinions, if it’s not something they will 100% agree with.  We saw that with the Tea Party and now here on the Left, we have our own, “Liberal Tea Party”, government shut-down, nothing gets accomplished, “my-way-or-the-highway” (much like Bernie’s political career).

So what to do?  Watch the mold on my cheese grow and ponder which cheeses to make next… maybe a cheddar to press and age for 4-8 years.  God help us if Trump gets elected (though I highly doubt he will, Hillary’s got this); but think what our world perception would be then?  After 4-8 years, we shall bring out the cheddar and see how good or bad it tastes.  I don’t want to hop on the “move abroad if Trump wins” bandwagon, but it might be as good of time as any for that journey…

Instead, I think I’d rather stay here with my cheese (and hopefully some goats?!) and work with others on building a true Democratic “Revolution” from the ground-up while Hillary holds down the fort.  But that’s just me.  Revolutions, like a good, hard cheese, are not created overnight: they take time to mature, age, and ripen.  That is when they taste the best.

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This cheese, like this revolution, is just beginning (see the fuzz beginning to form on top?!).  I think I might stay up all night tonight.  For the luck, even though I’m not in Estonia.  Happy Solstice.

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