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HATH writers in KY & MA on the New Administration

Editor’s note: Hands Across the Hills formed in Leverett after the 2016 election and bridged with Letcher County, Kentucky to foster understanding between communities that differed widely in politics and attitudes. Three long weekend visits to each others’ towns and continuing Zoom meetings keep the dialogues, conversations and friendships growing. In this installment Mike Gover of Eastern Kentucky coal country and Jim Perkins of Leverett share their views of the current administration. This is the second in a series of dual essays on topics meaningful to both communities.


My Turn: A Kentuckian looks at the new administration

I don’t know the exact level of division in the country or here in Eastern Kentucky, but I know that it is deep. The dividing lines are not clear, so I will call them “left” and “right.” I don’t like categorizing us this way, but if I am going to try to explain my area’s reaction to the election of Joe Biden, I can’t think of another way. “Left” means generally agreeing with the Democrat party ideology, and “right” means generally agreeing with the Republican party ideology.


If our country is in fact divided, then I would say that Eastern Kentucky may be slightly more “right” leaning than the rest of the country but not much. I have visited many other places in the America and some places in other parts of the world, and I don’t see humans as different as one might think even though our cultures and appearances are quite different.


I think most humans generally want the same things on a basic level. We all want a safe, nurturing world for ourselves and future generations. We seem to have wildly varying perspectives on what that should look like, on what our current condition is, on what our condition should be like, and on how to get from where we are to where we would like to be.


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Kentucky-born Mike Gover, like his father, made his living from the coal industry. He has served 17 years in administrative levels in local government. He raised four sons in Whitesburg, and has volunteered and mentored at Oneida Baptist Institute, a boarding school, for the last six years.



My Turn: A Massachusetts liberal looks at the new administration

I wasn’t a supporter of Joe Biden during the Democratic primary season.


I liked Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. I thought of Biden as a “middle-of-the-roader,” too old and set in his ways to tackle the big issues, even if he had the desire to do so. Our country is in deep crisis, and we Americans are on course to lose whatever democracy we have managed to build over the passage of our history. It is not democracy when power rests in the hands of a few fabulously wealthy people and a growing majority are losing ground, insecure, powerless, scared, and agitated.


Our lives are playing out against the onrushing menace of climate change. Global warming creates conditions causing farmers to fail, forcing them to pull up stakes and become refugees. Sea rise already threatens some low-lying cities and island nations. Fires, hurricanes, drought, and floods become more frequent and severe. That humans are the cause is increasingly difficult to deny.


The great tasks of our time are to make peace and to create a fairly shared, modestly prosperous economy operating in harmony with the needs of the natural world in which everybody has a comfortable, secure, fair share. There is good reason to fear that these tasks are impossibly large. It is tragic when politicians divert us from the work that needs to be done now, acting out our anger, frustration and despair, shining searchlights on people and groups of people to blame and hate while enabling the powerful to double down on their profit-producing, world-destroying ways.


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Jim Perkins has been a teacher, preacher, farmer, anti-war activist and nuclear resister. He is a founding member of Hands Across the Hills and for eight years served on the Select Board (governance) for the town of Leverett. Jim raised his children on a 300-acre farm in Upstate New York and now enjoys cultivating flowers and vegetables in his Leverett gardens.

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