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As we enter the transitional month of September, with the attendant autumnal shift and back-to-school dramatics, I’m feeling an undercurrent of cautious optimism, despite the gloomy economic events and forecasts as of late. Most unusual.

I’m not really sure how I came by this optimism stuff. I mean, how could I, with so many friends out of a job? Thanks to the priorities of the larger corporations, who prefer satisfying shareholders with larger profits rather than re-investing in America’s work force, national unemployment is still in the 10% range. It’s stunning how callous politicians and media are toward the unemployed lately, calling them lazy and parasitical; showing zero empathy or even basic Christianity, no “there, but for the grace of God, go I” at all. It’s cut ‘em off, make ‘em get whatever minimum wage jobs are available, take away their food stamps, free ride is over, pal. It’s for your own good, ya bum, this government money robs your initiative, y’know.

I have personally never known somebody who enjoyed unemployment, or used it as some kind of scam to fleece the government, and thus the taxpayer. Chances are good you haven’t either. Yet, you’d think these “deadbeats” populated entire states, the way the senators and AM jocks squawk. “We just can’t afford it,” is the prevailing meme, followed by “they don’t deserve it.”

Oh yeah? Well, here’s some things we REALLY can’t afford, but manage to: how about two senseless, expensive wars that will never ever be won in any conventional sense, that will only bleed the U.S.? Or continuing the Bush tax cuts, when restructuring those taxes back to Clintonian levels, (remember the budget surplus then?) could help national fiscal stability. Or allowing energy corporations to exploit and ruin land and water (and labor for that matter) indiscriminately for their own profit. I could go on, but really, helping the unemployed is totally fiscally doable, and it would be morally wrong not to, whether someone thinks they “deserve it” or not.

But I didn’t come here to rant. No, I was winding back to the inexplicable optimism thing. And I think I know why I feel it: it’s the people here. I’ve come to the conclusion that the folks of the Hudson Valley are really and truly there for each other, in a whole lot of ways.

How do I know this? Well, some of you might know that in my parallel life alongside Roll I’m a professional musician, playing with a host of different regional groups. This year in particular, one or more of those groups have been called upon to donate music and time to worthy causes frequently, often twice a month. And I can tell you that every time, many good people show up, funds are raised for needy organizations and causes. People have been quite generous, even though some of the folks attending were themselves not having the easiest time of it.

Though some benefits were for causes outside of the region (Haiti, The Gulf), most were for individual causes and the local service providers like Family of Woodstock and Queen’s Galley, which are staffed by incredibly giving people who really don’t care why you’re sick, hungry, and needing some assistance. They just give because it’s the right thing to do, and help make sure those who really need the help—be it food, shelter, job training, medical, what-have-you—can get it.

These folks and this valley are the source of my precious optimism, which will no doubt be sorely tested by the screaming media in the run-up to the midterm elections. Think I’ll unplug the entire month of October. Ah, but the sun is bouncing off Bonticou today, our recent CSA vegetable haul was off the hook, with a crimson bounty of (un-blighted this year—yay!) tomatoes. There’s music wafting up from Rosendale—someone’s out at the park jamming. Really love it here, hope you do too.

See you out and about! Chances are good it will be at a benefit somewhere. I’m the tall guy on the keyboards. With tomato stains on his shirt.

Cheers, Ross Rice
Editor, Roll Magazine

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