The ‘New American Way’ and cohousing

 

american-way

Superman’s American Way can be updated by applying cohousing secret sauce.

Cohousing Nation, by definition, lives a “New American Way” that emphasizes the good of the community over that of the individual; accepting that all people are different and all are welcome and valued; power and strength are replaced by consensus and shared decision making.

As such, I’m convinced that cohousing communities have the potential to bridge cultural divides that continue to plague our country today.

The average cohouser has at least some social justice blood running through their veins. I think change will have a better chance of happening by efforts by cohousers.

Why?

The data define a typical cohousers as having these characteristics: high perceived social class, high income, highly educated and 70 percent of the time a white women – pretty much a typical member of the dominant culture.

What if cohousers, who largely are members of the dominant culture, and can be gatekeepers who work together and become allies with marginalized groups, rather than marginalized groups trying to break through the glass ceiling, with few allies there with a hammer.

Inclusion will happen organically as the dominant culture becomes more inclusive.

I’ve been presenting diversity and cultural competency workshops and trainings for 25 years for a variety of public agencies, nonprofits and most recently for cohousers.

My approach has evolved and changing again, this time into: “c🕉munification” (cOMunification) training that has a focus on cultural and societal power and privilege dynamics and how only personal change can balance those out.

Remember the old 1950s TV show, The Adventures of Superman? The narrator told my friends and me to model Superman’s can-do behavior because, “he fights a never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American Way.”

Superman’s “American Way” is based on rugged individualism; cultural divides narrowed by assimilation; and quests for power and control.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the “Old American Way,” I think it needs to evolve along with society and one way that can happen is through a collaborative approach that results in truth, justice and a “New American Way.”

I continue to believe that racism, as we know it today, began in 1526 when the first people from Africa were enslaved to work at a short-lived settlement in South Carolina.

Public awareness of differences among people, particularly since 1964, enflamed simmering racist attitudes that continue to exist today.

I think people want to change and do what’s right, but based on the audiences I’ve met over the years, most people don’t know how to go about it. Personal change doesn’t happen over night and like anything else that requires better skills, it takes practice, and letting go of personal privilege isn’t exactly something people are too crazy about.

lincoln emancipation

It’s been just 154 years since Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation.

The current political climate didn’t create racism, it makes it socially acceptable to reveal previously hidden beliefs that oppression of the weak was what, historically, made America great.

Considering America has a 339-year history enslaving people (1526 to 1865) that’s more than double the 154-year history, at least on paper, since President Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation (1865 to 2019).

While I think it will take a couple more generations, there have been small steps forward in recent years that will continue, but I doubt there will be any giant leaps.

First, some background. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted, United States citizens – primarily African Americans – were legally “more equal” than they were in reality. It soon became clear that attaining actual equality among people had a long way to go.

That transition led to Affirmative Action in job hiring that provides quotas for racial diversity. After workplaces changed complexions, a need arose about how to better understand diversity that brought about “diversity training” to define the various cultures with the hopes that more information meant better acceptance by the dominant white culture with no systemic changes.

As the population, and subsequently the labor force, has become more multicultural around race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation, diversity training that defines demographics is evolving into “cultural competency” training, which is more about understanding one’s self and changing personal perspectives about others, as opposed to getting other people to be like you.

Why I think social change will take a couple generations is because there is a long-standing national culture that’s advocated for racial homogeneity dating back to the United States Naturalization Law of March 26, 1790 that limited naturalization to immigrants who were, “free White persons of good character.”

eo 9066 big

FDR signed Executive Order 9066 that forced Japanese to register and be sent to relocation camps in 1942,

In recent times, rampant American xenophobia was stoked after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the round up of 112,000 Japanese who were herded into 10 “relocation” camps; and the 9/11 World Trade Center bombing that seeded the current Islamophobia epidemic.

The current political climate continues to fuel a growing fear among 30 percent of the U.S. electorate that the country will soon lose its 1776 version of American cultural identity.

Current events around over-crowded detention centers for illegal immigrants and those seeking asylum are indicators why we need to become better cultural change managers, rather than controllers of cultural change.

secret sauce

Cohousing secret sauce can undo the Old American Way.

Cohousing is a market-based solution to the immigration crisis that has beset the United States since at least since the Immigration Act of 1924 that had as its unsaid, but expressed purpose of maintaining the racial homogeneity of the United States.

What does that solution look like? Cohousing brings individuals together to form a community.

Housing is housing, but what differentiates cohousing from other housing configurations is the “secret sauce” that mixes several ingredients. The recipe can be altered to meet differing tastes:

  • Relationships – Neighbors commit to being part of a community for mutual benefit. Cohousing cultivates a culture of sharing and caring. Design features and the neighborhood size are typically between 30 and 40 homes that promote frequent interaction and close relationships.
  • Balancing Privacy and Community – Cohousing neighborhoods are designed for privacy as well as community. Residents balance privacy and community by choosing their levels of community engagement
  • Participation – Decision-making is participatory and often based on consensus. Selft management empowers residents, builds relationships and can save money.
  • Shared Values – Cohousing communities support residents in actualizing shared values.

A certain ilk of the citizenry, mostly Baby Boomers and older, who experienced the Cold War, will try to reposition the conversation by calling intentional communities “creeping socialism.” Granted, this is a lifestyle that’s not for everyone.

I’m not talking about over throwing the government, but rather reacting to how the general market is changing because it’s basically less expensive to live more collaboratively (higher density neighborhoods) and sharing resources (five households don’t each need a lawnmower).

The rugged individualist and free-market capitalists are unwilling to share their wealth and as such, the market reaction is toward cOMunification.

Student Loans

As of June 2018, Forbes reported that total US student debt was $1.52 trillion and that 44.2 million people owed debt. The average student debt is $38,390.

My observation, Millenials and GenXers who are a generation or two removed from World War II are more accepting of individual differences and more supportive of the collective good out of a need to survive.

Being saddled with the the national debt of their parents, grandparents and great grandparents; forced into a college tuition system that will keep them under the thumb of Wall Street until they are old and gray are two reasons why young people are de-commodifying the American Way.

The tenets of a New American Way would say a home is where we live, not an investment. The only time a house should be commodified is when it’s time to move.

Rather than saying, “The yard needs more trees because it will increase our property values,”  The New American Way perspective is, “The yard needs more trees because they will improve the places where kids can play.” As a side benefit, property values may increase.

The cohousing brand of community development is also a hedge against unchecked gentrification, which is one of those jargony terms that get thrown around and used in various contexts.

I define gentrification as what happens when people or businesses look for real estate deals, purchase urban property that may or may not be distressed and update them without much collaboration with existing neighbors.

The data are these.

Cohousing communities consist of members who predominantly liberal, highly educated, high income Caucasians women with high perceived social class who, I think, are a more open to bridging cultural divides by “undoing” the Old American Way from within.

That is to say, members of the dominant culture who live in cohousing, have agreed among themselves to change their perspectives towards a New American Way.

Communification logo-1

“Om” is sanskrit that basically includes everything – past, present, future; beginning, middle end; emotionally and physically.

The end result of cOMunification, by definition, is an attitudinal paradigm shift by members of the dominant culture who have agreed to increase cultural diversity in the wider culture, one cohousing community at a time.

This doesn’t happen by public policy but by community-based societal change:

  • The group is more important than the individual
  • smaller and less are better
  • decisions are by consensus giving a voice to all, including minority positions
  • there is recognition that everyone is different and all are included

While the tenets of cohousing are noble, they are easier said than done since the American Way is pounded into our heads from the moment we pop out of the womb.

melting pot boiling

The melting pot is no longer a relevant metaphor.

In the 20th century, the United States was metaphorically characterized as a “Melting Pot” in which races and ethnicities would learn English and assimilate themselves into homogenous Americans.

That was true during racial segregation when the pot contained white cheeses like swiss, edam, gouda, and feta, they blended together to make a mixed pot of white cheese.

Immigrants from Europe who all looked like each other, had the old American Way ahead of them after they learned English and otherwise assimilated.

These days, the country has become racially and ethnically multicultural as a result of immigration and can be a part of the New American Way.

Today, the blended food metaphor would be more like a “Tossed Salad” consisting of separate fixings like frijoles, cassavas, napa cabbage, and all kinds of lettuce that are unified with a common dressing.

In my mind, that common dressing is the cohousing cOMunification secret sauce, soon available at a farmer’s market near you.

‘Beyond Heart Mountain’ book about Japanese in Downtown Cheyenne available Feb 19th

bhm 1-1What happened to the Japanese residents and businesses on West 17th Street in downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming?

It’s not just about the demise of the once vibrant Japanese community in a small town in Wyoming that thrived from the 1920s through the 1960s, but about how downtown areas can be revived by adding new life to them with people.

The story is a historical memoir told through the eyes of the author, a Sansei generation Baby Boomer Cheyenne native, Alan O’Hashi.

The story arose from a Cheyenne Historic Preservation Board decision to allow the demolition of 509 W. 17th St. with the condition a cultural and historical survey be done about the Japanese community that flourished in the 400 and 500 blocks of W. 17th St.

John and Jim Dinneen are constructing 12 townhouses in the Downtown Cheyenne neighborhood.

Check out a preview of the 50 page picture book by opening the YouTube link.

The release date is the “Day of Remembrance” on February 19th, which commemorates 77 years since President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that required internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry.

O’Hashi O’Holiday soups – O’Zoni and O’Yster Stew Redux – 2015

Christmas Eve with spiked eggnog and oyster stew.

Christmas Eve at the Hunter’s with spiked eggnog and oyster stew.

Christmas Eve got away from me. By the time I got around to getting to the store it was after a party in Longmont. Turned out that the only place open after 7pm was Target.

These days, I mostly get practical stuff for Christmas – laundry soap, floss, toothpaste, contact lens solution.

As for the 2015 Christmas Eve oyster stew, I had to settle but the concoction was good, not great.

In the recipe below that I wrote about in 2014 substitute canned for bottled oysters. 

Since my parents died, I’ve been having to retool my December holidays.  We used to have a standing rib roast with all the trimmings on Christmas Eve.

On New Years Day, my grandparents were the focus and they always had a big spread of American food like turkey, ham, yams and Japanese-type food like sushi, abalone salad, tempura shrimp and veggies.

Can you still get Bisquick?

New Years Day morning, my dad always would have cooked a Japanese soup called ozoni. It varied from year to year, but generally it had a fish base (dashi) with napa cabbage and this fish cake stuff called kamaboko. Sometimes he would cook up a chicken soup. In any case, there would be a couple mochi (pounded rice into globs).

New Years Day, in front of the Boulder courthouse on Pearl Street, some Japanese guys who work over at the Sushi Zanmai restaurant, bring rice and big wooden mortars and pestles and pound rice into gooey mochi and serve it to the onlookers with a bowl of miso soup.

mochi pounding 2009

Mochi pounding on the Pearl Street Mall in 2009. I haven’t been able to find if it’s happening this year.

I just read that Sushi Zanmai cancelled the mochitsuki event due to cold and snow. Maybe it will be rescheduled. Here’s a picture from the mochi pounding back in 2009

My Japanesish tradition now isn’t really a tradition, since I make a variety of soups from Christmas to New Year and add in a couple mochi cakes with each serving.

New Year Ozoni I’m making this year a kind of “surf and turf” soup with chicken and shrimp.

Alan's Ozoni

Add a mochi cake and kamaboko slices just before serving, otherwise the mochi can disintegrate in the hot soup and the kamaboko gets discolored by the broth.

You’ll need this stuff:
8 oz of fresh or frozen peeled and deveined shrimp (I use the frozen ones in a bag)
12 oz of skinless and boneless chicken cut into bite – size pieces
4 cups chicken broth (this time around, I have a couple cubes of bouillon)
2 cups of water
8 mushrooms quartered up
1/2 cup diagonally cut celery
8 oz bean sprouts (snip off the bean head part, otherwise it will turn the broth dark brown / black)
1/4 cup diagonally cut carrot (I’m not much of an orange food eater)
1/2 green pepper chopped up
2 mochi cakes / bowl (I use frozen mochi from the Asian market)
4 green onions chopped up in 1 inch pieces
2 tbs soy sauce
pepper to taste

This is how you make it:

It is best served piping hot.

It is best served piping hot.

1. Thaw out the shrimp, if frozen. Rinse shrimp, pat dry and set aside. Spray PAM (I use vegetable oil) onto a 4 qt Dutch oven or other larger pot and preheat over medium heat. Add the diced up chicken and cook until no longer pink

2. Add the chicken broth and water to the pot. Bring to a boil. Add the shrimp, bean sprouts, mushrooms, celery, green onions and soy sauce. Return to a boiling; reduce heat until shrimp are done and vegetables tender.

3. Get the mochi ready. If it’s frozen, thaw it out either ahead of time or in the microwave. Mochi can be purchased quasi-fresh in refrigerated form. There’s also fine rice flour called Mochiko that can be pounded into mochi, less ceremoniously in the privacy of the kitchen.

4. Serve the soup and add a couple mochi globs on top of the soup and serve. Take some pix and let us all know how your ozoni turned out and have a Happy New Year.

The Silver Sage Village community, where I live, is having a New Years Eve thing at which everyone reminisces their pasts. My job is to set up the record player and get it to play through the sound system in the TV room. We’re spinning some discs from the past.

It should be fun for all us Baby Boomers.

As for Christmas, the last three years, I started making oyster stew. Apparently, it’s a tradition that throws back to Italians, Catholics and seven fishes.

Last year, I had all the ingredients in the fridge, which aren’t many, but I landed in the hospital and physical rehab for six weeks and didn’t get around to it until Super Sunday.

When I got out of the hospital, part of my occupational therapy was getting stuff out of the cupboards and refrigerator. It was quite a chore to grab and lift a gallon of milk, but I managed.

I tried making the stew and found out that oysters have a shelf life. They were totally disintegrated when they were cooked. It was more of an oyster puree That was on Super Bowl weekend.

This year – 2014, I bought the ingredients fresh.

Christmas Eve Oyster Stew turned out much better. Here’s the gluten – free recipe I used:

You’ll need this stuff:
3 cups milk
1 cup half and half
1/4 white onion
2 stalks of celery
four cloves garlic (more or less to taste)
one bottle oysters
4 tbs butter
salt, pepper (to taste)
parsley (optional, its for color)

This is how you make it:
1. Melt the butter in a pan or pot over medium – high heat; stir in the minced up garlic, finely chopped onion and celery; cook until soft (5 or 6 minutes).

Oyster stew on Christmas Eve.

Oyster stew on Christmas Eve.

Slowly add the milk and half – and – half stirring constantly; stir in the salt, pepper and parsley.

Reduce heat to medium until the mixture bubbles.

2. Add the oysters and the liquid from the bottle; cook until the edge of the oysters curl.

3. Easy Peasy – take a picture and tell how guests liked your version.

Oysters – raw or cooked – are an acquired taste. My mom made oysters by deep frying them and serving them with lemon and soy sauce on the side. I learned about oysters at an early age and have eaten them ever since.

No matter what your December holiday and New Year traditions and memories may be, I hope they are memorable ones.