How affordable cohousing can unite a divided America: ‘Get Up Off the Couch!’

ssv gardening lindy rica 2017

Cohousing residents share in the upkeep and maintenance of their communities through a collaborative, sharing, caringand consensus culture, 24-7-365.

Above, the cover photo was taken in Memel, South Africa. Former CoHoUS board member Steven Ablondi and his wife Cindy Burns are building cohousing there to help fill the housing gap in post-Apartheid South Africa. They are teaching construction trades and use “rammed earth” blocks to construct the homes.

America has always been a country divided. What is it about cohousing that can close those social and cultural divides?

Cohousing, as a national m ovement, is just beginning to come to grips with the potential influence intentional communities can have when influencing social change efforts.

In fact, the Cohousing Association of the U.S. (CoHoUS) is exploring retrofit, adaptive reuse alternatives to traditional cohousing that is largely accessible to people with lots of money and time.

Check out the “Affordable Conference on Affordable Cohousing.”

I provide this historical information to provide context about how cohousing can have an impact on making social change happen.

When the United States were founded, never in their wildest dreams did settlers from Western Europe think that there were local people freely migrating across what is now the southern border, or coming and going along the Pacific Ocean coast.

Today, the divides are more apparent. In my view, on one side of the canyon are those who haven’t been paying attention to those standing on the other side who see themselves as being increasingly disenfranchised since the end of the Cold War.

Life was good for main stream Americans during suburbanization following World War II. Beginning during the 1960s, their sense of privilege was challenged by legislated civil rights for people, primarily African Americans disenfranchised since the Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society that brought about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Then Affirmative Action was viewed as a program that took jobs and college placements away from the dominant culture as ways to level the academic and employment playing fields.

In the 1930s, the two main political parties flipped ideology. The Republican Party that included Lincoln, was once the party of inclusion and a strong national government, which evolved into the opposite, when Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal grew the federal government to pull the nation out of the Great Depression starting in 1932.

Seems that now, party identifications are flipping again. The Republicans are now the party with a galvanized working class base, while the Democrats have become the party for a highly educated, but fragmented elite class and have lost it’s historic New Deal base.

What does this have to do with affordable cohousing, diversity and inclusion? Those include an infinite number of subtle intersections and collaborations around class, race, ethnicity, ability, gender, sexual orientation, etc. It’s a daunting task to deal with each of these differences on their own.

I’d say that every cohousing community has as a value, one about diversity and inclusion. Based on the conversations I hear about these topics, there’s a sense of frustration around what to do.

Living in cohousing changes the way each of us looks at the world and how we better accept people different from ourselves. Affordable cohousing results in greater diversity.

I’d say, people are generally uncomfortable about discussing personal issues and views around Superman’s American Way, money, race, class, gender identity, sexual preference. But those discussions are key to forming strong and cohesive communities – intentional or not.

While the bricks and mortar of cohousing are the buildings where residents live, the individuals who form a community are the most important aspect.

alan-shoveling

Cohousing members chip in their time and effort to keep the community operating 24-7-365.

I live in cohousing and while, at least in my experience, it’s far from perfect, the intentionality brings neighbors together to work through tough issues – even though some may be on the petty side – like do we get rid of that old chair or not – they might as well be matters of life and death.

The upshot is, if there’s a housing configuration that is suited to forcing conversations among divergent opinions it’s cohousing.

There are 170 existing communities and 15,000 residents. The typical cohouser are characterized as: Caucasian; having high perceived social class; high income; high levels of education; progressive; 65 percent of the time an introvert; 70 percent of the time a woman.

To me the biggest frustration about cohousing is this. Cohousers by definition, because we’ve chosen this collaborative, cooperative, consensus-based lifestyle, we should be able to organize ourselves into some higher “saving the world” purpose.

  • Changing Superman’s American Way, we are driven to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, make a lot of money and be on top. These cultural norms create roadblocks for the advancement of caring and interactive communities beyond what is familiar.
  • Cohousing communities, by definition, bring diverse people together.¬† Cohousers look at their personal histories and make changes so as to become more inclusive as opposed to just believing it’s a good idea and how to outreach to diverse communities.
  • There are institutional barriers such as city councils and planning boards Cohousing “burning souls” create and maintain high-quality conversations and relationships personally, in community, and with city and county planners with innovative projects.
  • American culture of rugged individualism precludes cohousing from entering the mainstream as it has in other countries. Cohousing is just starting to go viral. There are untapped numbers of diverse people who are parts of the “non-traditional” cohousing demographic and learn ways to approach that market.

According to the Cohousing Research Network, retrofit cohouser demographics are more likely to include: more racial and ethnical diverse; lower and middle perceived social class; low to moderate income earners; progressives; more single mothers.

The cohousing movement can become a catalyst for positive change including, non-traditional and diverse cohousing communities that bridge the gap between the left and right, the haves and have nots, in the U.S. today.

Sign up today for the Affordable Conference on Affordable Cohousing. There’s a little something for everyone.

With 300 million guns circulating how can people be deterred from buying more?

guns with history

This video is a good example of how the gun culture can be changed by people believing their own observations, rather than their perceptions.

We’re a gun culture and nothing will change that. I used to think otherwise until there was yet another mass shooting by another American, killing 17 school kids and wounding another 15 in south Florida.

I don’t know about you, but I’m growing tired of all this.

I suppose the positive is the out pouring of care – random people wanting to donate blood, heroic acts by strangers, prayer vigils, flowers left at the scene, public officials decrying the action, social media memes.

Before the Texas 26 and 40 wounded, were 59 dead and 500 wounded in Vegas, before that it was Congressman Scalise shot while playing baseball this summer.

Before that, it was the June 2016 Orlando Massacre – 49 dead and 53 wounded.

Before that was in October 2015 at Umqua Community College in Oregon that was shot up by another twisted buy with 14 weapons in his apartment.

Rather than more laws, how can the culture change?

There’s an excellent scenario that played out in Manhattan with huge impact. Prospective first-time gun buyers get their wake up calls about gun ownership. Watch it¬†here.

Buffalo Operation Rescue 1992

The gun control lobby should take a page out of the anti-abortion lobby playbook and start publicly shaming gun shop patrons.

The anti-gun lobby should take a page out of the anti-abortion playbook.

The anti-abortion lobby works hard to change the culture through grassroots efforts. It can’t pass laws that ban abortions, but put up roadblocks like strategic public shaming.

The pro-gun lobby says that more laws won’t keep guns out of the hands of anybody, let alone crazy people.

I acquired my hunting rifle from a friend. When I gave up the sport, I traded it to a guy who did some tile work.  I had a box of shot gun shells that I used for a movie prop and sold those at a garage sale. Guns and ammo are easy to come by Рcrazy or not.

I have to agree with that, particularly with 300 million civilian guns in circulation. One size does not fit all.

The crazies and bad guys get guns regardless of laws. The United States government is the largest consumer of firearms in the world, so it’s not backing off guns anytime soon.

newtown parents testifying

Newtown parents testifying before elected officials has fallen on deaf ears.

The politicos think that keeping guns out of the hands of crazy people is the answer. All crazy people have access to guns, but not all crazy people have access to mental health services.

That makes sense from a rhetorical standpoint, but I don’t know how politicians decide who’s the craziest, though.

Who’s crazier, McConnell or me? It’s a toss up.

It may be a personal choice to access mental health care services, but part of creating a new culture includes a social environment that makes seeking mental health services socially acceptable. Depression and other mental diseases are coming out of the shadows.

The POTUS 2018 budget slashes funding for mental health services which doesn’t exactly encourage people to seek services which are scarce. When a guy like the Vegas shooter knowingly goes up into a hotel with two dozen fire arms, that’s a public health issue.

While I’m sure that everyone personally deals with events like this differently, there doesn’t seem to be very many who are interested in creating the social and cultural change necessary to end gun violence.

I, for one,¬† haven’t followed the most recent Florida shooting much and end up watching the fake violence switching back and forth between Law & Order SVU and Criminal Minds.

Compared to anti-abortion zealots, the anti-gun group members don’t show the same long-term passion.

Before buying a gun, maybe prospective purchasers have to watch a video with bloodied up shooting victims. How about public shaming and protests in the rights-of-way of gun stores or on the public sidewalks in front of the Walton family homes.

Like the anti-abortion lobby, the anti-gun people should be grooming like-minded people to put in for appointed and run for elected public offices.

caleb keeter vegas

After the Vegas massacre, Kyle Abbott band guitarist Caleb Keeter posted this tweet after he was shot at during the show in Vegas.

I’m thinking that in the final analysis, the only people who get involved in trying to change the gun culture are those families and friends directly affected by the death or injury to a friend or loved one.

That’s a pretty small number of people and they can’t do it alone. The anti-gun lobby needs to come up with a higher purpose for their end game.

After Vegas, there was a country music guitarist, Caleb Keeter who had a wake up call after playing at the concert that night. He tweeted “I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment all my life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was.”

Knowing his market, he may well go the route of the Dixie Chicks.

After the most recent Florida massacre, I doubt any legislators will put forth much effort beyond strong emotional responses, particularly since nothing happened after the 59 dead were sniped in Vegas, 49 were gunned down in Orlando, 27 school kids and teachers murdered in their school, nine South Carolina church goers shot in the back, another nine gunned down in a community college classroom. I lose track.

Here are three ideas to help change the culture without having to take anyone’s guns away since that’s not happening any time soon:

Short Term: Go to the shooting range and take a hunter safety class – The United States is a gun culture. If you don’t want to fire a gun, at least go to a gun shop and handle one – they have a distinct smell, they are heavier than the ones Detective Benson slings around. I used to be a hunter, but that experience gave me an appreciation for the power of guns and a realization that animals don’t stand much of a chance against them. I felled an antelope, shot at a few deer which was enough for me – it was a right of passage for a Wyoming guy. The country was founded on violence. The Constitution was written with that in mind – preserving and protecting citizen rights over that of the government – not storming into people’s houses, innocent until proven guilty by the government, right to privacy.

The last thing the government is going to do is take away people’s guns. That’s a scare tactic, but a successful one since the gun lobby continues to grow and the sale of guns is out of sight, despite nobody taking away any guns.

Medium Term: * Civil Rights Laws – Unless authorities uncover some hidden agenda behind the recent Florida massacre shooter, what about an “asterisk civil rights” class? Acting strange and owning guns do not rise to the “probable cause” threshold. People who are observed to have weird behavior, say odd things, post crazy facebooks posts need to put on some sort of “watch list”. After Orlando, I heard a news guy talking about this on the Today Show. He asked a Homeland Security guy about what it would take to “asterisk” civil rights laws so that anyone like the latest Florida terrorist could continue to be watched and monitored even if there is no probable cause determined. I think the only time limited martial law was approved was by the antebellum Congress at the time of Abraham Lincoln.

Long Term: Reapportionment – the US Census will be completed in 2020 and new US congressional districts will be drawn as well as state legislative districts. The SCOTUS ruled in favor of independent redistricting commissions taking gerrymandering out of the political process. This is an opportune time to create competitive state and national districts and balance when considering potentially divisive legislation.

If you didn’t read this story last time or this time, I’ll re-write the lead after the next massacre.

Anti-gun groups should take a page from the anti-abortion playbook

 

abortion like guns

My friend Barbara May posted this meme shortly after the Umqua Community College in Oregon was shot up by a guy with 14 weapons in his apartment. Click on the image for a video about changing the gun culture.

The Orlando Massacre that left 49 dead and 53 wounded reminded me of a conversation some of my classmates and I had at our Hastings College homecoming reunion with Denny Storer, one of our political science professors.

That was in October 2015 – a week after an Oregon community college was shot up by another twisted buy with 14 weapons in his apartment.

Rather than more laws, how can the culture change? There’s an excellent scenario that played out in Manhattan with huge impact. Watch it¬†here.

After our reunion reminiscence about a poli-sci class we took on the road in Washington DC during January 1973, I had an ‘aha’ moment about the nexus between the 2nd and 14th amendments.

The anti-gun crowd should take a page out of the anti-abortion playbook.

The latter is pretty good about dancing around the constitution while the former doesn’t have a clue about how to create cultural restrictions around curbing gun sales.

The above meme is tongue-in-cheek, but tells the practical truth. There are 300,000,000 firearms circulating. I agree that laws won’t help much.

Changing the culture is the most practical and the anti-abortion crowd proves that.

Hastings College operates on a 3-1-3 class schedule that, in 1973, included a one month Interim trip on a long bus ride to Washington DC for a month-long “Legislators and Lobbyist” field trip class.

The advertised highlight of the class and trip to DC was the inauguration of President Nixon. An unadvertised highlight was the death of President Johnson. We stood in line and viewe his casket laying in state under the capitol rotunda.

What’s the upshot of this story?

Less heralded at the time, Denny reminded us about the SCOTUS Roe v. Wade decision handed down on January 22, 1973. The ruling held that women have a right to privacy and protected from unwarranted searches and seizures.
The anti-abortion lobby figured out that passing restrictive laws do stand up to constitutional scrutiny. They work hard to change the culture through grassroots efforts and pass laws that don’t ban abortions, but put roadblocks in the way coupled with strategic public shaming.

The pro-gun lobby says that more laws won’t keep guns out of the hands of anybody, let alone crazy people. I have to agree with that.

All crazy people have access to guns, but not all crazy people have access to mental health services. I don’t know how politicians decide who’s the craziest, though.

After the killing spree in Orlando, I had to quit watching TV because it was all about blood, guts (interviews with wounded people in their hospital beds) and superficial grieving (candles, flowers and facebook posts).

While I’m sure that everyone personally deals with events like this differently, there doesn’t seem to be very many who are interested in creating the social and cultural change necessary to end gun violence.

Compared to anti-abortion groups, the anti-gun groups don’t show the same long-term passion that would include protesting in the rights-of-way of gun stores or on the public sidewalks in front of the Walton family homes; grooming like-minded people to appointed and elected public offices.

I’m thinking that in the final analysis, the only people who get involved in trying to change things are those families and friends directly affected by the death or injury to a friend or loved one. That’s a pretty small number of people and they can’t do it alone.

If 27 school kids murdered in their school, nine South Carolina church goers shot in the back, another nine gunned down in a community college classroom, don’t move legislators into action, I’m not very optimistic that 49 more people killed in a night club will provide much impetus for legislative action.

Here are three ideas to help change the culture without having to take anyone’s guns away since that’s not happening any time soon:

Short Term: Feel the Bern and Get Out The Vote – The biggest thing Bernie Sanders can keep doing is get more of his supporters to keep registering more voters. The disgruntled Bernie supporters – of which I am one – need to get on with life and not support any kind of third party or write in candidate for president. If that’s too difficult, at least vote for Democrats down the ticket.

Medium Term: Limited Martial Law (for lack of another term) – I heard Matt Lauer talking about this on the Today Show this morning. He asked a Homeland Security guy about what it would take to “asterisk” civil rights laws so that anyone like the Orlando terrorist could continue to be watched and monitored even if there is no probable cause determined. I think the only time limited martial law was approved was by the antebellum Congress at the time of Abraham Lincoln.

Long Term: Reapportionment – the US Census will be completed in 2020 and new US congressional districts will be drawn as well as state legislative districts. The SCOTUS ruled in favor of independent redistricting commissions taking gerrymandering out of the political process. This is an opportune time to create competitive state and national districts.

I’m willing to participate in the short and long term ideas i’ve proposed. It will be interesting to see if there’s the political will to limit civil liberties, but I would think Donald Trump would be all over that one.

The black ops probably have the authority to do this, in any event.