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Snow and Bush

John MelegritoBy Jon Melegrito
I miss snow.
And I miss George W. Bush.
If you’re looking for a connection between the two, you’ll just have to read through.
First, snow. Or the lack of it. I’m sure most people are relieved that our winterless winter spared us snow storms and the back breaking chore of snow removals. But farmers and gardeners like me are worried. No snow means that the subsoil moisture has not been recharged and restocked. With good subsoil moisture, all the water that vegetables need won’t have to come from the rain. Winter, with its cycles of freezing and thawing, is also the time for repairing and rebuilding. That way, when the rains come in the spring, the soil structure can easily soak up the precipitation. Soil will be soft and warm, full of air and water and life.

Well said, Terra Brockman, author of “The Seasons on Henry’s Farm.” She grows vegetables in the Mackinaw River Valley of central Illinois. Like Brockman, I also pine for deep winter and yearn for “the full measure of the hunkering-down season that is necessary for revitalization and rejuvenation of the soil and of the soul.”
For all the harshness of bitter cold and biting wind, of barren ground as hard as rock, winter allows cracks and crevices for water to sink down deep, where the roots are. After winter comes spring, a time of softening.

Which brings me to George W. Bush.
I’ve been worried lately that the harsh rhetoric spinning out of the GOP candidates for president may not change anytime soon, even as they try harder to compete for affection. Mitt Romney must curry favor with the Tea Party. But after his nomination, his advisers assure us, they’ll just hit the reset button: “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

Start all over again and declare himself a moderate, like George W. Bush? I suppose it’s perfectly reasonable to conclude, as some of his fans would say, that Romney aims to fulfill his father’s dream of being a compassionate conservative president.

But right now, there doesn’t seem to be a place for compassion in this race, which has featured supporters cheering the death penalty and crackdowns on undocumented immigrants. “There is a meanness to the way many Republicans talk about the poor these days that was not in vogue during the Bush years,” observes Amy Sullivan of USA Today. “What happened to compassion? … In 2010, Republican Senate candidates attacked programs such as Social Security, student loans and unemployment benefits, saying they made Americans lazy. The debates in this election cycle have also encouraged the turn away from compassionate conservatism. Led by Gingrich, the candidates have played to audiences hungry for red meat. These party faithful lustily cheer attacks and boasts, and they boo any statement that carries a whiff of moderation.” Recall how former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was savaged by the right for favoring state tuition breaks for children of undocumented immigrants. “You don’t punish a child because a parent committed a crime,” he dared say. And Bush’s domestic faith-based program was the signature policy that grew out of his compassionate conservative philosophy, which shaped his more humane view of immigration. Romney’s, on the other hand, makes one shudder.

Now you see why I miss Bush.
So, we had no snow this year. But we had a Republican primary with the harshness of a cold, mean winter. If the soil that nurtures our politics is now hardened like rock, one hopes for real cracks and openings that softens and warms.

Ah, if only starting all over again is as easy as shaking up an Etch A Sketch.
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