In these days immediately after the election, I think we should again turn to rye.
No, I'm not an alcoholic. In fact, I'm anything but.
Nonetheless, the ancient liquor of our nation holds much wisdom. After the excess of rum and madeira in the colonial era, those newly-christened Americans, their hand forced by the cutting off of these spirits, came up with rye. Remember, rye is one of the three greatest contributions the United States has offered the world (the second is the cocktail, and the third is a particular cocktail--the gin martini).
This ability to innovate in the face of adversity--embodied in America's finest ryes--is the first lesson that the brown liquor imparts. Critical thinking and a knack for new ideas trump dependence on the status quo every time.
The second? Engaged independent-mindedness. Rye emerged as the American spirit in the late eighteenth-century from independent farmers that cared about their community. Hew to no party line except for one--the values derived from the golden rule, mimicking this golden brown spirit. Engage in party politics when necessary in order to serve the least among you, but always keep the first lesson in mind.
The third? Assert your basic liberties for the common good. As an example, see the many farmers who distilled their crops into rye and asserted the power of the people in the Whiskey Rebellion--or should we call it a Regulator's Rebellion?
The fourth? Rye offers more than simple pleasures. It suggests a politics beyond politics. Drinking rye sets you apart. It offers up a way to stand outside the crowd and for the Bill of Rights. That means envisioning political action outside of party politics. In other words, there is something bigger required of us than being a party-line Republican or Democrat or even an independent. In our society, that might mean fighting consumer culture, turning off your TV, rejecting political disengagement, using a bike or scooter or bus or train instead of a car to get around, growing your own food, and a host of others...all of which help us to create our own hope.
The fifth? Local is better. Our local ryes are best. No need to import rum or vodka or gin from across the oceans. Maybe it cuts down on global warming-gas emissions (but not always, given economies of scale). Maybe it helps our regional or state or town's economy in a difficult time. But an attention to localism always strengthens our immediate communities, deepening the ties that bind us to our closest neighbors.
At the end of this political season, the five lessons of rye constitute an ideology to remember.
1) Never stop thinking critically about the world.
2) Be wary and independent of political parties and ideologies, but do not let cynicism blind you to the ways they shape the world.
3) The basic civil liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights are what insure our fullest humanity. They are the only true American values, and whenever the nation strays from them, we live to regret it.
4) Engage in politics long after the election results come in and before any campaign begins. Serve your community however you can. Even being a good and thoughtful parent is a form of political action.
5) Thinking, buying, and living locally not only provides you with the best your community has to offer but also insures you will offer the best you have to your community.