Friday, May 13, 2011

The Teen and the Tryon(t): Guest Post by Kati Giblin

Note from David: Kati Giblin is a Calaveras High School senior who proposed with the schools Earth Club that Calaveras County adopt an official “Earth Week” to the Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Tom Tryon met the proposal with a bizarre tirade about the evils of environmentalism. The Calaveras Enterprise, The Record, and The Union Democrat all picked up the story. In this exclusive Mother Lode Progressive guest post, Kati discusses how the incident changed her perspective of rural culture and politics.

About the Author:
I am eighteen years old and personally
quite liberal. I currently attend Calaveras
High School. I live in Valley Springs on
weekdays and Stockton on weekends.
In the Fall, I will move to
Northampton, MA to attend Smith College.

Weeks before I presented the Earth Club’s Earth Week resolution to the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors, I heard rumblings of controversy over the word “sustainability.” However, being an out-of-touch high school student, I firmly believed that nobody would question this resolution, despite its use of the word. After all, nobody in my realm of communication has doubted the existence of global warming or questioned the need for new sources of energy since around, say, 2006. And after all, this is California; we are only a few hours away from San Francisco, the city that banned plastic bags. Only the most out-of-touch, anti-progress, paranoid Tea Party patriots would raise any objection to the concept of sustainability, and they never leave their homes. Right?

Wrong. Here in Calaveras County, they sit on the Board of Supervisors. I assumed an endorsement of one Earth Week would be easy – the only money it would cost is some ink on a few county calendars, and it may even generate funds if local businesses and organizations get involved in the festivities. But as soon as I stepped away from the podium, Supervisor Tom Tryon attacked several points in the resolution, very simple points which were included to emphasize the basic importance of environmental awareness. He linked the word “sustainability” to economic stagnation, and later, socialism, mistakenly believing that to attain sustainability, society must stay exactly the same. Thrown in there was a denial of manmade climate change, and a doubt that climate change can affect agriculture. He objected to the idea of a “just” world, linking those semantics to the concept of “environmental justice,” a nevertheless harmless phrase that probably reminds him of Earth First! Listening to him speak was almost like listening to a comment on Yahoo! News. He seemed reactionary, extremist, and amazingly out-of-touch. My primary emotion throughout the rest of the meeting was surprise.

However, his opinion itself did not surprise me. Internet comments, talk radio and the popularity of Glenn Beck show us that average people currently appreciate conservative values, most likely because of a need for protection and a return to better times past. I would certainly expect his rant to come from a Tea Party member (there were some in the audience), or even an average person who is a bit out-of-touch. What surprised me was the fact that Tom Tryon is sitting on the Board of Supervisors (in fact, he’s the chairman). This blows away everything I had learned about politics. Usually, to me, the most frustrating thing about politicians is their moderation and their resulting inability to get things done. I thought that politicians aimed for political moderation in order to stay on good terms with all citizens and get more votes. And at a level as low as the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors, the politicians must be blander than Saltines in order to trudge through without scandal.

But Tryon was anything but neutral. He displayed ignorance, partisanship, and paranoia all in one. So I wondered, if Tryon is so extreme, so alienating to liberals, how did he get elected? For one thing, it is clear that he has no idea how to play politics. By lying and saying that he supports environmentalism, he could win over some liberal constituents without going too far for the conservatives. My theory is simply that some of the voters of Calaveras County are very, very, very conservative. Tryon’s tirade, and his refusal to approve an endorsement resolution, shows that he doesn’t even want to think progressively, to say that he approves of environmentalism. Somewhere along the line, the voters of District 4 decided that they didn’t want to think progressively, either.

The only other explanation is that Tom Tryon is culturally out of touch. His voters include citizens of Angels Camp and Murphys, two of the most vibrantly beautiful places in Calaveras County. If I may digress, Murphys is a perfect example of how a community can be economically brilliant without destroying nature. Perhaps Tryon continues to get votes because of his seniority and past participation – he is the longest-serving board member, and he has had his good points, and said some nice things about shopping locally.

But whatever the case is, Tryon’s recent display of paranoid, outdated thinking is a wake-up call. I ask you to consider what you love about Calaveras County, and decide what could be done to protect it. I am partial to Calaveras County’s beautiful scenery and harmony with nature. While I used to want to live in a large city, I now want to live in a forest. I think that for this area, environmentalism makes sense. However, maybe that’s not true for everybody. Maybe everybody except for me moved up here to get away from minorities, or live in a place with absolutely no activity. But I seriously doubt that for most citizens, scenery was not a factor.

Now I ask you to consider if the Board of Supervisor chairman’s way of thinking really represents your beliefs, your neighbor’s beliefs, or Calaveras County’s beliefs. If the thought of environmentalism was discouraged so much that unfettered businesses could remove all of our natural resources, would this still be Calaveras County? You could say that yes, the only way this county can be considered successful is by conquering nature and becoming rich while somehow avoiding progressive ideas. Or you could say that Calaveras County’s brilliance lies within its nature (as does its tourism), that all future development must respect its foothill character, and that most importantly, as part of Northern California, it must remain open to new ideas. I know which side I’m on.


  1. Excellent article! I am both impressed and heartened that the young people of Calaveras County, as represented through this young woman, are of such intelligence and awareness. Although I wish Kati Giblin the best in her education and she will surely go far, I hope she comes back at some time--we need young people like her!

  2. My husband tried to post a comment here, but it didn't go through (BTW, excellent post by Kati - keep it up Kati).

    He tried selecting profile anonymous, that didn't work, then name/URL and that didn't work. something must be up.

  3. Lola, maybe try a different web browser? I have found that blogger frequently does strange things when I use Internet Explorer.

  4. Excellent article, Kati. Not only do you make relevant comments, you are also extremely articulate. Keep it up--we need young people like you to speak up. Thanks!

  5. Katie, your blatant immaturity proves you shouldn't be writing for any blog or paper. The first rule of journalism is to report the facts; not to make editorials out of the story.

    You have failed in the second rule of journalism; research your topic. You make several attacks at "TEA Party Patriots" that are vitriolic and unfounded. Either you have proved yourself to be a partisan hack or you never bothered to actually research what the TEA Party is really all about.

    Shame on you. People like you give journalism a bad name.

  6. For more attacks on the "TEA Party Patriots," check out this post:

    The "Tea Party" is a toxic and authoritarian movement that Kati is right to challenge.
    Moreover, she is reporting on an experience she had with a single individual, so she doesn't need to do any research outside of her personal experience to make her point.

  7. To "Anonymous" - Ms. Giblin is not practicing journalism here. She is writing her opinion. They are very different things.

    More importantly, she has the strength of character to actually sign her name to her words.

  8. Thanks for your comments, anonymous. I like to think that I'm good at research, but in this case I was actually approached with the task to write an editorial. David asked me to just write about how I FELT about the supervisor, and what I THOUGHT it meant about local politics. Sorry if it seemed like I was trying to present it as a researched article, because I would never try to write a journalistic article that didn't have some kind of new revelation. My dad was a journalist for 17 years, and my mom, a copy editor, helped me check for spelling - I know a little bit about good and bad journalism, but this was just an editorial!

    Also, my name is spelled "Kati." It's Irish. :)

  9. Good job, Kati. Keep at them.