Civics for Second Graders
Joshua Rockwood’s story has been making its rounds on social media. A pasture based farmer much like us, he faces several counts of animal cruelty for what appears to be normal farm conditions in the Northeast. The harsh winter has been hard on all of us, and it is both discouraging and alarming that rather than seeking to support Joshua, some in his community have chosen to attack him.
What disturbs me most about this situation is the lack of empathy. Can we get to know our farmers? Can we reconnect with our food sources in order to understand the realities of farm life? If we can view each other as part of a community of people who rely on each other, perhaps we could approach the tough winters as partners rather than enemies. Instead of ratting on a neighbor, we can offer to brave the cold and help with morning chores. We can support his efforts to improve his farm. We can encourage his rehabilitation of a rescued guard dog rather than assuming the worst and making an uninformed call to the cops.
The irony of the situation is that the good intentioned people who make these calls because of their concern for animal welfare actually push farmers to become less transparent.
I took the kids to Joshua’s hearing tonight in order to support my somewhat local neighbor and give the kids a lesson in civics. The line was long, the courtroom full, the hearing brief. The judge decided to adjourn until late April since the charges were amended and the defence attorney had not been given the opportunity to read the new wording. News reports estimated 100 supporters were there, and the word circulating was that the courtroom could hold 87 people. We were not the last ones in by far but we only found standing room at the far corner. I was encouraged to see the support Joshua was receiving, and I enjoyed meeting other farmers and farm advocates who had visited his farm and were incredulous at the accusations.
This has been a good opportunity to discuss with our kids the roles of community, law enforcement, and the functions of the court system. A phone call by a concerned person mushrooms into arrests, legal fees, division, anger, and defamation. The tools available to us are geared toward punishment. We lack the capability to make peace by taking restorative action. Somehow we need to make room for mediation and civil discourse. Is it possible to build this kind of trust into our communities? Will our kids be able to realize this renewal through relationship or will they end up as cynical as I sometimes feel?