Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dreaming the Marianas

We must believe that it is the darkest before the dawn of a beautiful new world. We will see it when we believe it. -- Saul Alinsky

One day we will wake up to a beautiful morning in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Our villages will be charming and well-kept, each with its own unique character. We will all tend our own gardens, and there will be flowers and shade trees in every yard and on every street. Our homes will be cool, spacious, and energy-efficient, designed for the tropics.

Our neighborhoods will be connected by green spaces -- parks and natural forests, orchards and farms, golf courses and recreational fields. Our business districts will be attractive, lively, and clean, and all the buildings will be freshly-painted, well-designed, and beautifully landscaped. Our beaches will be pristine, our lagoon and reefs bountiful. There will be large swaths of protected forest where we and our families will enjoy long hikes and the abundance of native birds and plants.

Our meals will be rich in fresh local ingredients -- milk from the local dairy, fresh-squeezed juice from fruits grown in our backyards, meats from the local butcher, fish from the lagoon, eggs and produce and herbs and spices from our gardens and the farmers' market. We will drink and bathe in clean water from the tap, and harvest plentiful rain water for our gardens and kitchens.

We will walk or bike most places, and enjoy well-maintained sidewalks, wide bicycle lanes, and pleasant native shade trees lining our streets. We will rarely drive, and when we do we will take public transportation or carpool in efficient vehicles powered by renewable energy.

We will live longer, healthier, and richer lives. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, and other chronic conditions will be rare. Addictions to tobacco, alcohol, or any other substance will also be rare. When we do get sick, we will go to our local hospital and clinics and receive excellent care. Our doctors, nurses, and medical support staff will be among the happiest and most compassionate of their peers in the world, and they will have all the resources they need to be effective.

Our villages will be safe. Crime will be rare. Neighbors will look after each other. Our police officers will be rigorously-trained, well-compensated, passionate public servants, and they will hold themselves and each other to the highest ethical standards. They will no longer carry weapons. They will be supported by capable and principled superiors and work closely with competent prosecuting attorneys who will have the resources they need to hold criminals accountable, defend the rights of victims, and restore justice in the community.

Those accused of crimes will have fair trials before highly qualified judges of unimpeachable integrity, and before honorable and objective jurors. Those convicted will be given firm yet fair sentences. They will carry out their sentences, and there will be no political interference in the conduct of justice. Those convicted of crimes will also be afforded the resources they will need for rehabilitation.

Most of us will work in the private sector, and many of us will proudly run our own successful enterprises. Dependence on welfare assistance will be both temporary and rare.

Our government will be small, lean, and responsive, driven by a civil service corps that is renowned in the Pacific for professionalism, courtesy, and efficiency. There will be few political appointments, but those individuals will be eminently qualified and carefully vetted, and they will earn the respect of the people.

Our elections will be clean, transparent, and issue-driven. Our candidates will be principled, honest, and highly-qualified. Our legislature will be a small, part-time body of outstanding citizen lawmakers. Our governor will be a visionary who will lead by example, and appeal to the best in us, to our highest aspirations as a people. They will pass a balanced budget every year, and set aside a reserve for future emergencies or investments. The budget will reflect the sound priorities and long-term interests of our community.

Our public hearings will be well-attended, and our views will be aired openly and without fear. Our government officials will listen.

Our press corps will be vigilant, independent, curious, courageous, and energetic. They will ask tough questions and probe relentlessly for answers. They will investigate tips, and follow up on stories. They will have long memories. They will remind us when history seems to repeat itself, and when we seem to have forgotten lessons of the past. They will care about the wellbeing of the community.

We will be famous throughout the world for our hospitality. Tourists will be treated warmly wherever they go. They will see our islands as a place of safe refuge, beauty, and relaxation. We will be proud to share with them our rich history, traditions, foods, languages, and natural wonders. They will be astounded at the diversity and strength of cultures that coexist peacefully and proudly in our islands -- Chamorro, Carolinian, Micronesian, Polynesian, Filipino, Japanese, Russian, Korean, Chinese, Nepalese, Bangladeshi, Indian, Thai, American, and many, many more. Our visitors will return again and again with their families, and speak and write only praise when they go back to their home countries.

We will send our children to schools that will teach them to be conscientious citizens, curious and concerned about the world around them. We will nurture those lessons in our own homes. Our children will be unafraid to ask questions and to take responsibility for their actions and for the welfare of their community. They will have the freedom and opportunity to explore their talents and excel in the arts, sciences, mathematics, humanities, athletics, and trades. The world we leave to them will be better than the one we inherited, and they will understand their obligations to future generations. They will make us proud.

One day we will wake up to a beautiful morning in the Northern Marianas, and our islands will rank among the safest, happiest, healthiest, and most sustainable places in the world.

We will see it when we believe it.