Interdependence is good for us allWritten by Eric McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Of the many tensions that hold our society together, the one I find most fascinating is the tension between independence and interdependence. Independence is important to our self understanding as a people. After all, we practically invented the concept in our war with King George when we declared our “independence” from England. We love to celebrate “Independence Day” with fireworks and cook outs and grand celebrations. Some of us might even take time to read Jefferson’s words, “We hold these truths … ” This love of independence transcends politics and invades each of us at the most basic level of our existence. What 16-year-olds don’t feel like they own the world the first time they get the car keys after they secured their driver license? To be America is to love one’s independence.
Then there is the concept of “interdependence.” Interdependence is important to our survival as a people. It speaks of a reality that we all know in our bones to be true but often we choose to deny. Nothing we have or own or do or are happens apart from others, past and present, and the generosity of all the resources provided by our planet. That 16-year-old may feel free as the breeze as she takes off for the first time solo in the car, radio blasting, tires screeching … but chances are high that if it wasn’t for Dad and Mom — not to mention the elaborate system of innovation and manufacturing that gave us the car —there would be no car. The self-made soul may think they succeeded by doing it “their way” but the reality is there is a long history of negotiated interaction with others, their ideas and the blessings of the planet. Nothing of importance or significance happens apart from someone or something else.
It is not lost on many that these can be mutually exclusive concepts. My desire to be independent will at times interfere with my need to be interdependent. I thought of this tension as I read Toledo Mayor Mike Bell’s words about thinking regionally. Now here is a man who understands the concept of interdependence. I suspect anybody who has lived their life in a dangerous profession, such as firefighting or law enforcement knows and understands the importance of interdependence. Adopting this concept to the work of his new administration shows some vision and sensitivity to reality.
The vision is simple. Think how much stronger we all are if Toledo and its surrounding communities work together to create a renewed energy for economic development, healthy community building and addressing the needs of the poor and marginalized. Think of the possibilities if all communities would work together … the pooling of their gifts, talents and resources around a set of challenges that would be owned by all. This is America at its finest.
The reality is jarring. If we do not own our need to be interdependent on each other then the whole area will suffer, not just the City of Toledo. How long could Perrysburg or Maumee or Rossford or any of the “burbs” live as well as they do if Toledo were to die as a viable city? Think of all the ways Toledo anchors community life in Northwest Ohio. The culture, entertainment, sports and metropark system of the city feeds all of us in one way or another. The “burbs” have as much a vested interest in Toledo’s success as the citizens of that city do.
So Toledo has a new mayor who seems to live out of a vision of “interdependence.” The question will be, will he face leaders in the villages and suburbs throughout Northwest Ohio who share this sense that we are interdependent and need each other … or will he face leaders in these villages and suburbs that have arrogantly declared their independence of the Glass City on the lake? Success will demand from the new mayor every ounce of political savvy and leadership skill he can muster. For I sense the spirit of independence is strong out here in the land beyond the Glass City on the lake. I wish Mayor Bell well and much success. If he succeeds, all Northwest Ohio succeeds.
Eric McGlade is a United Methodist Minister who lives and works in Bowling Green.