In this picture left-wing journalist Louise Bryant and her daughter Anne lounge in Ashfield, Massachusetts grass. I had no idea that Bryant, the heroine of the movie Reds, is connected to the Bullitt House Deep Energy Retrofit funded by the Trustees of the Reservations. Bryant married the first U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union William C. Bullitt Jr. after her husband, writer Jack Reed, died of typhus in Russia.
Together, Bryant and Reed recorded the Russian Revolution, without benefit of cell phones or Twitter. I have spent many an evening watching their exploits on DVD. For three hours Dianne Keaton (Bryant) and Warren Beatty (Reed) write, love, argue, split, and reunite - after Bryant trudged through snowy, dark, foreign forests risking arrest and death to get back into Russia to see Reed just before he died.
Bryant lingered very little in Western Massachusetts. She suffered a bruising divorce from Bullitt and was banished from the United States. Still, I feel her presence. It is strong on cold mornings like the other day when the blue-grey world outside my bedroom window was sheathed in an icy cloak. I was warm but aware that there are so many who lack the income to keep the heat on and when they do, there is less food on the table or money to buy prescribed medications. Nevertheless, Republicans have managed to slash funding to the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) by 63% (FY 2012). For over 33 years WAP has served more than 6.4 million households. Participants saw their annual energy bills decrease by an average of $437 per year. The Republican answer to the “wasteful” WAP? The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which mainly exists to pay the bills to keep the utilities on for far too few low income families. The most enlightened LIHEAP efforts work in conjunction with WAP, funding insulation so that utility bills decrease, ergo lower LIHEAP payments.
If you have the pleasure of roaming through the Bullitt Reservation woodlands, along the streams and, across the fields, imagine Bryant lying in the grass, smiling in a moment’s respite from writing about radical social change, the kind that altars the course of history for many who have little to lose. Imagine how she might chronicle the tragedy of energy inequality and hope to bear witness to an energy revolution. Imagine what you would tell her to say to our politicians about WAP. Then send your congressman a tweet, text, or letter in support of restoring WAP funding. For more details about energy insecurity see Dale Bryk’s Blog: Better Life: Weatherization saves low-income people money and promotes growth. Why do the Republicans want to kill it?