Standing firm in the rip tides of today’s banal new Evil

I’ll admit it, I’ve been waiting for a miracle.

An angel to swoop down from on high and save us. Or at least a collective “coming to their senses” of our Congress, making them reject the obviously warped election and order a re-do. Or even some kind of horrible disaster, making it impossible for Trump and his gang to seize power. Say, a spectacular bombing of Trump Tower while all of them were in it, on the order of 9-11.

Instead, here we sit in dreary December, one day away from the fateful Electoral College vote, and it seems that all the levers of power sweeping Drumpf into office are operating smoothly.

The Democrats, including President Obama, are being pathetically compliant and wimpy, making me wonder what kind of fire their feet are being held to by Trump & the Gang—what do they have to hide? What, at this point, do they have to lose by demanding fairness and accountability to the vast majority of American citizens who did NOT vote for Donald Trump?

We need another Watergate-type investigation, complete with a new Deep Throat, to help us understand what is really going on behind the scenes in Washington and New York, in Moscow, London, Damascus and Ankara. This is a story that puts John LeCarre and Ken Follett to shame—so big, bold, intricate and treacherous that no one could have imagined it. Fact is way stranger and scarier than fiction this time around.

Eventually the truth will out. But for now, we are stuck living through it, day by painful day. However, we are not just the character-pawns in this story, being manipulated by a clever author. Each of us has the potential to be the author of our own storylines within the vast tapestry of current events, and to change the course of history in profound ways.

In upholding standards of decency, kindness and open-heartedness; in practicing what the Buddhists call tonglen, taking in the suffering of the world, alchemizing it into loving compassion and beaming that love back out into the world; in refusing to go with the flow or get with the program when to do so would hurt others; in standing up and saying NO to hatred, bigotry and the naked abuse of power, whether on the global, national or local levels—in all these ways and many more, each of us has the ability to be a beacon of courage and honor in this darkening landscape.

We do not have to march in lockstep when it comes to how to respond to the present emergency. Some of us will be called into the streets to protest; some of us will focus on creating a loving home for our families and a haven for our friends. Some will go out in nature and commune with the timeless wisdom of the trees and boulders. Some of us will write, some will play music, some will paint or make films. No act is insignificant if it comes from a pure intention to offer deep Goodness to the superficial faux gold chrome of today’s banal Evil.

us-original-declaration-1776

Two hundred and forty years ago, the first Americans stood up against tyranny and refused to be exploited and oppressed by their rulers. We may be living through just such tumultuous times today. We must have the courage and resolution of the American founding fathers.

The far right has been sounding the same warning for years now, and going about their own plan of overthrow, on a bigoted, winner-take-all model. Can the left rise and make history on the side of justice?

That is our challenge today.

 

I close with two quotes.

First, the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence bears reading and re-reading today.

And second, a stirring Facebook post by Dan Rather, who says firmly, “I feel the rip tide of regression once again swelling under my feet. But I intend to remain standing.” And so must we all.

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

 

DAN RATHER: Facebook post, December 14, 2016

Now is a time when none of us can afford to remain seated or silent. We must all stand up to be counted.

History will demand to know which side were you on. This is not a question of politics or party or even policy. This is a question about the very fundamentals of our beautiful experiment in a pluralistic democracy ruled by law.

When I see neo-Nazis raise their hands in terrifying solute, in public, in our nation’s capital, I shudder in horror. When I see that action mildly rebuked by a boilerplate statement from the President-elect whom these bigots have praised, the anger in me grows. And when I see some in a pliant press turn that mild statement into what they call a denunciation I cannot hold back any longer.

Our Declaration of Independence bequeaths us our cherished foundational principle: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

These truths may be self-evident but they are not self-replicating. Each generation has to renew these vows. This nation was founded as an opposite pole to the capriciousness of an authoritarian monarch. We set up institutions like a free press and an independent court system to protect our fragile rights. We have survived through bloody spasms of a Civil War and a Civil Rights Movement to extend more of these rights to more of our citizens. But the direction of our ship of state has not always been one of progress. We interned Japanese Americans, Red Baited during the McCarthy era, and more. I feel the rip tide of regression once again swelling under my feet. But I intend to remain standing.

In normal times of a transition in our presidency between an incoming and outgoing administration of differing political parties, there is a certain amount of fretting on one side and gloating on the other. And the press usually takes a stance that the new administration at least deserves to have a chance to get started – a honeymoon period. But these are not normal times. This is not about tax policy, health care, or education – even though all those and more are so important. This is about racism, bigotry, intimidation and the specter of corruption.

But as I stand I do not despair, because I believe the vast majority of Americans stand with me. To all those in Congress of both political parties, to all those in the press, to religious and civic leaders around the country. your voices must be heard. I hope that the President-elect can learn to rise above this and see the dangers that are brewing. If he does and speaks forcibly, and with action, we should be ready to welcome his voice. But of course I am deeply worried that his selections of advisors and cabinet posts suggests otherwise.

To all of you I say, stay vigilant. The great Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that even as a minority, there was strength in numbers in fighting tyranny. Holding hands and marching forward, raising your voice above the din of complacency, can move mountains. And in this case, I believe there is a vast majority who wants to see this nation continue in tolerance and freedom. But it will require speaking. Engage in your civic government. Flood newsrooms or TV networks with your calls if you feel they are slipping into the normalization of extremism. Donate your time and money to causes that will fight to protect our liberties.

We are a great nation. We have survived deep challenges in our past. We can and will do so again. But we cannot be afraid to speak and act to ensure the future we want for our children and grandchildren.

 

And a final bonus: check out this work-in-progress on organizing. The comparison of left activism with Tea Party activism is especially interesting. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1DzOz3Y6D8g_MNXHNMJYAz1b41_cn535aU5UsN7Lj8X8/mobilebasic#heading=h.1t4uu5uonb6f

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7 Comments

  1. Diane Husic

     /  December 19, 2016

    I am fascinated by the opinion pieces that Dan Rather is writing. I think he provides some words of wisdom for us to give serious thought too. Sadly, there were some rather nasty responses to this post: https://www.facebook.com/theDanRather/posts/10157905349450716 (essentially that DR is out of touch, perhaps even suffering side effects from drugs he takes). Sigh.

    Besides my many fears regarding the new administration, I lament the loss of civil discourse in this country. Yes, I understand the freedom of speech guaranteed by our Constitution, but did our “founding fathers” really intend for us to turn vile and bully each other when we disagree on fundamental issues?

    As always, I appreciate your writing and your activism.

    Wishing you a happy winter solstice, holiday season, and break between semesters.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Browdy, Ph.D.

       /  December 19, 2016

      Thank you, Diane, wishing you a peaceful and productive holiday season too. Although it seems there is little of peace to be found in the world lately.

      Re freedom of speech, there is a huge difference between speaking one’s mind freely, and intentionally lashing out to hurt others. The loss of civil discourse is huge, and frightening, and all the more reason that those of us who believe that it is possible to communicate civilly and honestly need to model it for others! I hope that’s what we’re doing in our college classrooms–it seems like an increasingly important function of education at all levels, to simply teach and model for young people how to communicate with each other effectively and from the heart, owning their responsibility to be mindful of the effect of their words on others. Each year it seems I am less interested in the “content” of what I teach, and more interested in the process.

      All best–
      Jennifer

      Reply
      • Diane Husic

         /  December 19, 2016

        Jennifer,
        We indeed need to model civil discourse on campus. I was recently in Philadelphia for a conference sponsored by our accrediting body – Middle States. There were important conversations to be had about the role of higher ed given the new administration, but it seems as if everyone was talking around it. But then, just when I had rolled my eyes too often, the final plenary speaker took the podium. Below is what I wrote immediately after hearing her wonderful address. It is supposed to be online in the near future.

        Yesterday, I heard the most inspiring plenary talk by Dr. Patricia McGuire, long-time president of Trinity Washington University, who spoke passionately about the need for higher ed to a) make facts meaningful again, b) restore education as a public good, c) protect academic freedom and d) work to ensure true access to quality education – for students of color, the poor, those who have sought refuge here, etc. She told the audience of higher ed administrators and faculty of the need for “steely reserve” after this recent election with leviathan at our door.
        A few key messages:
        1. We “can’t remain neutral when fundamental issues of knowledge and truth are at stake.”
        2. Education needs to be the model to show how we “live together, work together – peacefully – with diverse groups and opinions.”
        3. “Academic freedom is not a private perc…It is the “spine of our enterprise”. Higher education is “one of the pillars of a democratic society, the counterweight of government, not an arm of it.”
        We can’t fear disagreement or discomfort on campus to “illuminate the social and moral issues of the day”, even when it is uncomfortable (and included climate change and protection of immigrants as examples). Dr. McGuire spoke of the need for moral courage, even it if costs, in order to stay true to our missions and values.

  2. CJScott

     /  December 19, 2016

    Our fundamental issues can be found in the Constitution …………………
    How can one agree or disagree when trump blows a different tune each time he speaks.
    He is psychologically impaired……..a walking text book of mental disturbances…..

    Reply
    • Jennifer Browdy, Ph.D.

       /  December 19, 2016

      Agreed. Shouldn’t there be a test of mental stability required for the incoming would-be president of the United States?

      Reply
    • Diane Husic

       /  December 19, 2016

      I would think that mental stability is just one criteria that a president should have!

      Reply
      • Jennifer Browdy, Ph.D.

         /  December 19, 2016

        Thank you for sharing Dr. McGuire’s comments, Diane! Totally agree! It can be easier said than done, as real life can get so messy and it can be hard to keep one’s “moral courage” strong in the face of onslaughts from many different directions at once. Some day I will share more about my own experience of these turbulent waters. I have a novel brewing that might help me find the courage to go deep….

        As for the mental stability of our president-elect…lord help us. It should be the most basic test of eligibility for office: a psychiatric evaluation. I wonder how that could be made into law?

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