Here we are. A reality TV star leading our country and alternative facts filling our brains. Have we legitimately entered some kind of alternate reality?
How did we get here? I don’t know about you, but i’m still wracking my brain on that one.
Some nights while I lie in bed, I run through the night the world flipped over. It fell after a hope-filled day; we’d finally have a woman leading our country. Slowly, that hope was swallowed up. The numbers betrayed us. A firewall swiftly fell. I remember lying half-awake, feeling the weight of the news sink into my sleep.
I remember waking up the morning after election day, hearing a plane overhead. Something bad was going to happen. Were we under attack already?
How the hell did this happen? And where do we go from here?
I have family and friends whom I love, and whom I believe voted to put a villain at the helm of our ship. How could any reasonable, any good person look at this man’s actions, hear his words, and support him? I struggle deeply with this question, as I’m sure many of you do.
Maybe you’ve even asked this question: is the dark reality that these dear friends and family are, in fact, bad people? That’s how divided we are right now. And finding a path back to unity feels terribly far away.
Because the reality is, of course, that we all have unique perspectives. We see the world very differently from each other. That’s the only reason this cancer survivor bothered to share his perspective through this blog in the first place.
Perspective shapes our decisions in life. It shapes everything. I can appreciate that. But then, that means there aren’t implicitly wrong or right perspectives. It means my perspective is no more right than the perspectives that led people to vote for Donald Trump. How can that be?
It feels critical to me that we try to understand each other’s perspectives. I don’t think that’s the end of it though. Because while I avoid binary thinking like the plague, I also do not subscribe to moral subjectivism–a notion that we set our own individual moral truths. The truth is out there.
It’s true that our perspectives are ours alone. But I think there might be some deep flaws in how we arrive at our reality. There are cracks through which our perspectives grow distorted. And through that distortion there may lie a very ugly world.
I don’t know where the cracks in my perspective are exactly, but I know for sure that I’ve got them. And I know I need to spend more time working on them.
The distorted world many of us see, amplified in our echo chambers and stoked by alternative facts, show people on two sides. That’s not reality. It never has been. At our best, America is not a land of us and them, it’s a land of we. We are a whole messy mix of people who continue to fuck up big time, yet doggedly coexist. We progress.
Here’s the but, and it’s a big one; progress doesn’t just happen. Time does not generate progress, movement does. Movements throughout history have shown us that progress demands persistence, and progress is painful.
My hope is that in this painful time, we find ourselves and each other again. I’m not there yet. I’m still finding my way. I’m still mad as hell that we now have a president who is, in my estimation, a wrecking ball smashing up against progress. I’m afraid that my daughter will have to grow up in a dark new world.
So I’ll resist.
I’ll resist with millions of others in the streets and on the web. I’ll resist with my work for justice each day. I’ll resist by loving people with a whole spectrum of perspectives. And I’ll do my best to work together to fashion a reality where we work together.
February 6, 2017
I’ve always admired and respected your writing and I appreciate your heartfelt concern.
Here are my comments on two of your points along with some of my own musings…
“Perspective shapes our decisions in life.”
“At our best, America is not a land of us and them, it’s a land of we.”
I agree, we all have our own perspectives because we each have our own unique experiences. No two of us are alike, but some of us share common understandings that eventually transform into widely held beliefs. Those beliefs often turn into convictions and, unless reason is applied (as it appears you have attempted to invoke in this blog), they could turn into decisions and actions that might result in something very ugly indeed!
Though people disagree, there is strength and even unity in the conviction that “people can agree to disagree”. It’s one of the founding principles of our ‘free’ society. We may not agree with or like what people have come to understand (as a result of their own experiences, persistent influences from like-minded individual, external sources, and eventual formed beliefs) but we can and, if we are to be true the the American way of freedom, we must alow all people the opportunity to share their views in a peaceful and respectful way.
It’s possible that the convictions we’ve come to advocate may be based on some faulty understandings (you refer to this as “cracks” in one’s prespective). I trust that through peaceful reasoning and thoughtful consideration (perhaps through a willingness to consider the reason and rationale of the “other view”) people may come to a better understanding that could change their perspectives (either through exposing the faults or “cracks” in the logic of the prespective or by strengthening the resolve of the belief through reality and facts).
Unfortunately, politics is never easily understood because the “players” don’t often show their full intentions leaving it up to “others” to interpret the motives or worse, leaving room for others to twist the words into unintended meanings. Since we are not there to get the ‘whole story’ along with the details of the many ‘back stories’, we come to depend on others to provide the information and insight. This opens us up to being influenced by those that we “trust” over others that we consider questionable sources.
Frankly, I’m concerned that the American people are being influenced by a polarizing group of media (pick your flavor… FOX,CNN, CNBC…) that is playing on a public audience and “feeding” them what they want to hear (thereby feeding their fury… and selling more ratings) rather that reporting in an unbiased way.
I don’t know who to trust these days, but I hope others come to share in your willingness to apply reason before jumping to conclusions that could take us into internal confrontations. We don’t want this world to get any uglier… rather, we need to find common ground and start working together.
Let us not forget…
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Let’s also remember…
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
We (the citizens of these United States … not “us and them”) make up “the people”, a single nation under God. Here, we have a responsibility to “insure domestic Tranquility and provide for the common defense” as we exhibit liberty and justice for all.
These are not easy concepts to realize and each of us have our own ideas of how we might or how we should pursue these goals. Notions of priorities come into play and again interpretation of meaning and even important implementation strategies are brought to the forefront for consideration.
As I’ve come to understand our government… each new administration has an opportunity to shape the future of the Republic for which they become guardian (for 4 years or 8 years)… and “the people”, through their elected and confirmed officials (i.e., Legislative, Judicial, and Executive branches of our government) have a right to peacefully and respectfully question and oversee the implementation strategies that are put into place.
I am certainly no expert on any political topics and I imagine the aforementioned “justice for all” sentiment will invoke questions about the restrictions imposed on people attempting to enter the United States. Those that know me and my family history know that my parents were forced to escape from a land of tyranny (specifically, my family’s active involvement in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956), so I have some understanding and experience on this topic.
The compassion that has been expressed throughout the United States is commendable and appropriate (and I too “stand with refugees and immigrants”) but there’s another factor that must be considered (that was not in play in 1956)… the very fabric of our nation’s security (recall “domestic tranquility and common defense” referenced above) is at risk in ways that were not possible or even imagined 60 years ago. I may be getting info and insights from faulty sources, but the imposition of a 90 day freeze to put safeguards into place does not seem unreasonable (especially considering the information that the imposed freeze has been placed on ‘countries of concerns’ identified by the previous administration and aid is being sent to refugees during this imposed delay).
Some might even go on to say that one of our Nation’s top priorities is the safety and security of the citizens followed closely by those who have legally come to these United States seeking citizenship (as my parents had done). By proceeding in this logical progression, the government may preserve the foundation of a secure nation and continue processing citizen applications with established protections in place.
This is only one of many topics that needs to be vetted in a peaceful and respectful manner through the means established in our Constitution (specifically working with and through the three branches of our government).
I look forward to seeing/reading more of life “Through ‘your’ Lens!”.
February 7, 2017
Peter, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. It is this type of reasonable dialogue that I feel we all benefit from–even if we disagree on certain points. You bring up the security of our nation. That is, honestly, right up at the top of my list of concerns when it comes to this Trump presidency. Beyond the fact that he has been a loose cannon (I think it’s fair to say?) and does not have the experience of someone who has served in our government or military before, I worry that the approach he is taking, guided by his close advisors, is isolationist and likely to stoke more ill-will towards our country. I don’t know that it will create more ‘bad guys’, but I do think it helps their recruiting methods.
I also can’t understand the connection between the countries that Trump has selected and terrorism. I’ll excerpt this stat from The Atlantic: “Nationals of the seven countries singled out by Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on US soil between 1975 and 2015.”
Unfortunately, this list includes many places where people are desperate to escape violence and persecution. In the case of Syria, where the conflict has raged for over five years and most fleeing are women and children, the ban is indefinite. It breaks my heart to see stories of people who have been accepted into the US through our refugee resettlement program (the most difficult way to come to the US, with up to two years of vetting) go through that whole process only to be shut out. It feels entirely un-American to me when we consider our history as a society that welcomes immigrants. Certainly, I think of your family’s history and how similar it must have felt to flee persecution, but know you are welcomed into this land of opportunity.
I hope our system of checks and balances will prevail, and that we are able to hold onto the very values that make us great.