“We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.
This has certainly been one of the ugliest and most disturbing campaign cycles we have ever experienced. A tectonic shift. So many are reeling with disbelief, grief and despair. My heart goes out to all the people – people of color, Muslims, LGBT, disabled, for God’s sake women in general — fearing what this means for us and our children.
And my heart aches for Mother Earth and what may be in store for her. Like many deep environmentalists I have a loving, living connection with our planet and I worry about what’s in store for my loved one.
But while I am hurting I am not completely surprised. When Trump first announced his candidacy and so many of my progressive friends and colleagues scoffed I had a different reaction. I was deeply concerned. I suspected he was going to last a long, long time in the campaign. Between the real tensions and fears he was triggering, the current sensationalist clickbait-driven media culture and America’s celebrity worship I knew Trump was going to be a serious and lasting threat. But even so I couldn’t actually envision a “President Trump” and it is surreal, scary and painful to watch him and his team getting ready to take over our government. It literally knots my stomach.
And yet …
There is also opportunity here. This campaign has scratched the scabs off the festering wounds of racism, sexism and xenophobia in our society, America’s dark and dangerous shadow. Psychiatrist Carl Jung pointed out decades ago that our shadow is the dark side of ourselves, that part that, “Is hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden.” When we try to bury and ignore that aspect it often bursts out in destructive ways.
There are so many ways this shadow-side of our culture has been bubbling up through our denial but now, it has burst fully into the light, here at home and around the world. There will be no going back, no more ignoring it. As painful as owning and facing this shadow is going to be it is absolutely necessary for our country to heal and evolve.
Hope in Unity
This past week I have listened and participated in calls, webinars and gatherings as various communities work to digest and respond to Trump’s election.
I am witnessing climate action activists standing up and calling for unity in protecting those most vulnerable to persecution – immigrants, low-income people of color, LGBT people. I am seeing environmental direct action activists expressing their commitment to engaging in direct action if necessary to protect these vulnerable populations. More than any time before in my twenty-year career as an environmentalist our movement is embracing diversity.
Evolution in nature doesn’t happen unless a species, or population faces great pressure, a period where it must adapt or die. It is possible that the increased pressure of America’s unleashed shadow-side will drive our environmental and social justice movements to new heights of caring, sharing and working together. I believe this needs to be a central focus in how we respond.
Instead of Fighting Against, let’s Work Toward.
Fear is a causal reason we are at this point. And, to be frank, our environmental movement is and always has been rife with fear. I get it — I feel it myself. We care deeply about this planet and our fellow beings and we’ve seen so much being lost. I share the sense of urgency to protect the sacred diversity of life on our small, magnificent blue planet. I have friends and loved ones who are in very vulnerable circumstances now. But, it is human nature that what we focus on increases. We will be stronger and more effective if we move from a place of love and hope instead of fear.
I hope we will choose to move away from the meme of war, of fighting, of hatred for the “other” and instead stand strong and tough, taking a higher road of working toward, rather than fighting against, of acting from love rather than from anger and fear. It will take discipline and commitment to release the fear and move from a place of strength through peace.
Be Smart in Our Media Choices
One encouraging development just now is that so many more people are becoming aware of our disastrous media model. People on both sides of the election and even numerous media outlets are raging against the horrendous sensationalist media coverage that delivered this outcome. Trump is a master of media manipulation and they played right into his hands. As I have said many, many times before, if you are watching “Breaking News” you are not being informed, you are being entertained and misled in order to drive up ratings and website hits. That goes for FOX news but also for CNN, MSNBC and even public broadcasting to a certain degree.
This campaign cycle was particularly painful for me because I have personally experienced the destructive power of our current clickbait-driven media model and the reckless power hunger of political parties. At a much smaller scale what my fiancé, Governor Kitzhaber, and I experienced paralleled and foreshadowed what we are now living through at the national level. Agenda-driven media, sensationalism and partisan politics overtook the truth and derailed a lot of good work. This Grist article describes some of what happened.
Trump will continue to dominate and manipulate corporate media. It has never been more important to get our news from and support independent media outlets like ProPublica, Mother Jones, the Center for Investigative Journalism, Nation, Guardian, Climate Nexus, EcoWatch, etc.
Stay the Course, We are Important
We are in for a bumpy and emotional ride. Inauguration itself is going to be hard. The blatant display of ego will be difficult to stomach. But as activists we know something about resiliency and staying in it for the long haul. Our environmental and climate action movements are now global in scope, bigger than any one of us or even any one country. Our Earth trumps ego and our cause trumps fear. As historian Howard Zinn pointed out:
“Whatever progress has been made in this country, whatever human rights have been gained, have not been gained through the calm deliberations of Congress or the wisdom of Presidents.
Whatever progress has been made in this country is from the actions of ordinary people, from citizens and social movements.”
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