If someone says hateful things to me, I don't say hateful things back if I can help it. After all, how are we going to come around to see the value in each other, if that's all we do? Here is a recent case in point: A CNN Story from the Philippines where Christians apologized to LGBT people, right in the middle of a Pride parade!
No enemies, really.
Back in 2002, the priest sex abuse scandal was revealed, where mostly boys were victimized. Then the "Black Lives Matter" movement evolved after it was revealed how many innocent black men were being killed or injured. Recently, the #MeToo movement was the response when it was revealed that (mostly women) had to endure sexual abuse in the workplace. Now, we have #NeverAgain in response to the shootings at a high school in Florida, bringing our focus to gun violence as a still unaddressed issue.
So are these good times? Or are they bad times? Some people look at the headlines these days and react in disbelief that I could be an optimist. One thing I tell them is, "It depends on which news you’re paying attention to!" But my opinion is also based on a host of other factors and how I look at what's going on as part of a bigger picture.
It certainly can be difficult to get through all this. What's stressful is partly due to how much is coming at us and how fast. We have so much to learn! As soon as we recognize one big problem, another one comes along before we've had a chance to do much of anything about the previous one! But overall I think it's a good thing that we are finally having to face up to what has been going on in our culture as a whole. In that sense, these are actually good times in disguise, because we're starting to get involved in really changing all this.
Finally, with the rise of the concept of 'intersectionality' we're starting to think of these issues as part of a few big overriding issues for everyone. In the past, it has been common to rank the worth of people on a scale, from high to low, depending on their characteristics or classification as part of a group. Those rankings were used as an excuse to abuse power. Now, we're starting to realize that every person has worth, and deserves the same opportunities as anyone else, even if only some people choose to take advantage of the opportunities available to them.
And that leads me to Universalism. The idea that the dignity of a person is distinct from whatever steps they may have taken or acts they may have committed in life. That is, it's useful to judge an act, perhaps, while not vilifying the person who acted. Although you might think of Universalism as a theme with a Christian heritage, this kind of thinking also appears in eastern traditions, as well, as this article from Buddhists reveals. Perhaps the reasoning is different, but the resulting recommendation is similar.
So, I'm an optimist, yes. And I encourage you to have the courage to stand up, speak out, and be heard about acts that are hurtful or represent an abuse of power. But at the same time, I hope you can find in you heart to admit that blame and hate will do little good in the long run. If anything, intersectionality really means that we've all been struggling with discrimination or oppression in one way or another, in spite of external appearances. And we're all going to be needed to get together to improve things, now that all this is being revealed.
Reflections for 2018
Reflecting on this new year, I had a few thoughts. We have worked for and succeeded at same-sex marriage rights. We did it in 11 years, state by state, while the federal government remained opposed until the end. Cities & states are signing on to the Paris Climate Accords after the federal government withdrew. States are reforming drug laws, and acting to reduce incarceration, in spite of the administration in Washington. Cities are converting to renewable energy; reverting to coal is out of the question. Detroit is expanding urban farming & using it as an educational resource as well as a food resource. Localities and states are declaring themselves 'sanctuary' places, which is establishing a new immigration policy, actively opposing the current federal one. An organization called "Sandy Hook Promise" is working on using community methods to find and help heal those in isolation, not just gun control.
There is so much good news going on out there, I can hardly keep track of it all! Remember, we are powerful! Together, we are much more powerful than any bully in Washington! We are leaving that kind of politics behind, steadily walking away from it all. This year, 2018, I'm going to keep looking for and noticing the stories where people are making progress. Let's keep walking forward and focusing on where we're going, rather than looking back! Let the tweeter in chief keep tweeting if he wants. We've got work to do.
Making our way through this
"... issues of race seem to him to be less about their actual substance than about how he can piss off progressives."
The above is a quote from a story about Robert Kuttner here on BuzzFeed.
Now let me tell you why this is REALLY, REALLY important. Please, listen up!
Many of my fellow progressives are BEING PLAYED. I invite you to AVOID taking the bait. Our tweeting president is an expert at reality television. The only purpose of reality television, besides entertainment, is to get attention (so ultimately they can sell ads). His purpose in getting attention right now is to distract everyone from the good work that we need to be doing and the public policy he wants to change.
This is why I strongly advise you and others to stand calm and not react to all this without thinking things through. Although headlines (and tweets) may seem compelling, calmer heads will prevail if we just remember that this is all from a very noisy minority. I strongly believe that a majority of people here in the USA are good people who are understanding more and more, every day, that diversity is good for the country, not bad.
Remember, only about 60 million people voted for Mr. Trump. Something like 180 million people did NOT vote for him (either voted for another candidate or stayed home in disgust). And, by now, it's likely that fewer than those 60 million still support him.
I will bet you anything right now that the overwhelming majority of citizens of the USA do NOT agree with the racist tripe emanating from the White House and a few other loud mouth people.
I'm not advising that you do nothing! But to me, it's critically important to avoid overreacting, becoming depressed or despondent, or curl up in a ball and hope it all goes away. We have work to do, but that work is best done by people with level heads, making clear calm statements, and reaching across these traditional political, racial, and cultural divides to better understand each other and build the networks of positive action we need for the future. The future is being formed right now at the local level, not in Washington, D.C.
So please, don't take the bait, calm down, and share this post (including my comments, here) as far and wide as you can. Thank you!
If they carry torches and guns, then show up in much greater numbers and carry flowers and feathers and tea lights. Say nothing to them. Remain as a silent vigil. Carry no signs except specifically about love. Otherwise, just watch them. Make eye contact, perhaps, but do not threaten, shout, shove, restrict, or otherwise harass them. Completely non-violent peaceful witnessing is the very best way for us to assert our position that love works better than hate any day.
Love is building
I see more and more of these signs around these days. They are at storefronts, such as this one at "Arlington Centered," a shop in my town. But they're also in front of churches and other non-profits, etc.
Now, of course, I live in Arlington, Massachusetts, right next door to the well known "People's Republic of Cambridge" (as we jokingly refer to the city that's a suburb of Boston and home to Harvard University as well as other colleges & universities).
But I'll bet this kind of sentiment is being expressed in many parts of this country, even in some cities in so-called 'red' states (with state legislatures dominated by Republicans).
Birth of a new paradigm
I cannot say enough about why I'm an optimist. Here is one factor with which I'm familiar. I don't necessarily agree with everything said here, but overall I think there is a lot to learn here. I recommend watching this video. I invite you to take the time. Really.
Hyper partisanship. We see this in Congress, which can't seem to get anything done (for better or worse), and all across the USA, where even the President engages in daily rants against the "liberal" press, which obliges, in a way, by striking back.
Then, I see this article by Amanda Ripley in the Wall Street Journal that I read this morning. People setting up programs to bring others together face to face, to spend time together and discover what they have in common, instead of just focusing on their disagreements.
What she reports is people doing just what I've been advocating for some time now. I'm glad to see other people ahead of me in this! I'm still finishing my book, so I don't have time to start or even participate in an exchange program right now.
Anyway, I have read the whole article and I recommend it!
Instant Runoff voting (otherwise known as Ranked Choice Voting) is a way to keep voters from "wasting their vote" when they vote for the candidate they truly want, regardless of that candidate's chance of winning. See a description here.
A few nations around the world already use this voting method. Even The City of Cambridge, Massachusetts as been using this system for decades, so it's a proven method (scroll down to the section entitled, "How to Vote in a Proportional Representation Election").
But major parties have resisted implementing it, since using it helps to empower third party candidates and reduces domination by the two major parties, who can no longer depend on scare tactics, such as "If you vote for candidate C, then our wonderful major party candidate B could lose, and then the awful candidate A from the other big bad major party will win!"
Now, a decision in the State of Maine has given the green light to implement RCV state wide, for most elections. I found one story here and there are probably other sources.
To me, this is very good news indeed because it helps provide a greater diversity of ideas and candidates and helps unlock government for all.
Renewable Energy Keeps Winning
I'm an optimist. And here's another reason why. No matter what you might hear from Washington, D.C., people are moving away from dirty energy every day. The story above appeared in the Boston Sunday Globe a few weeks ago. You can read the full text on their web site here.
Here's how it works: People pressure big companies to 'go green.' Companies such as Apple, Microsoft, GE, etc. realize that they can attract more customers if they respond. Well, one thing those companies do is buy electricity and they want to buy it from renewable sources because it's good business for them. Electricity suppliers, as a result, are competing for their business, because these are big accounts and there's significant money to be made. So they're retiring coal plants and bringing wind and solar and hydro online as fast as they can.
The federal government is not going to stop this and return us to coal as our primary energy source, no matter what they say.
If anything, the plight of the coal miners and processors has to be solved some other way, not by mining more coal. It's up to us to find new ways to employ, retrain, and otherwise support the people who have been part of the coal industry all along. That's the other half of the equation. So let's not forget the folks who have worked hard in the coal industry and need us now that coal is not the industry that it once was.
In all the commotion in the news about the President's latest tweets, Senate hearings, mass shootings, and a horrendous fire in London, you may not have noticed, ...
... but something significant was going on in Kansas state government the other day. After years of trying to make the governor's "tax rate cuts to stimulate new growth" plan work, the legislature finally put an end to his experiment. The reason? The state was failing to provide basic services, was borrowing too much money, and was failing to maintain its infrastructure. In short, significantly lower taxes was not ramping up the economy nearly enough to compensate for the lower tax rate. Revenues continued to drop the entire duration of the four year "experiment."
And this was voted by a legislature with Republican majorities in both houses! See the full story here.
This might not seem like a big deal at the moment. After all, Kansas is not a very populous state (under 3 million people), and therefore is not a major player in the US economy. But the principle is clear and should serve as an example for other states, or even the federal government, where we often hear similar proposals.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.