The election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence is horrifying in so many ways, and it will take days, weeks, years to process and understand the implications for our country, and for my own life and community. I have renewed fear for the health and safety of the many people who Trump has attacked, denigrated and vilified in his life and campaign, especially women. I am deeply concerned about the damage that could be done in the years ahead.
But we also know that this outcome is not an accident. It is the very predictable result of living in a world where consideration of the facts and what is true has become inessential to public life. It is the expected product of a political system that exists to feed the beast of insecurity, consumption, fear and disempowerment. It is what happens when we fight our way through crucial conversations instead of listening to each other, when we focus on what we are against instead of what we are for. It is a natural -- if significant and very unwelcome -- stop-over on a path that we have been on for a very long time.
Where do we go from here? Where do I go from here?
- Locally, work to protect the people and communities who are at risk of further harm from a Trump presidency.
- Regionally and nationally, work to minimize the damage that can be done.
- Replace "clicktivism" with real movements and real strategies.
- Get clear on where our personal tipping points are for taking real action.
As someone who has long held the belief that words of truth have the power to facilitate the changing of minds in significant ways, I personally also need to wrestle more with what this election outcome means for the relevance of language in shaping national events.
Continue reading Hope in the dark
As an Indiana resident and voter, it's tempting to be embarrassed at the headlines of "Trump wins Indiana" blanketing the national news today. Indeed, I find almost everything about his candidacy, personality and public statements to be deeply problematic on numerous levels. But Mr. Trump's success in the primary and his win here in Indiana are just more symptoms of a brokenness in U.S. politics that goes far beyond this state or this election year.
When I was growing up, a career in politics mostly seemed like something boring, unglamorous and yet perhaps ultimately noble that certain kinds of people would necessarily take on in service of their town, state or country. Many kids wanted "to be President some day," but most would redirect their attention to other more practical and personally rewarding pursuits when they realized the amount of mundane policy details they'd have to immerse themselves in, or the long road of statespersonship that only just began with a law degree or military service. In this way the bar was set somewhat high for entering a life in politics, and while somewhat contrary to the promise that anyone with a good idea can make a difference in a government of the people, maybe in some ways it was a good thing.
As the lapel pin-wearing political class has emerged, the idea of just anyone being able to make a difference in politics seems more myth than anything. In a country of hundreds of millions of people, the same small circles of people are held up as the only realistic candidates. If you're not willing to amass gobs of money (or friends with gobs they can share), compromise your values and public persona to fit with the room you're in, make promises you can't keep and bow to the primacy of the so-called military-industrial complex, it's unlikely that you can succeed as a politician. Those of us who have in the past held out hope for a
candidateperson who can transcend those constraints to restore a principled, dignified approach to government leadership have now mostly learned to know better.
So if we can't relate to or become a part of the political class, we at least expect them to entertain us. Between the 24-hour cable network rehashing of Every Little Unimportant Detail, tell-all insider memoirs, the salacious political affairs and scandals of the last two decades and the fear-mongering around U.S. national security, our appetite for political theater that distracts us from any substantive discussion of issues or outcomes has grown each year. Congressional gridlock, court decisions around corporations as people and money as free speech, and a media generally unwilling or unable to do anything other than chase the story of the day means the founding structures of U.S. government that once required a boring but otherwise accountable and productive national conversation have been all but undone.
Continue reading The Trump we asked for
Some mini reviews of books (and one movie) I've had a chance to take in lately. For most items I’ve linked to an online purchase option, but please consider buying from your locally-owned bookseller or visiting your local library first:
Brave (2012), Pixar
I can't say that Brave, Pixar's latest feature film, is anywhere close to my favorite from this studio. It's not that the animation isn't stunning (it is) or that the watching experience isn't enjoyable (it was), and it's certainly great to see a strong female main character whose departure from limiting traditional roles is largely uncompromised. But the world wrought by the story feels somehow smaller and more forgettable than other Pixar adventures. The nuanced and emotionally complex experiences of the characters mostly overcame the awkward dialog and sometimes dragging plot, and in the end it was observing their inner transformations that was most compelling,
Continue reading Mini reviews: Brave, Quiet, Reamde, Freedom and more
I'm fortunate to have had time to read some actual books cover-to-cover in the last few weeks. Other than some novels that made for decent beach reading, a notable theme of business, communication and politics emerged. A few reviews are below; I've linked to an online purchase option, but please consider buying from your local bookseller or visiting your local library first.
by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
Published in 2010, Game Change recounts the stories of the 2008 Presidential election with a behind-the-scenes perspective unlike anything I've seen elsewhere. The book reads like a novel (think Joe Klein's Primary Colors or even a John Grisham work) and is simply fascinating to take in. Chapter after chapter paint a nuanced picture of what Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, John McCain and other candidates were experiencing from the time they decided to run until the election itself - it's a narrative that the media simply couldn't have assembled along the way. Knowing of the extensive research and interviewing that the authors did to assemble it together made it all the more impressive.
Continue reading Book reviews: Game Change, Public Speaking, Rework
As much as I enjoy Barack Obama's oratory style and presence, there were few things in last night's State of the Union speech that stood out to me as any kind of departure from the typical talking points of this event, which are usually:
Continue reading SOTU Highlights
When Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested on July 16th at his house in an apparently over-zealous and possibly racially charged police decision, everyone involved quickly fell into the usual pattern of conflict for these kinds of incidents. Statements were released, lawyers were hired, accusations and implications were flung, and everyone prepared for to defend themselves in battle. The media did its usual thing, egging on the conflict and brinksmanship, interpreting every action and word in the worst possible light, and the parties involved in the fight used those channels to communicate their anger with each other indirectly. When President Obama first got involved, he only escalated the situation by first admitting that he didn't have all the facts, and then proceeding anyway to say that one of the parties involved had acted "stupidly." Awful and disturbing, but pretty much what everyone expected.
But then something curious and possibly amazing happened.
Continue reading Obama, Gates and Restorative Justice
Update March 2011: I'm currently a candidate for election to Richmond's City Council.
At a local business networking event tonight, someone noted that they'd heard a rumor I might be getting involved in politics locally. We had a good conversation about it, and I thought I'd use it as a jumping off point to share a little more about my own political aspirations.
Sometime during my college experience, I decided that I was going to run for the Presidency of the United States of America. I was mostly serious. I mean, I announced it on the Internet for crying out loud, so you know I wasn't just messing around. I figured out that I would be old enough to be elected President in the 2012 elections, and I dreamed my dream from there.
I've since figured out that national politics is probably not for me, at least not anytime soon.
Continue reading My political aspirations
Two lines stood out to me about President Obama's press conference opening remarks on the state of the U.S. economy:
...at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life.
I think this is not only incorrect, but also quite counter to the "grass roots we can do it yes we can" message that got Mr. Obama to the White House. If we accept that the only way to heal a broken economic system is through the actions of the federal government, we absolutely dis-empower and even discourage individuals, families, local communities, and regional partnerships from taking action, taking responsibility for their own way of life. I think it's irresponsible of Mr. Obama to suggest that we must turn to the federal government's resources for something better, that there is no alternative.
Continue reading Obama adoption of "there is no alternative" stance on economy
The Times has a nice little article today about why Barack Obama will probably have to give up the use of his Blackberry - and e-mail altogether - when he becomes President:
As his team prepares a final judgment on whether he can keep using e-mail, perhaps even in a read-only fashion, several authorities in presidential communication said they believed it was highly unlikely that he would be able to do so.
Diana Owen, who leads the American Studies program at Georgetown University, said presidents were not advised to use e-mail because of security risks and fear that messages could be intercepted.
“They could come up with some bulletproof way of protecting his e-mail and digital correspondence, but anything can be hacked,” said Ms. Owen, who has studied how presidents communicate in the Internet era. “The nature of the president’s job is that others can use e-mail for him.”
Surely there's some middle ground to keep a President as tech-savvy as Barack Obama from being forced off of e-mail altogether? I mean, this is the guy who announced his VP pick by SMS text message, for crying out loud.
Here are some scenarios to explore: Continue reading Can the President of the U.S. use e-mail?
The most important words spoken last night, I think:
This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.
It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.
Congratulations to President-elect Obama, and to all of the people who put themselves into the political spotlight during this campaign to seek change in their communities at all levels. May the integrity and dreams of a better world that got you this far continue to ground you in the years to come.