Category: Presidential Election

Turkeys, Trump, and Moving Ahead

And a Turkey shall bring them all together 

I am fortunate; I have a wide diversity of friends in my life, on Facebook and on other social media platforms. No surprise they don’t always get along. One recent Facebook post that fostered the rare harmony though was when I asked everyone to share their favorite Thanksgiving dish.

Suddenly the walls between far Left radical Progressives and extreme Right Conservative Evangelicals came down as people shared their favorite methods to make sweet potatoes and their grandmother’s stuffing/dressing recipes. (One person studiously pointed out that it is not technically stuffing unless it was stuffed into the cavity of the bird. Seems to take all the romance out it somehow.)

The Great Divide

The Spanish Civil War by Francis Picabia

The Spanish Civil War by Francis Picabia

Usually though finding common ground proves to be far more challenging. The two issues that stirs up lots of controversy are climate change and gay reparative therapy (the treatment/ministries designed to cure or transform LGBTQ folks into non-LGBTQ folks.)

I have Facebook friends who believe it is wrong to be gay while others believe offering conversion therapy should be a prosecutable offense. I also have folks who forcefully express their doubts about global warming and while others who become so alarmed about climate change, it has practically become a disability.

No doubt sparks fly, and even more so with the Trump/Clinton/Sanders/Johnson/Stein election fiasco. Of course I have my opinions, very strong ones in fact, but in addition to sharing them, I try to facilitate the conversation.

I am curious about the beliefs of people who believe and think differently from me. I want to discover what motivates them and their values. While we may have totally different viewpoints about a host of political and social issues, we actually share many of the same values.

The Source of our Conflicts

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The Girl in the Heaven by Francis Picabia

Conflicts arise when people feel that something important, precious, or vital to them is threatened. When we believe our needs will not be met–be it the need for a nice quiet place to sit and have a cup of tea to the ability to find employment and a living wage–we get into fight mode.

People on the extremes share many of the same values–the deep basic ones–safety, respect, and freedom. The conflicts often arise over the source of the threats we face and when we believe one person’s needs trumps another (no pun intended.)

I have no easy answers. The tensions are as high as they have ever been. My goal these days is to watch and listen. I seek to see humanity in everyone without excusing inhumane behavior. Demonizing every person who voted for Trump or Hillary or Obama or Brexit is simply dishonest. It is also lazy.

Round Heads: New Direction

Over Thanksgiving weekend I saw the Francis Picabia exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. I love the title of it, a direct quote from the eclectic 20th Century French artist: Our Heads are Round so our Thoughts can Change Direction.

I’m reminded, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. It is time we try something new and different. The real hard disciplined work of peace building and community building requires being in relationship while listening with respect.  It ain’t easy! And it is not as sexy and satisfying as railing against our opponents, but I have seen and heard enough of that. It clearly has not worked. I’m curious to to try a new thing.

 

featured image:  L’Adoration du veau by Francis Picabia

The dangerous powerful personality of Donald Trump

Anti-Donald Trump protesters march in the street on Fifth Avenue, November 11, 2016 in New York City. The election of Trump as president has sparked protests in cities across the country. (Nov. 10, 2016 - Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America)

Anti-Donald Trump protesters march in the street on Fifth Avenue, November 11, 2016 in New York City. The election of Trump as president has sparked protests in cities across the country.
(Nov. 10, 2016 – Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America)

Imagining the Worst

Right now it is easy for some people to envision nightmare scenarios of the future.

  • I know of climate scientist–thoughtful, passionate people–who suddenly feel like so much work they have done is about to unravel by an American administration that dismisses the causes and risks of climate change.
  • LGBTQ people and activists see who is coming into power, the words they have spoken against us, and shudder at the legal and societal consequences.
  • People of color and immigrants, who have long experienced inequality in the USA see the potential for a turning back and doubling down from law enforcement and in the justice department.
  • Women who had been hoping for more advances in equality, representation, and decency, suddenly are faced with powerful people who have outright demeaned women and are likely to pursue a course to roll back existing protections and rights.
  • And all of us feel that bullies have been given moral authority to be out and proud about their bigotry.

How do we respond to a Trump Administration?

We are each getting our footing in this new rocky landscape we seek to figure out our paths forward.  No doubt there are and will be many many organizing sessions and meetings to strategize how to protect all we hold dear. But with each headline that sound more and more like an Onion bad dream scenario, it is easy to get caught up in the larger than life personality of Donald Trump and the cast of appointees whose pasts cause some of us shudder.

Silvio Berlusconi in Milan last year. Credit Flavio Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency

Silvio Berlusconi in Milan last year. Credit Flavio Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency

One thing that my partner and I have been talking about is the seemingly boring but utterly important matter of policy.

The Curious Case of Silvio Berlusconi

An article in the New York Times helps me to see that focusing on policy over personality is an effective strategy that was proven in Italy in the face of the outrageous and dangerous person of Silvio Berlusconi, who had been prime minister for nearly a decade.

In Luigi Zingales’ opinion piece, The Right Way to Resist Trump, he warns:

Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity. His secret was an ability to set off a Pavlovian reaction among his leftist opponents, which engendered instantaneous sympathy in most moderate voters. Mr. Trump is no different.

He then provides analysis on how the US reaction to Trump mirrors how Italians’ futile attempts of stopping Burlusconi. He also outlines how the opposition finally found a way to defeat the prime minister. He ends with advice to Americans seeking to contain the damage of a Trump presidency and limited the time he is in office.

If you are wondering how we might respond to a Trump presidency, take some time and read: The Right Way to Resist Trump

(featured image from a video in 2000 with Donald Trump and Rudolph Giuliani in drag)

 

Millennials and Election 2016: painful choice between idealism and pragmatism

Glen consulting the rail map

Glen Retief on Amtrak consulting the rail map

A South African in America

I am so fortunate that my partner, Glen Retief, is not American-born. Raised in South Africa during apartheid and then having taken part in both the anti-apartheid struggle and the South African queer liberation movement, Glen has a wealth of experiences.

And even after moving to the USA, he found himself in American hot spots. In Florida he lived through Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Perhaps nearly as harrowing in its own way, endured life in Florida during the infamous 2000 Presidential Election, when for several weeks we had no idea who would be the US president as a massive and absurd recount took place in Florida. (Anyone heard of those hanging chads?)

Election 2016: What is an American Millennial to Do?

Like most American citizens, he has been submerged in the current US Presidential race. He teaches at Susquehanna University where lots of students were/are ardent Bernie Sanders supporters. Still many of them struggle with the idea of Hillary Clinton as president. In a swing state like Pennsylvania, some are actually considering third party candidates or to just sit this one out.

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Voortrakker Monument, Pretoria

Glen just published an excellent piece in the Pacific Standard in which he reflects on what turned out to be an especially important election in 1989 apartheid South Africa.  He struggled between voting and boycotting. In his piece, Voting, Even When it Makes You Sick, he writes:

Should I boycott? Or was this — to use Angela Davis’ recent word — narcissistic? The African National Congress’ advice notwithstanding, was I placing my own moral comfort ahead of the well-being of the country?

On Wednesday, September 6th, 1989, I spent the entire day agonizing about the election for the apartheid parliament. Twenty minutes before the polls closed, unable to bear the thought of helping the racist parties win more seats as a result of my inaction, I cast my ballot, feeling sick to my stomach.

img_4382Stuck between a rock and a hot mess

Glen does not make a direct comparison to the US situation today to South Africa back then, but he feels for his students who feel it does injury to their sense of justice  to vote for Hillary Clinton. Idealism says one thing, but political pragmatism calls Democrats, Progressives, and even Republicans to consider making a hard choice. He explains:

The potential negative impact of a Donald Trump presidency, too, seems mind-boggling, even beyond the headlines concerning crass misogyny. To mention just one, having the world’s largest per-capita polluter headed by a climate denier risks bequeathing Millennials a world of superstorms, crippling droughts, war, and climate refugees.

img_2000Read the whole piece for yourself:  Voting, Even When it Makes You Sick.

Join the Sam Sanders Fan Club! Oh, and Tamara Keith 

And if you want daily election updates from a group of thoughtful, informed, and fun folks, check out the NPR Politics Podcast (and catch all of Sam Sanders’ Beyonce references)

Marvin & the Presidential Election

Marvin is really taking his role as a video blogger seriously. In this one Marvin Bloom wipes out the four leading Republican candidates (McCain, Giuliani, Romney and Huckabee) and instead reveals the Republicans’ secret weapon to destroy Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2qn-LbsT6M&rel=1]