One of the main things I am grateful about the current presidential election for is that for the first time in my lifetime, and maybe since the Civil War, we are getting a long hard look at who we are as entire nation. Every demographic and so many of their central concerns, biases, hopes and fears - much of our virtue and all of our shadow.
It turns out that being a multiracial democracy is hard work and so to is the work of becoming a highly connected global human society. The challenges we are facing are becoming more clear by the week and they are truly epic mountain moving adventures that will take generations of concerted solution oriented people to solve. What’s more many of those issues - education, poverty, disease and addiction and global warming are not what our global economic and political systems were really set up to address.
It is certainly enough to make one want to turn towards simpler problems - to take up nationalism to make the circle of concern smaller and pretend the outside world does not matter or matters less.
Most systems thinkers will tell you that just because you might make some things simpler, if you consider only parts of a whole, your solutions will not last. In fact, we are living in the aftermath of long stretches of nationalistic approaches to our interconnectedness and the result is almost always the repeat of cycles where the haves and have nots tip the balance from one to another often through violence and setbacks for the most vulnerable as well as the system as a whole.
If there is a basket of deplorables in our country, we are all connected to them. Some of us are living the lives of "deplorables" and some are causes of the conditions that create deplorable thinking and behavior and others of us are passive or uninformed. There is a simple consideration one can take of the white and western culture nationalism that seems to be behind much of the Donald Trump supporting populous at this stage in the campaign. Consider two very defining moments one being the Civil War and its impacts on whites in the American South and the other being the rise of Globalism and corporate shareholder driven economics and the collapse of industries in parts of the United States.
Both of these alone would create many of the conditions that would signal the destruction of communities, but taken as a whole along with other factors, we can easily see very clear explanations for why parts of our country have been "left behind". Of course many people in these regions have risen above the suffering of their communities and maintain thinking and behavior that is inclusive and productive, but the conditions of these communities would reduce most of us to addiction, ignorance, abuse, anger, fear and the desires and inclinations of being dispossessed.
Furthermore, it is not just poor white folk who are suffering in these communities. Many are multi racial communities that have been pitted against one another regularly by not only these conditions, but by predatory politicians, cultural leaders and businesses. This deplorable situation, created by the system of economics and government we live within, is something we are all connected to and have a duty to see the ways in which we can change it for a more successful pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.
The more these communities erode, the greater of course is the suffering for them, but also greater the risk for us all that the suffering begins to erode the other members of the community’s well being. Once again I quote John Donne:
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
My greatest wish for this time in my country, would be to have our own Truth and Reconciliation period which I believe we are experiencing in a chaotic way on some levels right now, where we consider deeply our historical context and our current societal conditions and came to a conclusion about not necessarily how the work should be done to solve them, but to a consensus on the realities we face.
Then with that Truth in focus, we can apply the Good that is needed. Those who have been given much would be asked to be an active part of that goodness, and incentives and cultural status would be given for those who went beyond the call. We would get behind the community organizers and activators in force and give them the resources they needed to elevate their communities and across the country we would consider closely the things that are working and the things that do not. Then with some clear picture of pragmatic working solutions we would turn to our legislators and ask them to refine our system of government and economics to strengthen these efforts and help agencies realign.
This is utopian, I know, but it is also pragmatic. At some point, we must find the courage of our beliefs and convictions and be smart enough to learn that the heavy instruments of force - violence, war, oppression, colonialism, foreign occupation, etc only kick the can of our problems down the road and the road becomes more and more littered with corpses and lined by angry dispossessed and armed people who have nothing to lose.
I sometimes fantasize about what we could do if we took half or even a quarter of our defense spending and specifically laid it out for interventions like education, medical aid, hunger relief, disease prevention, etc and deployed that to our most vulnerable human populations. Then if we were going to use the military for other than pure defense, it would be to ring those positive interventions and protect them for long periods of time with purely defensive postures.
In the end this is what diplomacy must be used for - not to make better trade deals, though those are important, but to use our blessings, technology, resources and know how to make the world a better place than we found it.
So while I do not agree with the portions of our populist movements that would push us towards nationalism or more bias to a certain demographic, I am encouraged by the fact that everyone seems to be coming out. As a progressive, I was incredibly moved by the Bernie Sanders for President Campaign and the many like minded populist momentum that surged into one of our major parties. While I of course would have loved to see that continue under Sanders, I am pleased that things many of us have been agonizing over are getting to the main platform and stage.
I asked one of my favorite people how she kept positive or optimistic about the future. She told me that it was the reality of climate change and the rise of information technology that would eventually overwhelm our fears and bias to see that we are all deeply connected to each other and the world we live in. I believe this is happening and that the shift in consciousness is as well, but we would be foolish to think that is going to happen for people who are living in deplorable and dispossessed conditions. The duty will fall largely to those who have the luxury of resources, safety, intellect and awareness to change those conditions, and to do so while suffering what it means to touch people and lives and communities in those conditions.