We have a four-day break from routine, time away from the bustle. This post suggests how to restore yourself and center your commitment to meeting the challenges ahead. If not you, who? If not now, when?
Let’s face it, it has been a very weird year. We endure daily assaults on our sensibilities and our values. Our fears are stoked by threats of nuclear conflict and the looming sense that whatever vestiges of democracy we have ever had are deeply in peril. It has been tough. But the truth is that our society has for a very long time been driven by forces that operate beneath the surface. Our hubris and greed have only now become explicit with Donald Trump and his America First doctrine.
Capitalism, colonialism, racism, and sexism are a four-headed beast that has been at the heart of America for centuries. We like to think of ourselves as the greatest country in the world, the beacon of freedom and democracy, and the promoters of justice at home and abroad. But this is simply not an accurate understanding of a nation borne of slavery, formed through genocide and the destruction of the Native people and their culture, and an economy driven by the exploitation of other nations and their people working for pennies an hour. Without compensation, women have held together our families, raised our children, cooked our meals, and mended our clothes. While African Americans are better off now than during slavery or Jim Crow, while women have achieved a degree of liberation, and in parts of the country Native American culture is increasingly viewed as a just alternative to capitalism, people of color and women are far from achieving true liberation, and we continue to dominate and oppress internationally to a shameless degree.
But none of this is new, it is just more brazen, more overt, and more explicitly couched in the doctrine of America First. Whether South Korean victims of a nuclear conflict, Puerto Ricans without power (electrical, economic or political), or any developing nation anywhere, they are just resources feeding our greed and self-absorption. We will never solve anything here in America until we face this truth. We are greedy and we dominate because we like our things and our comfort more than we value justice and other people’s joy and liberation.
Trump is helping us because whether it is his self-absorbed tweets or his overtly offensive healthcare, tax, and budget policies, he is tearing away the curtain on that greed and wrapping it in the flag with pride. This is our chance to begin to peek beneath that flag and reflect upon our history and our present and to say #nomore. And here is the hard part: we all need to achieve a deep understanding of the dynamics of capitalism, sexism, racism, and colonialism and learn how to articulate it to others. We need to not just accept, but to embrace that America First has always been our slogan but has no place in a world community that needs to work together to be sustainable and just. We need to value humility, cooperation, and compassion more than aggression, greed, and manipulation.
We have our work cut out for us, as we live in a country where alt-facts and fake news obscure debate and our culture dons a patriotic prism that refracts reality to where so many still believe we are the best and deserve to be first.
So, as many of us assemble around tables to give thanks, share food, and swap tales, save some time for reflection. If you agree with much of the perspective shared today, what can you do over the coming year(s) to be honestly reflective and then to devote a proportion of your time to deepening and sharing your perspective? And what does it mean for you and for us as a people, if we who understand are not willing to do what needs to be done to share that understanding and change our culture from me-first to we-together? It is the only way the world achieves a truly sustainable justice. And this is what we have to be thankful for today: the reality that we have power to start a march toward justice if we are truly willing to accept who we have been, who we are now, and commit to becoming something more, something better.
Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your day with friends and family, and return to the fray tomorrow. There is much to be done. Roxanne and I are very grateful that we are all in this together.
Paul & Roxanne
Jeff Daniels tells this tale pretty convincingly in just four minutes: