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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 12/29/16

It Wasn't All Bad: 5 Signs of Positive Change in 2016

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Message Sarah van Gelder

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It was a year blown up by the election results. There are now two very different 2016s--the one before and the one after we learned that Donald Trump would become president of the United States.

Trump's administration won't get us where we need to go.

Before Nov. 8, most assumed that Hillary Clinton would be elected and would lead the nation more or less in the footsteps of Barack Obama. From Nov. 9 onward, though, we entered a different world. The ideologues and billionaires appointed to the cabinet, coupled with the president-elect's own tweets, clear up any doubts that disastrous policies will soon follow. Most recently Trump's tweet about restarting a nuclear arms race gives the dangers a terrifying immediacy.

And we know from watching the campaign that Trump is poised to use his presidency to direct hate and blame at people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, LGBTQ people, women, journalists, and anyone else who fails to get in line. We are about to enter a time of uncertainty and danger.

To make it through the Trump presidency we'll need to clear away any remaining illusions that the solution is a return to the Democratic establishment status quo.

We are living on a planet with a carbon-saturated atmosphere, in a time of increasing inequality and terrifying violence. Trump's administration won't get us where we need to go, but neither would the Democratic Party's corporate-friendly policies.

So, even as we enter a time that could be quite dark, we should focus not on finding a way back to an Obama/Clinton past, but on how to move forward by nurturing the seeds of real change that began to germinate in 2016.

1. We gained a new respect for Mother Earth

The most dramatic new possibilities in 2016 came out of a North Dakota tribe: the Standing Rock Sioux, the people of Chief Sitting Bull. The vision and courage coming from the Native peoples gathered at Standing Rock are rippling out across the country. Natives and non-Natives are learning lessons about humility, nonviolent power, thinking about the seventh generation and about our ancestors, off-the-grid communities, and about protecting Mother Earth, one place at a time.

Elsewhere too people see that progress cannot proceed at the expense of Mother Earth.

Contaminate the water and the soil, and we poison ourselves.

Contaminate the water and the soil, and we poison ourselves. And we poison our own souls when we demean the animals who are our relatives. This wisdom, long part of the indigenous worldview, is permeating the broader society.

Meanwhile, the people of Flint, Michigan, and other cities are stepping up the fight for clean, safe water. Movements led by Native people, farmers, and neighborhood leaders are fighting pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure across the country.

2. We learned how to heal violence

The water protectors at Standing Rock flipped the notion of what it means to be a courageous warrior. It is no longer about the capacity to inflict violence; being a warrior now means the courage to stand unarmed in the face of danger, to protect vulnerable people and places, and to be willing--as the veterans at Standing Rock said--to take a bullet to protect the sacred.

Courage also means the willingness to apologize and forgive. Veterans and clergy alike made history at Standing Rock by apologizing for the role of the military and the church in the atrocities committed against Native peoples.

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Sarah van Gelder is co-founder of YES! Magazine and has been its executive editor since it began publication in 1996. Her focus at YES! is on the solutions and innovations that address the most profound issues of our time. Each issue of YES! (more...)
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