Since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, I've given daily thought to the more alarming aspects of Trump culture. Conversations among friends have been quite helpful, both here in the U.S. and in far- away Kabul from which I recently returned. It becomes hard to envision constructive responses to Trumpism without a steadfast focus on the larger culture which has made the policies of previous administrations seem acceptable and normal. This is part of why I was quite willing to sign the recently drafted "We Stand for Peace and Justice" statement at www.standforpeaceandjustice.org. This morning I read comments about the statement that have been posted, online. It's good to absorb criticisms and consider revisions. But a verse from Leonard Cohen also comes to mind:
Ring the bell that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in
And more recently:
Steer your way through the ruins
Of the altar and the mall
Steer your way through the fables
Of creation and the fall
Steer your way past the palaces
That rise above the rot
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought
In the spirit of steering ahead, intent on building ties with diverse people from all corners of the world regarding multiple issues, I hope the stance for peace and justice mentioned above will gain traction, raise discussions and help enlighten our collective future.
Here at Voices (vcnv.org) we've tried to better understand the call for diversity in our current, post-election context. Consider, for instance, a reflection by Betsy Leondar-Wright which was recently published in the UK based newspaper, Peace News. She encouraged people to build personal and political ties with people already targeted or potentially targeted by Trump's campaign promises. "But," she added, "we also need to reach out and build personal and political ties with those Trump voters who aren't committed haters, but whose economic woes and worries we can empathize with."
Describing such woes and worries, Arlie Russell Hochschild, speaks of a puzzling paradox in the U.S.: "Across the country, red states are poorer and have more teen mothers, more divorce, worse health, more obesity, more trauma-related deaths, more low-birth-weight babies, and lower school enrollment. On average, people in red states die five years earlier than people in blue states."
Hochschild moved to Louisiana in order to live among avowed Tea Partiers. She remained there for five years, befriending people who consistently opposed government regulations that might ease their woes, lessen pollution and prevent record flooding in their state.
Reviewing her book, Nathaniel Rich writes: "Even the most ideologically driven zealots don't want to drink poisoned water, inhale toxic gas, or become susceptible to record flooding. Yet southwestern Louisiana combines some of the nation's most fervently antiregulatory voters with its most toxic environmental conditions. It is a center of climate change denial despite the fact that its coast faces the highest rate of sea-level rise on the planet."
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