Dec2014 flagThreeMonths.jpg

Three Months to Save the Nation We Love

Xrump talks about hitting his opponents so hard their heads will spin. He doesn’t know me from Adam, but my head has been spinning for months. The Party of Lincoln is nominating… that!?

There is so much that needs to be done. First, of course, Xrump must be defeated. Not just defeated but REJECTED. Soundly, overwhelmingly REJECTED.

Electing Hillary is not a sure bet, but even if it is accomplished by a huge margin it is not enough - by FAR. Even if the Democrats retake the Senate (which will mean retaking the Supreme Court) the Republican Party will likely still control the House thanks to the obscene gerrymandering of congressional districts. So, they will still have a haven from which they can lob the Molotov cocktails that are their substitute for governance. And, we all know that is exactly what they will do – they ran out of ideas and the desire to govern years ago – they have nothing left to offer except racist innuendo, subversion and tax cuts for billionaires. Cheered on by their hyper-agitated base and the angertainment industrial complex, they will continue their efforts to bring our governing structures down in ruins. Who needs Putin when you have Gowdy and Grayson?

Bernie Sanders was right – we need a movement – not just a campaign. But now, a significant percentage of his supporters are slinking off to conspiracy-land dejected and frankly petulant enough to play the same childish games perfected by the radicals of the right. Self-righteous tantrums feel sooo good until you realize you just berned down your own house.

The history of the so-called Progressive movement is marked by repeated embraces of this same sort of delusion. In 2000, a few thousand votes for Ralph Nader in Florida brought us Cheney and Rove, torture, Citizens United and the 2 trillion dollar Iraq war with its countless dead and maimed – not to mention its love gift to the world: ISIS.

My message to the Bernie or busters is simple: If you want to build the movement Sanders started, roll up your sleeves and start working to change the system from within just as Bernie has advised you to do. Run for office, volunteer, do the necessary and slow work of democracy and engage. Guess what? Most victories are won by those who have learned from defeat. Do not drag the movement Bernie started into the gutter via anarchy or self-pity – we have enough of that in our nation already.

So, what kind of movement do we need? Sanders also correctly identified and help steer the Democratic Party towards big issues that must be addressed. Overturning Citizens United. Income disparity. Corporate greed. Reflexive interventionism. Jobs for Americans. But, how do we build the momentum to move the needle on all of these issues?

I won’t try to answer that question in a point-by-point fashion because frankly, I do not know. You have to decide what change you want to be in the world. However, I do know that the message the Democrats conveyed in Philadelphia, is a good starting place for us all:

AMERICA IS AND HAS ALWAYS BEEN GREAT – yes we have many flaws, but we have proved time after time that they can be overcome if we do not surrender to fear and resentment.

This is a message that we must embrace.

Xrump is pushing a small and twisted agenda that is quite literally shot through with fear. This isn’t the message of a conservative – it is the message of Chicken Little. Xrump’s convulsive / impulsive / repulsive ego must be met by our own calm determination. He is like an angry child playing with matches and gasoline – clueless to the consequences because he can’t see past that internal amusement park mirror.

No matter which vile and murderous Xrump allies creep from the shadows to stoke the fear machines in the coming months (Putin, ISIS, racists, cop killers, radicals of the left and right) we can and must control our own responses and stay focused. Critically, we must also reach out those who are most susceptible to the kind of fear being peddled by Xrump and the media.

Here is a plain and simple fact that we must face: Millions of Americans, especially the many millions of downwardly mobile, working class, white American men who are voting for Xrump have very real reasons to be afraid. The jobs which once sustained their families are disappearing or gone. They have been displaced by an economy that rewards disruption and lay-offs, not job creation. They are ridiculed and portrayed as “white trash” - the one acceptable racist epithet in our increasingly “tolerant” world. In wide swaths of the nation their brightest job prospects are working for WalMart or going to war. And perhaps most tellingly, for the first time in history, the life expectancy of white working Americans is declining, in part thanks to depression, alcoholism and drug use.

These facts are depressing and fear-inducing enough, but add to this mix the toxic disinformation served up by FOX news and talk radio and the results are predictable. While the calamities described above were taking place, the angertainers of the right fed these men (and others) a steady stream of resentment, racism, sexism and absurd conspiracy theories: Obama is Satan / Muslim / anti-American / Kenyan / and was trained by radicals to destroy America since he was an infant. Hillary Clinton? You do mean Killary Clinton don’t you? She was doing her nails and plotting about how to turn our nation over to Islamists while the Benghazi phone was ringing, right? Progressives may laugh at this, but there is a hurting and rage-filled alternative universe out there where this is all God’s truth. A “truth” that is literally sickening millions via despair and rage. Thanks Rove, Rupert and Rush, I hope you realize that this (and Xtrump) are your love gifts to the world.

Of course, right wing media isn’t the only source of this rage. Progressive outlets like MSNBC and Huffington Post are ever-vigilant in their hunt for wedding cake resistors, micro-aggressors and those who dare think “all lives matter.” You think this passes unnoticed? Think again. Right wing outrage feeds left wing social justice warriors who rant against reactionaries who applaud when Xrump incites violence. Just watching this game of extremist “I’ll scratch your back” makes me sick.

A genuinely “small d” democratic outcome this November is not a given. As many have noted, the American experiment is being tested as never before. Andrew Sullivan recently wrote that, “America has never been so ripe for tyranny.” I agree. We cannot treat this as another reality television show and expect to just change the channel if we don’t like the final episode. This is for keeps. Sanity must prevail.

How can we ensure that? We must do everything we can. Write checks, volunteer and speak out in any circle where we might have influence. However, we must also do the uncomfortable work of reaching out beyond our self-segregated circles. We can change history one person at a time. I implore you to choose one vulnerable, angry soul that you know and talk with them.

I have an old friend. A veteran, a gentleman and a responsible, honorable man. He is approaching his 90th birthday. His view of the world around him has shrunk with his advancing age – what he knows about the “world outside” is now shaped by the made-for-TV atrocities that are the staple fare of the 24-hour news cycle. As a result, he is convinced that mayhem is waiting for him at the end of his drive way. To him, the whole world appears to be shrieking with blood and venom.

On a visit about a year ago, my friend told me that he had gotten a concealed weapon license and carries a gun with him when he walks his dog in the morning.

“Why?” I asked.

He replied with a nod at the television where a reporter was breathlessly reporting a murder in some far off place. “They’re not going to get me,” he said.

Months later I asked him if he was still carrying his gun. “Yes, he replied, “most days.”

I asked if he had ever felt the need to use it – or felt threatened.

“Only once,” he said. “A really big stray dog once came at me and Buster (his small dog) and I was afraid it was going to attack me. It was snarling and growling and I had to pick Buster up to protect him. He kept coming at me even though I was shouting and yelling.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“A stranger was driving by and saw what was going on. He stopped his truck, distracted the dog, and had me jump in the cab. He even drove us home.”

So, despite the fact that my friend and Buster have tempted fate in the war zone beyond their drive way many thousands of times, “they” never got him, but a Good Samaritan did.

I pointed that out to him and he fell silent for a minute. “I guess most folks are alright,” he said, “at least ‘round here.”

For my friend, and for most Americans, this reflects our true reality - not Xrump’s or Fox News’ or CNN’s nation of menace and doom.

In the coming weeks, pledge to reach out to one person who is either sitting on the fence in this election or over on the other side. Be kind, be patient, lend an ear but ask them not to surrender to fear. Ask them to think of the Good Samaritans in their lives and be one yourself. Remind them that fear and resentment make America smaller – not bigger – and most certainly not greater. Ask them if they have ever had to confront a bully and whether they really want one to represent and lead our nation?

The Good Samaritan in the pick-up represents the America I know. I think we all know this guy. Helping my friend may have seemed like no big deal to him, but it meant the world to my friend at that moment.

This is our moment!

We have done great things when we have set aside our differences and worked together – great things when we struggle to overcome our flaws - great things when we try, however imperfectly, to live up to our ideals – and, great things when we have reached out to those who are living in fear and reassured them that things will turn out alright - if we stick together.

Despite our current anxieties and our many self-inflicted wounds much of the rest of the world still sees us as a beacon of hope. All across the globe freedom loving people are holding their breath, many of them have lived under petty dictators, they know how hard it is to climb out of that ditch once you have jumped in. They are praying for us as we should be praying for one another. But we need more than prayer, we need action.

America is great right now. Don’t let Xrump tell you otherwise.

Let’s get started – we have three months to save the nation we love - one person at a time.

© Tom Spencer

(A note about “Xrump.” In the world of Xrump any use of his name – whether disparaging or laudatory seems to equal a victory - it simply means more publicity. So... Xrump.)