Until a few days ago, this column was going to be about real conversations, and how essential they are for our nation’s democracy. But then the 2016 election happened, and for a few days I stepped back, unplugged, and shut out the rest of the world. I wasn’t interested in talking with anyone but my closest family and friends. I was ready for what I called radically local secession.
Then I checked in on a handful of writers whose thinking I track, and now I’m feeling more sanguine. They include Van Jones, Glen Greenwald, Bill Moyers, Rebecca Solnit, David Abram, Martin Shaw, Sharon Blackie, Ronnie Bennett, Ricken Patel, Daniel Pinchbeck, and Russell Brand, to mention a few. Here’s a brief sampling of some of their post-election thoughts.
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Let’s start with Ronnie Bennett (timegoesby.net) who puts out a must-read blog on aging called Time Goes By. She writes:
…It is not so long ago that when someone in the family died, people mourned for a long time. Custom dictated that mirrors in the home be covered, social life curtailed and that the mourners wear black (widow's weeds) for up to a year and even more in certain cases.
Everything is faster now and today that kind of mourning is obsolete, even considered morbid. Not me. Given what has just happened, I do not believe it is unreasonable at all.
Two things for sure. Like some people in the comments on Wednesday's post told us, I am wearing black. Complete black, even earrings. Maybe not all the time, but a lot of the time to remind me every day what a terrible thing we as a country have done.
My attire will probably lighten up in time but I own a lot of black clothing so I'm giving it all a new kind of symbolism and meaning.
Second, never again will I say or write that man's name.
Neither of these silly, little protests will change anything. But they will keep what has happened in the forefront of my mind and that will inform choices I make from now on.
Mostly, right now, I want to be quiet and to learn to breathe again. I don't know when I will be done with that and unlike the go-getters, I think it is a good thing to do – to be quiet and reflect.
The there’s the Canadian journalist Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. She writes (naomiklein.org):
They will blame James Comey and the FBI. They will blame voter suppression and racism. They will blame Bernie or bust and misogyny. They will blame third parties and independent candidates. They will blame the corporate media for giving him the platform, social media for being a bullhorn, and WikiLeaks for airing the laundry. But this leaves out the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves: neoliberalism, fully embodied by Hillary Clinton and her machine… Trump’s message was: “All is hell.” Clinton answered: “All is well.” But it’s not well – far from it.
Charles Eisenstein, author of The More Beautiful World We Know in Our Hearts is Possible, (newandancientstory.net) writes:
For the last eight years it has been possible for most people (at least in the relatively privileged classes) to believe that the system, though creaky, basically works, and that the progressive deterioration of everything from ecology to economy is a temporary deviation from the evolutionary imperative of progress… The prison-industrial complex, the endless wars, the surveillance state, the pipelines, the nuclear weapons expansion were easier for liberals to swallow when they came with a dose of LGBTQ rights under an African-American President… As we enter a period of intensifying disorder, it is important to introduce a different kind of force... I would call it love if it weren’t for the risk of triggering your New Age bullshit detector… So let’s start with empathy. Politically, empathy is akin to solidarity, born of the understanding that we are all in the uncertainty together...
Rebecca Solnit, (rebeccasolnit.net) writes:
Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes—you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others.
Ricken Patel, (Avaaz.org) writes:
The darkness of Trumpism could help us build the most inspiring movement for human unity and progress the world has EVER seen, with a new, people-centered, high-integrity, inspiring politics that brings massive improvement to the status quo.
Michael Meade, (mosaicvoices.org) writes:
Solstice means “sun stands still.” At mid-winter it means the sun stopping amidst a darkening world. We stop as the sun stops, the way one’s heart can stop in a crucial moment of fear or beauty; then begins again, but in an altered way… There may be no better time than the dark times we find ourselves in to rekindle the instinct for uniting together and expressing love, care and community.
Bill McKibben (350.org) never fails to inform and inspire. He writes:
I wish I had some magic words to make the gobsmacked feeling go away. But I can tell you from experience that taking action, joining with others to protest, heals some of the sting. And throughout history, movements like ours have been the ones to create lasting change—not a single individual or president. That's the work we'll get back to, together.
And then there’s Dougald Hine (Crossed Lines, dougald.nu), co-founder of my favorite collapsarian website, Dark Mountain:
It’s not the apocalypse, of course, but if you thought the shape of history was meant to be an upward curve of progress, then this feels like the apocalypse… It reminds me of the conversations that sometimes happen in the last days of life, or on the evening of a funeral… There’s a chance of getting real… Donald Trump is a shadowy parody of a trickster, a toxic mimic of Loki. We don’t know the shape of the war that could be coming, nor how that war will end, and not only because we cannot see the future, but because it hasn’t happened yet: there is still more than one way all this could play out, though the possibilities likely range from bad to worse. Among the things that might be worth doing is to read some books from Germany in the 1920s and 30s, to get a better understanding of what Nazism looked like, before anyone could say for sure how the story would end… If someone were to ask me what kind of cause is sufficient to live for in dark times, the best answer I could give would be: to take responsibility for the survival of something that matters deeply. Whatever that is, your best action might then be to get it out of harm’s way, or to put yourself in harm’s way on its behalf, or anything else your sense of responsibility tells you. Some of those actions will be loud and public, others quiet, invisible, never to be known. They are beginning already. And though it is not the bravest form of action, and often takes place far from the frontline, I believe the work of sense-making is among the actions that are called for… This is where I intend to put a good part of my energy in the next while, to the question of what it means if the future is not coming back. How do we disentangle our thinking and our hopes from the cultural logic of progress? For that logic does not have enough room for loss, nor for the kind of deep rethinking that is called for when a culture is in crisis… I want to say that this is also history, though it doesn’t get written down so much: the small joys and gentlenesses, the fragments of peace, time spent caring for our children, or our parents, or our neighbours. These tasks alone are not enough to hold off the darkness, but they are one of the starting points, one of the models for what it means to take responsibility for the survival of things that matter deeply.... We’ll get through because we have to, the way we always have, one foot in front of another. Hold those you love tight. Be kind to strangers… There is work to be done.
Each of these thinkers and visionaries has a finger on the pulse of our times. If you’re not reading them, I urge you to do so. You won’t regret it.Eric Utne is the founder of Utne Reader. He is writing a memoir, to be published by Random House.