A question on the minds of many of my artist friends is how can our art play a role in the current crises, and is what we have been doing up to now even relevant at this time of revolutionary change? I think it's common for artists, at any time, to doubt the relevance and effectiveness of their work. But now, more than ever, we need to remind our selves that art has always been central to any resistance movement.
Art gives people courage and confidence in trying times. It holds fast to a vision of a world that we want to see, to the values of peace with justice, of beauty and the erotic, of freedom in all its forms. Art's greatest power lies in its power to transform, to unite, to deescalate a violent situation, to counter despair, to lift spirits, to have fun – to dance! – while we go about doing the important work of changing the world.
The darkest time is right before the dawn, and we should take heart in that. We are living in amazing times, where setbacks and reactionary moments are bound to happen, but just when we feel all is lost tremendous victories can arrive with lightening speed. Think gay rights, women's rights, the fall of Apartheid, liberation movements around the world, from the Arab Spring to the uniting of the tribes at Standing Rock, all coming to pass within our very short lifetimes.
Take heart. Our greatest enemy is fear. Our greatest friend is our community. We need to practice reaching out to one another and come together as never before. We will survive. We will endure.
Image:Bangarra Dance Theatre's Daniel Riley McKinley and Waangenga Blanco in Blak, a dance that explores the harsh realities of urban influence on indigenous life, the rituals that mark the transition between childhood and adulthood, and the importance of keeping a spiritual relationship with the land. Bangarra Dance Theatre has been described as "one of Australia’s premier national Indigenous performing arts companies."
We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us, all of us.
We truly thank you for sharing this show – this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women, of different colors, creeds, and orientations.
One of the standout albums of 2013 was Petula Clark's Lost in You. It's definitely become one of my all-time favorite albums, and whenever friends hear it playing, in either my home or car, they fall under its mesmerizing spell and ask, "Who is this?" Upon hearing that it is the legendary Petula Clark, they're always astounded and impressed.
(You may recall that in May of 2014 my parents saw Petula in concert in Port Macquarie, Australia. For my mum's review of this concert, click here.)
Given all of this, I'm happy to report that Petula has a new album out. It's called From Now On and it's getting glowing reviews. The lead single is a track called "Sacrifice My Love," and it and its accompanying video are quite something.
But don't just take my word for it, check it out for yourself . . .
Over her seven-decade-long career, the inimitable Petula Clark has had considerable success in Europe and the USA, on stage and screen. She's danced with Fred Astaire, given peace a chance with John Lennon, been the first British woman to win a Grammy, and also lays claim to the first instance of physical contact between a white woman and a black man (Harry Belafonte) on US television. To top it off, she's the biggest selling British female artist of all time. As with all truly great artists, Petula continues to explore the boundaries of her creativity as a writer and performer. Unlike Norma Desmond, (a character she has played in Sunset Boulevard more times than any other actress) Petula's focus is not on nostalgia, by her own admission she rarely listens to her old songs, but on the here and now. At 83 she remains an inspiration and is going back on the road for a series of dates in support of her latest album, From Now On, a collection of mostly self-penned new material and a selection of covers.
Producer John Williams and co-producer and writer Paul Visser add a magical touch to the album by creating a wonderful mix of contemporary sounds and mellow ballads. Williams encouraged Petula to play more piano and record backing vocals which really imbues the album with a personal quality.
The astonishingly modern opening number, "Sacrifice My Heart," is orchestral pop at its best. It's moody, sexy, deeply memorable and so up to the minute that it could have been recorded by any of today's chart toppers. An equally à la mode track is "Sincerely," in which Petula instills a subtle sexuality against an enchanting dance beat and ghostly strings. Lennon and McCartney's "Blackbird" is delivered with the beauty and simplicity that you would expect from a performer of her standing. Peggy Lee was always an influence on Petula so it's a treat to hear "Fever" given a trendy soft rock make-over. This new version is delivered once again with characteristic perfection and precision.
Elsewhere on the album there are some beautiful tracks, including "A Miracle to Me" and "Pour Etre Aimee De Toi (To Be Loved By You)," written by Petula and fellow singer Charles Aznavour. Petula's fluidity of the Romance language reminds us of why she was taken into the hearts of the French all those years ago. The titular track "From Now On" continues the moody, longing and hopeful undercurrent of the album. "Happiness" sees an emotional Petula playing the piano on the haunting yet uplifting closing chanson. From start to finish this album is full of surprises, poignant lyrical sentiments and satisfying vocal lines, more than enough to please any 'Pet' fan or newcomer who has been drawn to her bewitching hold over a melody.
And what of Petula's unique voice? It may be a little thinner in places than her younger days, but no less magnificent in tone. Her ability to convey deep emotion pours out of every song and her phrasing and timing are second to none. Nobody can hold a tune and captivate quite like the first lady of the British invasion, she's pure class and a total one off.
Above: President Obama shakes hands with President-elect Donald Trump, November 10, 2016 (Win McNamee/Getty Images). For an insightful article about the moving of the Norman Rockwell painting in the Oval Office so that it would hang over Mr. Trump’s shoulder, click here.
I don't know about you but I'm still trying to get my head around events of last week.
I'm referring not only to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States but also to what this says about the U.S. and its people and what it bodes for the future of this country and the planet. I'm also struggling with the related news that less than fifty percent of registered voters actually bothered to vote and that there has been a disturbing spike in reported hate crimes and incidences following Trump's election.
Much has been written about all of these events and developments, and following is a compilation of excerpts from some of the more erudite and insightful articles and commentaries I've come across in the last week. For me, and perhaps for you, these excerpts offer words of insight, challenge and, in the case of both Charles Eisenstein and Junot Díaz, much-needed hope.
From Barack Obama, the first African-American president, the pendulum has ominously swung to the Ku Klux Klan’s choice, Donald Trump. Just elected the 45th president of the United States, Trump opened his campaign calling Mexicans “rapists,” and promised to build a wall along the border with Mexico (and to make Mexico pay for it). He vowed to ban Muslims from entering the country, insulted people with disabilities, bragged about committing sexual assault, denied climate change and said he would jail his opponent, Hillary Clinton. It is important to note that Clinton won the popular vote, but Donald Trump prevailed in the Electoral College. Ironically, on election night 2012, Trump tweeted, “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.” Trump will assume the most powerful position in the world, the presidency of the United States, with the House of Representatives and the Senate remaining in Republican control. His power could be almost entirely unchecked.
The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President – a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit – and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.
[Trump's win] speaks to deep and persistent strains of misogyny and white supremacy in American society.
But we can recognize all this yet still reject the idea that all women who reach as high as Mrs. Clinton will meet the same fate. Yes, she had a gold-plated résumé that more than qualified her to be president. But that overlooks an important fact: Virtually everything about Mrs. Clinton’s biography made her uniquely unsuited to draw blood where Mr. Trump was most vulnerable.
This election needed a Democrat who could call out, again and again, the myriad hypocrisies and absurdities of Mr. Trump’s claim to be a hero for the downtrodden working class. In the debates, Mrs. Clinton landed points when she exposed Mr. Trump’s history of outsourcing and tax dodging. But by then Mr. Trump had already spent the summer mocking his opponent for her private parties with oligarchs, painting her own lifestyle as profoundly out of touch with ordinary Americans (which it is).
In short, she landed on many of the right messages, but she was the wrong messenger.
Donald Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media. People are tired of working longer hours for lower wages, of seeing decent paying jobs go to China and other low-wage countries, of billionaires not paying any federal income taxes and of not being able to afford a college education for their kids – all while the very rich become much richer.
Kathy Cramer’s book [The Politics of Resentment] offers an important way to think about politics in the era of Trump. Many have pointed out that American politics have become increasingly tribal; Cramer takes that idea a step further, showing how these tribal identities shape our perspectives on reality. It will not be enough, in the coming months, to say that Trump voters were simply angry. Cramer shows that there are nuances to political rage. To understand Trump's success, she argues, we have to understand how he tapped into people's sense of self.
What I was hearing [when researching for my book The Politics of Resentment] was this general sense of being on the short end of the stick. Rural people felt like they not getting their fair share.
That feeling is primarily composed of three things. First, people felt that they were not getting their fair share of decision-making power. For example, people would say: . . . Nobody’s paying attention, nobody’s coming out here and asking us what we think. Decisions are made in the cities, and we have to abide by them.
Second, people would complain that they weren’t getting their fair share of stuff, that they weren’t getting their fair share of public resources. That often came up in perceptions of taxation. People had this sense that all the money is sucked in by [the big urban centers], but never spent on places like theirs.
And third, people felt that they weren’t getting respect. They would say: The real kicker is that people in the city don’t understand us. They don’t understand what rural life is like, what’s important to us and what challenges that we’re facing. They think we’re a bunch of redneck racists.
So it’s all three of these things – the power, the money, the respect. People are feeling like they’re not getting their fair share of any of that.
. . . Look at all the graphs showing how economic inequality has been increasing for decades. Many of the stories that people would tell about the trajectories of their own lives map onto those graphs, which show that since the mid-'70s, something has increasingly been going wrong.
It’s just been harder and harder for the vast majority of people to make ends meet. So I think that’s part of this story. It’s been this slow burn.
Resentment is like that. It builds and builds and builds until something happens. Some confluence of things makes people notice: I am so pissed off. I am really the victim of injustice here.
Trump’s election is going to be the biggest “fuck you” ever recorded in human history – and it will feel good. . . . Whether Trump means it or not is kind of irrelevant because he’s saying the things to people who are hurting, and that’s why every beaten-down, nameless, forgotten working stiff who used to be part of what was called the middle class loves Trump. He is the human Molotov cocktail that they’ve been waiting for, the human hand grenade that they can legally throw into the system that stole their lives from them.
– Michael Moore via Facebook
November 9, 2016
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 wide awake: neoliberalism. That worldview – fully embodied by Hillary Clinton and her machine – is no match for Trump-style extremism. The decision to run one against the other is what sealed our fate. If we learn nothing else, can we please learn from that mistake?
Here is what we need to understand: a hell of a lot of people are in pain. Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously. They have lost jobs. They have lost pensions. They have lost much of the safety net that used to make these losses less frightening. They see a future for their kids even worse than their precarious present.
At the same time, they have witnessed the rise of the Davos class, a hyper-connected network of banking and tech billionaires, elected leaders who are awfully cosy with those interests, and Hollywood celebrities who make the whole thing seem unbearably glamorous. Success is a party to which they were not invited, and they know in their hearts that this rising wealth and power is somehow directly connected to their growing debts and powerlessness.
For the people who saw security and status as their birthright – and that means white men most of all – these losses are unbearable.
Donald Trump speaks directly to that pain. The Brexit campaign spoke to that pain. So do all of the rising far-right parties in Europe. They answer it with nostalgic nationalism and anger at remote economic bureaucracies – whether Washington, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the World Trade Organisation or the EU. And of course, they answer it by bashing immigrants and people of colour, vilifying Muslims, and degrading women. Elite neoliberalism has nothing to offer that pain, because neoliberalism unleashed the Davos class. People such as Hillary and Bill Clinton are the toast of the Davos party. In truth, they threw the party.
Trump’s message was: “All is hell.” Clinton answered: “All is well.” But it’s not well – far from it.
The neoliberal era in the United States ended with a neofascist bang. The political triumph of Donald Trump shattered the establishments in the Democratic and Republican parties – both wedded to the rule of Big Money and to the reign of meretricious politicians.
The Bush and Clinton dynasties were destroyed by the media-saturated lure of the pseudo-populist billionaire with narcissist sensibilities and ugly, fascist proclivities. The monumental election of Trump was a desperate and xenophobic cry of human hearts for a way out from under the devastation of a disintegrating neoliberal order – a nostalgic return to an imaginary past of greatness.
White working- and middle-class fellow citizens – out of anger and anguish – rejected the economic neglect of neoliberal policies and the self-righteous arrogance of elites. Yet these same citizens also supported a candidate who appeared to blame their social misery on minorities, and who alienated Mexican immigrants, Muslims, black people, Jews, gay people, women and China in the process.
This lethal fusion of economic insecurity and cultural scapegoating brought neoliberalism to its knees. In short, the abysmal failure of the Democratic party to speak to the arrested mobility and escalating poverty of working people unleashed a hate-filled populism and protectionism that threaten to tear apart the fragile fiber of what is left of US democracy.
If ever there was a repudiation of "The Establishment," this was it.
The most patently unqualified, the most offensive, personally odious presidential candidate in American history has just been elected president. The Groper in Chief.
This is not so much an embrace of Donald Trump – his negatives were even higher than Hillary Clinton's – as it is a repudiation of everything Establishment for the past two decades, especially Clinton, the living embodiment of Everything Establishment.
. . . Racism. Nationalism. Misogyny. Anti-Intellectualism. Authoritarianism. Those are Trump's unapologetic stocks in trade. The only thing we know is that we have experienced a tectonic shift of Rooseveltian proportions, only this time to the right, rather than to the left.
We’ve seen two of those in the past century. One was in 1933, in Germany, which is to say, Hitler. The other was in 1980 in the U.S., which is to say Reagan. We honestly don’t know enough about Trump to know which he will be, or whether he will be something entirely different. Only time will tell.
The media played a critical role in creating President-elect Donald Trump. The Tyndall Report, which tracks how much airtime different issues and candidates receive on the major news networks, summarized media coverage of the candidates in 2015. Donald Trump received 327 minutes, or close to one-third of all the campaign coverage, at a time when he had 16 Republican challengers. ABC World News Tonight aired 81 minutes of reports on Donald Trump, compared with just 20 seconds for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, according to Tyndall. On March 15, 2016, after the primary day dubbed “Super Tuesday 3,” the networks played all the candidates’ speeches, except for the speech by Sanders. The networks actually spent more time showing Trump’s empty podium, filling the time until he spoke, than playing any words of Sanders’, who addressed the largest crowd that night.
Earlier this year, CBS CEO Les Moonves told a Morgan Stanley-hosted media-industry conference, speaking about the volume of political advertising that the “circus” of Trump’s campaign was attracting: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS. . . . The money’s rolling in.” As world-renowned linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky says, “The media manufacture consent.”
Decades from now, when the election of 2016 is distilled to its essence, what will that essence be? Many hoped the central lesson would be a shattered glass ceiling and a continuation of the Obama legacy. An expansion of rights and tolerance.
Instead, a razor-thin electoral majority chose a candidate who openly embraced a platform of bigotry, who slurred war heroes and the disabled, who was accused of sexual assault, who said he'd roll back the protections of a free press, who was cheered on by white supremacists, who said he'd upend our alliances and the world's long-overdue climate deal, and who seemed ignorant and cavalier about the basics of safeguarding a nuclear arsenal.
There is no way to sugarcoat it. This election is a brutal affront to women, people of color, Jews and Muslims, and all who value kindness and tolerance. Paranoia and divisiveness have won the day. If we feared that the lesson of the Trump campaign would give white nationalists and other political predators a road map for a lasting presence as a disruptive opposition, we have instead handed them the keys to the Oval Office, and the nuclear codes.
In these last horrible months, there were moments we all crossed our fingers and hoped the Trump campaign's ability to inflame bigotry might, ultimately, improve the health of the body politic. Maybe he represented a high fever that, once broken, would leave us more immune to old hatreds. Maybe, just as videos of police shootings shoved the most heinous forms of structural racism into the feeds of white America, so would the actions of Trump and his most virulent supporters cast a light on an ugliness that needed to be confronted to be overcome.
Except, it seems it was also far, far more pervasive than we could let ourselves imagine.
And so, the so-called “unthinkable” has happened. Donald Trump, the racist, sexist, xenophobic candidate of the Republican alt-right, has been elected President of the United States.
Across social media, white anti-Trumpers are expressing shock and disbelief, unable to recognize the America they thought they knew.
Well, wake up. This is the America people of color have always known. This is the America that has always existed.
. . . The election of Donald Trump is painfully consistent with how America historically has reacted to the racial tide turning in the past. From the 13th Amendment, the seeds of mass incarceration were sewn. The hope of Reconstruction gave way to Jim Crow. The first black president has given way to Donald Trump. . . . It’s been so easy for white liberals to turn a blind eye to the deep-seated nature of racism in the past – especially after eight years of being able to cling to their vote for a black president. But Tuesday was a wake up call, a stark reminder that there is more for you to do. It will be the job of those Americans who do not agree with Trump and his surrogates, now more than ever, to combat the deluge of bigotry that’s been left in the wake of his ridiculous campaign trail. There are no more excuses.
To insist Trump’s backers are good people is to treat their inner lives with more weight than the actual lives on the line under a Trump administration. At best, it’s myopic and solipsistic. At worst, it’s morally grotesque.
Between 1882 and 1964, nearly 3,500 black Americans were lynched. At the peak of this era, from 1890 to 1910, hundreds were killed in huge public spectacles of violence. The men who organized lynchings – who gathered conspirators, who made arrangements with law enforcement, who purchased rope, who found the right spot – weren’t ghouls or monsters. They were ordinary. The Forsyth County, Georgia, sheriff who looked the other way while mobs lynched Rob Edwards, a young man scapegoated for a crime he did not commit, was a well-liked and popular figure of authority, as described by Patrick Phillips in his book Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America.
And the people who watched these events, who brought their families to gawk and smile, were the very model of decent, law-abiding Americana. Hate and racism have always been the province of 'good people.' To treat Trump voters as presumptively innocent – even as they hand power to a demagogic movement of ignorance and racism – is to clear them of moral responsibility for whatever happens next, even if it’s violence against communities of color. Even if, despite the patina of law, it is essentially criminal. It is to absolve Trump’s supporters of any blame or any fault. Yes, they put a white nationalist in power. But the consequences? Well, it’s not what they wanted.
Between Barack Obama’s 2008 election and 2016, America has transformed from being a majority white Christian nation (54 percent) to a minority white Christian nation (43 percent).
But on Election Day, paradoxically, this anxious minority swarmed to the polls to elect as president the candidate who promised to “make America great again” and warned that he was its “last chance” to turn back the tide of cultural and economic change.
One clue to the power of this racial and religious identity can be seen in the striking similarity of a map of white Christian population density by state to the red and blue election night map. While the similarity of those maps in Kentucky and West Virginia might not be a surprise, the same similarity in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania goes a long way to explaining why Hillary Clinton’s Midwestern firewall did not hold on election night.
The choice before the country was starkly clear. Donald J. Trump’s Republican Party looked back wistfully to a monochromatic vision of 1950s America, while the major party fronting the first female presidential candidate celebrated the pluralistic future of 2050, when the Census Bureau first projected the United States would become a majority nonwhite nation.
. . . The waning numbers of white Christians in the country today may not have time on their side, but as the sun is slowly setting on the cultural world of white Christian America, they’ve managed, at least in this election, to rage against the dying of the light.
Low-information voters have given us a low-information president. Trump’s lack of sophistication and his apparent disinterest in doing the hard work it takes to understand the complexities of economics, international relations and military strategy is the most alarming aspect of his looming presidency. His character flaws and reactionary tendencies are hardly insignificant, but his willful ignorance of vital knowledge is what may make him the world’s most dangerous man.
Donald Trump said so many things in so many different ways during the course of his 17-month campaign for the presidency – about building walls, banning Muslims, tearing up the Iran nuclear deal, abandoning climate agreements, and scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership – that it is easy to imagine that he might take the country in any of a number of difficult directions.
But that is the same nonsense that has allowed Trump to get this far. We know enough about Trump and the party he leads.
Make no mistake, Trump now leads the Republican Party. And that party has in recent years developed an approach to power. When it does not control the executive branch, the GOP obstructs the Democrat who is in charge. When it has the executive and legislative branches in its grip, the GOP acts. Quickly.
Despite the whining of “Never Trump” conservatives that the Republican nominee was politically impure, Trump accepted the nomination of a socially and economically conservative party that spelled out its agenda in a platform that People for the American Way’s Right-Wing Watch recognized as a more extreme version of the party’s previous programs: “a far-right fever dream, a compilation of pouting, posturing, and policies to meet just about every demand from the overlapping Religious Right, Tea Party, corporate, and neo-conservative wings of the GOP.”
. . . Trump will stumble quickly. He will not deliver on the promises that he should keep, and he will keep the promises that should be abandoned. Americans will come to realize his election as a profound error of judgement, just as the voters of Great Britain quickly recognized the folly of this year’s Brexit vote.
Trump has secured an Electoral College majority. But he was not the choice of the majority of Americans who cast ballots for the presidency. And the popular vote, which should elect presidents, will ultimately favor Clinton. This is the place of beginning. Donald Trump has won the presidency. But he has no great mandate. Indeed, the great mandate is with those who can and must oppose not just a Trump presidency but the cruel hoax that is Trumpism.
Donald Trump and his surrogates have declared that the country has given them a mandate. But when you lose the popular vote by more than 200,000, it's pretty hard to claim that the public has given you its blessing.
Ironically enough, back on Election Day in 2012, Donald Trump tweeted: "The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy."
For once, he and I agree.
Yet it's amazing how fast such criticisms went away after Trump eked out his Electoral College victory.
Instead, we heard nonsense claims about a "popular wave," which, sadly enough, the news media immediately embraced. This is not much of a surprise, considering that that same media has often embraced the Trump lexicon – e.g., inserting the word "temporary" in front of Trump's proposed Muslim ban, even though it was not at all temporary in nature; using the tepid-sounding "locker-room talk" as opposed to "boasts about sexual assault"; never using terms such as "bigot" or "white nationalist," which would've accurately characterized Trump and his surrogates; or, as Mike Pesca has frequently pointed out, employing the term "pivot" when they should've been saying "lie" or "contradiction."
Now our language is once again being subjected to the same sort of Orwellian torture, stretching the term "mandate" so that it somehow means what it doesn't actually mean.
Can you imagine if this situation were reversed – if Hillary Clinton had clawed out an Electoral College victory while losing the popular vote?
We know from his debate response to Chris Wallace that Trump himself likely would've refused to concede, but what about other Republicans?
Do you think they would agree that she had a mandate for her proposals?
Somehow, I doubt it. They'd be screaming bloody murder about the Electoral College and the "rigged" system.
What is happening in America right now is not normal.
It is not normal that a presidential candidate with no prior government or military experience, who unambiguously and repeatedly vowed to violate the Constitution should he be elected president, will soon become commander in chief of the nation’s armed forces.
It is not normal that an individual helming a vast family business empire with holdings domestic and international will soon be in a position to use the instruments of the world’s most powerful government to enrich himself and his kin.
It is not normal that the preferred candidate of conspiracy theorists like radio host Alex Jones will soon have access to the nation’s top secrets. Eight years ago, the only presidential candidate willing to talk to Jones was Ron Paul, whose wacky and paranoid newsletters now seem quaint considering that America just elected as president a man who claimed that his predecessor is not a natural-born U.S. citizen and “founded” ISIS.
And yet here we are being told to act like all of this is normal. That the voters who willed this unmitigated disaster into being have legitimate grievances and that their collective decision must be respected. While the democratic expression of the American people should of course be respected, that does not make it respectable. To use an analogy to which our insult-strewing president-elect can relate: I refuse to put lipstick on this pig.
America died on Nov. 8, 2016, not with a bang or a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide. We the people chose a man who has shredded our values, our morals, our compassion, our tolerance, our decency, our sense of common purpose, our very identity — all the things that, however tenuously, made a nation out of a country.
Whatever place we now live in is not the same place it was on Nov. 7. No matter how the rest of the world looked at us on Nov. 7, they will now look at us differently. We are likely to be a pariah country. And we are lost for it. As I surveyed the ruin of that country this gray Wednesday morning, I found weary consolation in W.H. Auden’s poem, September 1, 1939, which concludes:
Defenseless under the night Our world in stupor lies; Yet, dotted everywhere, Ironic points of light Flash out wherever the Just Exchange their messages: May I, composed like them Of Eros and of dust, Beleaguered by the same Negation and despair, Show an affirming flame.
I hunt for that affirming flame.
This generally has been called the “hate election” because everyone professed to hate both candidates. It turned out to be the hate election because, and let’s not mince words, of the hatefulness of the electorate. In the years to come, we will brace for the violence, the anger, the racism, the misogyny, the xenophobia, the nativism, the white sense of grievance that will undoubtedly be unleashed now that we have destroyed the values that have bound us.
We all knew these hatreds lurked under the thinnest veneer of civility. That civility finally is gone. In its absence, we may realize just how imperative that politesse was. It is the way we managed to coexist.
. . . Many years from now, future generations will need to know what happened to us and how it happened. They will need to know how disgruntled white Americans, full of self-righteous indignation, found a way to take back a country they felt they were entitled to and which they believed had been lost. They will need to know about the ugliness and evil that destroyed us as a nation after great men like Lincoln and Roosevelt guided us through previous crises and kept our values intact. They will need to know, and they will need a vigorous, engaged, moral media to tell them. They will also need us.
We are not living for ourselves anymore in this country. Now we are living for history.
We are exiting an old story that explained to us the way of the world and our place in it. Some may cling to it all the more desperately as it dissolves, looking perhaps to Donald Trump to restore it, but their savior has not the power to bring back the dead. Neither would Clinton have been able to preserve America as we’d known it for too much longer. We as a society are entering a space between stories, in which everything that had seemed so real, true, right, and permanent comes into doubt. For a while, segments of society have remained insulated from this breakdown (whether by fortune, talent, or privilege), living in a bubble as the containing economic and ecological systems deteriorate. But not for much longer. Not even the elites are immune to this doubt. They grasp at straws of past glories and obsolete strategies; they create perfunctory and unconvincing shibboleths (Putin!), wandering aimlessly from “doctrine” to “doctrine” – and they have no idea what to do. Their haplessness and half-heartedness was plain to see in this election, their disbelief in their own propaganda, their cynicism. When even the custodians of the story no longer believe the story, you know its days are numbered. It is a shell with no engine, running on habit and momentum.
We are entering a space between stories. After various retrograde versions of a new story rise and fall and we enter a period of true unknowing, an authentic next story will emerge. What would it take for it to embody love, compassion, and interbeing? I see its lineaments in those marginal structures and practices that we call holistic, alternative, regenerative, and restorative. All of them source from empathy, the result of the compassionate inquiry: What is it like to be you?
It is time now to bring this question and the empathy it arouses into our political discourse as a new animating force. If you are appalled at the election outcome and feel the call of hate, perhaps try asking yourself, “What is it like to be a Trump supporter?” Ask it not with a patronizing condescension, but for real, looking underneath the caricature of misogynist and bigot to find the real person.
Even if the person you face IS a misogynist or bigot, ask, “Is this who they are, really?” Ask what confluence of circumstances, social, economic, and biographical, may have brought them there. You may still not know how to engage them, but at least you will not be on the warpath automatically. We hate what we fear, and we fear what we do not know. So let’s stop making our opponents invisible behind a caricature of evil.
We’ve got to stop acting out hate. I see no less of it in the liberal media than I do in the right-wing. It is just better disguised, hiding beneath pseudo-psychological epithets and dehumanizing ideological labels. Exercising it, we create more of it. What is beneath the hate? My acupuncturist Sarah Fields wrote to me, “Hate is just a bodyguard for grief. When people lose the hate, they are forced to deal with the pain beneath.”
I think the pain beneath is fundamentally the same pain that animates misogyny and racism – hate in a different form. Please stop thinking you are better than these people! We are all victims of the same world-dominating machine, suffering different mutations of the same wound of separation. Something hurts in there. We live in a civilization that has robbed nearly all of us of deep community, intimate connection with nature, unconditional love, freedom to explore the kingdom of childhood, and so much more. The acute trauma endured by the incarcerated, the abused, the raped, the trafficked, the starved, the murdered, and the dispossessed does not exempt the perpetrators. They feel it in mirror image, adding damage to their souls atop the damage that compels them to violence. Thus it is that suicide is the leading cause of death in the U.S. military. Thus it is that addiction is rampant among the police. Thus it is that depression is epidemic in the upper middle class. We are all in this together.
Something hurts in there. Can you feel it? We are all in this together. One earth, one tribe, one people.
So what now? Well, first and foremost, we need to feel. We need to connect courageously with the rejection, the fear, the vulnerability that Trump’s victory has inflicted on us, without turning away or numbing ourselves or lapsing into cynicism. We need to bear witness to what we have lost: our safety, our sense of belonging, our vision of our country. We need to mourn all these injuries fully, so that they do not drag us into despair, so repair will be possible.
And while we’re doing the hard, necessary work of mourning, we should avail ourselves of the old formations that have seen us through darkness. We organize. We form solidarities. And, yes: we fight. To be heard. To be safe. To be free.
For those of us who have been in the fight, the prospect of more fighting, after so cruel a setback, will seem impossible. At moments like these, it is easy for even a matatana to feel that she can’t go on. But I believe that, once the shock settles, faith and energy will return. Because let’s be real: we always knew this shit wasn’t going to be easy. Colonial power, patriarchal power, capitalist power must always and everywhere be battled, because they never, ever quit. We have to keep fighting, because otherwise there will be no future – all will be consumed. Those of us whose ancestors were owned and bred like animals know that future all too well, because it is, in part, our past. And we know that by fighting, against all odds, we who had nothing, not even our real names, transformed the universe. Our ancestors did this with very little, and we who have more must do the same. This is the joyous destiny of our people – to bury the arc of the moral universe so deep in justice that it will never be undone.
But all the fighting in the world will not help us if we do not also hope. What I’m trying to cultivate is not blind optimism but what the philosopher Jonathan Lear calls radical hope. “What makes this hope radical,” Lear writes, “is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” Radical hope is not so much something you have but something you practice; it demands flexibility, openness, and what Lear describes as “imaginative excellence.” Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes the survival of the end of your world possible. Only radical hope could have imagined people like us into existence. And I believe that it will help us create a better, more loving future.
– Junot Díaz Excerpted from "Radical Hope" The New Yorker
November 21, 2016
Phillip Clark is a young gay man who lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland. Over the years he has contributed a number of erudite and insightful articles to the Catholic online forum, The Open Tabernacle (see, for instance, here and here).
We've never actually met, but I'm honored to say that Phillip has been a long-time supporter of The Wild Reed. I'm also happy to say that, through Facebook, we have become friends.
In response to Donald Trump's election on Tuesday to the office of President of the United States, Phillip shared the following inspiring words via Facebook. With his permission I share them today at The Wild Reed.
I'm done grieving. As catastrophic as this election is on so many levels, we must remember some spiritual truths that will carry us forward in the coming days, weeks, months, and years:
• All ideological and political divisions are manufactured by the human ego. In terms of biology and DNA, we are truly ALL connected. Political structures, while oriented towards the benefit and functioning of society, are externally conditioned systems that define our identity on mentally-composed ideologies; rather than the truth that we all share a common humanity. Acknowledging this reality does not deny the numerous disturbing implications this year's election will have upon countless lives. Yet (until we reach the consciousness necessary to change the paradigms that allowed this result to happen) the result of the election is now beyond our control.
• We are all divine manifestations of humanity. By owning this limitless spiritual power, we can focus our energies on harnessing the pain, suffering, torment, and dread before us by CREATING new political realities, solutions, and possibilities for ourselves and the United States as a whole. Yes, grim prospects are indeed on the horizon. However, confronting fearful policies with positively-driven activism, advocacy, coordination, and action will elevate the consciousness of our political conversations; ensuring justice, human rights, and the inherent dignity of all citizens remain can remain key foundations of our national conscience.
• Nothing is permanent. Hinduism, Buddhism, and many other Eastern spiritual traditions teach us that time is cyclical in nature – repeating patterns, lessons, and trends until the collective consciousness of humanity has comprehensively learned and healed from its failures and egotistical delusions. The United States of America has been reticent, for over a century, to admit that slavery and institutionalized racism (in addition to the genocide of First Nation peoples) has caused complex and insurmountable emotional, psychological and social pain for peoples of color throughout the nation. The fact that the American public could elect a xenophobic, racist, fascist merely demonstrates that we have not healed – or sincerely addressed – the underlying wound that is the original sin of the United States; which has never been allowed to fully heal. President Trump is a karmic symbol that we cannot run away from the pain and injustice that continues to plague us as a people until racism, misogyny, homo/transphobia, and xenophobia are confronted head-on – in legal policy and in daily practice.
The future is really in our hands. Believe it, and discern for yourself how to be a catalyst of positive change and cosmic evolution. Our growth as a nation and a collective family of citizens depends upon it.
I established The Wild Reed in 2006 as a sign of solidarity with all who are dedicated to living lives of integrity – though, in particular, with gay people seeking to be true to both the gift of their sexuality and their Catholic faith. The Wild Reed's original by-line read, “Thoughts and reflections from a progressive, gay, Catholic perspective.” As you can see, it reads differently now. This is because my journey has, in many ways, taken me beyond, or perhaps better still, deeper into the realities that the words “progressive,” “gay,” and “Catholic” seek to describe.
Even though reeds can symbolize frailty, they may also represent the strength found in flexibility. Popular wisdom says that the green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm. Tall green reeds are associated with water, fertility, abundance, wealth, and rebirth. The sound of a reed pipe is often considered the voice of a soul pining for God or a lost love.
On September 24, 2012,Michael BaylyofCatholics for Marriage Equality MNwas interviewed by Suzanne Linton of Our World Today about same-sex relationships and why Catholics can vote 'no' on the proposed Minnesota anti-marriage equality amendment.
"I believe your blog to be of utmost importance for all people regardless of their orientation. . . . Thank you for your blog and the care and dedication that you give in bringing the TRUTH to everyone."– William
"Michael, if there is ever a moment in your day or in your life when you feel low and despondent and wonder whether what you are doing is anything worthwhile, think of this: thanks to your writing on the internet, a young man miles away is now willing to embrace life completely and use his talents and passions unashamedly to celebrate God and his creation. Any success I face in the future and any lives I touch would have been made possible thanks to you and your honesty and wisdom."– AB
"Since I discovered your blog I have felt so much more encouraged and inspired knowing that I'm not the only gay guy in the Catholic Church trying to balance my Faith and my sexuality. Continue being a beacon of hope and a guide to the future within our Church!"– Phillip
"Your posts about Catholic issues are always informative and well researched, and I especially appreciate your photography and the personal posts about your own experience. I'm very glad I found your blog and that I've had the chance to get to know you."– Crystal
"Thank you for taking the time to create this fantastic blog. It is so inspiring!"– George
"I cannot claim to be an expert on Catholic blogs, but from what I've seen, The Wild Reed ranks among the very best."– Kevin
"Reading your blog leaves me with the consolation of knowing that the words Catholic, gay and progressive are not mutually exclusive.."– Patrick
"I grieve for the Roman institution’s betrayal of God’s invitation to change. I fear that somewhere in the midst of this denial is a great sin that rests on the shoulders of those who lead and those who passively follow. But knowing that there are voices, voices of the prophets out there gives me hope. Please keep up the good work."– Peter
"I ran across your blog the other day looking for something else. I stopped to look at it and then bookmarked it because you have written some excellent articles that I want to read. I find your writing to be insightful and interesting and I'm looking forward to reading more of it. Keep up the good work. We really, really need sane people with a voice these days."– Jane Gael
"Michael, your site is like water in the desert."– Jayden