This Is Not A Dress Rehearsal
December 3, 2016 § 4 Comments
“In Buddhist practice we say congratulations because now is the time we have been practicing for. No more just practicing the dance. We must now dance. And this is not a dress rehearsal.” ~ Zenju Earthlyn Manual
There is one good thing about the Trump presidency as far as I can tell—it has, for many, eradicated political complacency. For the 75 % of people who did not vote for Trump (nearly half of Americans didn’t vote—thanks guys!) we no longer feel we have the luxury to let our politics go on without us.
People in power and policies are shifting in American government.
Trump has appointed propaganda machine Brietbart news executive Steve Bannon to be his chief media strategist, a man who thinks “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power,” (Bannon, in a recent interview to the Hollywood Reporter.)
This it is a time of reckoning for Americans.
For those who did not vote to put Trump into office, it is time to decide who we want to be politically and personally. For many who will be directly affected—or whose community will be directly affected, or whose values will be directly challenged—by these policy changes, the personal has become the political. As, indeed, it seems destined to do.
This is equally true for those who voted for Trump. It is your responsibility to watch the chess moves of the man you put into office and make sure he does not exploit your hopes for ill.
In both cases, we must ask ourselves: what do we stand for? And accept no substitute.
“Now is a time when none of us can afford to remain seated or silent. We must all stand up to be counted.
History will demand to know which side were you on. This is not a question of politics or party or even policy. This is a question about the very fundamentals of our beautiful experiment in a pluralistic democracy ruled by law.
“When I see neo-Nazis raise their hands in terrifying solute, in public, in our nation’s capital, I shudder in horror. When I see that action mildly rebuked by a boilerplate statement from the President-elect whom these bigots have praised, the anger in me grows. And when I see some in a pliant press turn that mild statement into what they call a denunciation I cannot hold back any longer….”
Rather points out that the “self-evident truths” of equality & unalienable rights are not self-replicating. It is up to each new generation to renew the vows.
“We have survived through bloody spasms of a Civil War and a Civil Rights Movement to extend more of these rights to more of our citizens, ” continues Rather. “But the direction of our ship of state has not always been one of progress. We interned Japanese Americans, Red Baited during the McCarthy era, and more. I feel the rip tide of regression once again swelling under my feet. But I intend to remain standing.
“This is not about tax policy, health care, or education—even though all those and more are so important. This is about racism, bigotry, intimidation and the specter of corruption. But as I stand I do not despair, because I believe the vast majority of Americans stand with me….”
I believe in human dignity, equality & progress. To me, progress first and foremost means caring for the ailing planet, our only home within the void of space, and for each other—which means not dismissing the raised voices of the disenfranchised as products of “victim culture,” as Bannon has and the alt-right does.
That is damn easy to say when you haven’t walked a mile in another person’s shoes, suffering the indignity of constant low grade, often unconscious, prejudice. Where the default space is a white space.
Slogans like “make America great again” may sound good to white men, for whom the 50s was a fine time to be a man, but it sounds like hell to most black people, who were still fighting segregation and legal discrimination, and to many women, who were still deeply oppressed by gender expectations and sexism. That America was not great for a large swath of Americans.
There are already some undeniable parallels between Trump’s rise to power and the atmosphere of early Nazi Germany, already some alarming developments which hark back to the witch hunting of the McCarthy era. A Professor Watch List site, for instance, has been launched by a conservative youth group called Turning Point—where professors with a liberal bias are listed. Presumably & eerily, to be “watched”—to what end remains unspecified.
It’s true, the majority of teachers are generally more politically liberal. But trying to control individuals through intimidation is not the answer. And we can’t discard the connection between higher education & progressive values—clearly, one begets the other. It’s not some mass conspiracy to plant liberal fingers into the minds of the young. It’s the personality type that is attracted to education positions.
If conservatives want more conservative teachers, they need to rally for more conservatives to apply for teaching jobs—not exert witch hunt tactics, intimidation and thought control over existing teachers.
“In the United States in late 2016, as the president-elect’s surrogates cite Japanese internment as a ‘precedent’ for what may come, any ‘watch list’ of any sort is worrying. One that targets outspoken intellectuals with views that oppose a mercurial future president who spent the weekend tweeting petulantly at the cast of a Broadway play? Abjectly terrifying.”
“If we are not careful,” notes professor George Yancey, “a watchlist like this can have the impact of a theoretical prison designed to create a form of self-censorship among those imprisoned. The list is not simply designed to get others to spy on us, to out us, but to install forms of psychological self-policing to eliminate thoughts, pedagogical approaches and theoretical orientations that it defines as subversive.
“I am now ‘un-American’ because of my ideas, my desires and passion to undo injustice where I see it, my engagement in a form of pedagogy that can cause my students to become angry or resistant in their newfound awareness of the magnitude of suffering that exists in the world. Yet I reject this marking. I refuse to be philosophically and pedagogically adjusted.”
Yancey continues: “I refuse to be silent about forms of militarism in which innocent civilians are murdered in the name of ‘democracy.’ I refuse to remain silent when it comes to acknowledging the existential and psychic dread and chaos experienced by those who are targets of xenophobia and homophobia.
“I refuse to remain silent when it comes to transgender women and men who are beaten to death by those who refuse to create conditions of hospitality…where unarmed black bodies are shot dead by the state and its proxies, where those with disabilities are mocked and still rendered ‘monstrous,’ and where the earth suffers because some of us refuse to hear its suffering, where my ideas are marked as ‘un-American,’ and apparently ‘dangerous.'”
He concludes: “If it is dangerous to teach my students to love their neighbors, to think and rethink constructively and ethically about who their neighbors are, and how they have been taught to see themselves as disconnected… then, yes, I am dangerous, and what I teach is dangerous.”
This is not a time to be silenced or to feel disempowered, but rather to seize our power and raise our voices; not just to stand up for what we believe in but to definite what that is with depth, precision and love.
Should you choose to accept, I encourage all readers—whatever party you identify with—to create a personal manifesto detailing your values. And I will do the same. After drafting, I encourage you to list them in order of priority. From your top three values, I invite you to pick one issue to be your cause for 2017, something you dedicate concrete energy and actions towards.
Let this new era of uncertainty be a time that forces our own values into stark relief—let it forge us in the fire, concentrating and refining who we are and what we stand for. We need to take part in this shift in America, and influence its direction in whatever way we we can towards what we believe is right—not just with a shared Facebook post, but with concrete action.
The pendulum is always swinging—that is part of the dance, part of progress and a working democracy. It’s up to us to make sure it swings responsibly. And if it doesn’t, to speak up. This is not a dress rehearsal.
When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.” ~ Teresa Pinkola Estes