It’s Time to Change the Conversation

The United States is in a strange place right now. With the inauguration of Donald Trump, it seems like every conversation has become political and many people are living in a state of permanent distraction.

On the right, considerable gloating could and can be heard about the changes that are supposed to come and the over throw of the old system. As the opposition grows more vocal, so do the growls of retaliation from the administration and its supporters. A sense of discomfort is settling over the right as they realize they have no mandate and less support than they thought.

On the left, the election results were met with disbelief and wailing and gnashing of teeth. It was concerning to hear people say that they could not function in their daily lives. If the results lay them out, then how will they be able to take the hits that will come? Now people speak of resistance and with cautious hope that occasionally dips back into despair. Meanwhile, a riptide of violent talk and action is starting to filter through the left. People talking about (and actually) punching Nazis and trying to establish their violence bona fides from their history of fighting at punk concerts.

At the center of it all, however, remains one constant topic — Trump himself. This central position is what gives him so much power. By becoming the locus of all the efforts, energy, and attention, all the moves become his. Everyone else is reduced to reaction. So, he is setting the tone and the agenda for the entire country. He runs the conversation.

It is time to change the conversation.

The president is not the only political actor in the country. The Federal Government is not the only political actor in the country. Yet the reactions point to an ugly truth that maybe no one wants to hear — perhaps the left really has become to dependent on the government.

What should the conversation be?

Instead of making everything about Donald Trump, we need to start thinking about the issues facing our nation and our world. We need to start with facts and data, identify the problems, and begin working on the solutions. Since the federal government is no longer going to be of much help, it is time to find state, local, and private solutions to problems we face. There will be some federal battles to fight.Those are important, but for this discussion let’s think about the things that can be solved.

With the Democratic party unable to provide leadership, the resistance will be local.

We are starting to see some signs of this. For example, in Massachusetts, there is a bill that would require the state to get all of its energy from renewable resources. At the same time, Governor Charlie Baker, a republican, has said that if the Affordable Care Act goes away, then he will work to reinstate the previous universal coverage bill in Massachusetts that the ACA was based on (also known as Romneycare).

Money Magazine took a look at 17 programs that the Trump administration wants to cut and calculated that the cost per American citizen is $22.36 per year. This includes funding for things like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting ($1.37), the National Endowment for the Arts ($0.46), and the Minority Business Development Agency ($0.11). All of these are worthy programs, but given the amount in the budget, maybe it is time to remove them from the political football field. This way, instead of being kicked around, they take the loss of federal funding, use it as a call to action, and build up their own private endowment. Call it an “Ice Bucket Challenge for the Humanities.” We can get people to kick in a little extra. I realize that not everyone can afford to donate — the battle cry of the left whenever someone suggests that people should do some of their own funding — but it becomes a case of from each according to his/her ability, to each according to his/her need. What would it cost to cover five Americans? About $111.80? I’ll cover myself and four others.

Yes, private funding can be fickle (so can government funding). But really, the question now is what do we value, and are we willing to support it, whether through our state and local governments or our own efforts.

The point of these examples is not the examples per se. It is that solutions exist, and they don’t need Donald Trump or the federal government to bless them. Maybe by changing the conversation, we can start to prevent some bad things from happening by creating sustainable, smaller scale solutions.

Did White Women Suddenly Wake Up in 2017?

The left has once again begun turning on itself and succumbing to infighting. On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was inaugurated as president of the United States. On January 21, 2017 more than two-and-a-half million Americans joined Woman’s marches around the country to protest various aspects of the Trump administration’s plans.

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By January 22, 2017 the members of the left began to complain about the march. “Where have all these people been? Why were white women only marching now? Where have they been before this?”

First of all, let’s start with the election itself. Hilary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2 million votes.

Clinton: 65,844,610

Trump: 62,979,636

(http://www.cnn.com/election/results/president)

So, a lot of the women at the marches were there for round 1 and they were showing up for round 2, and the painful rounds to come.

I made this point in response to a critique of the marches, and someone said that white women have not been present for a lot of social justice fights. The assertion was that these marches were the first time white women have cared of thought about social justice.

Nonsense.

They have been there all along. What do people think Hillary Clinton has been doing all her career? (Trump supporters don’t need to bother to answer. This is a conspiracy-free post.) What do people think Elizabeth Warren has been fighting for all these years?

Maybe those people are too high profile? Too big? What about all the white women who were out there protesting for the the right to vote and part of anti-slavery societies? Harriet Beecher Stowe? Elizabeth Cady Stanton? Susan B. Anthony?

Maybe those don’t count because they are too far in the past?

All right, let me give two recent examples of people I’ve met.

Gale Cincotta was a community organizer in Chicago who was famous for giving banks a hard time about redlining communities — particularly minority communities — on Chicago’s west side. Her work led to the creation of the Community Reinvestment Act, which required banks to make loans and investments in low-income communities. She was a tough character, but she was also mentoring younger women and trianing them to join the fight for social justice for all groups of people.

Second is Mary Houghton, one of the four founders of ShoreBank, which helped to launch the community development banking movement both in the U.S. and around the world. The mission was to make loans and provide financial services in underserved communities, starting with the south side of Chicago.

I could go on, because there are many others. But the point is this, the left needs to stop turning on itself and start paying attention to its own history. Maybe someone’s particular problem wasn’t solved, but grassroots movements are often local and don’t always get the attention they deserve.

So, did white women suddenly wake up to social justice on January 21, 2017?

No.

They continued the work they have been doing for along time.

So the left should stop turning on one another and start working together to keep the positive momentum going.