Now the great work begins...

After so much great feedback on Facebook, I have fleshed out my post Nov 13th post. 

Shortly after the election, a friend posted this image on Facebook, with the caption "Now the great work begins..."

Click the image for an article on the history and significance of Central Park's Bethesda Fountain

Click the image for an article on the history and significance of Central Park's Bethesda Fountain

I cried as soon as I saw the post, because I knew my friend had delivered just the right message. I knew that Tony Kushner's wonderful play Angels In America could heal this moment for me the same way it had healed me all those years ago, when I first saw the workshops in the early 90's.  Over the next week, I streamed the HBO version of the play and was astounded by the relevance to our current political reality.  More importantly, AIA reminded me how familiar this reality is. This fear-based rejection of social progress is known, it is the stuff of history and of the hate and bigotry that I grew up in.  I was upset about the election because I wanted to believe fighting this fear was behind me. Now, I am upset that I ever believed it could have been over so quickly. This fear is the result of all of social evolutions. It cannot be undone by a construct like a supreme court decision. This is the great work, the stuff of generations, it takes lifetimes, not decades. I always knew this was true, and I suspect you knew it, too.

There will always be those that would seek security in the lessening of others, in the subjugation of those who are different.  But many people who voted for Trump do not see themselves as subjugate-rs.  Instead, they voted for a false sense of security.  The security of the known, which, for many, is easier to accept than the change created by the unknown.  And for better or worse, having a black president proved this.  In the past decade, we have given those who fear such change as a law requiring health insurance, gay marriage, legal pot, not to mention the riots and demonstrations against a justice system "they" want to be infallible but which inherently works without much real justice. We made them face the instability of their reality, and "they" did not like seeing it.  

As a result, many of those who invited the monster into our back yard did not do it because they want us oppressed.  "They" did it because they have been told our oppression is equal to their freedom.  "They" believe this because historically, the structure of the world held this reality out as true and their personal experience made it seem infallible.  The world order was safe to them.  The recent changes in that order were not.  Of course "they" had to push back, "they" wanted to feel some movement toward the old order, or, toward what once had felt like order to them.  This need for "order" is born in Maslow's hierarchy, the anxiety/danger of being too "permissive,"  the choice that put, health, home and security "at risk". The racist, sexist, homophobic outcomes of protecting that order are not the purpose for many.  Instead, they are the unintended result of choices made to appease the more basic anxiety generated by real social progress. 

Progress by its very nature undermines the comfortable. And the comfortable will not only resist, but will attempt to restore, the comfort they have lost.  Loss of political ground will never equal a loss of entitlement, and "they" believe themselves entitled to whatever small comfort is provided in the status quo.  At this moment, the pessimist in me thinks the election was an inevitable reaction to the last decade of progress, because people cannot accept too much change too quickly. I had moved on, stopped fighting, perhaps naively, because I wanted to believe a tide had turned. But tides never really turn, they return. 

But with this wave, I am even more prepared that I was in the Regan/Bush era. I know I am strong. I know how to fight. I know I can fight. Better still, I now know how to teach. I can help those young enough to really be shocked, I can comfort those who do not know this part of human nature. I can help them to shore up their survival skills. I can teach them how to fight.

We have the skills. We will use them, more smartly, more passionately, less desperately, than we did before. Speak up. Yell. ACT-UP. Speak truth and don't get lost in the trap of being offended. Offense is a trap for this reason: 

Soon those "middle-ground" voters, those who meant no harm when they voted for Trump, will learn the costs of their decisions.  Calling them names and shaming them for their mistake, will not endear them to our cause.  And they will want a new cause, but they will not find it among the ranks of those who would call them stupid or hateful.  Fight the oppressors, not those who blindly put them in power. Fighting the duped only draws energy away from the real battle and alienates possible future allies. To win this war, we must make it safe for those who genuinely made a fear-based mistake to learn and grow.  We must forgive them and invite them to become one of the enlightened (or woke).  Moral outrage aimed at the masses does not achieve this.

In the meantime focus on these things, a few lessons garnered from re-watching Angels In America:

Be Strong.

Be Visible.

Be Infallible.

Use your voice.

Make your own prophecy.

And when the time comes...

Sue the bastard(s).

Leslie SmithComment