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The age of Trump: Day 15

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Day 15 in the realm of President no.45. From every direction the messages are the same – ‘be careful what you say, what you post’; ‘don’t travel, or if you do clean out your social media’. They are logical, responsible statements. Caring advice for sure. But here’s my problem: as most of you know, I’ve spent twenty years shining a light on the women who’ve had the courage to stand up, act and speak out against violence, extremism, repression and authoritarianism. Women who have lost their children and homes, who face death threats for what they stand for, and yet they carry on. My own story is traumatic on a personal level, but professionally I choose – very deliberately – to do what I can to shine a light, amplify and give space for these women to speak for themselves and be recognized. In other words, I’m an advocate and a strategist.

So far these two identities have lived side by side in my cluttered brain. But no longer. The strategist in me says we need to take the long view, to articulate the message and vision of what we want to prevent and achieve. If that means lowering the volume, so be it. But the advocate in me, says ‘hell no’. This is no time for the mute button. It is time to use every platform and opportunity to speak out, to articulate and raise the alarm, to put out ideas and solutions so that others – ordinary people, governments, journalists – also start to take this all more seriously – so that they can understand the human cost and relate to it, not just rationally but emotionally. Empathy is of the essence right now and if fear and uncertainty rises, empathy will evaporate. People will build their own walls in the hope of protecting themselves, not realising that this isolation and atomization is precisely what they want us to do.

Or put it another way, the extremes want to pull us into their corner and patch. They want to cede the moderate, plural, rainbow coloured, cacophonous middle ground that unites us around a shared humanity. They want to create a world where the choices are evil or good, dark or light -but in reality the extremities are one and the same – it is dark in each corner. But once we are pulled apart and we find out, it is too late to return to the light. Or it may take decades.

While they are doing this, they distract us with other events and news. Today it is the flurry of 45’s tweets, tomorrow it is some other garbage story. So vigilance is essential. More than that if we want to succeed we cannot just protest and be reactive against what is being done. Protest and prevention of damage is important but it is band aiding and triage to stench the flow. It needs to be matched with a clear sense of positive direction – what does ‘Making America Great again’ mean to US?? US at home, US in the World? Let’s frame that narrative and occupy that space.

Let’s start a charter of our vision and values and what we stand for and add to it and invite as many people as possible to join in.

I have 4 points:

Making America Great means respecting…

  1. Pluralism and equality in every form. We can each be, and celebrate our multiple identities – religious, ethnic, sexual, geographic, nationality, you name it. We  can love our collective uniqueness.
  2. Peace. At home, in our streets, in our country and in our policies with other countries. Enough of the wars that kill and maim and make pregnant mothers ill and future children riddled with cancer. Enough.
  3. Economic justice and dignity. The liberal elite has been drugged by the lure of neoliberalism that has turned into extreme economics. They have left many people behind. Unless we can offer them an alternative economic model and hope, the angries in all corners will have their ear, because they offer a false promise of dignity and retribution for the humiliation they feel.
  4. Empathy, inclusion and solidarity. We feel for each other, we feel we are in this together and we will continue to be there for the long haul.

What do you think? What else should we add? Ask your friends. Let’s put together a vision and bring others along. As for me, I guess I’m not going mute quite yet. As for that division of identity, let’s just say I’m trying to bridge it. A strategist with an advocacy plan and an advocate with a strategy.

Confused? Aren’t we all. But it shouldn’t stop us. Remember we are running against bananas that’ve overrun the republic. Surely we can do better than them.

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