Two of my sisters joined the Women's Marches — one in Portland, the other in NYC — and they included me in their jubilant text thread:
Sooo good. The megalomaniac won't like a blow to his perceived popularity. Congress ought to be scared awake now. Our voices are being heard! I think we struck a nerve.
One of them was not pleased when I texted back:
Beware the echo chamber.
While the march seemed to be very effective at inspiring and heartening people who were filled with despair at Trump's election — reassuring them that yes, there are millions of others who share their views — several things concern me.
One is the rhetoric around “inclusiveness,” which rings with hypocrisy when it's accompanied by a message of “fuck Trump and everything he believes in,” which necessarily extends to all those who voted for him. That's not inclusive, and it does nothing to resolve the polarization that divides the nation.
The second is the rhetoric around love, tolerance and acceptance, which rings with hypocrisy when it's uttered by people whose actions belie their words.
That's why it grated when I read Anne Punohu's letter to The Garden Island saying she marches “because I want everyone to be able to look everyone else in the eyes and not be looked down upon because of race, creed, nationality, religion, partner preferences or any other reason for prejudice. Because love trumps hate.”
Yeah, that was so reflected in the way she and other anti-GMO activists trashed people simply because they worked for the seed companies — a biogtry that continues to this day.
The third is the danger inherent in all marches: the belief that simply taking to the streets is enough. As Jen Psakim former White House communications director under Obama, wrote:
I worry it will give too many people license to congratulate themselves for their activism and move on with their daily lives. The danger we face is allowing the march to make us feel better, to lull us into complacency.
The most important step attendees can take is to determine what in their daily lives they will do to stand up to bigotry or sexism, to help encourage a candidate to get in the race, make an action plan for the year to engage in an issue or local race, defend a friend or coworker or even run for office. And we are going to have to get a little bit uncomfortable in our daily lives to do that by making time, by thinking hard about what we care about, by speaking up even when it isn’t easy.
Then there's the danger of getting lost in that echo chamber I mentioned. Yes, the turnout was big — very big. But as fivethirtyeight.com reported:
While the Women's Marches were Ten Times Larger than the Tea Party protests at the beginning of Obama's administration, "the geographic distribution of the marches also echoed November’s election results... About 80 percent of march attendees were in states that Clinton won, and a disproportionate number were in major cities. So if the marches were a reminder of the depth of opposition to Trump — unprecedented for a president so early in his term — they also reflected Democrats’ need to expand the breadth of their coalition if they are to make a comeback in 2018 and 2020."
As a friend observed:
In other words, the march was only the starting gun of the race we have to run. If we don't get active and change some things substantially between now and 2018 – like broadening, rather than narrowing, our coalitions – then we may be looking at a future where all of our gains are erased because we have not consolidated and reinforced them. (We would be able to continue, nonetheless, to take comfort in being superior to the opposition morally and intellectually, even while unable to effect any meaningful change. So there's that.)
And that's where the truly radical inclusivity comes in — the willingness to engage with others who hold different points of views, different ideas on how to move ahead. It's also about dropping the sanctimony my friend alluded to, tongue-in-cheek, which expresses itself as "we Trump denouncers are so superior to the racist, misogynist ignoramuses who elected him."
Because it ain't that black and white. There are extreme and dangerous ideologues on both ends of the political spectrum, and a lot of good folks sharing common ground in between.
|Kudos to Lucas Kambic|
Which leads to this past weekend's meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, where, the Los Angeles Times reported, academics like University of Oregon's Troy Campbell are pondering:
“What are these biases leading people to resist science? Where do they come from? How do they operate and what can be done about them?”
Those questions won’t be easy to answer. Psychologists will have to delve into the guts of human decision-making. They will dissect the ways in which we discount information — however well evidenced — that conflicts with what we want to believe about ourselves and the ways things work. They will examine the role of our social networks, and the cognitive shortcuts we take to interpret scientific conclusions we don’t really understand. They will consider the role that declining trust plays in people’s decision to believe what they’re told.
It seems to me that this process extends well beyond attitudes toward science, and can be applied to the way we look at life and form our world views.
If we want to be truly revolutionary, usher in real change, we need to carefully examine our own belief systems — who and what we choose to believe, and why — and honestly explore how these beliefs limit us.
Because true change always begins as an inside job.