Monday, January 23, 2017

Musings: March On

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.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Greatest post ever Joan!

As to why people resist science, might I suggest:

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Belief in myth is why.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Before taking to the streets people should have a reason to do so. Let's see what Trump does before we second guess him. I can tell you that small farmers in Japan and Mexico are happy with the news today that Trump will start dismantling the Pacific Free Trade Agreemnt which would have been devastating to small and medium sized farms in these countries.

Anonymous said...


“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?”

I think they don't come from a distrust of science, but rather a fear of its imperfect implementation by us flawed humans. While the science may be perfect, we're certainly not. I think that this is why we fear nuclear energy. It requires humans to build, maintain and monitor something that is dangerous if mistakes are made. The history of man is loaded with mistakes. But we do learn from our mistakes (if we survive them) and if we are not free to experiment, then we cannot not achieve innovation.

Anonymous said...

Well stated. The hypocrisy was the first thing i noticed. "We want to include all women's voices...unless we don't agree with them." What, exactly, was the point of the protests? It elicited a feeling or emotion but was that the point? I guess i just don't understand the sign waiving phenomenon. It produces a few car horn honks and 24-48 hours of news coverage but then what? At what point do we actually give the President a chance to succeed? At what point do we accept the results of the election? At what point do we tone down the rhetoric and start doing what we can to heal the great divide in America?

Anonymous said...

Good job calling out all of these one shot wonders who think they can change the world by carrying stupid signs and standing on the corners making noise. You are the truest and nastiest woman of them all. We love you Joan!

Joan Conrow said...

Thank you, @9:26, for underscoring my points. We can all feel your tolerance and love.

Anonymous said...

Trump has given lots of people many very good reasons to be wary, if not outright alarmed by his rhetoric and actions even if he has only been President for a few days. You don't get to use trains wheels when you're POTUS.

Anonymous said...

Joan, thanks again for another thoughtful piece. I have to consciously work to not respond in kind when I am confronted by what I perceive as attacking or pigeonholing or dismissive rhetoric. It reminds me of the scene from the movie "An Everlasting Piece" where a Northern Irish Catholic said it requires a gesture (of reaching out, offering the olive branch and seeking to understand) to move forward and past unproductive conflict. Very tough to do because I have to trust that someone at some point will respond in kind, and let go of my fear that my actions may be used against me.

Anonymous said...

I can't stand Donald Trump but I think he is absolutely right that we need a disruptor and that D.C. has completely lost touch with the people they serve. If he could be a decent human being with a little bit of self control I might even feel optimistic right now.

Anonymous said...

*training wheels that is

Dawson said...

Thank you for another beautifully written piece, Joan. Your words of truth have the power to break open the echo chambers and shatter the halls of mirrors. Kudos!

Anonymous said...

STFU! Science has been proven wrong infinite times.

Anonymous said...

Many pro-life women were kick-out of the events by police.... They are only tolerant to those who occupy the same echo-chamber. You want to talk about lighting a fire under those women to campaign for Trump in 2020?

That explains why Republican, independent and Democratic candidates are already campaigning against Elisabeth Warren. Many people see the Democratic party as a party on the ropes. They have lost 1,000 governorships and local state legislatives seats in the last 6 years.

While many "nastys" support a clean environment, they sure made a huge mess in front of the White House and Trump Hotel in DC. However, the pinnacle of hypocrisy has to be "protestors against fascism" assaulting people going in and out of the DeploraBall. A pre-inauguration ball to raise money for GaysForTrump. An interview with a "protestor" shows how little they know about what they are actually protesting against. Are they really protesting against raising money to defend Gay and Lesbian's legal rights? Actually, they're really protesting to make themselves feel self-important. However, feeling self-important doesn't win elections and doesn't change government policies. That takes tenacity and hard work... It also takes a candidate willing to work towards the middle of the road. Unfortunately, that's not one of Trump's strong suits. Yet, many voted for Trump because they're tired of the same old establishment way of doing business. To a certain extent, that was Hillary's downfall.

Many Michigan voters, who voted for Trump, said they would've rather voted for Bernie Sanders. Even registered Republican's admitted that fact. I honestly believe Bernie could've beaten Trump, but the "Super Delegates" stole the nomination from the man. Super Delegates have made the Democratic party an organization of rich elitist and that isn't going to help their efforts politicly moving towards the future. (That's ironic since most protestors pinned that trait on Trump.) Are they becoming a party of exclusion? The women's march makes that case. The DC riots makes the case as well. Not respecting the primary vote results makes it kind of pointless to vote Democratic in the primaries. All of the aforementioned points seem to draw a uniform conclusion that explains recent election results.

Which direction will win out in the next two years is anyone's guess and the 2018 elections are going to be even more interesting than the mind boggling 2016 elections. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Yes and when science gets it wrong; it keeps testing and discovering evidence to get it right. That's the beautiful thing about science. It's open minded unlike you apparently

Anonymous said...

People resist science due to religion

Anonymous said...

I voted for HR but I'm giving the Donald a chance.
Glad he's pulling back on globalization. Its creating what we're seeing here on Kauai. A society of two types: Billionaires and poor crap eaters. Not much in between happening with globalization. Wishing Trump luck bringing back a middle class.

Anonymous said...

Trump is a sour faced clown. Just hope Puppet Master Putin can keep Bozo's finger away from the buttons. Kill us slowly with your deregulation but please don't blow up the planet.

Anonymous said...

So if woman live longer than men, make financial decisions of 85% of all money spent on retail (control the wealth, have well more than all college degrees and control the happiness of most men..............what's the problem?
On another note, at least Trump will instill Law and Order and lock up the men that do use their physical power against men. Which is way more than Justin Kollar (A marcher) does.

Anonymous said...

" The worst thing we could do to our nation is create a two party system. This is where segregation and divisiveness starts" , Thomas Jefferson.

Bradley Choquette said...

@ 8:12 Nebraska has a non-partisan Unicameral system. Our division comes from Rural vs Urban interest. There still can be divisiveness without political parties. To a large extent, the same applies the last presidential election. Hillary won the urban areas, and Trump won the rural areas.

Anonymous said...

ALOHA Joan I suppose you will not be supporting the Impeach Trump March on March 4. We are VERY Inclusive. We will take pro lifers, Trump Supporters with regrets. Yup. Anyone. As long as you carry an "IMPEACH TRUMP ' sign we welcome you Joan. Open arms roll out red carpet kine welcome. See you there!

Robin Clark said...

You can be quite sure that Trump noticed that more people showed up for the march than were at the inauguration. Sad! Whether his brain can process the reason, or whether he even cares is an open question.

The man's capacity to offend seems to show no bounds: NYT letter today, "Trump's Visit Offends Fallen C.I.A. Man's Daughter." Written by wife. Very sad!

Robin Clark said...

The link:

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/01/24/opinion/trumps-visit-offends-fallen-cia-mans-daughter.html

Bradley Choquette said...

First of all, Obama directly commanded the DC acting chief of police to stand down against DC protestors blocking the entrances to the inauguration. Thousands of Trump supporters were turned away at 5 of the 12 gates. Second of all, anonymous donor(s) put up the money for the women Marchers to travel to DC, and paid their hotels bills. Third, the inauguration had the 2nd highest Nielsen ratings since Regan in 1982 with 36 million views. Working people have bills to pay because real wages have declined under Obama. Fourth, Trump did a nation wide thank you tour after the election. Hundred's of thousands of people attended those private events. He paid for the venue out of pocket so he could throw out disrespectful protestors. Finally, 94% of the DC echo chamber voted for Hillary, so it's unrealistic to expect much local attendance for the Presidential inauguration.

On a side note, here is a private video of a non Trump supporter (a black cop no less) attending one of those rallies. The protestors inside, and outside, that rally turned him away form the Democratic party. Trumps people and their messages made a huge impact as well. Having watched the "PUSSY RALLEY" speeches, can you honestly admit they helped advance the Democratic Party heading into the next election?

Anonymous said...

Radical inclusivity can't happen online. It can happen only face to face. In the street. With thousands, or millions, of others. Where the echo chamber evaporates. Echo chambers thrive online, not in the streets. It's not your sisters that need to beware of the echo chamber.

Anonymous said...

Echo chambers can happen anywhere. You're dreaming if you think they evaporate in the streets.

Anonymous said...

I knew there was a reason for the small crowd other than Trump's sexism, racism, nepotism, cronyism and all around buffoonery.

Anonymous said...

@9:08 pm Bradley:

Appreciate your ag-related comments here but let's dig into some of the many canards you raise concerning the inauguration:
First, the DC police do not report to Obama and he did not order them to stand down and block access. In fact, some of the Inauguration Day protesters are now facing felony riot charges of the type not used in more than three decades, including non-violent journalists and NLG legal observers who were "kettled" by law enforcement and charged indiscriminately. And from what I have observed about Trump's supporters, I doubt they are shrinking violets who would've been turned back by protesters blocking access to the national mall. Let's be honest though, that just didn't happen.

Second, Trump did not do a nationwide thank you tour, he did a "victory tour" of only states he won. Not a good look for a guy who says he is going to unite the country. Oh, and Trump did not pay for that out of his pocket, his campaign paid for it. If you haven't noticed, Trump is not in the habit of paying for things out of his own pocket. Again, I know we are in an era of alternative facts, but let's be honest, it just didn't happen.

Third, anonymous donors did not pay for millions of women and others around the country and globe to rally anymore than anonymous donors paid for people to take time off and attend Trump rallies. Let's be honest...

Finally, whether the Women's March represents the germination of a real movement (like the Tea Party did in 2009, which many Democrats lived to regret scoffing at), remains to be seen, but it can't be doubted that it represented a sign that many, probably most, American people are extremely anxious about Trump will not quietly surrender their rights and identities in the Trump era.

Again, appreciate your comments on farming but couldn't disagree with you more on this issue. Happy for a respectful dialogue though.