When we give so much publicity to what we don’t want, we actually make that stronger. If all we say is “No to Brexit/ Trump/ Bannon/ Sessions/ Tillerman/ etc”, that’s ineffectual. In fact, it’s reinforcing and normalizing the very things that are causing our horrified reactions. Even just saying “No to hate” is a mistaken strategy.
The human brain just throws out the word “no” and “not” when it comes to self-talk. If you tell yourself, “no more smoking for me”, that ends up being “more smoking for me”. And even if you are some incredibly enlightened being who consciously scrutinizes your own every thought, even a cleverly worded smoking-cessation mantra still winds up with you thinking about smoking all the time. Ok, you don’t want to smoke anymore. At some point you must ask yourself, what do you want to be doing? You must focus on THAT.
Really, when we say “no” to something, it’s kind of a “name and shame” thing. Calling out California’s infamous Proposition 8 as hateful (“No to 8; No to Hate”) didn’t stop it from passing. “Naming and shaming” isn’t the most robust strategy, imho. The people who support (Brexit, Trump, Proposition 8) usually react by rejecting your assessment (“we’re not hateful, we’re protecting families”) no matter how they have to reorder the universe to ease their cognitive dissonance (this is often an unconscious psychological defense). Some simply aren’t shamed by your assessment (“yes I hate gays and so does God”). It all seems ineffectual, plus somewhat lazy. It’s easy to say “no” and offer no solutions (and get ignored). You have to offer up an alternative plan or path.
Instead of “No to Hate”, how about “Marriage is a civil right”? Instead of “No to Tillerman”, how about “Rachel Carson for EPA head”? Instead of swamping urban media with stories of how the white working class got left behind and got revenge (ie, what went wrong), how about publishing more stories in rural newspapers about how urban people of color are also working class and they’re struggling as well and how to support a united effort for better outcomes for everyone?
So our long-range plan is still strengthening civil rights for everyone, regardless of class, race, sex, gender, age, ability, non/theistic beliefs, etc, right? (This was our plan all along, right?) Let’s get working on an equal rights amendment to the constitution. Did you know that women are not guaranteed equal rights under the constitution even now? And that’s cisheteronormative women. Couldn’t get enough states to ratify the amendment in 1982. Seriously. So whaddya say we take that amendment out, dust it off, add a few more people (everybody) to the list? Maybe catch up with the United Nations and all that? I’m not exactly the lawyer type, and legislation isn’t everything, but if equal rights aren’t a legally-enforcable expectation by now then we have got some serious work to do.
Something that is more in my line (as far as personal life work goes) is establishing universal preschool (plus before and after school) care, as well as educational reform. I was quite disturbed to know that at the public schools here the children are expected, at recess, to freeze in place when they hear one bell, sit on the ground exactly where they are, and when two bells ring they are to line up in front of their classrooms for further instruction (which they must immediately obey). Authoritarianism much? So it’s not just effective inclusion of all students regardless of genders/races/abilities, reinvigorating the curriculum (fact-based science, nonexclusive history and literature, consumer education, etc etc), teaching to instill a life-long love of learning instead of to memorize facts and tricks/ eliminating unnecessary testing, and bringing back arts, music, and languages to the classrooms (along with a heftier budget and pay for teachers), etc. We need to be teaching respect, compassion, community, self-worth, self-reliance, and how to question authority- in part by practicing all these things in all our dealings with children (and others). These areas need reform in teacher education, doctor education, all college education. This we can start teaching, supporting, and expecting of others and ourselves now.
This, and more, we must do now. I’m sure this is just continuing much of what we are already doing. But we must continue to do it. We must not be thrown off course or distracted. (We must stay safe- stay alive- while we do all this, but we must continue. Me not feeling safe doesn’t mean I stopped thinking I needed to do this- quite the opposite.)
We must fight against the present troubles, but we must grow a new future to take its place as well. Raising up a new world is the most important work of all.