Welcome to 1968

In a hateful white backlash against the progress made by minority people, a dangerous, narcissistic demagogue was elected president over an uninspiring, imperfect but relatively competent opponent who was turned into a cartoon villain by allies as well as enemies.

In response, the youth of the nation, who have been organizing to change American society from the ground up, built a counter-cultural movement to create a more just, fair, tolerant, peaceful and hopeful country — and a healthier planet.

I remember election night in 1968. I was five years old. The TV was black and white, and the returns came in on a primitive scoreboard with holes in it, and behind the holes, cylinders with the 10 digits on them. As the cylinders rolled and rolled, for Nixon, Humphrey and Wallace, my dad’s expression grew more and more grim. He always said he went to the Philippines (where I was born in 1963) a McCarthy Conservative and came back a Humphrey Liberal.

Now we just have to avoid ’72. As you recall, that’s when the demagogue was reelected in a landslide against George McGovern, setting the stage for the Republican revolution of the ’80s. I don’t remember that election. I was nine and living in Thailand, where we didn’t get much American news, and I only read the funnies in the English-language papers.

We have certain advantages that may help us avoid that fate: demographic changes that favor liberalism, a strong majority who didn’t vote for Trump, other odious Republican leaders like Ted Cruz, and the benefit of hindsight, which shows clearly that American conservatism has been a failure.

I’ve always looked forward to the day that the counterculture would resurface, and here we are. I always liked the hippies. (Heck, I live in a quasi-commune). They were like older siblings to me, the college kids my dad taught in his classes. He liked them too, and became even more liberal with age. I looked up to them and thought they were moving the country in a better direction, but when the Boomers became yuppies and Reaganites in the 1980s, I was done with ’em.

Now it’s time for the kids to start leading us again, joined by women (who are mad as hell right now) and members of minority groups. American Indians already got the new era started in North Dakota, and African-Americans in the cities with the Black Lives Matter movement.

White liberal males like me have been far too complacent, letting others fight for their rights while too often sitting on the sidelines and enjoying our privilege. It’s time for us to start carrying water for a new generation of women and minority leaders, to get in line behind them and follow with all our might.

Happy warriors unite!

Wow, those Trump signs disappeared fast! Usually it takes a few days for people to get their signs down, but this time they were gone by the crack of dawn on Wednesday.  I’m sure their owners will tell you they didn’t want to gloat and wanted to comply with the rules, but I think something else was going on.

When they figured out their guy was actually going to win, they wanted to hide the evidence that they had voted for him. Can’t say I blame them. They have embarrassed themselves and our great country in the eyes of the world.

Trump can’t make America great again because it already is, and because he’s single-handedly made it less great than it’s been in decades by using his campaign to call people names, bully opponents, and incite violence and intimidation among his supporters. He has enabled and minimized racism and bragged about sexual assault while running a campaign that betrayed his own ignorance and gave voice to his followers’ ugliest instincts.

I believe the presidency will humble Mr. Trump, but that will not give him a pass. It’s going to take a great effort to undo the damage, and it begins today with an effort to oust as many of his minions as possible in two years, and to ensure that the Trump era lasts no more than four.

Yeah, Hillary was imperfect and dull, but she cleaned his clock in three debates, and I’m pretty sure a lot of Trump voters are thinking dull sounds pretty good about now. They’re going to have a hard time explaining their vote to their daughters and granddaughters this Thanksgiving. They could’ve voted for the first woman president; instead they voted for the man who said those things on that bus, and who has broken several promises before he’s even been inaugurated.

The good news is that there’s plenty of room over here on the right side of history. We liberals are a welcoming bunch. We like people of all colors, creeds, genders, orientations, and identities — even former Republicans. We’re also a forgiving lot, and we’ll take you in without requiring you to confess or do penance. Just put a smile on your face and be ready to fight for positive change.

If you’re on my side, let’s get together and talk. Find me on Facebook and we’ll start doing our part locally to build a more welcoming society and a healthier planet. And we’ll do it following the great Minnesota “happy warrior” tradition of Humphrey and Wellstone, in contrast to the fear, anger, and hate that motivate the other side. (Did I mention that liberals are more cheerful and have more fun?)

As much as I enjoyed sitting quietly in the relative calm of a sane country, now’s not the time to hide under the covers, as much as we’d like to. On behalf of those who may rightly feel intimidated by and afraid of Trump and his followers, we need to keep our heads up and our voices loud. There are thousands of us, even here where Trump won big. We’re not going away, and starting today, we’re only getting stronger.

A crazy world needs happy warriors


This was first published at https://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/this-crazy-world-needs-happy-warriors-dg/

A small piece of paper with four sentences is thumb-tacked to the wall in my closet, and when things get rough, I read them.

I haven’t learned much of great value in 53 years, and my mantras are nothing profound, but on a day like today, and during the weeks and months ahead, I’ll rely on them, as I have in the past.

Focus on what’s really real

Most of what gives us anxiety comes through the airwaves or phone lines into plastic rectangles we poke or stare into. This is not reality. Reality is the world you can actually see, taste, hear, smell and touch. The rest is bits and bytes and flashing false reflections of reality.

We didn’t evolve to cope with mass communication, so the most we can do to be healthy in our primate selves is to keep it in perspective. We especially didn’t evolve for this world in which we’re all mass communicators anonymously sticking our tongues out at each other in virtual cesspools. Blow up your TV if you need to. If you can’t, disconnect your satellite, or simply resist the impulse to turn it on or pick up your stupid smartphone every five seconds. If you have to use it, talk instead of texting. Get rid of Facebook, or unfollow everyone who brings you down.

Hug your kids and partner. Eat good food. Call your friends. Listen to live music.

Don’t worry about what you can’t control

This should be obvious, but we lose sight of it during difficult times. All we could do yesterday was vote, which we did, but it wasn’t enough. We shouldn’t burden ourselves with a false sense of our own importance. We are small players on small stages, which should come as a relief.

We can control what we focus on (what’s really real) and the energy we send into the world. We’re all motivated by primal feelings, mainly fear and love, and we can choose the latter over the former. Fear leads to anger, which is the problem with American culture today, and probably the main cause of Trump’s win. Love (which someone said casts out fear) leads to joy, hope, and positive action, and also to number 3…

Our posts and tweets and blogs aren’t changing a lot of minds, and a few more GOTV efforts weren’t going to win it this time. Write if you need to, knowing you don’t need to. If you’re drawn to political involvement, get involved, but remember it doesn’t all depend on you.

Everyone is mentally ill or ignorant (including you). Have sympathy.

We’re all just sophisticated monkeys with brains that have outgrown our ability to master them, in a social and physical world too complex for us to understand and respond to in a healthy way. It’s no surprise that many of our neighbors can’t see what seems obvious to us. It’s also no surprise that some respond to this situation by developing various forms of craziness, which were on display in the collective madness of the election.

This is not to say that all perspectives are equal. I firmly believe that mine is better than most people’s. But that doesn’t mean I can’t sympathize with my friends, neighbors, and even enemies who are more ignorant and ill than evil (which leads us to number 4).

Assume the best about everyone

It’s easy to believe that a lot of people are just plain bad, as Hollywood and our political leaders keep telling us. It’s not true. Most of us (Christian, Muslim, Jew, Atheist, Black, Brown, White, male, female) want to avoid conflict and live a relatively calm and prosperous life.

Most people don’t want trouble. They don’t want to get in a fight, fight in a war, or start a war. Trump tells us that many people are out to get us, and we don’t want to fall into the same trap by assuming he and his followers are out to get us. Hurtful and dangerous behaviors stem from pain and fear, something we can all relate to. Deep down, most of us want to do the right thing, and most of us will if given the chance — even those we’re mad at today.

C’mon, get happy!

So there you have it. It ain’t much, but it’s all I’ve got. As I was lying awake last night, I was tempted to play sick and spend the day with a pillow over my head, but now is the worst time to slink off and hide. We need to tell the world we’re still here, and always will be, and we’re not going to give up or remain silent.

We need to create a real community of human beings again, people we see, talk to, and touch — grassroots groups of happy warriors (the old nickname of my fellow Minnesotan Hubert Humphrey), to contrast with the angry warriors on the other side. Liberals have always had a lot more fun, and better music, and livelier conversation, and we can win people over with good cheer and kindness.

The Democratic Party should become just that. We should all be responding to the election by having a big old bash, and making it a welcoming space for everyone, especially those who might feel especially vulnerable right now: Muslims and other minorities, LGBTQ friends and family, and those like me living in a rural area surrounded by Trump signs.

I plan to enter this new era with a commitment to improving my corner of the real world, to loving my neighbors (even the ones I’m hating right now), to keeping things in perspective, and to stumbling hopefully and cheerfully through this beautiful day.