Even though we witness major historical transitions building like thunderheads on the horizon, we can never actually see them for what they are until the storm of change has come and gone. This year, 2017, feels like something deep and fundamental is overthrowing the predictable world as we know it. And it is both
gloomy beyond imagining and more practically hopeful than anything I’ve witnessed in my decades as a columnist.
Hope is emerging in the form of local uprisings all over the country. When they started they seemed to be merely well-intended gestures, but they have taken on a serious pragmatic quality that few saw coming. These include the Indivisible Movement, the U.S. Climate Alliance, and the March for Science. They are every bit as real as the tsunami of sludge we feel inexorably approaching to overwhelm our homes, our work, and our families and our friends.
He says the flow of events over time is like watching the demolition of a building or the paving of a highway. You know what’s going on but often nothing really seems to be happening from one day to the next. Then, before you know it, there’s a hole where the building used to be and cars moving on the highway.
“History is the same,” he says. “The critical massing of conditions that enables a particular way of life to come into being is almost impossible to detect while it is happening, and so is its deterioration. The world just rolls over, without anyone noticing exactly when, and a new set of circumstances is put in place. But the impulse to hold on to the past is very strong, and it is often hard to understand why things that worked once can’t continue to work.”
Almost six months into the Reign of the Trump and rule of Republican Misanthropy, are we seeing signs that our fears have started to come true, creating a horrible new set of circumstances, rolling out of the recent past into the present like a phalanx of enemy steamrollers making room for a brave new world we dread but couldn’t see clearly before—climate change denial over the last two decades stoking unbearable heat in the Southwest, aquifers going dry, crazy flooding as the new way water is “delivered,” looming food scarcity and soaring prices, brown outs and black outs all year long, our economic engine sputtering against more vigorous foreign competition, our infrastructure succumbing to the lowest bidder, jobs for humans vanishing as the growth of artificial intelligence becomes impossible to contain, science distrusted while technology floods us with distractions, an underground economy of thieves and fences (peddling as many as 8,000 stolen cars in Albuquerque alone each month), murderous American drug gangs, national politics fueled by class and racial hatred, plutocratic pirates flying the Jolly Roger over the White House, “health care” dispensed by Midas-touch insurance companies that turn us into gold while killing us off, the elderly and infirm basically left to die, domestic terrorism becoming a regular fact of life, the urban landscape littered with partially built suburban enclaves and the national landscapes of parks, monuments, and wilderness turned into Trumpian amusement parks, and the poor and disenfranchised becoming a shadow nation of enforced suffering and hardship, callous neglect and boiling resentment. Is this what we’re seeing as the new conditions of our existence?
Or is something more going on as well, something that we’re missing distracted as we are by our bottomless fears? Is it possible that other options are also starting to emerge even now as the darkness seems to be engulfing us. I think these changing times, outrageous as they are, have every chance to lead us to something very different than our depressive expectations, something that resembles a new and empowering operating system, if you will, something that’s so hidden, and yet so out in the open, that we just can’t see it yet.
One of the most important of those hidden new reality is the U.S. Climate Alliance that I wrote about last week, with its almost dozen states, three hundred cities, hundreds of colleges and universities, and many hundreds of businesses large and small all working to implement Paris Accord goals for reducing green house gasses. This was hidden from public view because it doesn’t fit into archly negative news streams of local television and the national media.
There must be dozens of these new realities hidden by the shadows of the Trumpian menace. Let’s look at two more, the Woman’s March on Washington which resulted in the Indivisible Movement, and the March for Science. What are their implications and how have they evolved?
When many millions of women around the world marched in opposition to Trump and Republican misogyny a day after the inauguration in what was arguably the largest mass demonstration in world history, cynics rolled out their old complaints—yeah, it was nice, but what are they going to do with it? It’s a one-time thing; it’ll blow away like the opposition to the World Trade Organization and the Occupy Movement; no policy agenda; no political savvy; too amorphous. This kind of carping echoes on and on.
As it turns out the Woman’s March, which supported a wide range of humanitarian reform, morphed into the Indivisible Movement, something that news readers know little or nothing about. Right now the Indivisible Movement consist of more than 6,000 action-oriented groups in America that appear in every state in the union, all catalyzed by the Woman’s March. These groups are designed to take political action—lobbying vigorously with their elected representatives and organizing around opposing draconian immigration reform, protecting women’s rights, promoting a more humanitarian vision of health care, championing LGBT rights, and advocating for anti-climate change regulations and direct political actions. There are probably many tens of thousands of people all over the country at work advocating for a humane view of the world and of American culture. And they hadn’t been activated, in an organized way, before the enormous optimism and success of the Woman’s March. One can form such a group oneself, or join one locally, by going online and finding the Indivisible Guide. This is a movement that is starting to push back in ways that more traditional folks can’t quite grasp.
This is all the political equivalent of Newton’s Third Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The Trumpian Dark Ages which sprang upon us like a terrible plague in January is resulting in massive unintended consequences that are grassroots but not provincial. It’s reactivating our political immune system, so to speak, so it can fight off the pathogens of prejudice and skull-and-cross-bones greed that have turned the White House, and the rest of Washington, into Bedlam.
The March for Science last April will also have to be reckoned with by the Right. It had some 1.3 million people taking part in more than 600 marches around the country. The March for Science website makes it clear that the march wasn’t just a one-time outburst of indignation at Republican sciencephobia and anti-intellectualism. Organizers have used the march and its amazing popular success to start creating organizations and programs which “champion science for the common good.” They advocate for “strengthening the role of science in policymaking,” working to “improve science outreach and communication,” striving to “advance science education and scientific literacy,” and to “foster a diverse and inclusive scientific community.” Who knows where this will lead, but the March for Science, which wasn’t expected to go anywhere, has already gathered enough momentum to actually start re-building a narrative to counter the rabid know-nothingism of the Right.
There are profound seismic changes going on. The stuff that scares the wits out of us is glaring right at us every day. It’s impossible to miss. And yet, we can’t really say with certainty where the present chaos is actually going and how it will end. We do know, though, that we have to keep on looking beneath the strata of political garbage to find the other great swell of change rolling out all across the country as Americans abandon their despair and organize to find a way to not only divert the Republican Tsunami but to channel its soiling power into harmless sinks of bleak stupidity far from the rest of us who want to build a new world in which we can both survive and flourish.
*Nullius in verba: take nobody’s word for it