The extreme events of the last two weeks have established at least two things: First, there is an autocratic regime in the White House now more alienated from the nation’s core democratic values and traditions than perhaps any in memory; and, second, there is a new movement, coalesced veritably overnight, of Americans of all stripes taking to the streets, spontaneously outraged by the racist, sexist and brutish makeup of this new White House.
Going forward, there will be a lot of pressure to let off steam on both these flashpoints. While there is no telling what will issue from the White House, the challenge that its opposition faces is daunting. How can the outpouring of popular anger and outrage be bottled and translated into a sustainable opposition that can reverse the results of the most recent election most emphatically?
The various factions and voices of this opposition jockeying for influence have been a sight to see. Who to listen to? Who to follow? There is the feisty and smart former U.S. treasury secretary Robert Reich. There is the more whimsical and prophetic former Star Trek star George Takei. There is the radical’s radical, or so postured, Michael Moore, threatening Democratic elected officials with the fury of a new tea party of the left if they don’t follow his instructions.
There are many of the most familiar Democratic names jumping to the front of rallies and protests at airports and public buildings aiming to inspire and direct. Those running for public offices in 2017 are tailoring their campaign efforts to attract those piling into this new movement. Pundits are offering advice about how to fuel the momentum and what the targets should be. There is a lot of talk and jockeying.
But two things – truth and compassion – are required, the rest is all subordinate.
First, there needs to be a relentless pursuit of the truth versus the lying dissembling of the White House autocracy. This means a strong spine for truth seekers. Journalists, in particular, continue to come under fire, and not all have a good track record in situations like this. But it’s time for that to change.
The relentless and bold pursuit of the truth, and dedication to holding truth up to the standards and laws of our constitutional democracy, challenges our news industry, but also everyone on the Hill and Justice Department with resources to bring the truth out in hearings and investigations.
And truth has to be the standard by which the public, as well, casts its collective skeptical eye on all the crap that is shoveled its way through the popular media and culture. This is the time for everyone to shake off all the myths and delusions that our popular culture has advanced to keep us docile and distracted.
Second, there must be a strengthening of our human inclination toward compassion for all people. For decades, our culture has encouraged us to seek our selfish self-interest, to make that the norm. But that is neither natural, nor the disposition upon which this nation was established. Rather than looking to divide, vertically or horizontally, we need to reaffirm and strengthen the primacy of a global human solidarity.
Political campaigns have been rooted in pandering to selfish self-interest for a long time now, forgetting the admonition of President Kennedy in 1960, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
That spirit, the same in Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech of 1963, needs to be affirmed as the new morality of our land.
It is a spiritual morality youth is hungering for. Recalling the words of the Old Testament prophet Micah, when asked what God wants, if “God be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgressions, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” The prophet replied, “God has told you, O mortal, what is good and what does God require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected].