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Practical Advice for Optimism

Practical Advice for Optimism

It's November 10th. I'll be honest. The worst vision in my head right now : picturing Donald Trump standing in the Oval Office looking “Presidential.” It makes my stomach lurch, and no matter how we (rightly) extoll to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and stand up for one another, that image will continue to make me queasy for weeks to come. His campaign was just too hateful. 

For many of us, belief in the decency of humanity has been abruptly punctured. That’s huge. And so despite all the encouragement of a new day it's ok to continue to grieve. Feel what you feel.  

But know too that with the grief comes a gritty resilience, hope and regeneration of our own faith in humanity. That cycle is happening already. Hillary’s concession speech embodied that.

So, what to do? Here are some practical things, and maybe some kernels of hope, for people everywhere:

1. Donald Trump might surprise us. He’s done it many times already. He’s become President-Elect for goodness sake. As one editorial put it, if he does almost none of the things he said he’d do, and can indeed be what he says he is - a pragmatist who brings people together to make good deals - he could surprise us all again. He’s promised to do that.

2. A cousin of mine asked a great question: “Are we awake now?” Lots of American friends posted that yes, they are awake, and they will now stand more than ever with minorities, LGBTQ, poor people and others who are persecuted. Excellent. The question now is how - and I hope we’ll see even stronger, more united civil society in the US, with more real activism and action. It's time to transcend the online petitions with real sweat.  The same goes for all of us - we must all be awake.

3. Political parties - you’ve heard the message - more Americans want real people and not career politicians to represent them. So, real people - including more women , poor people, minorities and new Americans - need to feel like they can also become a city councillor, or a Congressperson, or a Senator, or President. There are so many steps to take here, and one big one starts in school, and much more investment in public schools, in teachers, in civics classes, “how-to” activism and leadership - including and maybe especially in rural areas. Most Americans will never, ever go to Harvard or Yale. How about an Obama-Bush Foundation for Leadership that could fund nationwide initiatives for poorer and rural Americans? (Obama and Bush ? Well, you get the idea.)

4. And the corollary of that - politics needs to become a more honourable job. People don’t trust American politicians for good reason. K-Street needs a new address. That is a swamp that needs draining.

5. First Families - please, stop with the dynasties already. People generally don’t like them. There are 320 million Americans. There must be Presidential candidates whose names are not Bush, Clinton, or, yes, Obama (and Michelle, don’t get me wrong, I honestly truly madly love you). Chelsea, keep doing what you do - please stay away from the Presidential races of future. Malia and Sasha - you’ll do something else that’s great! All Bush children Sr. and Jr. from all time - Ditto. Trump children, please don't even think about it. 

6. Women - I’m sorry, I’m disappointed. Four of 10 of you who voted cast a ballot for a man who might brag about grabbing your p*ssy if he deemed you good looking enough. But - this election has also seen women’s voices rise higher than ever. Women have bravely told stories they’ve kept quiet for years. Women are banding together and feeling their freedom, and harnessing the power of their strength and rights. Women will keep rising, and rising. 

7. Media - the good news is many of you are hard-working, dedicated, smart and committed. Your work as a watchdog is critical to democracy. The bad news is that the very best journalists mostly work for what jaded Americans call the “liberal elite media”. Bias naturally creeps in - it just does. America (and the world) need smarter newspapers and online media for everyone. Jeff Bezos - you could afford a “Washington Post for the people.” How about the American Post? Other rich people who believe in America and don’t mind losing a bit of money in the short term - Howard Schultz? -  think about the role you could play in America's future by investing in real journalism that is attractive and accessible to everyone.

8. All people - we have to stop calling each other names. Every time a Trump supporter was told she was stupid, misogynist, bigoted, racist - well, that probably strengthened her resolve to vote for Trump. No one likes to be called names. No one responds well.

9. The rest of the world - some of us have great governments. I’m from Canada and couldn’t be more proud of the values espoused by our current government. I vow to work to uphold those - from afar, and hopefully at some point, from much closer to home. Many people live in countries where democracy does not exist, is tenuous, or is faked - including in most of south-east Asia where I live now. Good governments must continue to invest in the people where governments are less good - to help build institutions that become the foundations for strong democracies. There is a long long way to go here. History shows that it takes a revolution to make real change.

10. People from all sides - it’s time to band together. When an evangelical pastor invites everyone into his church, there will be tensions, but ultimately it’s a good thing. When gay people keep hearts open for their narrow-minded uncle, it’s a good thing. We hear story after story about how connections across barriers make all the difference.  It’s hard - really, really hard. Sometimes you think, why should I? But Martin Luther King (and he too had flaws) - well - his words ring truer than any I’ve heard:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

As hard as it is, living by these words will lift all of us to a better place. It's much, much easier to love. 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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