Reflecting on the first weeks of a new White House administration is not new for many of us. However, by any standard or measurement we are in new territory with the Trump administration. And, after just one month it’s all still new and shiny—the emotions, the outrage, the passion and never ending surprise executive orders.
For many it has been almost too much to bear. Especially given the regular weight of daily life, illness in the family or meeting the family budget or those god-awful student loan payments, or even, the passing of a loved one.
In the food movement we have yet to experience the hearings for the Sonny Perdue Secretary of Agriculture nomination. Although, given the Secretary of Education and EPA Administrator processes, the Ag Sec hearings are likely to be just the beginning of a long nightmare. Fortunately for all of us, there have always been activists to whom we can turn for suggestions or guidance now. Remember, food policy councils are popping up in communities everywhere, and community gardens and food banks and food drives are just some of the methods community residents utilize to express the resilience we need to sustain our communities, and our way of life.
We can always come up with new ways to resist the kind of change the White House Cabinet nominations represent.
But regardless of how you are feeling, I would ask that you please keep in mind that the biggest danger ahead of us in complacency. The danger is that “alternative facts” and the “news media is the enemy of the people” and that the Trump family members and friends and generals and CEOs who now run the country becomes acceptable to us. It is not okay to accept the loud outrage from the White House as normal. It is not okay to accept the lies and exaggerations that began with “God wouldn’t allow it to rain” on the inauguration and “it was the most watched inauguration in history” and on and on and on.
Not true, as anyone witnessed who bothered to tune in to the festivities.
The danger is that when history is re-written, or even as it is being written, we become numb to the constant bombardment of mis-truths and allow mendacity to become accepted reality.
No, each of us has to continue each and every day to speak truth to power—a slogan from street activists that now has special meaning to each and every one of us. What that looks like may be different for everyone. For a mother or father it may mean taking an extra moment to talk with a child about diversity at school or with friends. For couples it may mean checking in with one another about tensions at work. Or unspoken tensions at home.
For all of us it means taking part in democracy as perhaps never before in our lifetimes. Just as we may have used to attend church as a child (and maybe still do as adults) we need to make a practice of engaging in the business of democracy, perhaps weekly to begin with—much like attending church in the old days. It can look like a call to a city council member, or email to a state, county, or national legislator. Or, even just begin to attend a City Council meeting or a Planning Commission meeting, or Parks and Recreation, etc.
When I first began speaking before groups about the food movement I was asked what an individual could do to make a difference. Because at CFJC we practice community based participatory research and evaluation, we learned from community residents three actions that I now share with those who ask what they can do.
First, grow something. Become part of the circle of life. Second, knock on your neighbor’s door, just to see how they are doing, because so many of us are just a paycheck or welfare check away from homelessness. And third, break bread and engage in table talk.
This third action we call Kitchen Table Talks, a practice CFJC started in 2011 as part of the Community Food Security Coalition’s 15th Annual Food Justice Conference in Oakland. Not surprisingly, it is a practice that’s been adopted on college campuses across the country. We all would do well to expand the practice in growing circles of community, especially now when so much misinformation is filling living rooms from television sets and computers and podcasts across the country. Just invite someone to dinner.
Engaging in democracy is no different than breaking bread with neighbors.
It is an act of resistance to engage in these activities instead of just listening to the propaganda aimed at getting us to live in constant fear and repression. Remember, we don’t have to live that way. Some things to remember:
It is true that Trump won the electoral college and is now president. It is not true that he won by the biggest margin in recent history. Clinton, Bush and Obama had bigger margins, but who cares besides the current resident of the White House?
Hillary Clinton got almost 3 million more votes than Trump but again, so what? In our republic it is the electoral college that determines the winner.
Both Trump and Clinton (Hillary) got about 25-27% of the potential votes. But that just means that nearly 46% of the people eligible to vote did not vote, and I think that is the pressure point that we can work to make all the difference in the outcomes of the next elections.
Think about it.
Sadly, things are going to get harder before they get better. And they are only going to get better if we do our part.
But they will get better, because we are the adults now. We are responsible for the world in which we live. And, we have the power to effect change. We just have to believe in what we can do together.
I’ve given some suggestions on how to engage in our democracy. No doubt, like me you get emails asking to sign petitions or especially now, to show up for demonstrations. And always, asking for money.
I am glad that the election has inspired such activities. But I also recognize that that good old time activism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. And to be honest, I can’t help but feel most activities have the feel of doing the same old things—this time on steroids—and expecting different results. Meaning no disrespect, but I have to wonder how effective those things will be with the 46% of the country that just doesn’t buy into politics as usual.
No, I can’t help but believe that what you can do, outside of or in addition to activism as usual—is what is going to resonate with people who have become so disenchanted with the political environment.
In other words, you are the change we need. You and your relatives, and their friends, and so on and so on. This is the chain we need to forge to begin to effect the change we can believe in, and which will effect the kind of country we only like to think we live in.
I am truly hopeful for our future. I just don’t believe that we—you and I–are going to anesthetize ourselves and sit and watch while the banksters and generals and CEOs divvy up the nation’s and the world’s resources for the benefit of a small percentage of the planet.
Do you recall the line Kevin Spacey said in The Usual Suspects? “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” I think of that line when I remember the banksters before Congress after the 2008 meltdown who refused to be interviewed under oath, or they would leave. So, why didn’t we just make them quit?
Or, regarding onerous government regulations. Good lord—we have regulations to protect the environment and people. If business people can’t do business without harming people or the environment, it is not that the regulations are onerous. It is that the business people are mediocre.
Think about it.
As always, I want to thank you for reading this message, and for doing your part in the continuing struggle for decency. Donations are gratefully accepted.
It is good to be alive at a time when each of us can have such an impact on the kind of world in which we want to live. It is good to on this journey with you.
All the best.
Y. Armando Nieto