As she did with her recent column in the Brattleboro Reformer (“Will we reject the moral rot?”), Becca Balint, one of Windham County’s two state senators, confirms once again for me why I consider her to be the one politician I know of who truly gets to the heart of the matter. Becca is real.
For example, in writing about the Saudi government’s murder and dismemberment of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi — and, more specifically, Donald Trump’s exoneration of the Saudi crown prince who obviously orchestrated this hideous crime — Balint writes that “it is fundamental to moral order and civil society [to hold] autocrats accountable for their crimes,” calling the act of doing so “the moral imperative of our times.”
While completely agreeing with this sentiment, I would take it one important step further.
We need to focus our attention not simply on this blatant instance of the moral rot that characterizes this presidency, but on the two ultimate expressions of Trump’s complete bankruptcy as any kind of socially responsible leader.
On the one hand, I refer to the climate crisis that he continues to deny, but which is so obviously engulfing us with catastrophic storms, wildfires, famine, species extinction, refugees, rising (and dying) oceans, and the threat of societal collapse in the very near future (like 10 years?) if we, as a people, don’t get ourselves together and take immediate and unprecedented actions.
Trump’s denial of this reality — and, hence, unwillingness to do whatever is in his power to help avoid this existential tragedy — is truly a crime against humanity. There is no other way to view such sociopathic behavior.
The other example, of course, is the growth of incipient fascism that Trump embodies.
Too many of us are failing to recognize this threat because we are so bemused and distracted by the daily accounts of his insane, jaw-dropping, and risible behaviors that seemingly hypnotize news outlets and social media.
Trump is following the fascist playbook by evoking a mythic, patriarchal, racially pure past ("Make America Great Again”), sowing divisions between peoples (black vs. white, immigrants vs. the rest of us immigrants), attacking reality ("truth isn’t truth,” “alternative facts”), incessantly assaulting the press (“fake news”), and, yes, by keeping us distracted.
Our absence of an appropriate response reminds me of the frog in the the pot of water slowly heated to boiling; there is a growing normalization of fascism that is taking place right now.
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In light of these two events, I return to Becca Balint and an absolutely pitch-perfect statement she penned in an earlier column in February, one that is so absolutely relevant today and to these growing catastrophes.
“When is the tipping point?” Balint wrote. “If [Special Prosecutor Robert] Mueller is fired, will we take to the streets? Or will we remain subdued and almost blasé? What will it take for us to spontaneously flood the streets?
“I’m not talking about a well-planned and orchestrated show of frustration and longing, like the Women’s March,” she continued. “I mean a full-throated, raw, vulnerable and powerful movement of people that pulls us from our stupor and forces us to confront the truth. This nation, this government, will only be as righteous and as moral as we demand it to be. (My emphasis.)
What is our tipping point, indeed? When will we, as a people both recognize, and more importantly, act decisively upon what is plainly sitting on our collective laps like the proverbial 1,000-pound elephant? When will we be the moral actors that we inherently have the potential to be anytime we choose?
* * *
We must step outside of our usual business-as-usual comfort zones and perhaps consider a new activist paradigm — one that is proportional to the gravity of the situation we’re in.
Like initiating a national strike — no work, no school, no shopping, no participation in the fossil-fuel way of life — one day a week (at least at the beginning).
We would get out the word to friends and family, neighbors and strangers, through social media, the press, and, yes, that old-fashioned way of face-to-face contact, as well to national organizations like MoveOn.org and 350.Org requesting that they get on board using their size and reach to help spread the word from sea to shining sea — and beyond.
We could make good use of that weekly strike day by getting together to discuss our situation and begin thinking about how we can create sustainable, democratic, values-informed communities right where we live.
Collectively, we could look at our relationships with one another, as well as other beings, dedicating ourselves to an everyday practice of lovingkindness and compassion, moral courage and generosity, forgiveness and gratitude.
We would be particularly responsive to women, children, and people of color. We would come up with ideas that we might have never considered before about how we can increasingly take care of ourselves and one another, meeting our needs cooperatively and with other like-minded communities.
And, yes, we would want to make a dedicated effort to support our local businesses, which would be without our dollars on strike day and which we would need more than ever in the new world we would be creating, as we increasingly transition ourselves away from the one that is threatening to kill us.
* * *
A national strike — or some other comparable action — could be the midwife to birthing the species transformation we truly need to accomplish if we are to both survive and thrive in our brave new world.
Crazy? Unrealistic? Impossible? Perhaps. But only to the extent that we think so and, therefore, remain inactive, not initiating this or other equally “unthinkable” acts that we’re perfectly capable of and need to take if we are to be an effective agency of relevant change.
If we’re not willing to risk actions, however, commensurate to our extraordinary times we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask: what is our tipping point? When will we finally act as if our lives are on the line (because, of course, they are!) ?
To paraphrase Becca, we as a people will only be as moral and righteous as we demand ourselves to be. We, and the actions we take, are the moral imperative of our times.