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Building Dreams – Rediscovering Humanity in Politics

Activists demonstrate for a higher minimum wage.
Activists demonstrate for a higher minimum wage. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

So. It happened. Donald Trump was sworn in and is now our 45th president. Our nightmare has been realized and the domino effect of this presidency will be felt for generations to come. We can’t change this reality, but we can change the landscape of this nightmare.

The first step is to change how we interact with information and the world around us. We must put aside our bias and see people as people. Put aside our bitterness, the vendettas, the hatchets, and see that we are all human. The people who will bear the burden of this presidency and this GOP-led congress and senate are the marginalized, the poor, the minorities whose bodies will bear the wrath of any police state to come, the children who did not ask to be born into this world – these and more will be the ones to suffer most from the dismantling of the public services to come.

If we want to save our society, to save our communities and this country, we must stop reacting and start ACTING.

“The time is always right to do what’s right.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

According to Aristotle, the purpose of politics is to work towards a good life, a life where everyone in our communities has the opportunity to prosper and to be happy. But, to do this we must not simply read (or write), we must act. We must learn how to do good by simply trying.

“…we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.” – Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics

This nightmare that we are facing is not a new one. It has been paved by generations of inequity and by the slow, but ubiquitous stripping away of rights from the people. Watch The 13th, read Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, The New Jim Crow, and reach back and read the writings of Thomas Paine.

We must become involved in politics – all of us – if we want to change this reality. And that means we must remember the purpose of politics. It has become a dirty word, of late, and the state of our civics classes (or lack thereof) is such that people steer away from it. Politics is labeled dull, boring, or stressful. But we must not let this be our story.

We have stopped paying attention to the very people and system that governs us, and people are dying.  Our comfort has been borrowed from a system that perpetuates injustice, whether it’s drone strikes, weapons sales, military training of terrorists, or the systemic injustices heaped upon the poor (which disproportionately affects minorities and people of color).

The point of politics is to have a system in place that protects, represents, and brings happiness to its people. But for that to work, all citizens must be involved.

We can no longer afford to be defined by our own knee-jerk, ingrained politics. We all have these knee-jerk reactions – it’s natural. I’m sure most people know what I’m talking about. You hear a politician’s name or the name of a measure that stands for everything you think you hate and your lips curl, the bile rises, and before you know it you are no longer capable of rational thought.

I’m trying to overcome my rage at the state of the world, since, as much as I want (and will) rage against the dying of the light, I’ve learned after a couple of months of raging, reading more news and more reports that build on this seemingly never-ending mountain of hostility, it’s not really helping. We have this collective outrage that seems to simply be picking at a never-closing scab, without actually healing.

So, I’m going to swallow my pride and start asking, whenever I feel that knee-jerk political rage come on, “How is this helping? Is this actually hurting me or the people I aim to protect?” If it’s the latter, I’m going to try to place it in a box for analysis later and try to listen and to continue to educate myself on the issues. If I realize the rage is not misplaced, then it’s my responsibility to learn how to channel that rage into something positive – something that can help. It’s not enough to be an angry voice, screaming into the cacophony. There are too many angry voices right now, and we’re a disorganized mess of fear and hate.

We have to build a movement founded not on politics, not on beliefs, not on all the things that separate us and make us different – we have to build a movement based on our shared humanity.

I have been poor. I have been broken. I have reached the bottom of my soul when I thought I couldn’t possibly bear the weight of any more darkness. And the darkest of my horrors are mere shadows to those others have endured – but still we endure.

My light is but a small light, and I cannot make you see the world through my eyes. If I give you a book that changed my life, I cannot make you read it with my eyes. My hurt, my loves, my aching sorrows, they shaped these eyes and the way I see this world, just as truly as your experiences shaped yours. I cannot hold your hand or guide you on your journey, but I can and will lend you my light, feeble as it may be, that it might comfort you until you find your own path to making this a just world.

There are plenty of places to start. You can look to your local communities, get involved at the local level, go to city council meetings and, when you can, speak up about the issues that are near to you. Look to various online groups and find out if they have local chapters. Start talking about politics, or learning to speak about politics, as my sister aptly phrased it in the title of her blog detailing her own journey. Know it will be uncomfortable at first, but it will get easier by practicing.

The Dream Corps is a great place to start, if you are not sure. I can always stand behind a message of love, hope, and peace. Join the #LoveArmy.  Look at the Small Planet Institute. If you’re tired of the money in congress, look at Brand New Congress, educate yourself on their goals, and nominate some folks to run. March, by God, march, but do so with open arms to embrace all who are hurting.

Read news from multiple sources and always, always question. Being informed is a journey, and we must understand that it is our responsibility to be informed. If we only read news that confirms our bias, then we are simply building walls between ourselves and the people who inhabit this world with us. I may be biased when I encourage you to look at Progressive Army, but wherever you end up, I would say look to the news sources that make you think, without making you afraid or making you hate.

Hell, join any movement that makes you feel like you’re building something up, rather than tearing it down. Tearing people down is exhausting and depressing, but building?

Building is the stuff of dreams.

Written by R. R. Wolfgang

Mother. Wife. Sister. Survivor. She grew up poor and went to the University of Cambridge to study Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic languages, literature, paleography, and history. Now, she's interested in social justice and seeing if history could kindly stop repeating itself.

R.R, is a Guest Contributor to Progressive Army.

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Activists demonstrate for a higher minimum wage.

Building Dreams – Rediscovering Humanity in Politics