Ridding Ourselves of Mental and Political Malware

Last night, I had a dream that Trumpf had planted malware in my mind. I don’t remember how, only the result. I couldn’t feel good about anything, couldn’t experience any happiness unless I did his bidding.

 

Like many dreams that synthesize multiple levels of meanings, this one revealed a twisted truth. T is trying to plant malware in our minds as well as into our political, economic, and social systems. He is doing this through actions, tweets and the statements he uses to manipulate headlines and capture attention. Even though so much of what T says and does is despicable—taking young children from their parents, starting to end the ban on asbestos and allowing its import from Russia, attacking anyone who speaks out against him, not protecting our voting systems, education and health care, etc., etc.—I think he prefers any headline over none.

 

And it’s not just the news media; it’s talk shows and social media. He is good at grabbing attention. So much of the news and entertainment media can’t or won’t resist him.

 

And it’s easy to get tired from all this. The bad news comes fast and furious. It is difficult to feel good about the future when his policies threaten that future. It’s hard to feel good about our lives when the lives of so many people are being undermined or destroyed. But doing his bidding by getting caught by his “information wars” only makes us more powerless, unhappy, and angry.

 

How do we remove the malware? Unfortunately, we can’t just download malware bytes. We can only find ways to resist. We resist by learning to be more aware and mindful of our own patterns of thinking and feeling. We can take care of ourselves and learn how to recognize the signs of anxiety and depression so we can let them go more readily.  We can strengthen our minds, our bodies, and our relationships so we can enjoy life despite him. It’s not just what he says and does that is so dangerous. It’s the values and ways of looking at the world that generates what he says and does that is dangerous.

 

And as odious as this may seem to some of us, and liberating to others, we can make political work a normal part of our lives. The midterm elections are about 3 months away. We have much to do.

 

When someone is pointing a gun at us, we can’t get caught up in debating the caliber or model. We take it away or get away. A gun is pointed now at each of us and we can’t run away.

 

We can’t lose sight of the goal or be fooled by distorted facts and statements meant to confuse and divide. Divide and conquer wasn’t just a strategy of ancient Rome. The GOP and T would like nothing more than to set progressives against liberals or moderates, debating whether health care for all is socialist or not or which candidate is more progressive.

 

In the past the GOP twisted the national discussion by turning ‘compromise’ and ‘liberal’ into dirty words. They made taxes and social support programs seem sinful, and accused the Democrats of class warfare when they pointed out how the GOP tax cuts were, yes, an example of class warfare—of the rich robbing from the poor and middle class. We need to resist their manipulation of imagery, language, and values. (Please read George Lakoff’s The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.)

 

In the last election, some of us were led to believe Hillary couldn’t lose, so we voted for Jill Stein. Others were taken in by arguments (and possibly bots) saying Hillary was as bad (or worse) than T. They would like us to bad mouth and treat should-be allies as enemies.

 

A democracy can only function when its people (including politicians) clearly consider and use a diversity of viewpoints to create new, broader understandings of issues and events. In order to hear and respect different viewpoints, a democracy must be a bit slow moving and require compromise. When anyone with different views is considered an enemy, meaningful discussion and debate is destroyed. Democracy is destroyed.

 

A recent article in the Guardian, written by Adam King and Emma Rees, explained how the Labour Party in Britain came back from a bad loss in 2015 to win in 2017. It created optimism with a bold agenda built on policies that excited people because they spoke to people’s real needs. The article recommended that Progressives in the US apply these same ideas, to work from within the Democratic Party and work with the DNC to win elections and create change.

 

King and Rees recommended that Democrats, and all those who oppose what T’s GOP is doing to our nation and our world, need to work together to support candidates who actually represent our views and interests, and will put those interests above even their own desire for office.

 

The candidates we support need to be able to work with others in congress to not only oppose T but advance democracy, at the ballot box and in the economy. When such candidates actually win, we have a better chance of unseating T and destroying his malware. (We need to research and hopefully support our local Democratic candidates. If you live in the 23rd Congressional District of Central New York, Tracy Mitrano is a candidate for Congress whose values I support. I also firmly support Michael Lausell for the N. Y. State Assembly 58th district.)

 

And as many in the centrist and progressive media have pointed out, this is already happening. Not only are more progressive candidates running as Democrats, but a report by the Center for American Progress shows there’s broad support among college educated and working class voters of all races in favor of a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on the wealthy, and more spending on health care and retirement. And more people are taking part in the political process. According to the Pew Research Center, the turnout in this years primary contests for House Democrats is 84% higher than in 2014. For Republicans, it is 24% higher.

 

There certainly have been more political protests than any time since the 1960s. According to Vox, 20% of Americans have participated in political protests over the first 16 months of the T regime. It has only gone up since then.

 

Many of us can’t stand to hear T or his Congressional GOP sycophants lie so openly and rip us off so brazenly. We are angry and afraid. There clearly is much to be angry about. T is the “King of sleaze,” a would-be dictator and probably a traitor, etc. And the DNC, the should-be leader for people’s rights and economic justice, has often acted contrary to those goals. However, I hope our anger and fear can be used as energy to wake us up to what we need to do, not turn us away from hearing or seeing what frightens and disgusts us.

 

I hope I now know, and we know, to think two, three, or four times before believing or sharing on social media or elsewhere anything that divides the opposition to T and his quest for dictatorship. That we know not to get arrogant or tricked into thinking a battle is won until it actually is won. And we take care of others and ourselves while we vote T’s GOP out of office and work to create a political system more responsive to the rights, freedom, actual needs and well-being of the great majority of people.

 

 

 

Honoring Differences

In 1969, I was in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, teaching in a village in the bush. One day, I left the village and went to visit a fellow Peace Corps volunteer. At that time, there was little public transport. If you wanted to go somewhere and couldn’t walk, you flagged down a lorry and rode in the back with other people and goats, chickens, and who knows what else.

 

On this day, we stopped at a crossroad and people got out to buy food. I was surprised to see a middle aged man standing at the edge of a group of people, looking out at a field. He had on a tie, and nothing else but a loincloth. I walked up to him, greeted him in Krio, a sort of universal language in the country, a combination of English, Portuguese and several African languages from the country. The greeting was leisurely and took about 5 or 10 minutes.

 

I then asked him as best I could, in Krio: “Why are you wearing a tie?”

 

He responded: “Don’t white men wear ties for dignity and power?’

 

I answered: “Yes, but they usually wear shirts to go with it.”

 

He continued: “White men’s shirts stink.”

 

And in Sierra Leone, which sits on the equator, the artificial fabrics manufactured in the west, at that time anyway, did not do well in the heat of the jungle.

 

I was reminded of this incident in school last week, when I noticed a male staff member, who years ago never wore a tie, was wearing one. Almost no one wore a tie in our school. He said students treated him differently, with more respect, since he started wearing a tie and a more formal shirt. Even in the supermarket, he said, people address him now as “Sir.” Most of the people who called him “Sir” would, if you asked them, say that wearing a tie, or any formal clothing, was just a superficial act, a remnant of classist symbolism, or something like that. But their behavior was still affected by the symbol.

 

The man in Sierra Leone was living life in his own way, telling the world with his tie and naked dignity that “I matter.” He was adapting social symbols to speak his own unique speech. And in his society, at that time, political speech was even more restrictive, and more dangerous, than the US was. He had to find his own voice. Our own country, which prides it self on free speech, or maybe did so until recently, and whose predominant religion speaks of “loving your neighbor as yourself,” is often intolerant of differences.

 

I hope we all find our own voice and learn to speak clearly in defense of honest, free speech⏤and the right to be different, or to be ourselves.

 

**Thank you, Cindy Nofziger, for the photo.