Witch hazel in bloom. The power of nature to stay on her schedule.
I haven't posted for quite a while. I really wanted to check in today and let you all know that I am still alive and kicking, but I didn't really know what to say. Then I just now read an editorial that showed me the way and what to say.
In the New York times, David Brooks writes today on The Anxieties of Impotence.
As Anand Giridharadas writes in The International New York Times, “If anything unites America in this fractious moment it is a widespread sentiment that power is somewhere other than where you are.”
The Republican establishment thinks the grass roots have the power but the grass roots think the reverse. The unions think the corporations have the power but the corporations think the start-ups do. Regulators think Wall Street has the power but Wall Street thinks the regulators do. The Pew Research Center asked Americans, “Would you say your side has been winning or losing more?” Sixty-four percent of Americans, with majorities of both parties, believe their side has been losing more.
In a different way, the American election has been perverted by feelings of powerlessness.
Americans are beset by complex, intractable problems that don’t have a clear villain: technological change displaces workers; globalization and the rapid movement of people destabilize communities; family structure dissolves; the political order in the Middle East teeters, the Chinese economy craters, inequality rises, the global order frays, etc.
To address these problems we need big, responsible institutions (power centers) that can mobilize people, cobble together governing majorities and enact plans of actions. In the U.S. context that means functioning political parties and a functioning Congress.
Those institutions have been weakened of late. Parties have been rendered weak by both campaign finance laws and the Citizens United decision, which have cut off their funding streams and given power to polarized super-donors who work outside the party system. Congress has been weakened by polarization and disruptive members who don’t believe in legislating.
Instead of shoring up these institutions, many voters are inclined to make everything worse. Plagued by the anxiety of impotence many voters are drawn to leaders who pretend that our problems could be solved by defeating some villain. Donald Trump says stupid elites are the problem. Ted Cruz says it’s the Washington cartel. Bernie Sanders says it’s Wall Street.
The fact is, for all the problems we may have with Wall Street or Washington, our biggest problems are systemic — the disruptions caused by technological progress and globalization, mass migration, family breakdown and so on. There’s no all-controlling Wizard of Oz to slay.
Brooks goes on to say we must work to repair institutions and have a functioning Congress. As citizens we have work to do.
As I have read and listened and watched and studied these past weeks, I have again and again been struck by how fearful and powerless people feel. Our current political mess is a result of that. This fear was reflected by my friends at breakfast this morning, at the horror of the prospect of a Trump / Palin presidency.
But I refuse to buy into that fear. I am determined to retain my own sense of power and to exert whatever small influence I have over the thinking of others to not react out of fear, but to examine all forms of information carefully and to think deliberately about not only what is good for me, but for my country, and to look at what is possible at each step along the way to achieving what we want our outcomes to be.
I was reminded recently about the fear that was so prevalent in my childhood. The movie Bridge of Spies and the TV show Madame Secretary both made reference to the duck and cover drills we did in school to "protect" ourselves from a a nuclear attack. The threat of an atomic bomb dropping on us was real and re-lived every day. But we all came through that. Cooler heads and better angels prevailed. They can and will again. We need to do our jobs to support those "cooler heads".
And on a more personal note, our son Jake has been fighting his own battles. When he called us last Sunday morning to say he needed to come talk to us, we looked at each other and thought "Oh oh".
I don't want to go into details. Our son has a right to privacy. But the result is that he is now living with us for a while. He has been accepted as a trainee with the US Postal Service and is in the orientation process for his new career. Sunday was day one of taking power over his new life, a life that he has decided he does really want to live, and on his own terms. We now celebrate each day as progress toward that goal.
One thing that I do know is that among my blog family are a group of powerful women, and a man or two as well. Stay strong, don't hide from the forces of fear, and use your power well. The world needs us.