A White Elephant Sale

In my hometown, there is a cultural facility that has essentially, a huge garage sale. They collect items all year and then vend like crazy from a football field sized warehouse over the course of the week. It works for them.

And I worked for a nonprofit that then received the items that they did not sell. Yes, there is a filtering system, a funnel like process, if you will — sieve upon sieve for the avalanche of consumer products that flood our lives. Our organization ran thrift stores, amongst other activities, and there was a percentage that we could sell, and some we could not as it was just plain junk. We bore the cost of disposing of those items, doing our best to recycle, repurpose till the very end. Coincidentally, it was a faith based group, which will enter back into this essay.

Imagine that cool blazer with the retro feel and perhaps even the retro smell, next to golf clubs, next to a mirror with an ornate gold frame. Those items and more are piled into a warehouse. With that comes colors from muted to fluorescent oranges and smells from musty to a cinnamon sweet perfume candle. To the touch one might feel corduroy, smooth glass plate, to the wooden furniture with rough, jagged edges.

Our current political climate is much like that. Our incoming president elect, without values and purpose beyond his own self-aggrandizement, is seeking policy donations of all kinds. Some heinous and some perhaps of value. It is thrift store sorting time — with I believe, one caveat triggered by a recent article.

David Brooks recently wrote about the potential for developing a center political force. I agree on the whole with his thinking, but initially, what he so banally did was to perpetuate the false equivalencies that got us into this mess in the first place. And this goes back before even the Donald. Extremists pushing a narrative for white ethno nationalism which I guess is just fancy talk for white supremacy, allows for a world of dog whistling, letting the hounds circle around to howl and intimidate others. Pushing extremes in order to redefine the middle is an old political trick and it points us away from the best of our angels.

So as we take David Brooks advice and pursue such pragmatic and positive policy efforts such as No Labels, and sort through the potential implications for Trump’s truckload of hodge-podged policy pitches — we should shout loud and hard when we hear dog whistles, see old pieces of junk being passed off as something of value.

As we have all seen on TV, in no small part due to media’s obsession with superficial gilt, and our own collective limited attention span — there is not much there, there. Cheap imitation jewelry came through our thrift stores all the time. Mayor Bloomberg might not have ever worked at a thrift store, but he seemed “to know a con when he saw one”. Too bad we did not listen. One item might be nice, another not. Nice items might be on the top, but dig deeper into the bag and find the foul, smelly rotten clothing. We just might have a few years of putting our gloves on and sorting through that.

How will you decide what to keep, what to toss? If you are faith oriented individual, it should be pretty simple — love and kindness. Is this policy prescription driven by love and kindness and does it put a shoulder to the wheels of justice and arms out for an embrace of the poor. A society is best judged by how it treats the least of us. Those leaders with any potential influence on Trump, will know show us what they value — true American values of innovation and inclusion, or cheap imitation junk to make a buck. The workday starts now.