Who Will Save America? We Will. It’s Already Started

I originally wrote the piece below for The Greenlining Institute’s blog in mid-March, and almost immediately after posting it I started to wonder if I was just being starry-eyed and foolish. So much bad seemed to be happening — some of it to my immigrant or Muslim friends and coworkers — that optimism began to feel quaint and even silly.

February protest in Oakland, California

And then, last week, we won. The ACHA, aka “Trumpcare,” crashed and burned — with little doubt that the massive and growing volunteer network of activists known as The Resistance played a central role. Indeed, the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel observed that Democratic congressional leaders “watched as a roiling, well-organized ‘resistance’ bombarded Republicans with calls and filled their town hall meetings with skeptics.”

Saving the Affordable Care Act for now doesn’t mean we’ve won, but it proves that we can win — “we” being all of us who insist on an America that is fair, caring, generous and welcoming. My little burst of silly optimism reproduced below was right after all:

Indian Valley Open Space Reserve, Marin County, California

Perspective. We all struggle for it, and for most of us that struggle’s only gotten worse since last November’s election. One way to get some perspective is to turn off the TV, put away the smartphone and detach from the cascade of madness that is the news. Sometimes nature will tell you things you won’t get from Twitter or Facebook or cable news.

On Sunday, I went for a hike in the Indian Valley Open Space Preserve outside of Novato. After years of punishing drought, this winter’s rains have brought about an astonishing transformation. Instead of the brown, dry desolation California has experienced, the creeks burbled, the waterfalls splashed enthusiastically, and the landscape in every direction practically exploded with green — the sort of vivid, electric green you see more often in tropical places than in California.

This is what an ecosystem looks like when it starts to heal.

And as I left the park, I felt something that I literally had not felt since November: optimism.

I didn’t realize it at first, but while driving home, I decided to play some music. My car stereo served up a favorite song I hadn’t heard in a while, a joyous and upbeat tune filled with lines like, “Every ladder leads to heaven.”

And I started to cry. For the first time in months I found myself believing that our country can heal. And I suddenly realized who will heal it.

It won’t be the politicians, though a few have stood up bravely and forcefully. It won’t be the think-tanks or the political parties. It won’t be old, white guys like me, though we’d damn well better stand up and be counted. And it certainly won’t be cable news pundits, though real journalists — the tough,

Me and my coworker Conrad

unglamorous, shoeleather reporters who insist on ferreting out facts people in power would rather we didn’t know — will absolutely play a role.

But mostly, the people who save America will be … people: immigrants and refugees, nurses, teachers, students, artists, activists, cab drivers, janitors. Regular folks who know that America at its best is about generosity and openness and welcoming. Regular folks who know better than to give in to fear.

You’ve seen them already — in the massive Women’s March crowds, at the spontaneous protests at airports all over the country a few weeks ago, at town hall meetings where they’ve refused to let their representatives weasel out of answering tough questions about access to health care and other issues. They, too, are signs of an ecosystem beginning to heal.

At Greenlining, we want to be part of that healing. We’ll be fighting for sane, humane policies, both behind the scenes and speaking out publicly. Starting soon we’ll be using our blog to share news and upcoming events you can get involved in, in a feature we’re thinking of calling The Resistance Report [UPDATE: We ended up calling it the #ResistReport].

But it won’t be us — or any organization — that saves this country. It will be people, millions upon millions who will never give up on the idea of an America powered by its hopes, not its fears.

Together, we will win. We will save America.

Follow Bruce Mirken on Twitter here. And follow The Greenlining Institute here.

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