Let’s get to work.
Here we are. Over the last eighteen months, this election season has drudged up some of the most vile behaviors ever witnessed on either side of the political spectrum. We’ve seen a group of disenfranchised people that have felt that their voice hasn’t been heard rise up in antithesis to all of the progress that had been made over the last decades. We’re actually calling into question the fundamental values of America. We’re calling into question our commitment to equality, our commitment to providing a better life for Americans and immigrants, for building our strength upon the diversity of the nation, and it’s frightening.
It’s been frightening to see just how fragile our democracy is. A lot of us grew apathetic, and in that apathy, a space opened up that lit a fire that is going to be hard to put out.
Now, the easy thing to do here is to start assigning blame, to say that, “Oh, it’s the Republicans fault for fear-mongering over the last fifteen years.” Or, “It’s the Democrats fault for not listening to and addressing the needs and concerns of lower-class white Americans.” Or, “It’s third-pary voters’ fault for putting their ideology over our security.”
It’s easy to blame the media for abandoning credibility and veracity in search of ratings. It’s easy to blame the populace for refusing to pay for the kind of hard-hitting journalism that is supposed to protect us from this sort of demagoguery; the fourth estate that supposed to be a counterbalance to our government. It’s easy to blame the government for being short-sighted and focused only on being elected and being re-elected.
Blame is easy. Responsibility is hard.
Here’s the thing. I don’t give a shit about blame anymore. In his sublime new book, Mark Manson lays out a very crucial tenet that we need to understand and adopt today: There is a difference between fault and responsibility. We can argue over who’s fault this mess is until we’re blue (or red) in the face. But regardless of who’s fault any of this is, it is all our responsibility to do something about it. We have to listen more. We need more empathy, more understanding, more self-analysis. We have to be honest with ourselves about what we stand for as a country. We have to heal the racial divides, heal the socioeconomic divides, heal the political and ideological divides. And we have to do it without giving an inch on the social progress that has made America great.
This is only possible with honest, brutal self-reflection.
How? It starts small. It starts between two people, between you and someone else. It starts by learning how to listen. It starts by searching for solutions instead of just complaining about problems. Getting out and trying to change things instead of just spewing outrage on Facebook. It starts with understanding that we are all in this together, that we have different goals, different needs, different feelings, different ideologies, different preferences, different privileges, different struggles—but we are all in this shit together.
There is nothing a group of committed humans cannot accomplish by working together. It is the greatest strength of humanity, and that is what makes this democracy work.
We don’t have to agree. We just elected Donald Trump as our President. Personally, I’m horrified. Most of the world is horrified. But guess what: You don’t have to like the president. You don’t have to like somebody to work with them. (You can afford to like them even less if you learn to work around them). Every one of us has had a boss or coworker or employee we can’t stand, but when shit gets real we buckle down together and work. That’s being an adult. That’s taking responsibility.
I’m not advocating some late ’60s, LSD-fueled utopia where everybody holds hands under a rainbow and sings kumbaya and that somehow magically solves all our problems. That was never going to happen. It will never happen. It never should happen. People need to disagree, because from that disagreement we get our greatest ideas, our greatest accomplishments. But we need to learn how to disagree without demonizing each other.
That is what We Can Be Better is about, and that is what we are going to be focusing on moving forward: finding ways to give people the tools they need to put away the destructive tendencies that have been brought to the forefront of our consciousness in the last year-and-a-half, and figure out how to heal, how to listen, how to grow, how to be better. It’s a small step, but every accomplishment is built from small steps, so I’m hoping that you will step forward with us.
Because now, it’s up to us to protect every hard won civil liberty that we shed sweat, blood, and tears for over the last century.
Every last rally; every last protest; every last fighter deserves to have their legacy protected. Freedom isn’t free; it’s a constant, grueling fight between those that believe in it and those unwilling to change. And like it or not, freedom has never been our government’s responsibility: it’s ours and ours alone.
We don’t have time to despair.