As You See It

Impasse

To the Editor:

A sea of Bernie signs along all the country roads. This was Vermont where Bel and I were living this past summer and fall. Then, when we returned to rural Wisconsin in early November we were greeted by a sea of Trump signs in nearly every yard.

I grew up assuming that multiculturalism and global inclusiveness were the only natural and correct stances for thinking, sane, caring citizens. What happened in the recent election revealed that a huge swath of our country is not so sure; some may believe the opposite. And now, how do these vast, opposing constituencies, who “know” that theirs alone is the right, just way, expect to get along, to function together, make America work?

Clearly, an awful lot of Americans feel left out and ignored by those in power, and in the campaigns they found their respective champions. Interesting that many of the change-demanding Bernie and Trump folks hail from the same struggling economic and cultural sector—their fears and frustrations the same—an important clue as to how we might begin the conversation Could we listen, really hear each other out, discover if and where our basic values might mesh?

Bel points out that we’re not for the status quo; we do need change. The liberal world order that emerged after World War II is being challenged now as never before. People are restless and angry, and authoritarian leadership with quick answers has appeal. How many remember that similar conditions prevailed in the 1930s in Europe, stoking the rise of fascism? The postwar institutions that emerged served for 70 years, but now they need radical upgrading to address today’s urgent issues of race, poverty, and global warming.

Our Puritan forefathers, as well as all the other immigrants since then, came here with the burning dream of independence, of being able to express themselves freely and to better their situation. It’s in our historical DNA to crave—insist on—personal autonomy. Even those of us who intentionally created communities of interdependence (as with our High Wind eco-experiment) found that in the end we also needed to honor our individual autonomy. We had to find ways to take into account the welfare of everyone, but without losing ourselves in the process. This past year great cadres of “little guys” rose up and spoke out, emboldened to defy and reject our creaky establishment machinery. They cheered the iconoclasts.

Our challenge may be to look at this next period as a unique opportunity to demonstrate our ingenuity and moral strength to break the impasse that grips us now.

Lisa Paulson

Town Mitchell


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