A Reason for Hope
“Hindsight is 2020” was one of the thousands of protest signs I saw last Saturday at the Los Angeles Women’s Rally and among the most poignant (along with, “Ugh, where do I start?”).
These messages underscored my feelings after watching David Letterman’s new show on Netflix where his first guest was Barack Obama. My God it was good to see him again – and heart wrenching. I had forgotten how magnificent he was. What a stunning contrast between our erudite and lucid 44th president and, well, the new guy (since this paper won’t let me say how I really feel).
There Obama was, smiling and relaxed, fit and lean in a crisp white shirt, with the 1,000-watt smile, the measured words, and the refreshingly broad vocabulary. Not to mention the wit and self-effacement (he has “dad moves” on the dance floor).
Listening to his thoughtful, measured prose again was like hearing the soothing, calming words of a wise, long lost uncle, and then awakening to sadly realize it was just a dream. He wasn’t coming back.
Compare this to the racist remarks by the current office holder, accused of sexual misconduct by 19 women. He has brought shame, fear and division to our nation, and has now achieved the unprecedented distinction of lying over 2,000 times in only his first year, according to The Washington Post.
How did we get to this sordid state, where the schism between reason and ignorance is so deep? According to Obama, “One of the biggest threats to our democracy is that we don’t share a common baseline of facts. We are operating in completely different information universes.”
And that is at the core of our colossal divide. I tested this thesis by recently scanning the Facebook feed of someone who is enraged by Obama and Hillary, and posts vile accusations daily. She gets her news not only from traditional right-wing sources like Fox and Breitbart, but from arcane sites I’d never heard of, like the Western Tribune, Conservative Politicus, Freedom Daily, Independent Journal Review, Daily Caller, Conservative Tribune, World Politicus, Your News Wire, Young Cons, US Herald, Judicial Watch, Consjournal, Conservative Online, and the Washington Examiner.
Talk about a parallel universe. These are the shrill, extremely right-wing conspiracy theory sites that perpetuate myths like Sandy Hook was faked, the Clintons were involved in child sex slave trafficking, and Obama was a secret Muslim operative. They are funded by shadowy political groups, thinly veiled white supremacists, and hostile governments. When you click on them, the web sends you more of the same. So how can we protect this delicate thing called democracy, as we devolve so close to tyranny? How do we return sanity to our nation?
Censoring the internet or debunking alternative facts won’t help, because we are in a post-fact society. The two-party system is profoundly broken. The Republicans engage in voter suppression, which could very well be at the heart of their anti-immigration campaign. And Democrats are complicit in alienating tons of voters with their undemocratic anointment of one of the most uninspiring candidates in recent history.
Perhaps our best chance is the empowerment of women. At last Saturday’s marches, instead of focusing on resistance, the leaders focused on a strategy: getting people out to vote and to run for office.
One sign said it best: “Grab ‘em by the Mid-Terms.”
We are not beyond despair. Just listen to the words of civil rights legend, Congressman John Lewis, who also appeared on Letterman’s show. This is the man who marched across the Selma, Ala., bridge in 1964, was savagely beaten by police, and endured years of persecution and arrests in his non-violent pursuit of equal rights. If anyone would be entitled to despair over our giant collapse as a compassionate nation, it would be John. But this hero, who refused to attend Trump’s inauguration, remained upbeat and hopeful, saying, “In the whole struggle, there may be some setbacks, but you take a long, hard look, and we will get there. We will redeem the soul of America, and make the world a little better.”
With someone who has a long and up-close historical perspective on the struggles of this nation, his positive words reflect the very best of our American values. Hope. Thanks John, not only have you made the world a little better, you made me feel a little better too.
Billy Fried hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on KX 93.5, and can be reached at [email protected]