If you celebrated when the US election results were called last week, you may have noticed a change in your body this week. Many of us are talking about it. The tight grip in our stomach loosening a bit. Our jaw unclenching. That sickening dread that keeps our shoulders up around our ears, bracing for the next blow, and the next, is lessening. When the results of the 2016 election came in, people reassured each other. It can’t be as bad as we think. In 2020, we know it can be that bad and worse.
Tentative because we don’t know what will happen between now and January 20th. Our survival brain is still pretty concerned. Yet the bells were ringing in Paris and there were fireworks and celebrations in the UK Saturday when the Biden/Harris win was announced. World leaders reached out with congratulations. Social media was flooded as ordinary people expressed their joy and relief. Friends in the US were touched to tears by the jubilation of people in other countries, expressing that for the first time in four years they feel like they are welcomed in the world.
How much harm has the media caused in giving President Trump a platform for his fear-mongering and lies? There are some encouraging signs, like news anchors stopping mid-speech to fact check President Trump and three major networks refusing in recent days to air his unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud. There is a widespread consensus that the American people are being played, and that finally after the election results, some networks might be waking up to their responsibility to tell the truth.
There are two levels of complicity – lying and knowingly spreading lies. The platform mainstream media gave his lies is a direct threat to democracy. One of the major concerns is that many people who voted for him believe him and mistrust other news sources, including major TV networks. Anything that goes against their beliefs is suspect. Last week, I wrote in more detail about fear and how it makes us susceptible to mistrusting the “other”.
When Germany lost WW2 and Hitler was out of the picture, there was a period of calling to account during the Nuremberg trials. “The trials were most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, judicial, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany, who planned, carried out, or otherwise participated in the Holocaust and other war crimes.”
My sense is that one of the results of those trials is that facts were presented for people to see. No doubt some Germans resented the Allies running these trials and didn’t believe the evidence. There were Germans who went along the Nazis for their own benefit and some went along because they were justly afraid to speak up. I am not a historian of this period. What I do know is that as a country, Germany arrived at a place of clarity and taking responsibility for what they did. They are vigilant about fascism and committed to not going in that direction again.
I raise the example of the commitment to truth in Germany because it gives hope and possibly a direction for healing the polarization and deep mistrust of the “other side” in the US today. Media have a lot to answer for as do Republican politicians who went along with their President because they were protecting their own careers and interests.
People are angry that the American Dream has passed them by and some believe that Democrats and bleeding heart socialists are why. The real divide between people is that the middle class has largely disappeared since the Reagan (Republican) tax cuts in the eighties which allowed the rise of the 1%. How can we come to an honest meeting and civil conversation about what really matters to all of us? How can we begin to respect and hear each other?
How can we reach people who believe that Fox News is the truth and that everything else is lies? How can “they” reach us – who believe that Fox news is a lie?
Calming our own nervous system is a start and will help with increasing clarity and reducing fear. Working together in our communities for social justice and human rights is work for a lifetime. People are engaged and paying attention right now. Many of us are committed to working together to leverage this to transform our society.
This is a moment to keep our hearts open and our will strong. This is a moment to confront media who lie with impunity and in doing so, damage democracy and freedom. This is a moment to celebrate and let our shoulders relax as we organize and work for the world we want to live in.
And it is definitely a moment to down-regulate our system with some breathing. Ahhh….