Over the next few days, I hope to engage in socially distanced bread-breaking with a trio of young friends, who struggle to stay idealistic and worry about the future of their country plus that of planet Earth, their island home.
The conversations will revolve around the “four D’s”: A Disastrous presidency, deep social and political Divisions; Draining and growing income inequality, and the disappearance of civil Debate. How does anyone deliver a bottom-up impact on any of these national crises? My college senior friend will ask: Why even try?
Of course, I will respond with immortal words of Benjamin Franklin: “A republic, if we can keep it.” All these friends are outdoor activists, so I will go through citizen struggles that delivered the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area and kept Puget Sound from becoming an oil port and pipeline terminus.
Still, no denying that the republic is in peril. The stench of fascism permeated the U.S. Capitol yesterday. Rick Steves did a recent PBS program on the rise of fascism in Europe, filled with photos of a jut-jawed Benito Mussolini holding forth from balconies. Guess what? We now have our own “sawdust Caesar.”
All I can preach to friends is activism and outreach, and the sweet sound and smell of hard-won success (e.g. lifting cups on election night 2008, or standing in a cathedral forest once destined to be clear cut and shipped off to Japan). A lot in America has changed for the better. The work of changing can be excruciatingly difficult — witness 700 pages of accounts in Obama’s memoirs, with another 700 pages to go.
I will hope, using the U.S. Capitol insurrection as model, that we’re witnessing the beginning of the end of Trumpism. Protracted struggle lies before us, however. I hope to convince those three friends that it’s “thee” as well as “we” who must keep it.