By Robert C. Koehler
I pledge allegiance to . . . what?
The Electoral College, to no one’s serious surprise, voted Donald Trump in as the nation’s 45th president, and the pot of outrage in the American spectator democracy begins to boil.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no — no to all his right-wing and idiotic cabinet and Team Trump appointments, no to his conflicts of interest and serial tweets, no to his sexism, his reckless arrogance, his ego, his finger on the nuclear button.
The word of the day is resistance. For instance, Nancy Altman and Ira Lupu, writing at Huffington Post, point out that Trump, though legally the new American president, lacks political legitimacy, thanks to widespread voter suppression, his huge loss in the popular vote and the anachronistic absurdity of the Electoral College; and even more disturbingly, is a thin-skinned, dishonest, immature jerk, utterly lacking the moral authority a national leader must project. These are flaws that cannot be ignored.
“Other elected officials, the media, and the citizenry at large have no obligation to afford him the slightest political respect,” they write. “Rather, the next four years should be a time of resistance and outright obstructionism. Opponents of Trump should be at least as aggressive in challenging the political legitimacy and moral authority of his presidency as Republicans were in disrespecting President Obama, whose political legitimacy and moral authority were beyond reproach.”
Wow, I get it. Don’t let Trump get away with anything! Fight every alt-right and nutcase appointment he tries to make, every racist or reckless policy he tries to implement. Above all, don’t let him shift the paradigm of normal.
There’s only one problem here, and it’s the same problem the Hillary Clinton campaign faced and had no way to overcome. The “old normal” — the Washington consensus, the status quo — that Trump is so successful at selectively mocking, even as he remains utterly enmeshed in it, is a ravenous predator and looming disaster of global proportions.
I pledge allegiance to the United States of War? To the United States of Prisons? To the United States of Poverty and Infrastructure Decay and Contaminated Water?
Indeed, the concept of American exceptionalism ensconced in the old normal and thoughtlessly touted by the corporate media is Trumpesque in its narcissism. And its time is running out. The economy is breaking down for much of the working class and some of our deep, foundational flaws — the racism, the militarism, the environmental exploitation — are getting increasingly difficult to avoid noticing.
The challenge presented by Trump requires something more than resistance. I believe it requires reaching for, and pledging our allegiance to, a much larger, more compassionate and peace-oriented country than the one we have now. It requires pledging allegiance to the planet and the future.
But what does this look like?
Half a century ago, the emerging nation could be seen in the civil rights movement. Today, perhaps the best place to look is Standing Rock, where an old wound, you might say, is insisting on its right to heal.
“What can we learn from their struggle?” Audrea Lim asks in The Nation. “Bombarded for months with tear gas, sound cannons, rubber bullets and water hoses (often in freezing temperatures, no less), the camp at Standing Rock grew from around ten in April to thousands by fall. They transformed what might have otherwise been a remote, invisible, rural struggle into national headline news.”
The struggle, she notes, had blatantly racist origins: “Originally meant to traverse the Missouri River north of Bismarck, city residents complained that it would threaten their municipal water supply, and the pipeline was re-routed to nearer the Standing Rock reservation in September 2014.”
She adds: “It is significant that Bismarck is 92.4 percent white.”
This could have been just one more isolated wrong, but for some reason the national or perhaps global moment was ripe for it to be something else. The struggle for water rights, for the sanctity of the land, for a wounded people’s dignity, sent a tremor through the whole country. Something sacred — to use a risky, old-fashioned word — had been violated. And maybe we’re no longer simply Consumer America, using up our resources, destroying our rivers, clotting our veins, to consequences born only by the racially and culturally marginalized. We used to be, but this is changing.
“We live today at a moment of transition between worlds.”
So writes Charles Eisenstein in The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. The world that’s giving way — and the story, or mythology, that sustains it — is the world of “survival of the fittest” and winner takes all, the world of domination and conquest, isolation from nature, a dismissal of life itself as less than sacred.
“Today,” writes Eisenstein, “it is increasingly obvious that this was a bubble world built atop massive human suffering and environmental degradation.”
It isn’t merely resistance that will replace the bubble world of exploitation, but a new and deeper consciousness of connection with all of life and a reawakening to what is sacred.
I pledge allegiance to the world that is coming into being.Φ
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.