Monday, January 2, 2017

Seeking the Silver Lining 2

My first post called Seeking the Silver Lining touched on the possible psychological benefits that a Trump presidency might have on America.  The point, in a nutshell, was that Trump is a master of the art of presenting his opinions and policies in the best possible light, and that this positive spin, enhanced by the media outlets that favor him, will create a positive national feeling, regardless of whether Trump's policies produced the results or not.  He will take credit for all that seems an improvement,, and, since the reality is that America is in a far better place than it was at the end of the 2nd Bush Administration, Americans will begin to believe that we are on the right track.  To me, this is an area where the Obama Administration fell short; not touting all the positive aspects of life in America in 2016 as compared to 2008, and correspondingly, a failure of the Clinton campaign to take advantage of all the good that has occurred in America in the last 8 years.

My goal in this post is to remind everyone of the amazing and fantastic efforts being made by Americans, people of all races, gender and ethnic origins, who for the most part toil behind the scenes in our laboratories, universities and boardrooms to develop ideas and processes that help other people, regardless of whether those innovations generate vast wealth for the creator.  The goals almost always seem to focus on improving the human condition first, attaining wealth and fame second.

Fortunately, I have easy access to such people and such stories via the monthly Smithsonian and National Geographic magazines that I read.

The December Smithsonian features their yearly American Ingenuity Awards.  Among the recipients this year are men and women who among other things, created the first ever rocket that can return to Earth and be reused for another launch, a printer that may one day be able to "print" human organs, an app that helps college bound seniors research and apply for scholarships that they would never have heard of or been able to take advantage of, research that helped bring to light the connection between the degradation of the water pipes in Flint, Michigan and lead poisoning among its children, and a program which uses meditation to help reduce stress in school children, especially those who live in neighborhoods where poverty and violence are at high levels.

The December National Geographic details a dozen Rolex Awards for Enterprise winners whose work ranges from a Kenyan woman who escaped the traditional cycle that dictated the genital mutilation of young women, in addition to removing them from school into arranged marriages, only to return to her home country to start a school for other young women to help them break the cycle as well, to conservationists who seek to protect ancient ruins in places all over the world so as to learn and better understand our shared origins, to researchers seeking to discover and make real an energy source for the future that is not a fossil fuel, to the countless scientists who study animals of all shapes and sizes to learn how climate change is effecting them (and so will effect us).

But to me, and even more critical aspect to seeking the silver lining, has to do with the person we see each day in the mirror.  How is that reflection going to address the possible limitations of a Trump presidency?

Certainly, we all can't stop our lives and run for office.  But if we choose to do so, groups like Emerge which I mentioned in a previous post, are there to train, support and connect you with other like minded citizens.  We can continue to vote in all levels of elections, making sure that our future is not controlled by a small but vocal minority.   And, we can civilly point out discrepancies between fact and fiction when presented by those who seek to distract and misinform rather than educate.

Also, and I like to remind those in mourning about this when I can, a mere 8 years ago those conservatives who disagreed with what they perceived would be the agenda of the Obama years, were as dismal in their perception of what was to come, as we are today.  Yet here we are, feeling as hopeless as they did, while they are riding high on the winds of their electoral victory.  While we may disagree with their approach, especially the just say NO to everything Obama tried to do, they eventually won the hearts and minds of the voters.  We must take a page from their playbook, stand up to the policies and decisions that the 65+ million Hillary Clinton voters disagree with, and use facts and truth to convince those that do not share our current perspective that they may have been fooled.

But more than anything, we need to maintain the high road.  Agree when a GOP idea is productive, praise our future president when he hits the mark, but continue to press for support of the progress made these past years in the areas of access to medical insurance, marriage equality, tolerance of those with gender identification issues, recognition that the Muslim religion includes advocates that seek wisdom, and that seek violence, just like the advocates of all major religions, and acknowledgment that our judicial and penal systems are not quite as blind to color and poverty as we would like them to be.

It's funny, because many of those who voted for Trump believe that America is the greatest country on Earth, perhaps in history, and bristle when presented with facts that present America in a bad light, facts such as our treatment of the American Indian, or our extended experiment with slavery, and its resulting laws that legitimized the second class treatment of people of color.  It is almost as if we could go back to the golden years following WW2 when America was the savior of the world, if only those who have found holes in that illusion would just shut up.  They believe in the greatness of America to such an extent, that any mention of a flaw or mistake, sets their jaws tight.

Well, I believe that America is great.  Articles like those I mentioned about people who are working anonymously to prove that point are inspiring.  But true greatness lies in seeking to root out even the smallest of problems, and then solving them, not pretending they never existed.  And true greatness acknowledges that all of the great accomplishments made in America, happened as a result of cooperation and compromise, not ridicule and one mindedness.

Working together is easy when everyone thinks the same.  A truly great country works together even when there is disagreement, because despite any disagreement, a great country can work out differences and find common ground.  But more so, this common ground must include policies that enable all Americans to provide for their families, create a hopeful environment for their children, and ensure a safety net which provides financial and health security as we age.

Perhaps the best lesson we can learn from the thousands who remain unknown yet whose contributions are invaluable, is that the most rewarding work results in the reduction of pain and poverty, and the enhancement of opportunity and hopefulness.  Personal wealth, fame and fortune pale in comparison.  When America and Americans fully integrate that belief into our institutions, private and public, only then will we guarantee our legacy of greatness.

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