For quite some time, we’ve been predicting the end.
To be fair, we’ve had events that encouraged such beliefs — Noah’s flood, the bubonic plague, the two World Wars, Nickelback’s existence. Given what we’ve experienced, it’s understandable that we would expect ever-greater disasters, waiting for the one that really knocks us off our feet.
It’s understandable that we would fear the loss of what we love in these disasters. These disasters disrupt our stability, our daily routines (if we’re lucky enough to have them), and the world that we live, work and play in. It makes the most sense in the world to fear the loss of the thing we love.
When President Trump ran his campaign on the “Make America Great Again” slogan, he was tapping into what seems to be a primal belief that the end times are indeed coming and something needs to be done or else the world would crumble before our eyes.
To be fair, this fear was based off real events. Factories packed up and moved away, like Albion’s Harvard Industries did in 2001. Rural communities in “flyover country” have emptied out, and they feel forgotten in the dialogues of Washington.
Trump’s campaign worked because we feared the loss of stability that those operating factories and residential, rural communities offered. How do we navigate and live in a world where we don’t have those stabilizing forces?
The answer, I think, is not in fearing for and mourning for the loss of the good things we truly loved (not that there isn’t a time for that mourning) but in imagining the world we want and working towards building it.
It’s time to re-evaluate the world we’re holding onto, the world that we know, the one we’re so afraid of losing. Because what is it, really, that we’re scared of losing? I’m not totally sure, because right now things aren’t going so hot.
Record flooding just slammed the Midwest, resulting in at least $3 billion in damage, according to Midwestern states. Political partisanship is locked up in mudslinging. We talk about and at people but not to or from them.
The Camp wildfire was one of the costliest and deadliest wildfires in U.S. history. Drugs are either too expensive or overused. The oceans are acidifying, sea levels are rising and the Earth’s climate is changing so fast that parts of the earth may no longer be habitable in fifty years.
Our political leaders are currently debating whether or not it’s ok to commit violence against women. Income inequality continues to grow. Racial injustice seems to be everywhere. My generation is the first that might make less money and live fewer years than my parents’ generation.
Is this the world we are afraid of losing?
The world as we know it doesn’t seem all that great. It might be time to stop fearing the loss of everything we know and start working for the world that we want, the world we can imagine.
We’ve got some pretty good ideas, almost regardless of political party, about the world we imagine.
We imagine a healthy world — full of healthy people not burdened by drug addiction or chronic illness living and working in and on healthy land and healthy cities.
We imagine healthy communities with strong artistic, cultural, ethnic, recreational and culinary endeavors powered by people of diverse backgrounds.
We imagine a political world not with corruption, collusion, hate and avarice but with collaboration, conversation, transparency, love and generosity.
We imagine equality in our systems of justice and in our places of business.
We imagine a world where our existence might not demand the extinction of half the global ecosystem’s life.
In other words, we want what we’ve wanted since we started out on this adventure of American democracy 241 years ago.
The difference is we now recognize that this landmass was called Turtle Island before the United States of America by some of those we kicked out.
The difference now is we want to recognize each person as a whole entity, not 3/5ths of one.
We haven’t met these goals yet, and if we think that these ideas are somehow part of the “world as we know it,” we are mistaken. They are not.
These ideas are, however, part of the world we imagine. It’s time to forget the fear of losing the world as we know it and start working for the world we can imagine. The question now is not, ‘what do we fear?’ but, ‘What’s the work that needs to done?’
The answers to that question are simple, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy.
Talk to people, and listen to what they have to say. Invest your time, money and — not least of all — love in the place you call home. Eat plants, and grow your own if you can. If you believe that all humans are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, then act like it. Love your neighbors and welcome strangers. Sing, dance, eat and play with the people you love.
We know the work that needs to be done. It’s just a matter of doing it.