Election Day

I have a lot of hopes and fears going in to this Election Day.

Today does not feel like a choice between two candidates with opposing views, or even between two candidates with opposing values.

Today I feel like democracy, global stability, and the last shreds of decency hang in the balance.

I’ve been trying to make sense of it all these last few months, and I think I have a clearer perspective on how my experiences and situation – including, perhaps most significantly, that I live a major metropolitan area – distance me from huge swaths of the U.S. population. I’ve come to recognize that the feelings of anger, hopelessness, outrage, and the sense that the system is broken, are very real for tens of millions of people. And I’ve come to believe that the pain that this election has exposed is not going away any time soon.

But, try as I may, what I still fail to understand, and where I cannot help but feel sadness and fear, comes down to what I understood to be American values.

I would like to believe that there are immutable truths we hold self-evident as a people and as a nation.

I would like to believe that any individual seeking public office – let alone the highest office in the land – must show that he rejects hatred, he rejects demagoguery, he rejects demeaning women and Hispanics and Muslims and pretty much anyone else who comes in his path.

I would like to believe that we all recognize and remember that we are a country of immigrants, a country of misfits, a country that fled persecution and marginalization to form a more perfect union.

I would like to believe, while our union is very far from perfect and while our language of unity has, since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, papered over inconsistencies and outright hypocrisies, that someone who expresses hatred and disrespect isn’t “not politically correct,” he is trampling on core American values.

I would like to believe that Ryan Lenz, the editor of the Hatewatch blog at the Southern Poverty Law Center, is overstating when he says, “For racists in this country, this campaign has been a complete affirmation of their fears, worries, dreams and hopes…Most things they believe have been legitimized, or have been given the stamp of approval, by mainstream American politics to the point now where it’s no longer shameful to be a racist.”

I would like to believe that Richard Spencer, who coined the term alt-right in 2008, is wrong in crediting Trump with “sling-shott[ing] us a long way” and that he’s wrong when he says that he expects that “we can just look at 2015 and 2016 as the beginning of a new stage.”

And I have to believe that today our nation will show the world that the core values upon which it was founded still remain – albeit under attack and deeply wounded.

I have to believe that today will not be the day that the long march towards tolerance was halted.

I have to believe that we won’t look back at today as the last day that our democracy was strong.

I have to believe that we will remain “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

God Bless America. 

Reminders in Troubling Times

Every Monday morning at Acumen, in all of our offices, we hold a staff meeting. It starts with context from the last week and ends with “Aha’s,” reflections from the previous week relevant to our work and to our mission.

These past few weeks have been a drumbeat of global news going from bad to worse, of fear taking center stage. At some point it gets hard to even find the right words.

Here are some of the reminders I heard from colleagues yesterday that I needed to hear.

That if you’re paying attention to the world right now, you are probably hurting.

That if you come across someone who is hurting, they could use a sign of love, of warmth, of kindness, maybe even a hug.

That we can express care and connection through actions big and small.

That how we act in each of our daily interactions has ripple effects for us and for those around us.

That the world desperately needs the people who are fighting against evil, against injustice, and against division to remain hopeful.

That these same people need support from people who, today, are sitting on the sidelines.

And that being part of an organization that is working to make positive change in the world puts us in a leveraged position to be a force for good, and that this in itself is a reason to redouble our efforts and redouble our hope.

Please, let us keep at it. Let us keep fighting the fight.

Please, let us keep listening to each other and holding each other in our hearts.

Please, let us show each other, and let us show those that are angry and frustrated and tired and hopeless, that what unites us is stronger than what divides us.

There really is green grass under the snow

No matter how many feet deep you have to dig to find it.

Not just metaphorically. Actual green grass, just waiting there for the spring.

Helps to remember that every now and again.

Mega Millions Jackpot Hits $586 Million

And 70 percent of the hundreds of millions of possible number combinations will be purchased.

Did you ever need more proof that what you’re selling is hope and possibility and not facts and figures?

Landfill Harmonic

In Cateura, Paraguay, in a slum build on a landfill, a community has come together to make classical musical instruments out of old oil barrels, meat cleavers, even forks.  From trash they have made cellos, violins, violas, clarinets.  And they play them beautifully.

If ever you doubted even for a second the power of dignity or the grace of every human being, everywhere, this trailer is for you.

I promise it will light a fire in you, will fill you with joy and hope and holiday spirit.  It will help remind you how easy it is to take things for granted.  It will, I bet, make you smile and maybe even shed a tear.

If you’d like to learn more about the upcoming documentary, check out the Landfill Harmonic Movie Facebook page.  They’re even starting to accepted donated musical instruments.

Real Heroes

The other day I was talking to a guy who, among many pursuits, is heavily involved in an inner-city charter school.  He said that his dream is to build, around the school and in the neighborhood, a Heroes Project so that the kids have real, local role models of folks they can look up to, folks who are not athletes or rock stars, since almost no one ends up as a professional athlete or a rock star.  (Any takers to make that happen? Let me know.)

And then today someone told me about Julio Diaz’s story on NPR’s StoryCorps.  Julio got mugged at knife-point coming off the subway in New York, and it turned into a story with a very surprising, very inspiring ending.

I hope someone starts the Heroes Project, and if they do I officially nominate Julio as the first hero.

Click on the image to hear the story – it’s less than 2 minutes long, and I promise it will make your day.

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Proud

The other day my six-year-old son talked me into an impromptu weekend trip to Grand Central Station.  The ultimate destination was (obviously) the new Lego store at Rockefeller Center (it’s fabulous) but we made the requisite stop at the MTA NYC Transit Museum/Shop at Grand Central.

My son’s three-year long obsession with trains has recently abated, but the Train Museum is still a favorite stop, even if visiting now has just the slightest tinge of nostalgia.

It’s as much store as museum, but on the way out my son tugged at my sleeve and pointed at the glass donation box they have set up by the door.

“Should we leave them some money?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“This place is great, and we want it to be here forever, don’t we?”

Sometimes the answers are just that simple.

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