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Dan McAfee
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"Anyone who isn't confused doesn't really understand the situation." Edward R. Murrow

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US Election -- Memo to the Movement

Dear Avaazers,

I wanted to write from the heart about what just happened in the US, and what's happening around the world.

The shock is justified -- the most powerful nation in the world will be led by a breathtakingly ignorant, bigoted, violent, pathologically lying, sexually predatory, vengeful, authoritarian, corrupt reality TV star. Those aren't insults, they're facts.

How is democracy coming to this? How do we deal with it? I want to offer 5 points:

1) Acceptance -- we can't wisely change anything about the world or ourselves if we don't first accept it. So take a deep breath, and let's face it. President Trump. And 'Trumpism', or ethno-nationalism, striving for power in many of our countries.

2) Holistic Evaluation -- I can't find a better name for this concept, but our brains have a deep negativity bias. We are easily overwhelmed by fearful focus on the negative, and we make awful judgments when we are. The desperation fueled by this irrational negativity is how demagogues rise. We can't let it happen to us. So looking at the situation holistically, here's some reassuring points:

He's not all-powerful -- The US President faces many checks and balances from Congress, the constitution, the courts, his own party, and foreign leaders.

He was recently a liberal democrat! -- Trump is dangerous, but not a maniac. He has praised Hillary Clinton and donated to her campaigns and many of his positions are more reasonable when you scrutinise them. "Building a wall" is just saying he will physically police the US border. It's distasteful, but not crazy. Much of his party opposed him because he wasn't conservative enough!

He's tapped into/exploiting legitimate concerns -- There is absolutely racism, mysogny and xenophobia driving Trumpism. But his supporters are not all simply a racist ignorant mob. Polls show a huge portion are people who are well aware of his faults but are desperate for change, hate Hillary Clinton, and are willing to gamble on him. In particular, a demographic of lower middle class older white men in the US are suffering declining income and life expectancy, and spikes in drug addiction and suicide.

The "people" are not with him -- Trump lost the popular vote in the election (he just won through the US's quirky 'electoral college' system). So don't think this was a landslide.


3) Focused Alarm -- now that acceptance and holistic evaluation ensure we're not freaking out unproductively, let's focus our concern where it most needs to be:

Climate Change -- Trump says it's a hoax and wants to tear up the Paris climate agreement. Climate Change threatens our species and we're running out of time -- but IF we can make sure that world leaders don't slow down, but speed up, the US alone can't destroy us. The rest of the world will drive a clean energy revolution that will make renewable energy much cheaper than fossil fuels -- the US will be forced to switch by simple economics.

Fascism -- we just don't know what kind of leader Trump is. Is he a Berlusconi, the Trump-like Italian billionaire Prime Minister who was outrageously corrupt and ridiculous but not a fascist? Or is he a Mussolini? We will have to watch like hawks and respond fast to the tell-tale signs of eroding the rule of law, rigging the electoral system, intimidating the media, or promoting fear and hatred of some minorities.

Terrorism and War -- Trump's instincts in the campaign were to call for things like murdering the families of suspected terrorists and significantly expanding the use of torture. This direction is a gift to ISIS and will fuel the global conflict with militant Islam. His ideas are mostly illegal, but we'll have to watch closely and push back hard - domestically and through US allies - if this erratic man-child uses the US military to commit state-terrorism.


4) It's the Media, Stupid -- Despite ALL evidence to the contrary, the American public overwhelmingly saw Hillary Clinton as MORE dishonest and corrupt than Donald Trump. This, by itself, is the reason why Trump is president. And it's the media's fault. US network news devoted more time to coverage of Clinton's totally BS email scandal than TO ALL POLICY ISSUES COMBINED. On the one side, we have ruthlessly sophisticated partisan propaganda media, vast quantities of totally fake 'news' going insanely viral, huge armies of fake social media avatars and hired trolls that cocoon people in social media reality-free bubbles. And on the other side we have an 'impartial' media that chases fake scandals and ratings and suggests false equivalence between the sides in the name of appearing balanced. This dynamic was in play with Brexit as well. We desperately need a smarter media. Very few organisations campaign on this, and Avaaz needs to.

5) This is a HUGE opportunity, let's rise to it -- change doesn't happen in a steady, linear way. We human beings learn best from crisis and calamity. Our brightest lights emerge from our deepest darknesses. World War II gave us human rights and the United Nations. And the darknesses of Trumpism could help us build the most inspiring movement for human unity and progress the world has EVER seen, to not only beat back the Trumps in each of our countries, but to do so with a new, people-centred, high-integrity, inspiring politics that brings massive change towards the world we dream of. Let's get to work on it :)

With hope, and apologies for the long memo,
Ricken


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