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So maybe this is a weird way of saying thanks

November 23, 2016

Like you, I’ve heard a lot of commentary over the last two weeks that runs the gamut from apocalyptic doom to willful optimism. The election of Donald Trump is either the worst thing that has ever happened to this country or the wake-up call we needed to save our democracy. And that encapsulates just the range of opinion from the “progressive” end of the American political spectrum. Tens of millions of Americans are still celebrating the election results, if not downright giddy over the prospects of Trump making America “great again,” but also a fair number of conservatives horrified by the results.

For what it’s worth, my own view is that Trump’s presidency probably won’t be just one thing or the other, but a mixture whose toxicity will depend on who and where you are. As a white, middle-aged heterosexual male born in the 20th century currently enjoying a decent income, relatively good health, access to resources of all kinds (yes, including fossil fuels), freedom of movement and speech, non-Obamacare health insurance, a home, loved ones, and strong support networks, I’m inordinately fortunate. Truly a 1%er. A 0.000001%er, really. I’m not more deserving than anyone else, just—thanks to arbitrary forces—ridiculously lucky. And that means, by extension, I face fewer personal threats to my well-being, safety, freedom, and opportunity than literally billions of other people (not to mention countless other species). President-elect Trump is not yet the direct source of any of those threats but, if he enacts many of his campaign promises, he could certainly increase their odds or severity.

Perhaps, like me, you count yourself among the fortunate. If you have the time, technological resources, and education sufficient to be reading this far, you are at least somewhat blessed. And compared to generations of people to come, you’re living in a time of relative climate and socio-political stability. So there’s that.

Those of us who are fortunate in one way or another have a choice—whether to take our situation for granted, feel overwhelmed by guilt, or give thanks. It took me a long time to get to a place of gratitude, and I honestly still struggle with it most of the time. The only way I can face my inexplicable fortune is to do something with it. Gratitude, for me, goes hand in hand with obligation. By sheer circumstance, I’ve been gifted with the opportunity to help others who are not so fortunate, or at least attempt to lessen the hardship they might face. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a very selfish thing I do, and relatively easy when your own safety and well-being aren’t on the line—though that may well be tested at some point, perhaps thanks to Mr. Trump.

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I don’t share this with an air of self-importance or judgment, but as a request and an invitation. If you, too, have the capacity to help—whether with time, skills, or money—you’re needed. For good or bad, there is no shortage of issues or people to support. This includes people who are on the other side of various political, cultural, gender, religious, economic, or racial divides. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in a commencement speech at Oberlin College in 1965:

“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be… This is the inter-related structure of reality.”

We may understandably feel overwhelmed, terrified, angry, despondent, depressed, or numbed by the challenges we collectively face and the massive step backwards it seems we may have just taken. Or we can feel thankful for having no shortage of purpose and some capacity to act upon that purpose.

I’m not only grateful to have means with which to act, but also deeply thankful for the amazing thinkers, leaders, resilience-builders, and like-minded folks like you whom I get to encounter through my role at Post Carbon Institute. I am not alone and neither are you. Let’s make some noise together.

 

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