Friends, this is an invitation. To reflect. To commit. To act.
This week, our world held its collective breath, wondering if a peaceful transition of power would actually happen in the United States. Yesterday, that transition took place, as Vice-President Kamala Harris and President Joseph Biden took their respective oaths of office and became our Executive Branch leaders, positions they will hold for the next four years. The insurrection of January 6th failed to usurp our electoral process. We wept. We cheered. We exhaled.
In one of my favorite movies, Almost Famous, young women who call themselves “band-aids,” have formed a community with one another and the musicians they love. They consider themselves muses- inspirations of transcendent art- while others see them as “groupies,” merely allowing themselves to be used by men for sex and companionship with no lasting value. I think the film and its message provide an apt metaphor for the moment and the movement we are experiencing.
Whether you are a political person or not, there is no denying that public policy affects our lives. As the COVID-19 crisis continues to claim thousands of lives everyday- devastating families and communities- we cannot underestimate the impact of government. The abject failure of the prior Federal administration to respond appropriately to the pandemic and other concurrent crises has had disastrous consequences that won’t be easily overcome by the new one. I won’t spend too much time elaborating, as this post is not about blame, but accountability.
The financial and ideological backers of the former resident of the White House and his surrogates may be likened to the ‘music industry’ folks in Almost Famous. They seek to enrich and empower themselves with little regard for the impact on the people affected by their decisions. They managed to convince a significant portion of the U.S. population to buy their ‘brand’ of politics through mass marketing on radio, television, and social media platforms- with the gaping, willing mouthpiece of a larger-than-life, celebrity POTUS.
Without his pre-established celebrity status, Mr. Trump would not have been the GOP candidate for the presidency in 2016. He had fans. By the end of his term, the media apparatus around him had effectively recruited a lot more Trump fans by stoking their fears, resentments, and biases. Some of those fans went so far as to attempt a coup, having been told that the results of November’s election were fraudulent and it was their duty to violently resist the transition. Those individuals bear personal responsibility for their actions, yes. It is important, however, to examine how they were manipulated and used by those with power and platforms for malevolent ends.
I want you to imagine yourself at a concert of one of your favorite bands. You’re in the midst of a sea of people, (pre-COVID, of course), and the music is washing over you- bass thumping, drums pounding, melodies and harmonies blending, bodies rocking together. Remember that feeling? That feeling of being one with a group of strangers? Getting swept away in the moment and losing yourself? That feeling is not unlike what many people describe experiencing when they participate in rallies, marches, and other demonstrations. In Almost Famous, the concert scenes accurately depict the kind of crowd response we’ve all observed- masses of people, enthralled and entranced by the performance of a favorite band.
Social science research has documented that we are much more susceptible to suggestion and direction when we’re in groups and the larger the group, the greater the impact. The pressure to conform to what others are doing is extremely effective and used skillfully by those who seek to exert influence. Sometimes it is used in the interest of the greater good, as in the case of movements for liberation and justice. More often, however, it is used to maintain and extend the power of the few at the expense of the rest. In either case, each of us is potentially subject to the impacts of mob mentality. Each of us is responsible to align our intentions and our actions with our integrity and resist getting swept up in actions that do harm to our humanity and injure our communities.
As we started this week with the national observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and reflections on his enduring legacy, including the ongoing Movement for Black Lives and other justice efforts and moved into the transition of the U.S. Federal Administration from one intent on maintaining white supremacy, patriarchy, and other forms of oppression to one demonstrably interested in representing all of our nation’s people, it seems to me that this moment- right now- is ripe with possibility.
Shouldn’t we identify and root out the ideological origins and philosophical frameworks of oppression and violence at the core of injustice? Shouldn’t we seek to replace those toxic ideas with alternative ones that are rooted in love of humanity and all that supports life? This is my art- the music I am moved by- my passion and my purpose. This is the tune I choose to dance to.
Care to join me?
“There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”Amanda Gorman, Youth Poet Laureate, from her poem, “The Hill We Climb.” Recited at the Inauguration of President Joseph Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, January 20, 2021
Today, we are called to be the light, leading the transformation our society. Today we are called to take our own oaths- we, the people- through an initiative called, The People’s Inauguration. This collaborative 10-day launch of civic engagement, is led by the Revolutionary Love Project and its founder, Valarie Kaur, and involves over 70 visionary artists and activists, hundreds of co-sponsoring organizations, and millions of ordinary individuals who understand that the paradigm shift we seek in our world will only happen if we actively engage in creating it. The shift is happening– here in the US and around the world- and this initiative seeks to amplify and expand our collective impact through shared values, knowledge, and skills.
The People’s Inauguration is an opportunity to connect with an inspired and inspiring community of individuals who are taking accountability for the future and committing to our roles in creating the world we want and our children deserve.
It’s all happening.