by Geraldine Bridges
The following thoughts are from our member Hyrum H. Huskey Jr.
It’s mind-boggling to me. These last few months of the ascendancy of our latest President will surely be referred to by future historians as “The Time of Trump”. Life goes on amid disbelief, chaos, inconceivable Cabinet appointments, attacks on the press, and overreactions by the President. But, the President is, well, different.
What is a Humanist to do when our government itself falls under suspicion and appears so in disarray? Foreign governments are experiencing diplomatic confusion which risks our security by an inappropriate reaction. Spiteful and bigoted changes in our immigration policies without legislative support; throwing monkey wrenches into the international progressive actions for climate change remediation; and the new rise in domestic hate crimes are the news items of our day. How do we cope with this onslaught? What does a belief in the tenets of Humanism do for us when we face a daily stream of Executive Orders, and Congressional inaction, that take dead-aim on the destruction of decades of work and diplomatic progress? Progress won in combating climate change, providing health care and civil rights at home, and addressing—even in meager fashion—the needs of other citizens of the world?
It is like traveling behind a truck fully-loaded with trash on a windy day. Litter keeps hitting you at eye level, but you can neither dodge nor duck. The psychic impact is sudden and frightful, but control of it cannot be immediately gained. The overall effect of our national government seems nothing short of such madness in the political fast lane.
Humanism to the rescue
I propose that we take a logical step back to pause and re-examine some basic beliefs of Humanism. We have not lost our core values and principles. We just need to reinsert them into our thinking about how to resist the ideological horrors antithetical to our best ideals. We believe in the ideas of civility, the progress of human rights, the use of science in guiding our lives and the roles we play in the correct use of natural resources. As Humanists, we need--- perhaps now more than ever---to use our foundation in Humanism to confront misguided authoritarianism.
In fewer words, how can we use our ideological belief system to, in the words of film maker Michael Moore, “Fight, Resist, Persist”?
We believe in reason, informed by science.
When our government abuses scientific evidence in regulating and adopting practices that harm us, we have a duty of “people power” to fight, resist, and persist against such policies. It is our civic responsibility to speak up and act out in demonstrably informative ways.
We believe in compassion and the dignity of human beings.
Such a belief goes hand-in-hand with justice and social equality, with supporting liberty, and the rule of law as it is applied to all.
It may appear overwhelming, even futile, to fight again for the common good in so many areas. Some of us have already seen this movie. How many times, we think, must we re-witness the destruction of diversity and civil liberties established in a long line of judicial decisions? Decisions that have made our country a world refuge and a world leader. How many times must we regress to the ideas already discredited by history, by progress, by reason, and by science?
History reveals its most basic truths in the retelling. It takes humankind a long time to “get it.” The path of rule by authoritarian ideology, has repeatedly led to periods of power over diplomacy, with science and reason discarded for the acquisition of territory or natural resources. Authoritarian ideals in governance also leads to ideological oppression, and an incredible tendency for violence over non-violence. A visible lack of human compassion has historically marked the evolution of this style of governance. Yet, these authoritarian directions have repeatedly been struck down by persistent resistance, century after century,
We believe in social and planetary responsibility.
Humanists believe that the goals of life, and the pursuit of liberty and happiness, are motivated by interest in the lives of humans and our planetary existence. These motivations are as common to everyone as they are necessary to any one person.
Bullies find authoritarian rule appealing. It fits their personality traits: ego enhancement, laws by fiat, and non-questioning loyalty. Bullies love to make a show of everything they do as “super”. They are averse to facts or reason, and to opposition. If resistance appears too strong, the bully will retreat to distraction, blame others, or lie in an attempt to get out of a fight. They are big on bragging and bravado, less large in bravery and principled actions.
So, we must fight. Non-violently fight with our mass, our education, our reason, our science; bolstered by the persistence of humans to actively resist. Over the longer arc of time the basic values of Humanism always result in further progress toward the true essence of humanity.
We believe that humans must take responsibility for their own destiny.
Resistance must be designed to out-shine the opposition’s show of authority and unstoppable force. Bullies put on a one-ring show? We must produce a three-ring show. Bullies put out propaganda? We must support a free and fully independent press. Bullies try to cover their acts and embarrassing history? Investigative journalism, and wide-spread education, as means to “connect the dots” must shine a spotlight in the dark places. We must keep a firm pressure on our legislative representatives to “be us” and to do the right thing.
Active resistance is really a Hu-u-u-g-e show of messy democracy: too big, and too strong, too reasoned, and in too many places, to be ignored. While non-violent, it may (and probably should) disrupt everyday routine and convenience. It stands up to unlawful force, counters economic exploitation, attracts the masses in support of the common good, and it comes at its target from every direction. Mass hits home like a sledge hammer.
Think Gandhi. Think Martin Luther King. Think of Million Person Marches. Think of Humanist philosophy and principles. Resist in ways both small and large. Resist in whatever ways you can, based on your age, skills, stamina, or economic capabilities. It is okay to be out front, or performing some needed role behind the public stage. If you can’t hit the streets, make signs, telephone your representatives, make monetary donations, and sign petitions. Talk to your family, neighbors, and others with whom you may disagree on some political issues. Listen to them and seek common ground in those ideas you both believe. Rally around whatever amount of universal goodness you find in the heart of any person. You may not like the President, his advisors, or some of the folks who supported him. Yet, they too, have what they believe are good reasons for their actions. It is not okay to be elitist or missing in action when totalitarianism needs to be countered. Resist tactically in whatever way you are able.
Don’t despair the long road home.
Persistence is difficult for many of us. We tend to have short attention spans. We resist changing our routines for an extended period of time. We like to explain how we are just “too busy for that today.” For example, as a self-identified freelance writer, I find many reasons to be too busy to sit my butt in front of my computer for a few hours each day. I can easily procrastinate and find excuses for not doing even what I like to do!
I suspect Humanists are as vulnerable to convenient excuses as anyone else. Still, we could do something, sometime, to bolster the general resistance. We could, in both individual and collective ways, be more persistent in keeping up the good fight to support Humanism in reacting to “The Time of Trump.”
Already, the new President, has suffered a number of rebuffs in trying to implement his executive actions and legislative initiatives. He is beginning to learn why we have three branches of government. He will experience more defeats because principled people across the nation---of all political persuasions---will fight, resist, and persist, against oppression and a lack of compassion. At the heart of our society, at the roots of our culture, we are all “humanists.”
Those of us, who publicly identify as big “H” Humanists, have special responsibilities to demonstrate our beliefs and our principled base philosophy. We don’t need to personally denigrate anyone to follow our principles. People change. There were a lot of people who do not now like the actions the administration is taking. The President is certainly not the first Pied Piper of history, nor the last. Our newest President, and his chosen advisors, are generally ill-equipped for government “by and for the people”, and will be found wanting in their ability to counter the hearts and minds of the best in our society.
The power of freethinkers, and the human heart, is rising up once again to right the course of history until reason and science, and the common good of all, can catch up to humanity’s political foibles.
- Hyrum H. Huskey Jr.