Most of us know someone–or are someone–who finds it hard or even impossible to sit in the same room with a family member because of politics. It makes sense considering the chasms that have worsened these past few years. Many of us feel threatened in one way or another and struggle with how to bridge the divide.
Some of us fear the climate crisis and the partisan paralysis that keeps institutions from doing anything to reduce the suffering caused by it, even as executive agencies roll back regulations that would help. Some of us feel the real threat of discrimination and violence driven by racism and oppressive ideologies. Some of us fear losing economic security or political privilege and power.
Building bridges across the dinner table
There is plenty of fear to go around, for sure, and plenty of fearmongers eagerly driving us apart and keeping us there. Division is often the handiwork of exploiters, after all. The powerful perpetuate “us vs. them” dynamics to distract from wrongdoing, evade accountability, gain power, and justify actions that defy our shared values.
During this month of reflection and gratitude, perhaps we can pause, breathe, and relearn our country’s histories–all of them–and talk about the truths and values we agree on building bridges across the dinner table. It might not be easy, it might not always work, and some differences may come to blows (hopefully not), but until we get back to a place of shared values, constructive conversation, and accountability, our families and democracy will suffer.
Holding a seat for everyone
Many of us have the agency to work toward change in the world, and we must be grateful for the ability to be the change we want to see. Our government institutions and systems in the United States still give us ways to speak up, protect our rights, select who represents us, and call out those who break the law, the public trust, and democratic values.
Not all Americans have had those rights through history, and some cannot access them now. Those of us who do must haul more chairs to the table and hold those seats for those who should rightfully sit beside us.
Our health is tied to the health of the land
As we careen toward the end of 2019, we face an onslaught of land grabs in the Arctic, Bristol Bay, the Tongass, and across Alaska. These efforts to put sacred and public lands into private hands aims to enrich Outside and transnational corporations rather than supporting sustainable and restorative local economies. Many citizens feel invisible, unheard, and drowned out by corporate PR machines and our own governments.
Yes, industry has access to power that most individuals don’t, but their quest for a quick buck should not not define our future.
What we have are our voices, our solidarity and unity, and our willingness to make dignity, social justice, and decision-making for the greater good our common ground. What we have is our commitment to protecting everyone’s seat at the table, and taking our conversations into the kitchen, out of the house, and into the neighborhood.
Mending takes time, but it holds
It’s true that it takes much longer to mend fabric than to rip it. What’s been torn by divisive politics will take time, focus, patience, and resolve to repair.
Fortunately, we see people doing this work everywhere–speaking up, demanding action, lifting up others, having difficult conversations, helping people recover from disasters and acts of violence, and reminding those with power that the people have power, too. I’m blessed to know so many of you who not only can do this work, but are doing it, and I am so grateful to stand beside you
Vicki Clark, executive director
PS: Your support of Trustees for Alaska is critical now more than ever.
The Trump administration continues to put industry interests ahead of public health and the protection of land, water, wildlife, and people.
Rachel Briggs joined our team last month. Here, she talks a little bit about her journey getting here.
Last month we lost an advocate for Alaska and a friend to Trustees.