Without much leadership from the Democratic Party a resistance movement has arisen. Liberals and progressives are making daily calls, attending meetings, writing letters, attending marches and rallies — all in defense of “what we once had.” The resistance is encouraging, but social and political movements cannot be based entirely on nostalgia — regardless of the Republican Party’s fleeting success with it. If we are honest, we have to recognize that the world we created is not that rosy. We can do better.
This was at least where my mind wandered after reading Mohsin Hamid’s On the Dangers of Nostalgia.
Hamid is a Pakistani novelist perhaps best known for the book (and film) The Reluctant Fundamentalist. He writes that we seek solace in nostalgia because the world is spinning so fast. We fantasize that the men and women of the past were more confident and secure in their roles and their work than we are today. We understand the technology of the age of toasters. Robotics scares the hell out of us. We watch TV and search the internet, but the fictions and connections we are really looking for are much deeper and older, more primal. Our identities are, in part and in fact, stories. And we are story tellers. Why retreat to the past, then, when we can create new stories for an even better future? Read Hamid’s complete article here.
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And — speaking of reading — people tend to read mainly what fits or confirms their pre-existing views. Democrats and Conservatives literally read different news and hear different opinions. But if you really want to know your political adversary, you need to know what goes on inside his pointy little head. There is some disagreement whether it was Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, or Mario Puzo who came up with the quote, but “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is good advice no matter who said it.
Republicans certainly understand this rule — know what the competition is up to. So even though it hurts, read the conservative press. Bookmark this link to thirty different rightwing news and opinion outlets you should check in with periodically. And tune into the president’s speech tonight at https://www.whitehouse.gov/.
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Finally — speaking of rejecting nostalgia in favor of a better future — Massachusetts Senate Bill S.291 proposes banning “Indian” names as school mascots. This would cost my own town of Dartmouth a couple dollars to change. But it would finally end an insult similar to that of turning Black jockeys into lawn ornaments or reducing Native Americans to wood statuary in front of cigar shops. “Indians” are people, not mascots. If you really can’t think up a new mascot that belongs on your school’s front lawn, try a gnome, smurf, or a pink flamingo.
Some may object to this as “political correctness” — but what does this phrase really mean other than civility? It’s long overdue that this kind of unthinking insensitivity and low-grade racism ended. As the rest of the country plunges deeper into racism and xenophobia, it would be rather sweet if a few oases of sanity and kindness, like our own Bay State, shone a little light into the nation’s heart of darkness.