The following article was written by Rob Everts, Co-President, Equal Exchange
Devastating. Disorienting. Frightening.
There’s no escaping it. Viscerally and pragmatically, the future looks really bleak as we absorb what transpired in this country last Tuesday.
For me, it was a flashback to when Ronald Reagan was elected. It felt unreal, like this could not possibly have happened. But it did happen. Boy did it. He convinced millions of Americans that government could only make their lives worse, not better, and followed through by starving it of funding in every way possible. When he destroyed the air traffic controllers union and declared war on organized labor, it precipitated a decline from which unions have never recovered. And that fact, along with tax policies that hastened the extreme income inequality we live amidst today, have left millions with little hope of ever improving their standard of living. Overseas, he sponsored unspeakable campaigns of torture and assassination of innocents in Central America and elsewhere.
So with this election comes the prospect of things worse than we can imagine. We have to start by acknowledging the pain and fear Trump’s election has triggered. Race-baiting, immigrant bashing and fear-mongering have a long and unfortunate history in our country. But I don’t recall ever seeing the total demonization of so many distinct groups of people who make up the fabric of American society. It seems every demographic absent white males was fair game for threat, humiliation and ridicule.
To cite just two of the constituencies who were targets of Trump’s venom, immigrants and communities of color have very real reasons to fear. Groups and individuals inclined to carry out hate crimes may feel new license to act. We may very well see a dramatic rise in immigration raids in communities and workplaces across the country.
I encountered an extreme example of this fear while canvassing an immigrant neighborhood in Nashua, NH the Saturday before the election. A Brazilian man told me matter-of-factly that if Trump won he would absolutely be returning to Brazil in anticipation of a climate of increased hostility. This man was a U.S. citizen.
Beyond this, we all feel the personal and policy threats that loom. We have a sick feeling about what is in store merely by invoking the words Supreme Court, climate change, health care.
But there is also a lot that we don’t know. Amid the lies, insults, misogyny, narcissism and its corresponding anticipated damage and destruction, are there any reasons for hope on the generally detail and fact-free policy ideas he put out?
- Were his anti-free trade tirades pure protectionist bluster to win votes of the millions who have lost so much, or can we find levers to actually win progressive changes in these deals that have benefited the well-placed and highly educated at the expense of millions here and abroad, including the farming communities we work with?
- Will his talk of paid family leave benefit those who need it the most?
- Will he follow through on his pledge to protect Social Security and Medicare, or throw a bone to his party leaders who are dedicated to shredding those components of the social contract?
Closer to home, we at Equal Exchange are taking stock in what this election means for us. For small scale farmers around the world. For those who are seeking to democratize a corporate controlled food system. For the hundreds of thousands of people who through their purchases and myriad other actions, have contributed to our success.
We are inspired by the millions of people who responded to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ straight talk about re-building our democracy and making it work for the many and not just the few. Many who voted for Sanders—and yes, many who voted for Trump—were rejecting the ruling elite that has long ignored the majority in favor of their corporate patrons.
In moments like this, we take great solace in finding ourselves in alliance with so many remarkable people and organizations. And we want to deepen these ties more than ever. We need to call out injustice where we see it, open ourselves to new alliances, and lend a hand to movements not necessarily central to our mission.
But we need to keep being true to who we are and share our vision for a better world. In fact, we need to rededicate ourselves to our mission of strengthening the position of small farmers and their cooperatives, work every day to be the best example of worker democracy that we can be, and engage “citizen consumers” more deeply than ever before. We know that as individuals, be it as consumers or as citizens, we don’t have a fraction of the power we have as when we organize.
Anticipating his death, that brave IWW organizer and songwriter, Joe Hill said, “Don’t mourn. Organize.” I am more in the mood to do both: Mourn. Then organize.
Si se puede.