I’ve been thinking about that scene in Forrest Gump when he runs back and forth across the country for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours. He gains a following. People find purpose in what he’s doing. He’s peppered with questions from the media: “Are you doing this for world peace? Are you doing this for women’s right? Or for the environment? Or for animals? Or for nuclear arms?” He’s just running.
Then, in the middle of Highway 163 in Monument Valley, he stopped, leaving his followers to figure out their cause on their own. That’s how a lot of people feel now following this weekend’s marches across the country. This is less partisan policy and it’s more about right and wrong. We know Trump is wrong.
For me, one of my top now-whats is journalism and how to achieve an informed citizenry. And in light of Sean Spicer’s nonsense, I’ve been thinking recently, “haven’t we been choosing our own facts for a while now?” and other things like: “Doesn’t Exxon already have a heavy hand in our foreign policy?”
We’ve been here for a long time and Donald Trump is just the icing on the cake. He is the manifestation of every misstep we’ve taken as a republic as well as a capitalistic society.
Rolling Stone contributor Matt Taibbi on The Daily Show last night spoke of #AlternativeFacts: “For a long time Americans have been consuming facts as consumers. We shop for facts that same way we shop for hats, shoes or radial tires. We shop for things we like and I think people are choosing their own reality now.”
We don’t have news media, he added, that challenges its audiences any more. This is why when you see Gannett NJ slashing its newsrooms it has a direct and immediate impact on society, which, as we know, is formed at the local level.
As stewards of our communities, we have an obligation to promote informed, engaged citizens with clear, fact-based information as a means of achieving equitable societies. Otherwise, we’re always buying into someone’s propaganda. I don’t have any answers, but a robust and responsible news media is one of my Top 5 issues in the Trump Era.
Watch Taibbi here:
What’s your Top 5?
This weekend’s marches were an incredible show of force from millions of protestors around the country, but now what are we supposed to do? I saw a lot of “what’s next?” and “now what” this weekend and, frankly, there’s been a lot of “now what” going on for a long time. This weekend’s marches were about generating excitement and solidarity and mobilizing in opposition to a truly dishonorable human who is the manifestation of the systems that enable him, political, journalistic, corporate, etc.. To me, at the heart of all that, is money in politics, which is my first “now what” when it comes to the Big Picture.
But “now what” also comes in the form of what you do when you go home. The late Rutgers-Newark historian Dr. Clement Price used to say that the first three things you should do when you move to a town is 1) Register to vote, 2) Get a library card, and 3) Get involved with a local nonprofit.
I’d add a bunch of things to that list, but you get the idea and a checklist is a great idea. What are the top policy areas that are important do you? Mine include, in no particular order:
- Campaign finance
- Women’s health
- Immigrant rights
- Nonprofit journalism
- Public education
- Clean water and fresh food
- Climate Change.
Now, I just need to whittle it down to five. It’s a lot and whatever your priorities are, find organizations that are devoted to those things and find out how you can get involved. For example, the Center for Cooperative Media will host its Collaborative Journalism Summit in May, so if the news media is important to you, this is something you should attend.
Also, please come to municipal meetings. Not everything is as exciting as marching in the streets, but it’s the everyday action you take that lays the foundation for sustainable progress that can’t be taken away by a short-fingered vulgarian.