A Teachable Moment: Nonviolent Communication

nonviolenceTwo conversations I had today with passengers in my taxi indicate that the controversy generated by Hillary’s comments about Trump’s followers has created a potential “teachable moment.” Unfortunately, however, so far Hillary has not taken advantage of the opportunity.

When I referred to Hillary’s “deplorable” comment, the first passenger said, “It’s true. And I’ve said much worse, like ‘those are the kind of people who marry their cousins.'” But after we discussed the arguments I expressed in “Hillary and the ‘Deplorables’“and “Hillary’s Apology,” as she exited the cab, she said, “I’ll try to stop doing that.”

Concerning Hillary’s comment, the second passenger also immediately replied, “That’s true.” But after we discussed that “deplorable” implies “contempt,” and saying “you are a racist” is different than saying “that is a racist comment,” she agreed that Hillary’s statements were wrong.

So far most of the responses to my posts on Wade’s Wire and Facebook have been positive. I posted one, “If it Takes a Village” by Michael Cornwall, separately.

Ted Chabasinski commented:

Once again, Wade, I think you are right on target when you point out the elitism of liberals (and a whole lot of people further to the left). I think Clinton was just repeating what she hears every day from her cronies.

Yes, I think this will cost her the election. Trump has succeeded in convincing his followers already that he is “a man of the people”, because at least he doesn’t put his followers down.

So this is what our two “major” parties have produced, Trump and Clinton. God help our country.

Marvin Surkin replied, “Not to worry. Hillary will be President.”

Sharon Edwards commented:

I also find myself thinking that there are missed opportunities to really dive into the deeper issues of this campaign. Both Trump amd Hillary hold up a mirror of white America. We need to show there are other ways of seeing the world. She missed the opportunity to show she feels any connection with those who are poor or who are suffering. When I hear people say they are not going to vote, I have to struggle with them that is the same elitism the world is suffering under. Good thoughts Wade. Thanks for sharing.

One Facebook friend, however, Justice St. Rain, voiced some disagreement. He said Hillary’s comments were a “painful truth” and that Hillary should apologize only after Trump apologizes for his offensive comments.

I replied, “True love is unconditional. Violent communication is wrong , and it is counterproductive. She could challenge Trump to apologize after she apologizes. Setting a good example is the best policy…. I do not believe it was a painful truth. Sally Kohn says it better than I did,” and referred him to Kohn’s essay, “Hillary Clinton was wrong: Donald Trump’s voters are not ‘irredeemable’.”

I also shared Kohn’s piece to my Facebook feed with this comment:

Beautiful, Sally Kohn. This piece prompted me to cry. I especially appreciate your comments about listening. If we ask honest, non-rhetorical questions to increase our understanding of that particular individual, most people will eventually ask us questions and listen to us.

Hillary’s weak understanding of the simplest nonviolent-communication principle — avoid labels — is shocking. I remain, hopeful, that she will either regain her senses, or deepen her knowledge, and use this controversy as a nationwide teachable moment.

If it Takes a Village (guest post)

cornwallBy Michael Cornwall

If it Takes a Village to raise a child as Hillary once insisted, then it assumes that all children are born innocent beings who are shaped by the social forces around them. At what point does the village fail a child?

Does the would be leader of the village declare a child or teen or adult an outcast based on the level of toxic and destructive beliefs the person may have been exposed to and may have tragically internalized? – racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist beliefs – or is the individual outcast judged solely as a deplorable “other,” an irredeemable citizen that angrily is cast into a “basket of deplorables” by the shunning of them by the would be leader?

Isn’t the person labeled a deplorable member of the village now a pariah?

Being called “a deplorable” by the would be village leader constitutes a form of degradation ceremony.

Such labeling, such name calling that transforms the word deplorable into a noun, that assigns the outcast identity to millions of American citizens, is a huge social wound that Hillary has just inflicted on countless members of the village who support her opponent.

Trump and the Alt/right and the Republican Party have made it clear they have contempt for Obama and Hillary.

Hillary has now revealed her contempt for millions of people that the village has failed.

We won’t be seeing a national leader who values every American equally, and who is fully worthy of the name of village leader of us all anytime soon.

In Lincoln’s second inaugural address even as the civil war raged on, he concluded – “With malice towards none, with charity for all… Let us strive on to bind up the nations wounds.”

I have supported Hilary’s candidacy and I still do, and I hope she reconnects with her Methodist heritage of charity towards all, that doesn’t grant Christians like herself the power to judge anyone as being irredeemable.

Hillary’s Apology

hillaryI wish Hillary would say the following:

I’m human. When others call me a name, sometimes I call them a name. When others disagree with me, sometimes I call them irrational. That’s what I did with my comments about Trump supporters. For that I apologize.

Take racism for example. Most Americans have at least some racist tendencies. We react to certain situations with racist feelings. But that does not necessarily mean that we are a racist. We can still control how we behave and we can work on changing how we react. Samantha Bee’s valuable coverage of the Republican convention reported on Republicans who share that commitment. Unless someone says, “He is an inferior human being because he belongs to that race,” I cannot call him a racist, though I might right say, “That is a racist comment.”

I also sometimes fall victim to rankism. I elevate myself by looking down on others. I suspect most of you have the same problem, which is widespread.

I ask that all of us acknowledge our weaknesses, such as those, admit our mistakes, and resolve to avoid them in the future. That’s what I’m doing.

To those who support Donald Trump or may support him, let me say I’m sorry for what I said. In the future, I’ll try to better understand and respect your frustrations and your desire for a better future.

And I’ll focus on my own proposals for how we can best move forward. The weaknesses with my opponent are well known. Voters can make up their own mind on those points. I don’t need to keep hammering away about those issues. From now on, I’ll concentrate on what I want to do with the American people.

When others take the low road, I’ll do my best to take the high road. I ask you to do the same.

Hillary and the “Deplorables”

carsonI hope some Hillary backers learn from her comments about Trump supporters. It doesn’t seem her inner circle has. The talking points they circulated to their surrogates said she made a mistake by saying “half” rather than “some.” That stance saddens me.

Her description of the “deplorables” was bad enough, but how she described the second “basket” was even worse because the condescension is less obvious. About those people she said:

That other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from.

To say that those frustrated Trump supporters are suffering so much from extreme anxiety they are irrational is also an insult. In his Facebook Live commentary, Van Jones  presented a much different perspective. Unfortunately, it seems Hillary did not hear it.

Her remarks yesterday were not out of the blue. At other events in August which were closed to the press, she used the “baskets” metaphor. Why didn’t any of her people alert her to the risk involved?

In “I Love Donald Trump,” “Arlie Hochschild and Crossover Issues,”and other recent posts I’ve addressed those issues, sensing their importance.

But little did I anticipate that Hillary would place them front and center. I fear it will cost her the election.


Passenger Stories

yellowFollowing are some of my recent interactions with passengers in my Yellow Cab:

A medical malpractice lawyer tells me that she alternates between representing patients and representing insurance companies because representing patients becomes too disturbing. I tell her about another passenger who works as a consultant to hospitals who told me that medical treatment is the third most common cause of death in the United States. She said she agrees. I asked her if she was familiar with Ivan Illich and his argument in Medical Nemesis that doctors cause more illness than they cure. She said she did not know the book but she believes the thesis is correct.

A Swiss man rants about the sorry state of affairs with American politics. I sum up his argument: “It’s almost as if anyone who wants to be an elected official is automatically disqualified by wanting that position.” He replies, “Precisely. That’s what I’m saying.” I comment on how in ancient Greece political officials were selected randomly and suggest maybe we should do the same. He likes that idea. I then told him about James Fiskin’s successful experiments with deliberative democracy, which involve presenting balanced briefing materials that include the pros and cons of different choices to a representative sample of people, followed by small-group discussions and  extensive confidential questionnaires. The results have produced wise policy decisions. I suggest modern elected officials could support a similar process on pressing issues, with a promise to generally follow the recommendations that emerge. My passenger likes that idea and tells me that the Swiss government operates with a collaborative structure.  The seven-member Federal Council, which consists of the heads the seven federal executive departments, is the collective executive head of the Swiss government and is responsible for leading the federal administration. The position of President rotates among the seven Councillors on a yearly basis. My passenger tells me that the Council’s collective decision-making is conducted openly. I recall that when I was locked up while freaking out on a long, bad LSD-trip, I was inspired to write that the President and his cabinet should make decisions collectively on live television. Maybe I wasn’t so crazy after all!

A Portuguese couple tells me about their country’s remarkable social insurance programs and workers’ extensive paid vacations, not bad for one of the poorest European countries. They share that amazement at the Trump phenomenon and tell me there’s no chance Portugal will ever leave the European Union as did Great Britain.

A young female artist about to move to Florence to study painting in a special program there tells me she paints because she’s compelled to do so. She sees her work as an ongoing process, with each piece merely a report on one investigation. She finds it hard to generalize about what kind of impact she wants to help, but one example was a mural she did in the Clarion Alley Mural Project affirming trans women activists while they are alive rather than waiting to celebrate them after they are dead.

I share my proposal for transforming the Democratic Party by forming precinct-based clubs that work year-round to implement the Party’s platform with Kate Maeder, who’s campaign manager for Supervisor Jane Kim in her neck-and-neck campaign for State Assembly. She replies, “This is great.”

Shortly after Obama’s speech in Dallas about the tension between Blacks and the police, a female passenger tells me about how her husband, when he was a Yale professor, was unjustly arrested, beat up, and charged with felony assault on a police officer by the Washington Police Department. Held incommunicado for two days, he got charges dropped only because the Metro subway system had video surveillance tape. But it still cost thousands of dollars in legal fees. Though she has relatives who are police officers, she agrees that somehow we need to dissolve the “Code of Silence.”






Proposals with Majority Support

I’m working on a list of proposed policies with majority support that a national organization could promote.

The current list reads as follows. Please suggest additions, with references to documentation.

  • Limit the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns.
  • Reduce “corporate welfare” such as government aid to help other countries buy U.S.-made weapons.
  • Break up the big banks.
  • Provide free education at public colleges.
  • Make corporations and wealthy people pay what’s fair in federal taxes.
  • A Medicare-for-all insurance option.
  • Reduce military spending by at least $12 billion — especially money for weapons the military doesn’t want.
  • Reduce jail and prison populations and invest more in crime prevention and drug treatment.
  • A federal jobs program that would spend government money to create more than one million new jobs.

Crossover Conversations

foxMight you want to join a team to explore how to engage in mutually beneficial conversations “beyond the choir,” especially with people who have no college degree. Those conversations could be online and/or in person. Team members could brainstorm strategies and compare notes on their efforts.

In response to my Arlie Hochschild and Crossover Issues, which discusses her book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, on Facebook Steven Shults commented:

It’s good stuff, but it doesn’t address how to overcome the ‘alt right’ echo chamber. … It’s a real dilemma, how do you reach people who are in that echo chamber?

And Melyssa Jo Kelly commented:

SURJ (showingupforracialjustice) has a good strategy — try to go for the low-hanging fruit. For me that means: Focus on reaching white people who you think have potential to become true allies to POC/active anti-racists, and (my words not SURJ’s) fuck wasting breath on hardcore racists.

One possibility would be to post comments on the Fox News website. Another would be to convene face-to-face conversations with specific communities, such as Delancey Street.


Donald Trump and White Voters

workersA piece for Rolling Stone by Joshua Holland, “Everyone Gets It Wrong About Donald Trump and White Voters,” presents a fairly detailed analysis concerning non-college-educated white voters.

Holland reports:

  • The Democrats’ share of those voters in presidential elections has fluctuated pretty consistently with their share of all white votes (and the vote overall).
  • Democrats have a serious problem with those voters in the Deep South and the Mountain states.
  • Republicans are unpopular with this demographic in the North-central states and on the West Coast.
  • And the two parties are competitive in the rest of the country.

Holland uses that data to make disparaging comments about the widespread concern about the issue. He says:

  • No group of voters is more fetishized than white people who didn’t attend college.
  • Liberals have long engaged in hand-wringing about non-college-educated whites.
  • It’s no longer necessary to bend over backwards for these voters.
  • A near-obsession with these voters persists.

He concludes, “Clinton may well outperform Obama with this demographic.”

But his dismissive attitude overlooks the fact that polls indicate that Trump is doing better than Romney with non-college-educated whites and Clinton is doing worse than Obama.

Regardless, the bottom line is that the Democrats need to win big, including in Congressional elections, which calls for a better performance with those voters.

Holland’s stance runs counter to that proposition.

Arlie Hochschild and Crossover Issues

arlieMy highlight for the week was KQED Forum’s interview September 2 with Arlie Hochschild, author of Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. What I appreciated most was Hochschild’s use of the phrase, “crossover issues.” That term seems to hit the nail on the head.

Hochschild, a Berkeley progressive, spent five years interviewing Republicans in Louisiana. She turned off her judgmental “alarm system,” really listened, tried to feel they way they feel, and found ways to bridge the divide because “empathy does not make our judgment cloudy.”

She was surprised that most of the people were very willing to talk, are much less strident than Fox News (which they follow closely), are disturbed by extreme polarization, and are also, as is she, looking for cross-over issues.

My takeaway is that the people she interviewed are driven by two factors. First, they feel condescending liberals on the coasts disrespect them for their life-style choices, such as preparing dinner for their husbands. Second, they feel the federal government is indifferent to their economic condition and the pollution being inflicted on their environment by large corporations.

Examples of potential crossover issues mentioned on the program include:

  • Campaign finance reform
  • Addressing global capitalism and getting industry to stay
  • Environmental pollution

Hochschild’s main message, however, is : “Build an empathy bridge so we talk respectfully to one another and don’t polarize more. There are many people on the other side eager to do it.”

The No Nothing Party, Nativism, and Electoral Politics

know nothing

Citizen Know Nothing, the Know Nothing Party’s nativist ideal.

Last night, Rachel Maddow schooled me on one historical fact and intrigued me with a new analysis.

The “No Nothing Party” was familiar to me, but I didn’t know the origin of its name, or that they were a Trump-like nativist party. Rachel reported that their name came from the fact that the large national party was founded by various secret societies, and when people asked a member about its activities, he was supposed to reply, “I know nothing.” As wikipedia states, “Outsiders called them ‘Know Nothings’, and the name stuck.” In 1856, they nominated former President Millard Fillmore in the  presidential election.

More importantly, Rachel reviewed the history of nativism in this country and argued that anti-immigrant momentum has repeatedly emerged when our two-party system was not working well when we did not have two strong, effective parties that could contest issues and negotiate compromises. That situation, she argued, has led to frustration and a power vacuum that has allowed minority voices to grow.

Her comments reminded me of the compelling analysis offered in The Atlantic’s How American Politics Went Insane.” Unfortunately, it still seems that rather than rebuilding either party into a strong, grassroots organization, most people, including Bernie Sanders, are focused on short-term self-interest: winning the next election.

To view Rachel’s powerful, full commentary, click here.