Staying Oriented . . .

Today on NPR I heard Roger Cohen speaking with Tom Ashbrook about the relationship between incoming president DT, and Russia. It was a helpful unpacking of the global instability potentially being unleashed by way of DT’s “strange obsession” (as Cohen put it) with Vladimir Putin.

Sobering (as so much has been in the last 10 weeks).

Unnerving (as so much has been in the last 10 weeks) .

Education-Clarifying (as so much of what I’ve needed to engage has been in the last 10 weeks).

There’s was lots there. It’s worth a listen.

But, I sit now reading and watching all of the grateful goodbyes to the beautiful Obama family and the (many different kinds of incredible) President. And I sit bereft of words myself to capture what it feels like to leave behind this day (and the last eight years) and greet the day tomorrow (for a poet I am not and if there were ever a time in which we were mostly in need of poets it is now). And there was something there I need to remember (again) more than anything else.

It is this: I must stay oriented. We must oriented.

In the weeks since the election results came in, I’ve tried, and keep trying, to figure out how to sound alarm bells–realistic ones–in order to invite, cajole, participate, encourage, insist on, movement into organizing and resistance without taking on hysteria, following every new news thread, lurching to every worst case scenario such that I simply cannot sustain myself, nor remain a self I recognize. (Four years is a long time after all.)

I keep trying to remember and hold together, simultaneously, these two truths:

On the one hand, there are many people in this nation for whom the level of crisis and fear now generated by the incoming president’s inauguration tomorrow is nothing new or notable; for whom the late arrival to an experience of crisis and fear by so many of us privileged by race and class lands somewhere on a continuum of bitter-to-humorous such that I should not exaggerate the this-is-not-normal feel of tomorrow.

And, on the other hand, that for many of these same people a clarity that tomorrow is also a this-is-not-normal harbinger of an even deeper danger, a risk of even more overt violence and suppression, a possibility of even greater . . . [words fails] . . . and that I will not and must not be “tempered” about that.

For this-is-not-normal.

So among the words I am holding on to as January 19th comes to a close and January 20th dawns upon us all are these: We must  stay oriented.

On today’s broadcast of On Point with Tom Ashbrook, Roger Cohen was talking about Russia. And, in his befuddlement about DT’s “strange obsession” he raised a larger possibility worth holding on to and remembering relentlessly, when he spoke about the ways DT’s Cabinet nominees  have already contradicted him on Russia, NATO and other things.

He said this (befuddled):

“Is this total lack of coordination? . . . Or, is this a president who is going to traffic in disorientation? His main aim with the American people will be to disorient us completely? Why would he want to do that? Because a disoriented people is a very susceptible people. If you’re completely disoriented and somebody says ‘I’m your voice, I’m your savior. I . . . In me is vested all wisdom!’ And you’re completely disoriented because there are tweets tumbling out of the White House and the Secretary of State saying one thing and somebody else is saying another sometimes I think that could be it. We just don’t know.” . . . ”

What I know is this: we must stay oriented.

We must focus on the values to which we are committed. The facts that we know matter. The people’s movements that embody the hope of a future.

And ignore, refuse, reject, shout down, protest, call out, starve-of-oxygen, make invisible by drawing a cloak around: the lies, the drama, the bait-and-switch, the smoke-and-mirrors, the . . .

Because a disoriented people is a very susceptible people. And susceptible I refuse to be.

We must focus on the values to which we are committed. The facts that we know matter. The people’s movements that embody the hope of a future.

We must stay oriented.

Deep breath.




One Response to “Staying Oriented . . .”
  1. susan Marie Cox says:

    Professor Harvey,
    Thank you for your post. My daughter, Brenna, emails me your posts from time to time and they have helped me put words and perspective to what sometimes feels like an unreal, unthinkable new reality. My friends and I have chosen to disconnect from all news feeds today re: the inauguration in a form of silent protest. I have just finished reading BECOMING WISE by Krista Tippett, STRANGERS IN THEIR OWN LAND, by Arlie Hochschild and THE BOOK OF JOY by the Dalai Lama and Desmund Tutu. All recommended by Brenna. Reading, learning, listening to NPR are all ways I hope to stay oriented and to remember; this is not normal.
    Thank you,
    Susan Cox

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