SUSTAIN THE FLAME: A citizens’ documentary about the Women’s March held in Washington, D.C. on January 21, 2017
The world has been flipped upside down. Millions and millions of people are walking to the metros, riding their bikes, caravanning in buses to a mass on the mall in Washington, D.C., and across the country, even the world.
I don’t like crowds, and protests cause prickly sensations to crawl up and down my body for I am by nature a deeply shy human being, but I feel propelled to go down to the mall, and not only attend the protest, but also to interview people and find out why they have come and what their fears are. I feel like I need to gather their voices like water in a bucket ahead of the DC swamp that is about to be drained. Pushing me forward like a powerful wave is a story I began to write 5 years earlier that is set 150 years in the future. Devastating climate change has utterly reshaped the social-ecologic-geopolitical order of the world. Nation-states fall due to the enormous economic burden of trying to engineer themselves out of climate disasters. In their place, huge corporate states rise. As this new order takes form, there are good corporate leaders taking us in the right direction (e.g., banning all fossil fuels), and there are bad corporate leaders taking the…
…world the other way. One evil leader eliminates the good leader, erases all his work, and turns the world, perhaps irrevocably, in the wrong direction. This is where my fictional story begins—and sadly, this is where our country seems to be today; a moment when conscious forward movement has halted, and now rapidly recedes pulled by intense yearnings for the past, which looks safer than pressing forward into an unknowable future—a force being harnessed by nationalist and populist movements worldwide. But this is an illusion to make America Great by looking backwards for one cannot step into the same spot of a river twice because it constantly flows forward, just as consciousness flows forward through time. Turning our backs on where we are going is as good as sailing blind into the oncoming rocks. As a country, we are undergoing a “pretty big” identity crisis where the thin veneer of what we thought was a normal and healthy democracy is cracking, and now we boldly step into the children’s fairy tale of the Emperor Wearing No Clothes (or perhaps this is just liberals…
…feeling this way today as conservatives used this same metaphor 8 years earlier). Regardless of whether liberals are justified to feel this way now or conservatives were justified to feel this way before, the more important question is what do we do now when more than half of the country feels left behind?
I don’t have answers, but protest is a start. It is a sign our democracy is still resilient and flexible enough to self-correct when the pendulum swings too far to the left or right. Protest is a counter force that emerges to try to rebalance when the collective balance gets knocked off center.
After protest, comes the hard work of finding a way forward that does not exclude, abandon, or diminish any group of people in this country (or world)—one that can stay cohesive and evolve. Every person regardless of if they are black, white, brown, rich, poor, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhists, immigrant, legal, or “illegal” is vital to this process for every individual is a part of the fabric of our collective reality at this moment in time. When even one person is left behind, injured—physically or psychologically, ripped out, or banned from entering, the collective fabric of society is damaged and weakened. Thus, the work of moving forward needs to include everyone’s voice so that a bigger, better narrative can form and evolve, one that is more conscious than the one Trump has temporarily tapped into through the fear-based rhetoric Steve Bannon whispers into his ear based on the Alt Right narrative, which is strangely one-sided, warped, off-center, immature, and backwards looking. Why is this important—because narrative is a powerful device that acts like a high-powered antenna capturing and focusing an individual’s attention onto a narrow band that can be harnessed by the narrative creators—good or bad, narratives are powerful!
When I set out on January 21, I did not understand any of this. I was simply compelled by my fictional story to go down to the Women’s March and gather voices of people who came from across the country to express their fears and concerns. As I talked with people, I felt reassured in my own unsettled feelings; then as I assembled their voices into this documentary, I felt re-energized to continue my own forms of resistance to find a better way forward. I began to understand by collecting and sharing our voices, we can come to understand each other better, which is essential to define the emerging narrative that will help us hold the center of our core democratic beliefs and system for this moment in time galvanizes how just how precious and fragile democracy is everywhere in the world. Here in the United States, it’s hard for me to believe anyone really wants to tear mothers or fathers from their children simply because they didn’t get into the country the right way.
Listen to Kraig Moss’s interview on the CBC where he talks about going to 45 Trump rallies and was called Trump’s Troubadour, but now he feels betrayed by him and terrible about all the families being ripped apart due to aggressive ICE raids, arrests, and deportations of individuals—tactics that seem motivated more to meet quotas set by the new administration rather than really finding the “dangerous” illegals to deport. [Kraig Moss]
Do we really need to hire 15,000 more border agents and build a useless wall—what about employing innovative technology to do this work. I understand there is a need to have a lawful, orderly, and fair way to get into the country, but do we need to fix it this way—by tearing families apart and taking money and resources away from critical services such as after school programs that disadvantaged youth need so desperately, not to mention the long list of things Trump’s budget proposes to cut in the name of putting America First. Rather, his budget looks more and more like the citizens of America are being put last as a fearful, selfish, cruel, militaristic, and unpredictable (perhaps even insane) country emerges instead.
Now, we must gather our voices and listen to each other—and, most importantly, we must understand and respect diverse points of view in order to wrestle back control of our collective destiny from the forces that have taken advantage of healthy differences between the left and the right, made them starker, and widen the natural gap; then, these forces have pushed both sides to the very edge of the chasm that opened where the darkness of the human soul looms larger and more threatening than it has in a long time—hurtling us into this moment! We have entered a time when truth, compassion, and dignity are under attack. Even science and the judicial system are being called into question by our elected leaders. What is even more disturbing is individuals we have elected to govern, specifically the ones holding the majority vote, continue to go along with and protect bad behavior (e.g., bouts of extreme narcissism, pathological lying). It is something we have not seen in the United States for many years, and perhaps we have forgotten how to recognize such a threat.
In my fictional story, my characters’ deal with a similar threat and must rely on empathy, intuition, and love to survive. I believe we must call upon similar super powers today! These qualities of human nature exist inside all of us, and I believe stories of every kind help us consolidate our inner resources so we can learn how to be better human beings.
Stories can be powerful places where people can go to gain insight—even wisdom—and to be re-energized. Perhaps even more important, stories help us recognize threats that come from within our own psyche and inspire us to resist bad behavior and destructive choices. Perhaps they provide a short cut in learning how to do the hard work of self-reflection needed to be a wiser, kinder, and more courageous person. Some stories even show us how to recognize and respond to existential threats and provide a pathway off a course that could destroy an entire civilization, even the world. We can change the fabric of today’s political toxic rhetoric because we are the fabric; we are its weavers! We can help each other address the important issues confronting our nation by creating space for every voice to be expressed, heard, and understood.
We choose the quality of the thread we contribute to our shared reality through our thoughts, choices, and actions; therefore, I believe we can Hold the Center and stop this receding tide of human consciousness as witnessed by the Women’s March, the day without immigrants, the day without women, the march of Native Nations, the Science and People’s Climate Marches, and many other marches, protests, and gatherings as well as a host of emerging organizations such as Indivisible, Better Angels, and others that when combined with new tools capable of linking us together in coordinated and purposeful action such as DemocracyOS and Resistbot create a powerful counter force!
I know this is easier said than done, but the process has already begun, and this is my small contribution to the emerging narrative that will guide us forward in becoming a more inclusive, conscious people. As we weave our voices together, we create a bigger, better, more powerful counter narrative. One strong enough to reabsorb the distributing Alt Right narrative and pull both sides back closer together so a bridge can once again exist where true democratic discourse can take place and where we can once again set about the work of building and sustaining a healthier, inclusive, creative, and more compassionate society; not the polarized, distracted, mean-spirited one that has grown out of the gap.
Together, we grow stronger and wiser for this is the flame—and each of us has a role to play in guarding it because it lives inside us. Do not let yours go out…share your voice, listen to each other (especially opposing views), and participate in the slow and steady work of creating a better, more healthy democracy for everyone—one that shines once again like a bright light that can guide the world if we let it!
Thank you to everyone who spoke with me at the march! Your voices are the narrative of the documentary I have made on the Women’s March, and they are helping create a bigger, better narrative rising in great resistance against the fearful one temporarily possessing the country.
And, thank you for watching this documentary—for you are creators through the simple act of applying your time and attention—indeed, this simple act (often taken for granted) is powerful!
Please share this documentary (or document) if you found it inspiring, helpful, or informative in any way! The more we share our voices and link them together (and I mean diverse voices), the stronger we will grow—left, right, and center!
We are the light, and we sustain the flame through our personal narratives, so infuse wisdom into yours—it exists all around us—it’s in every moment of every day and in every thought as we flow together through time!
Link to: Sustain the Flame: A Citizen’s Documentary