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Moats: Pariah Nation

My mind has been going back to the year 1968 and the despair I felt after the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

That event came as something of a last straw. But it wasn’t the last straw.

Five months later the nation elected Richard Nixon. That was the last straw.

Not unlike this year, voters rejected a veteran establishment liberal, Hubert Humphrey, who had alienated many people, including me, because of his support of the Vietnam War.

Back then I was at a time in my life when the response that made the most sense was to join the Peace Corps and spend two years serving my country far, far away from my country.

I’m not going away now, nor are most of the rest of us. Those concerned about the environment, about equal rights for all, about the welfare of immigrants, about the prospects for prosperity will have to find renewed solidarity in the face of what could be a challenging few years.

If the new administration rejects the Paris climate accord and discards controls on carbon emissions, the consequences could be devastating. Even India and China are on board with the importance of curbing climate change. The United States could become a pariah nation.

But that’s only one issue. There are many others.

In response to all this, we’ve seen protest marches in numerous cities and some instances of violence. Given the aggressively divisive language and disrespectful tenor of the winning campaign, these protests are no surprise.

It’s important, though, for the many disaffected groups who are full of anger and despair to gather themselves together and think about how to proceed. Spasms of violence will only be harmful.

Groups with a focus on the environment or economic justice could take guidance from the civil rights movement, which was a large alliance embracing many diverse people and groups, and whose leaders thought strategically, guided not by despair, but by hope and love.

As the coming months and years unfold, it’s entirely possible that a positive new political force will emerge and flourish. Meanwhile, solidarity among Americans who believe in the dignity of every individual and in the preciousness of the planet is more important than ever.

David Moats is an author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
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