Every night CNN tries to convince me that this is it. They’ve got him. This is the scandal, the misstatement, the court case, the misbehavior, or the voting swing. I do like Don Lemon’s personality so I would get dragged into believing that this was it. But every night my hopes would be dashed as CNN ramped back up with a whole new list of charges, reveals, or quotes that would certainly bring an end to the fascist opportunist.
But here’s the thing. Donald J. Trump rose to power because he provided and provides great ratings for all of these networks. He is always willing to offer the sound byte, host SNL, call into the TV station, and totally disavow what he said yesterday. When will CNN have better TV viewership than they have had the last four years?
And those of us who cannot stand him, we watch CNN like a fix. It is a narcotic for us as we hope and hope again the next night that this will finally spell his doom. Damn. Well, maybe the next night. Here is another expert who tells us he cannot possibly lie, cheat, steal, payola, or pardon his way out of this one.
We need to remember that it is better for CNN’s bottom line if it is not his final doom. He is the cash cow who delivers the drama every night. (Sorry, Don Lemon, but it is true.)
Here is the real problem. CNN spends all that time talking about the kings and the kingmakers and, not unlike the need for Howard Zinn’s classic history text, we learn next to nothing about the powerful, world-wide people movements that are going on which would bring us a hope against hope. Hope is based in the idea that the answer is here and all we need is reform and a “lean-into” one of the things that is already on the table. A hope against hope knows that everything we need may not even be on the horizon but that values and practices will lead us to a new day.
Rarely do the corporate media help us to learn what the basic principles or demands are of movements like the Poor People’s Campaign, the Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter, or Defund the Police. And this is terrible journalism. One of the primary tasks of journalism should be to move us beyond sound bytes to a deeper complexity. Corporate media regularly fails us in this regard. If you are reading this post, you probably have sympathy for most or all of these movements. But can we name one demand or principle from any one of them? I belong to a local Green Faith group and many of them had not even heard of the Green New Deal.
When corporate media that is making a basic effort to be fair does not make an attempt to introduce us to this complexity, corporate media that has an interest in destroying these movements takes the wheel. They move in and define the movements with polarizing sound bytes or by cherry picking words or phrases within the complexity that often paints the movement as creating intentional conflict, pain, and division. Historical pain, struggle, and context within the movement are ignored.
I often watch with disappointment as Rev. Dr. William Barber, a leader of the Poor People’s Campaign, tries his darndest to provide memorable sound bytes to the media because he knows they have little interest in the complexity. Good journalism should be providing some heavy lifting there. Corporate media does not. That is why I recommend people of faith read or listen to alternative news media that introduces this complexity and provides breadth for explanation and dialogue.
The Guardian did an entire series with all the best and brightest climate scientists, advocates, and movement builders sharing their reflections on climate change!
Can we even imagine Anderson Cooper courting that kind of literacy on climate change by bringing these same people in to hold lectures, forums, and dialogues about climate change? Instead, on an issue where close to 100% of the climate scientists agree (that humankind is primarily responsible for creating the environment for catastrophic climate change), CNN will often bring a scientist who “disagrees” (read . . . paid by corporate fossil fuel) on with a climate activist so that “both sides” are represented. That is not good journalism. That is not truth-telling. It does the opposite. It suggests that the question is still up for grabs when it is not.
Heck, Trident wants you to buy their gum and they can only get 3 out of 4 dentists to agree!
As a person of faith, I believe where we find a hope against hope is with those who have their “backs against the wall.” When we join hands with a people or a movement like that, simple hope is irrelevant. It may look like nothing is coming up over the horizon. It doesn’t matter. People or something has been so pressed against the wall that to give up is to consent to violence and death. The way out may not yet be present but with values, principles, or demands, we are seeking to carve a way out of no way. In those moments of true solidarity, I have experienced the Divine joining hands in solidarity with us to bring about transformation.
Because that solidarity is not about kings and king-making, it rarely gets the coverage it deserves. The revolution will not be televised. But what happens is that life and joy and celebration emerge and undeniable bonds are made that make everyone aware that something transcendent is taking place. In Louisville, where the tragic killing of Breonna Taylor occurred, injustice after injustice has been added to that tragedy. The movement, protest, and activism, however, have created lasting changes in Louisville that have largely gone unnoticed.
Stop watching CNN (or MSNBC or CBS or ABC or even listening to NPR and please, oh please, stop watching Faux!). It robs us of hope. Choose a hope against hope that will join you with a people or movement or the good earth that has its “backs against the wall.” Stay in it. The first part is damn boring. But once you are in it for good, your courage wells up, and you find you have far more agency than you ever imagined possible.
Tuesday, November 3rd, is Election Day. Many more people are fearful of the destruction and upheaval that may very well happen on November 4th. Rachel Brown, the Founder and Executive Director of Over Zero, teaching about non-violence and civil disobedience and de-escalation in the event of political violence related to the upcoming election, was asked what we can do to protect each other and protect our democracy in the days ahead. Rachel said that in times of extreme political strife and even violence, we, each of us, will be tested in our values and tested in our moral identity. Who are we? Who do we stand for? What are we willing to fight for?
Now is a time to develop our resilience by calling in our connections and solidarity. Hope is not found in the kings and king-makers. A hope against hope is found in reaching out our hands to others when we have our backs against the wall. And reaching out to those who have their backs against the wall to say, “I offer all that I have in my reputation, faith tradition, and deep values to say that we will find a non-violent confrontational way before violence and injustice.” Notice that connection. In the six-feet of social distancing you do, be aware that God is in the in-between.