We Can Do Better

It’s almost been a week since the protests and murder in Charlottesville and I’m still searching and struggling for my new normal. By new normal, I mean my new way of viewing society as a whole, which just happens to start at the top with #45.

How are we collectively to make sense of the horrible scene that unfolded in Virginia, if our president can’t act as our north star in this wilderness of clandestine racism and hate seeking convention? I don’t think I’m asking for much to say I want the leader of our country to clearly and thoroughly denounce the hateful and harmful actions of a group of people trying to drive a wedge through the collective mindset of the vast majority us who are loving, welcoming, and peaceful.

But now it seems we have two very real issues at hand. The first, and the more obvious is that we have an individual in charge of this country who embraces denialism, hate-fueled speech/actions, and blatant racism. Using his own words and actions since the spring of 2016, how can we come to a different conclusion? As a scientist, I’m taught to follow the data. Well, the data points, the correlation, the trend line, the r-squared value are getting to the point of significance where we can no longer ignore them.

I’ve heard political pundits continue to talk about how the president is merely choosing his words carefully to avoid losing his voter base and to ensure that his own political life is extended, even while other actual lives are being lost in the process. Well, I think that’s cutting him too much slack. It appears that his own views of the America he envisions or longs for is more closely aligned with those of the alt-right than the rest of us. Let me not equivocate here: There’s no trying to preserve political capital, there’s only a blatant attempt to return to the status quo of a whiter yesteryear.

And this brings me to the second issue, one that is even more serious. The United States of America isn’t exactly running from a whiter yesteryear and I think many of us are finally starting to see what others have been shouting to deaf ears for decades. Plain and simple, we are a racist country.

It actually relieves me to say this because it gives me a starting point, a clearly defined problem that I can act upon. This doesn’t mean each of us is racist, please don’t interpret my words to mean as much. But if we are going to crow with red, white, and blue feathers about all that is good in this country, then we also have to own all that is bad, and right now, we have a pretty major potmark.

But how do we grapple this elephant in the room? It’s different for everyone, but for me I took my first step last night. I signed up on 314Action.org to make my difference. Words are powerful. If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t have this blog. But actions, as we all know, are much more powerful. I’m choosing to act by giving back to society via the political process.

I’m tired of watching my good name, our collective good name, run through the mud. I don’t like the actions of this new administration and I’m genuinely afraid of the tribalism before humanism mindset that has blanketed our landscape.

Even though I long for something better, this doesn’t mean I have forgotten and am not grateful for the good that has come before me. In fact it’s quite the opposite; I move forward with more determination because I know what we are capable of and I know the good this country has accomplished. It’s easy to let the bad outweigh the good in times like these. But let’s not forget that the United States of America has been the architect of so many wonderful things in the name of scientific advancement, freedom and equality, and global humanity. Let’s also not forget that we did these things together, regardless of political lean, religion, gender, sexuality, or ethnicity. And most importantly, we need to remember that we can always do better.

I don’t know where exactly my path goes or what my pace will be, but I’m glad to be on a path that I believe in. A path that starts with an uncomfortable acceptance of where we are in our current landscape, even if it’s a ugly place. Step-by-step, we will get to a better place. And if I lose my way? I’ll turn to my north star–the individuals that have and continue to do so many great things for their fellow humans just because we can do better.



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