HOW WE WIN
★ ★ ★ ★
By Kusi Okamura
As a mother I’m familiar with rules, being a co-‘boss’ of little kids. I know that a family cannot work without rules, big and small, or at least ours couldn’t. And having watched our kids grow I realise that these rules are a comfort for them too. Though they often battle some of them (those relating to having a bath and wearing underpants) they are mostly creatures of routine. It gives their small selves a sense of security in this big world. And it makes our family run, not quite like a well-oiled machine, but at least one with a minimum of rust that will start in the morning.
We also live in Germany, where the very culture celebrates and encourages the following of rules. And for the most part, we appreciate this culture too. Rules are seen as a social lubricant of sorts, creating a safe enough society where people walk when they see the little green man and where a 3rd grader can still go by themselves to school. But the rules here are also deeply rooted in its history. This is a country in which hate speech is illegal, in which giving the Nazi salute or denying the Holocaust can land you in jail. Because people here remember their terrible past, and in some ways are still living it. They know that memory in so many ways is at the heart of who we are as people, and we forget at our own peril.
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On Monday night Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been a life-long champion of working people, held a Town Hall meeting in McDowell County in West Virginia where life expectancy is the lowest in the country and unemployment is twice the national average.
I have a deep affection for West Virginia. My husband comes from West Virginia, we have family and friends there. I know it to be a state of both stunning natural beauty, spirited people and terrible poverty. And I was glad that Bernie Sanders at least for a short time drew the spotlight to this area of the country, a region that reflects in a dramatic way, the plight of the working person. Where life is hard, where work is scarce, with communities that have been devastated by the scourge of drug addiction. In fact recent reports have the town that my husband comes from as being the epicentre of a current heroin epidemic.
And ironically in this state which Trump won by a landslide, people were obviously moved by Bernie Sanders’s interest in their struggles, and their lives. And when he spoke about the need for healthcare as a human right, people applauded loudly. The sense from the Town Hall was one of searching. People are looking for options for their families, for their communities. They want to be able to work in a meaningful job, support their families, have a home, be able to go to the doctor when they are sick.
But the rules of the game have changed. For working people all over the world. Which is why Trump was elected.
But what we need now are leaders who can put people above profit. Public servants who speak out on behalf of ordinary people, not self-serving demagogues that fill their own coffers at the expense of the health of the masses. Leaders from the community. Not autocrats who disdain the working majority. Leaders who lead with humanity. Not leaders with an eye on celebrity.
It brings to mind the Hippocratic oath, the oath that all doctors must swear by. Here are some elements of the oath:
– I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
– Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. Above all, I must not play at God.
We should demand that all our leaders, political and religious, uphold such standards.
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We have so many powerful words in this month’s issue.
Trump’s legal gymnastics and his newly updated “Travel ban” are the focus of Reverend Rachel Kessler’s SOUL MATTERS column. She makes the point that “being legal does not make this new order moral” and how legality in this sense is at the expense of our common decency and humanity. Anyone who grew up in the era of segregation or apartheid knows the sheer truth of this. We need laws that represent all people, laws based on compassion and equality.
Our SOAPBOX columnist Mike Hembury’s piece is a call-to-arms for the communities that the Trump administration is aggressively seeking to exclude, as well as the ordinary working person whose needs he has no intention of representing or looking after. The answer to who will represent all these people is: us. He advocates the need for ‘continued resistance in the form of democratic self-organization and self-activity’.
So we need leaders now more than ever. Spiritual leaders, political leaders, community leaders, to represent the needs of ordinary working people around the world.
We also need to get organized ourselves.
Change needs to happen from the top down and the bottom up.
That’s how we win.
Kusi Okamura is the founder and editor of The Wild Word. She lives with her family in Berlin, Germany.