Trust and Engagement, or Else
By Steve Schultz, Editor-in-Chief
If I told you our leaders are among the most integrous, hardworking, and gracious folks in our community, even when we don’t necessarily agree with them, would you take me seriously? Would you even lend me your ear for a moment? I hope so, because no relationship or society is going much of anywhere without some trust and a little deference.
At age 56 I can recall from youth a public discourse concerned that post Watergate, citizen confidence in our leaders and institutions may be so shaken that society would speed right past skepticism to a default cynicism—and what do we have now? Echo chambers of mass vilification, a polarization that has our formerly checked and balanced political pendulum swinging wildly while nothing actually moves.
This devolved dialectic rewards the bombastic rather than the bold, with the consultancy class’ cruel efficacy choosing the negative over the forward leaning and cleaving ever tighter voter demographies until we are all separated from one another with the assurance that the other side must either be ill intentioned or dolts, we have become dismissive of one another, even angry. This environment favors the Svengali and bully.
And now revolted and cowering in our corners, we are no longer listening, not to our leaders or prospective leaders, and not even to each other. We do not trust anymore. But the danger is that without hearing and trusting, we are not making distinctions, and in no small part, this is how we’ve arrived at Trump, a spectacle rather than a leader.
This has started to seep into the politics of our fair little local burg—witness last year’s local GMO ordinance campaign and this year’s Republican county commissioner candidates or Democratic nominee for Secretary of State. While none of these campaigns succeeded, I would posit Trump could not have in the past, and the well-being of our future requires renewed mental alacrity and openness from us all, along with a good dose of willing engagement.
These last few years moderating debates and working on this paper, I’ve seen up close and personal the power of leaders acknowledging what they know and what they don’t—and the acceptance of facts as facts—all the while open mindedly working out the best solutions available at the time, even knowing they cannot achieve everything they would like. These folks actively seek and engage differently minded folks. Look for all these traits in prospective leaders, be those traits. And to paraphrase Michelle Obama, in the face of anyone going low, go high—and I would add in the words of Trek character Jean-Luc Picard, engage.
By Stevie Beisswanger, Associate Editor
I know dark comedy. As a mental health service provider, I’m well-versed in the world’s most blatant and appalling injustices. I am trained in coping mechanisms and forms of therapeutic, nonviolent intervention. From the outside, it may appear the mental health of our nation is in a state of rapid degradation. That’s not what I see.
We are all in the thralls of a reactive backlash, some of us angry and confrontational, others overly agitated, wanting just a second of silence from the raw spewage (sewage of the mouth or brain) that is social media. At the end of the day, everyone has their own opinion; the floodwaters of expression are upon us.
While exposure to this inner turmoil is surely taxing, I submit a positive outlook. We need to talk, and even more, we need to listen, respectfully debate and compromise. Reformation—revolution, even—requires open communication and tactical stratagem. We live in a fast world, but proactivism takes time and positive regard takes grace. While our many heads mull over the what-to-dos, it’s okay to slow down, to breathe, find silence where we need it individually.
Right after (::cringe::) Donald Trump was announced President-elect, I stepped outside for some air. Through a thick blanket of fog, I saw stars searing in the sky, light years above our small speck of a planet. In that moment, the vastness and beauty of the world outweighed the ugly. The heavy uncertainty and tension in the air hadn’t quite dissipated, but I could accept it.
And so the world is laughing at us. Let’s laugh with them. I mean, it’s a little funny (in the darkest of ways) that the mean orange man who screamed from my TV screen as a teenager will soon be burning a hole in the chair of the Oval Office while his minions hold power. Over the last week, I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve worked out furiously and danced to forget. Now it’s time to laugh together, or cry if we have to, then do something about it, peacefully—because violence and hatred are counter-productive. C’mon, America, we should know this by now.
We need to figure out how to move and communicate effectively toward continued sustainability and unification of the human race. The going will get tough, the questions will be loaded, and triggers will be pushed. We’ll have to find safety in exposure, poise the fine lines of activism, and lift each other up with warm shoulders and a dash of sarcasm (or whatever your brand of humor). It’s a weird world, and we’ve no choice but to roll with it.
Food for a Thoughtless Pandemic
By Johnny Beaver, Associate Editor
I’m under the impression of a few things right now: 1.) That nobody wants to hear anything more about the election; 2.) That I’m one of them; and 3.) That sometimes you have to do stuff you really don’t want to do, because it’s your job and you’re worn out, despite the fact that it’s actually a good idea. That said, like John McCain, I’m a maverick. One foot in, and one foot out of convention.
“I don’t like Trump. I see the result of the election as a wake-up call to our cultural and intellectual disparity. I think our educational system has abandoned even the most vague attempts at teaching critical thought. I think the result of this is a population that forms snap opinions based on nothing, and that we are not culturally prepared to deal with how easy the Internet has made it for people to: A.) get very intellectually lazy; and B.) get very intellectually dishonest,” said Johnny Beaver, associate editor with The Corvallis Advocate.
That’s it. However, I haven’t met the word count requirement, so I think I’ll be proactive here and use the rest of my word count for something more important. I’m not nearly the poet I used to be, so transcribing the drying of paint is out of the question. Instead, my backup: a list of what I ate over the last few days:
One small Pepsi-brand Pepsi, two Orange Crush sodas, six or seven bottles of water, two veggie burgers with baked beans, some breakfast rolls, chips of assorted varieties, some disgusting sugar cookies, some mozzarella sticks, a veggie platter, way too many apples, crackers and cheese, a bunch of lithium, a small handful of sand, probably some bugs, a few burritos, a grilled cheese with some killer Ortega chilies, and some other stuff I can’t remember. Not very healthy, but I was on vacation, sort of.
All joking aside, this is how I feel. Can’t turn to the people I agree with because they’re really meeting the status quo of our shared generation by… well, doing what I described they were doing in this week’s As the State Turns. And I sure as hell can’t turn to those I disagree with, because I’m disgusted with what I see as an abandonment of human decency for a perceived (and totally false) practicality.
Happy holidays, these will be.