I write to you on November 3. We here at YES! gathered this morning to share our grief about the election results and to struggle to understand what it means.
Here are a few thoughts: It seems to me the attacks of September 11 crystallized for Americans the insecurity many were already feeling. The decades of expectations that our sons and daughters would have better lives than our own had already ended. Susan Faludi's book Stiffed describes the ways that this lowered expectation is taking a devastating toll on the lives of American men (especially middle-class European-American men), whose jobs and social status are suffering from downsizing, whose marriages are failing, and whose self-image is badly frayed.
President Bush promised to stand up for these Americans. It was a simple but attractive sell: Your problems are caused by people “out there” who are jealous of your freedom?—people less deserving who don't share your religion or nationality. I will be unwavering in defending you against “them.”
The more complex reality, which John Kerry partially described, is less satisfying. We are a nation that is over-extended. Corporations travel the globe, leaving people at home suffering from job loss and people worldwide suffering from economic dislocation. The U.S. invasion of Iraq is straining our military and our national budget and causing tremendous suffering—and we are less secure with fewer allies and more enemies. Oil prices are at record heights, and world oil production will soon peak, if it hasn't already. The planet is heating up, species are going extinct, our health is compromised, and the gap between rich and poor grows wider.
People know in their bones that we can't continue as we are, but our political divide is rooted in vastly different stories about what is happening, why, and what we should do about it.
In our next issue we'll explore the role of the media in explaining, and failing to explain, the stories of our time. But in this issue, we consider the wounds that are fracturing our social and political landscape—and the sources of healing.
• War: veteran war correspondent Chris Hedges reflects on the traumas of past wars as they echo across generations and how the trauma experienced by young men and women now fighting in Iraq can be healed (see page 17).
• Peacemaking: YES! contributing editor John Mohawk describes the 1,000-year-old art of peacemaking that helped the five nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy end devastating warfare (see page 24).
• Intimate violence and political repression: author Riane Eisler explores the interweaving of intimate violence, political repression, and religious fundamentalism (page 30).
• Humor: the Yes Men (no relation) tell of their astonishment when corporate accountants applaud the dismantling of the world economy as we know it (page 37).
What will come out of this troubling election? So many of you worked hard, hoped, prayed, and devoted yourselves to producing an election outcome that could move us forward as a nation. It was unforgettable to see people come together with such passion and commitment for a common purpose.
Activist Van Jones says in his cover story that we can build on that energy to form a political force more vibrant, more diverse, and more powerful than any we might have imagined, and doing so will change our world (page 13). I believe he's right—although we may have some dark days ahead.
I wish you the courage to continue speaking from your heart, and I hope this issue will nourish you and give you gifts of hope and resistance to take into the next stage of our common work.
Tell us what you're doing, and we'll include your story in YES! or online (editors@yesmagazine).