Reverse the polarity!

Every definition of the word ‘invest’ involves money, time, or elevated meaning. It’s a rich word with long-term connotations, the opposite of our fast-paced, instant gratification, Altar of Convenience culture and its consequences. To invest is to resist, to rebel against the zeitgeist. And in this polarized political climate, it might be what saves us.

But let’s be strategic. Protests are beautiful displays of unity and resistance, but the threat of outrage fatigue looms, and while peaceful demonstrations have worked historically to change hearts, minds, and legislation regarding civil rights, they might be having the opposite effect in their use in resisting the current regime, at least according to someone who has been through this before.

Venezuelan citizen Andrés Miguel Rondón wrote an article in the Washington Post about Chávez, Trump, and the universal recipe for populism.

“Populism can survive only amid polarization,” Rondón wrote. “It works through the unending vilification of a cartoonish enemy. Never forget that you’re that enemy.” So, “show no contempt. Don’t feed polarization, disarm it. This means leaving the theater of injured decency behind.”

Venezuelans tried to oust Chávez for years. They “wrote again and again about principles, about separation of powers, civil liberties, the role of the military in politics, corruption and economic policy,” Rondón said. “But it took opposition leaders 10 years to figure out that they needed to actually go to the slums and the countryside. Not for a speech or a rally, but for a game of dominoes or to dance salsa—to show they were Venezuelans, too, that they weren’t just dour scolds and could hit a baseball, could tell a joke that landed. That they could break the tribal divide, come down off the billboards and show that they were real. This is not populism by other means. It is the only way of establishing your standing. It’s deciding not to live in an echo chamber. To press pause on the siren song of polarization.”

Investing your time in the long-game of building relationships and crossing divides, in pursuing friendship instead of being right, is to walk a difficult, time-consuming, and expensive road. Investment, by its very nature, requires something of us, but the alternative is unacceptable.

“Because if the music keeps going, yes—you will see neighbors deported and friends of different creeds and sexual orientations living in fear and anxiety, your country’s economic inequality deepening along the way,” Rondón said. “But something worse could happen. In Venezuela, whole generations were split in two. A sense of shared culture was wiped out. Rhetoric took over our history books, our future, our own sense of self. We lost the freedom to be anything larger than cartoons.

“This does not have to be your fate,” he continued. “You can be different. Recognize that you’re the enemy Trump requires. Show concern, not contempt, for the wounds of those who brought him to power. By all means, be patient with democracy and struggle relentlessly to free yourself from the shackles of the caricature the populists have drawn of you.”

What say you? Can we harness our anger, turn the tables, and refuse to be the enemy? Can we protest AND listen to those with whom we disagree? How do we begin?

Rachel Womelsduff Gough and her family ditched the city for a patch of earth in the Snoqualmie Valley. Cheered on by her husband and two blonde babes, Rachel learns by getting her hands dirty, whether it’s gardening, chicken farming, canning, neighboring, or adventuring with soulmates in wild places. She reads constantly, and can’t live without coffee, flowers, and classic mystery stories. Rachel headshot

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