by Jen Chapin
Editor’s Note: I have had the pleasure of knowing Jen Chapin for some years now, and though she is typically modest about her accomplishments, she carries forward a long family legacy of activism for social justice of various kinds. I asked her for some thoughts about the current Republican Party and some of the issues we face, and she kindly responded with this. Please enjoy her lovely music while you read:
My default position is to engage. To wrestle with ideas, to engage, debate, seek common ground, inform and possibly even to inspire. I try to do this in my daily interactions, facebook posts and email exchanges, and especially through my music.
I am also an optimist who assumes the goodness and common sense of most people, and knows that we have evolved as a species to cooperate and seek solutions, more than to make conflicts.
But that fact is that this election season, and the current state of the Republican Party, leaves me unable to engage, at least in their terms. Engaging with this crew, when the opportunity presents itself (most often online, for better or more often for worse) is an exercise in frustration and futility best left alone. I’ve found that even engaging silently in ones head with some of the not-quite-idea, soundbites of the right dampens the intellect and poisons the spirit.
The temptation is to join them in the arena of vitriol and extreme oversimplicity. After all, the GOP’s leadership in lowering the bar and bringing the debate to their current base level is impressive. They get their “ideas” out there efficiently and with highly disciplined repetition. But, at the willing risk of sounding condescending, when the mainstream of a party questions or straight-out denies climate change and evolution, echoes lies as daily habit, offers no new solutions and refuses to even honor basic arithmetic, data, and science, let alone compassion, it is not worth our time to respond.
I miss the old decent informed well-intentioned Republicans. Bob Dole, George Walker Bush, heck, even Ronald Reagan had his relative charms and common sense. I miss my high school debate buddies, who knew their facts and even had some on their side.
But we just can’t follow them there. We need to use our own discipline to revel in the ongoing search for justice and yes, truth. We on the left don’t have all the answers, but use our intellects and our humanity to honest seek them. We look around, and see faces unlike our own, and instead of retreating into familiarity and fear, we embrace the new world while fighting lovingly for that worth protecting of the old. In many ways, we are the true conservatives in the best sense of the word – conserving the natural world, conserving our shared infrastructure and culture through investment and knowledge, conserving and nurturing the grassroots movements for justice that have been the best part of our national identity and forward progress. We need to strengthen and celebrate our solutions so that they are increasingly undeniable. That is our engagement, with life with future and still, with hope.