December is a month to both reflect on the past year and look ahead. As we surveyed 2022, we compiled these top insights to share with you from our organizing efforts over the last 12 months. And to help us all look ahead, check out this recent report by the Democracy Funders Network, Imagining Better Futures for American Democracy. You can read more about why this future-orientation is so needed for broad-based movement-building in this article: Pro-Democracy Forces Need to Go on the Offense.
Looking into the future doesn’t mean we don’t also have to continue to grapple with our nation’s history; in fact, one of our most-used phrases this past year has been “it’s both/and!” More in Common released an interesting report in December Diffusing the History Wars: Finding Common Ground in Teaching America’s Story. And, Trevor Smith and Aria Florant describe this polarity between past and present beautifully in their recent piece, On the Other Side of Reparations, A New World Awaits. “If we want to achieve a reparations process for Black Americans and create a new reparative world, perhaps we need to imagine what lies on the other side of reparations…our storytelling… must be expansive in ways that allow people to see themselves in a new world that awaits them.”
Happy Holidays from the Horizons Team! Enjoy some other resources we’ve been reading, watching, and listening to in December:
by Brian Klaas
While many celebrated the results of the November mid-terms elections in the US as a “win for democracy,” this article explains in detail why “the specter of authoritarianism will continue to loom large for many years to come.” Using the analogy of democracy as a sandcastle: “in the past, democracies were destroyed in a single big wave. It could be a coup, a civil war, a revolution, or an elected dictator seizing power. But those ways of destroying the sandcastle are rarer these days. Instead, the tide comes in very slowly, and each wave laps away at the sandcastle, taking a few grains of sand with it each time. It’s so much slower than the forces that people picture when they think of democracy being destroyed that most people in the country don’t even notice the damage that’s been done. But sure enough, America’s democratic sandcastle has eroded, slowly and steadily.”
by Manu Meel in Greater Good Magazine
The CEO of BridgeUSA tells the story of his journey to bridgebuilding, and the importance of this work on college campuses. “There are few institutions in American society as well-positioned as higher education to build bridges across lines of difference and create spaces for empathy, dialogue, and intellectual curiosity. College campuses and universities are some of the few remaining physical places where Americans of different income, ethnic, and ideological backgrounds have the opportunity to interact and engage. More importantly, the leaders of tomorrow are on today’s college campuses; we have a unique opportunity to invest in the future of our democracy by having universities prioritize deliberation, freedom of thought, and reasoned conversation at a moment of deep division and uncertainty.”
by A.J. Bauer in Nieman Lab’s Predictions for Journalism 2023
“We should and must expect more thoughtful analysis and news judgement from a mainstream political press that claims to lament the ongoing erosion of democratic norms and institutions…Journalists can’t be so cavalier as to assume that ‘shedding light’ on antisemitism, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, and racism is always either harmless or beneficial.” This article also includes a link to the 2021 Field Guide to White Supremacy which includes revisions to the AP Stylebook to help reporters adequately and accurately report on right-wing extremism without advancing its aims.
by Timothy Keller in the Opinion Section of the New York Times
In this essay, Dr. Keller describes the way that a culture of forgiveness serves the same goals as justice-seeking. “Many people committed to justice value forgiveness, but others worry that it lets oppressors off the hook. Technology also makes a contribution. Social media is a realm in which missteps and wrongful, impulsive posts are never forgiven. Screenshots of every foolish word you have ever said online can be circulated in perpetuity. And our politics is filled with vitriol. In our cultural moment a conciliatory, forgiving voice is nowhere to be heard. Calls for forgiveness and reconciliation sound like both-sidesism, a mealy-mouthed lack of principle and courage.”
We are including only one resource to watch this month because Horizons wants to stress how powerful this short video is and how much we recommend watching it and reading the accompanying article:
by Maurice Mitchell
Any and all organizers, movement leaders and funders working for social change should not miss this short video and read the powerful insights within Maurice’s article Building Resilient Organizations: Toward Joy and Durable Power in a Time of Crisis (co-published in Nonprofit Quarterly, The Forge and Convergence.) “There are things we can and must do to shift movements for justice toward a powerful posture of joy and victory. Such a metamorphosis is not inevitable, but it is essential. This essay describes the problems our movements face, identifies underlying causes, analyzes symptoms of the core problems, and proposes some concrete solutions to reset our course.”
Think Peace Podcast
“When it comes to violent aggression, you may wonder what it is that can cause someone to commit horrific acts of violence? Is it just plain evil? Genetics? Adverse life experiences? Is it faulty brain chemistry? In this episode of the Think Peace Podcast, host Colette Rausch sits down with Dr. Sumaiya Sheikh to discuss the neuroscience of violent aggression, what can trigger people to become radicalized and then commit violent acts, and what possibilities there may be to prevent violent acts before they happen.”
Politics In Question Podcast
Leadership Now CEO Daniella Ballou-Aares discusses the state of US democracy and how businesses can and should be involved. She mentioned the importance of “pre-defining what the factors are where businesses are willing to step out on an issue because political leaders are crossing well-defined lines of what is appropriate in a democracy. These triggers could be: refusal to accept legitimate election results; responding to political violence; political retribution for free speech, etc.” She also highlights the importance of “stepping out in a coalition, which is usually done at the state level, but in some cases can be done nationally (for example, the business coalition re: legitimacy of the 2020 election).”
OnBeing Podcast Playlist
If you have time over the holidays, please take time to enjoy this playlist of podcasts that was compiled by On Being during the autumn of 2022 and includes several episodes from their archives that highlight “the pleasure of thinking deeply together.” The collection was curated as a part of their series following the practice of contemplative reading through James Bridle’s Ways of Being.
“As we enter our third year of a pandemic, many of us are discouraged by the state of the world. Polarization is high, people feel lonely and disconnected, and many have burned out at work or been traumatized by overwhelming loss. This year’s favorite books offer a mixture of advice on how to address these issues through shifting our worldview, improving our social interactions and institutions, and doing what we can to increase our personal well-being.”