During this last week of March, the U.S. is hosting the Summit for Democracy and Women’s History Month comes to a close. As proclaimed by one of the Summit’s side events: The Status of Women IS the Status of Democracy it is clear that gendered attacks on human rights continue to be directly tied to the trends of democratic decline globally, a tactic studied by many scholars of authoritarianism. The current dehumanization of transgender people in the US is just one of many examples of the dangerous “othering” used to keep citizens divided and fearful. If you have questions about states’ current legislation against gender-affirming health care, please consult these resources at the Human Rights Campaign.
As john a. powell and Sara Grossman of the Othering & Belonging Institute recently wrote about Countering Authoritarianism, “this moment calls for renewed concern about the threat of fragmentation and the ways division is being exploited by anti-democratic actors.” Horizons agrees! And we recently released the first research product from our Narrative Engagement Across Difference (NEAD) Project, a multi-disciplinary literature review of narrative practices that support collaboration across difference in the deeply divided contexts of declining democracies. This short blog in both English and Spanish offers a summary of the findings, stressing the importance of complexifying narratives in both our discourse and our coalitional work. Recognizing the impact of trauma on our movement-building practices was an important aspect of the NEAD inquiry. For example, this article by Prentis Hemphill taken from New Narratives for Health describes a personal journey with trauma and the words we use to describe how the body holds trauma and experiences healing.
The United States is a complex country that requires narrative practices full of nuance and that legitimizes the diversity of lived experience. As New America’s Us@250 is preparing to celebrate the country’s 250th birthday, check out their focus on narrative change – how we think about our national narrative, American identity, and the future of the country. There are several discussions unfolding about changing societal norms and concepts of free speech and how to approach systems change and complexity, with a commitment to “operating with awareness, responding to resonance and engaging creatively.” These are all essential elements of reparative narrative practice.
We hope you enjoy some of the other materials we’ve been reading, watching, and listening to:
by Rivera Sun, Waging Nonviolence
We often critique the old adage of movements only “singing to the choir” rather than reaching out beyond the already converted. In this article, Sun uses this beautiful musical metaphor to remind us of when it’s actually needed to sing to our own choir. For example, when some may need to rest their voices or when we need to find new inspiration to sing together again. “Be thoughtful about this aspect of organizing for change. Not only will it make your movement stronger, it can also be a source of inner resilience, inspiration, solidarity and connection. There’s a reason why singing together is more than a metaphor in movements for change. It’s powerful. Tap into it with love.”
Over Zero and the Center for Inclusion and Belonging at the American Immigration Council
“Belonging is a fundamental human need, and one that is linked to many of the most complex challenges of our time.” This newly released report makes the case for including belonging as a key aspect of programs and policies in the United States, linking it to indicators of health, democracy, and intergroup dynamics. The report includes recommendations for changemakers of potential interventions and measurement tools; helps to define concepts of belonging; and describes initial findings from survey data on the state of belonging across five life settings – family, friends, workplace, local community, and the nation.
by Jon A. Shields, New York Times Opinion
The pro-democracy agenda must be cross-ideological. This professor from Claremont McKenna College extols the need to provide mentors and serious intellectual foundations for conservative undergraduates so they have positive influences and role models for engaging in political life. Even “liberal professors have the power to help…. They can show their conservative students how to become thoughtful and knowledgeable partisans — by exposing them to rich conservative intellectual traditions…setting up reading groups, helping to vet speakers and creating courses on conservative intellectual thought.”
Anand Giridharadas with Maurice Mitchell and Dorian Warren, The Ink
We highly recommend watching this video recording of an important conversation about the possibility and difficulty of persuasion in a time of polarization, disinformation, conspiracy theories, and political violence. The panel reflects on various topics, including the current state of the neo-fascist right and how to build a pro-democracy movement that can seize the moment. They highlight the importance of finding a way to move towards a “powerful posture of joy and victory” to prevent hate-fueled authoritarianism in the country.
Healing Race, YouTube Channel
Shout out to the Listen First Coalition for sharing this great video series in their recent updates. As the country continues to grapple with our history and systems of racial injustice, discussing race can be difficult but essential. Healing Race is a new video series started by two college friends, Andre, who is black and Todd, who is white, as they delve deep into the topic of race and race relations in the US. The goal of the series is to demonstrate the power of real and unfiltered conversations about race as a step towards working together for change.
Simon Rosenberg’s YouTube Channel
Check out this recent webinar recording hosted by Markers for Democracy (and many others) featuring Robert Hubbell, Bill Kristol and Simon Rosenberg discussing how people across the political spectrum must come together (and are!) to form a pro-democracy coalition.
Getting to Yes, And Podcast
In this episode, American University professor Caty Borum discusses the intersection of social justice and comedy which she explores in her new book, “The Revolution will be Hilarious.” Borum explains how comedy can be used as an important tool in the fight for social justice because comedy brings levity and a sense of humanity to many people and situations, helping to capture the nuance and true nature of so many different lived experiences.
The Bulwark Podcast
The Horizons team feels that it is important to reckon with the latest controversies that have arisen about the Fox News’ 2020 election coverage and Tucker Carlson’s most recent attempts to rewrite the narrative of January 6th. This podcast episode with two conservatives, host Charlie Sykes and Will Saletan, discuss these issues and more, also covering the inflammatory rhetoric at the recent CPAC meeting and reflections on the state of the Republican party.
Prospect: Generations Podcast
We love to highlight inter-generational collaboration! The American Prospect has started a new podcast series: Generations which is bringing together younger and older staff to discuss various topics surrounding politics and culture. In this pilot episode, Lee Harris and Paul Starr are featured who both graduated from college during turning points in US history. Lee graduated in 2020 during the pandemic and the George Floyd protests and Paul graduated in 1970 during the Vietnam War and the counterculture era.
by: Christopher Treacy, Country Queer
Music has the power to unite us and to remind us of our common humanity – in all our complexity. Country Queer is a website that focuses on LGBTQ+ voices in country and roots music. These musical roundups include interviews and reviews of new music releases from queer and allied artists, and other news and events such as virtual concerts and fundraisers. For example, this recent benefit concert in Nashville where local singers banded together in support of LGBTQ+ rights.