A new social contract for America: Towards equanimity from 2017 to 2020


“HOW do I strengthen the better angels of our nature? And how do we tamp down our tribal impulses?” — Pres. Barack Obama, 2017.

“The highest good for humans is to love and take joy in the whole course of the world. Someone who achieves this loves reaches a perfect tranquility and equanimity; he is proof against all the buffetings of adverse fortune; and above all, he can love those around him constantly, steadily, undiverted by his own pain and disappointments, or his own partial interests. He attains a “generous affection, an exercise of friendship uninterrupted, a constant kindness and benignity.” – Philosophical Regimen of Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury

Equanimity is a state of cool headedness, a state of composure, the state of being calm and in control of one’s emotions.

America is not in equanimity, as it inaugurated its 45th president. It was unlike the prior 44th President Obama’s inauguration, which was attended by 2 million in 2009 and over a million in 2013, marked by euphoria and enthusiasm of millions. Instead we find folks at pre-inauguration rallies and post-inauguration marches.

America in 2017 has palpable tension, the pull from marches around the U.S. and solidarity cities around the world, and the push from Donald Trump’s installation as the incoming president and the changes he promises.

A day before America’s inauguration on Jan. 19, a rally was held in New York, in front of the Trump Tower at 6pm, by Planned Parenthood, Greenpeace and MoveOn.org to assert New Yorkers’ rights to health care, climate change, social justice and immigrant rights.

America installed its 45th president on January 20, 2017 at noon in Washington, DC, in the person of Donald J. Trump. 60 Democrat legislators did not attend.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a rally at noon was held for all to stand up to the values of California, its way of life, and to declare Trump is not California’s president.

What are those values?

On Inauguration Day, California Legislature’s Democratic Caucus issued an open letter to all Californians declaring their intentions to honor the commitments towards safe and efficient transportation; affordable housing near where folks work; vibrant economy with competitive paying jobs; clean air, water and environment for all to enjoy; equal protection in the ballot, in employment and most especially, personal relationships and identities; a system of justice that protects all communities; welcoming all Californians whether they are born here or not;  healthful food and quality health care; protection of retirement security and freedom of information. It is a comprehensive social contract illustrative of what the state’s political leaders are committed to, bringing a sense of safety and security to its California residents.

Most have taken to Facebook posting how fortunate they are to be living in California. Even Twitter feeds show the pride these Californians have that they live in a progressive state which honors gender equality, equal protection including a revitalized economy that has grown from fair share of taxes paid by the elite, gay marriage, as well as an increase in personal and business incomes.

We were not a sunshine state not too long ago, under the tenure of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger when the Republican way of life was “de rigeur” (made fashionable) in California: budgets in education were slashed by 1/3, there was a lower share of taxes by the elite, lower vehicle registration fees, rest stops shut down along freeways, state parks not maintained.

While the governor tried different ways, including passing bonds, his lack of governmental experience kept the state in a gridlock and state loans grew to $18 billion. He had however exposed the need for structural reform in the budget process, which the next Democrat Governor resolved. But to his credit, the protection of the environment became part of his legacy as well.

Both Governors Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger enacted laws protecting this sunshine state, by placing cap and trades on pollutants. The protection of Mother Nature became a bipartisan issue.

Might we expect bipartisanship and national unity under the 45th US President’s tenure?

Donors appreciation dinner and Trump’s apparent illegitimacy

At a thank you dinner for Republican donors on Jan. 19, Trump spoke of the big margins of votes he received, 306 electoral votes and how the map of the United States has seen more red states than before, he claimed that places that have not seen red turned Republican.

He said 16,000 border patrol agents voted for him and ICE voted him as well and “that they will make us safe.” He emphasized that his cabinet picks are the best and the brightest and they will all do “fantastic jobs,” and will make America great again.

When Mike Pence introduced him, he described Donald Trump with vision and leadership to make America great again. Slogans after slogans are what we heard, including the election results with new information: the farmer that he appointed for the Secretary of Agriculture, Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. Notice how the slogan was repeated by both Pres-Elect and Vice Pres-Elect.

Though President Trump was being installed on January 20, it is not lost upon the nation that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, garnered close to 66 million votes, with a margin of 2.8 million votes.

Trump’s illegitimacy is apparent, even if he received 63 million votes, given the reports of hacking by Russians from America’s intelligence agencies, and the electioneering conduct favoring Trump by FBI Director James Comey, in insinuating Hillary Clinton is being investigated for her emails, when in fact, he made vague assertions about a prior FBI report. Had the election landscape not been tampered with, barely 9 days before the election, the American public would have rallied in support of any 45th US President, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

But, the tampering, coupled with wounds Donald Trump created during the campaign: such as calling Filipinos terrorists, Mexicans as criminals, making fun of a disabled reporter, belittling all his opponents (which he bragged defeating 18 of them during his donor appreciation dinner) cannot all be dismissed and minimized.

By the way, it is only now that mainstream media is reporting that Trump’s campaign derived two key issues of trade and immigration from listening to 1,000 hours of talk radio.

Talk radio and television used to be regulated by a fairness doctrine, mandating the airing of opposing views on the topic, including alerting anyone subject to personal attack and giving them a chance to respond. Not anymore, since Pres. Ronald Reagan revoked the protections in 1987, making it easier for talk radio and television stations to spew opinions, angry commentaries and are no longer obliged to provide truth or evidence to support their statements.

Mainstream media could no longer be distinguished from fringe purveyors of information. From garbage news being allowed, it is easier now to bury anyone in filth and the truth and facts have difficulty emerging above the “swamp of misinformation.” Hence, marches, rallies and social media become the forums to convey the truth about public’s sentiments.

“Three hundred national and international sister marches will join forces with the Women’s March on Washington (WMW) DC rally on Jan 21 — the day after the U.S. Presidential Inauguration — spanning nearly 60 cities in 30 countries across six continents. As march day approaches, the WMW has set out four clear aims.” It is publicized as uniting around the values of HERS – which stands for health, economic security, representation and safety,” Huffington Post’s Vivienne Mayer reported on Jan. 13. Two days later, Catherine Pearson reported that 370 sister marches are being planned with an estimated attendance of 700,000.

Meanwhile we witness what mainstream media describes as an orderly transfer of power when Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th U.S. president. His inauguration is witnessed by the attendance of U.S. President Bill Clinton, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Jimmy Carter and President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and an estimated crowd of 800,000.

May we all, Americans of all nationalities and ethnicities, be reminded by Booker Washington’s words on Sept. 18, 1895, in a speech he delivered to black and white Southerners:

“There is no defense or security for any of us except in the highest intelligence and development of all. If anywhere there are efforts to curtail the fullest growth of the Negro, let these efforts be turned into stimulating, encouraging, and making him the most useful and intelligent citizen. Effort or means so invested will pay a thousand percent interest. These efforts will be twice blessed—’blessing him that gives and him that takes.’ There is no escape through law of man or God from the inevitable:

– The laws of changeless justice bind

– Oppressor with oppressed;

– And close as sin and suffering joined

– We march to fate abreast

Nearly sixteen millions of hands will aid you in pulling the load upward; or they will pull against you the load downward.”

California learned its lesson that to experience prosperity and to move forward beyond gridlock, it must resolve the tension of opposites towards state consensus. It is my prayer that Washington, D.C. learns its national governance lessons of bipartisanship and principled consensus as well.

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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 9 years now. She contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Mexico and 22 national parks in the US, in pursuit of her love for arts.

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