Last night I went to see Van Jones (thanks, SAL) talk about bridging the gap between red and blue in the United States.
As someone who doesn’t have cable or even own a TV, I didn’t understand *just* how impressive Jones is. I didn’t know he had served in the Obama White House, that he knows Kellyann Conway personally, or that he started an organization for trans people being brutalized by San Francisco police back in 1997. (I did know that he has a show on CNN and that he worked with Kim Kardashian to talk prison reform with Trump.)
Jones was right on the money in more ways than I knew to expect. He offered fresh perspective, truths that we often want to ignore, and concrete advice on how to move forward. (See my scorecard at the end of this post for full notes on awesome-ness.)
Here in Seattle, we are living in a liberal bubble – something, at this point, I believe we’ve all had the ovaries to admit to ourselves. But when we travel just 45 minutes east and the first Trump signs start to pop up on lawns, we don’t know what to do. Maybe we start cursing out the homeowners — under our breath or out loud — calling them bigots, idiots, or lost souls. But last night, Jones urged us to take a moment and step back before we start to villainize our opponents. He urged us to understand the pain – the same pain that motivated the vote for Trump – before we start hailing insults.
Here are a few of the best quotes from last night, in chronological order, so you can try to string them along and pretend you were there, too.
“Someone asked me, ‘Are you going to give us hope?’ … I think it’s better to just give you some perspective from where I sit.”
“I see two movements, two camps, two forces. Both have power they won’t acknowledge and pain they want to have acknowledged.”
“I’m a genius when it comes to history. Can’t do math.”
“I love Obama. And her husband.”
“Scared people do crazy stuff.”
“I don’t think I understood when we were out there to elect Obama & Michelle how terrifying our movement was to people who were not a part of it.”
“There’s a lot of facts we don’t like.” (“The majority of white Americans voted against Obama both times.”)
“Cause even good change is hard, even change you want.”
“At the same time, we cannot become what we are fighting.”
When talking about the 57-year-old man in Ohio who voted for Trump: “I didn’t come help him, and he didn’t come help me … I didn’t show up, Trump did.”
“My main quarrel with them is that I need them.”
“We need each other and we’re letting each other down.”
“Nobody’s blameless in a country that would elect Donald Trump.”
“I’ve never seen a bird fly with just a left wing.”
“You have to be careful we don’t become what you are fighting.”
And the No.1 piece of advice he offered to us, to prepare us for the fight, was to “diversify your news feed.” Otherwise, you’ll walk around life believing everyone thinks like you. But if you follow people and pages that hold opposite beliefs, you’ll be better prepared to understand and react to your opponents. So that’s my new goal – pop my bubble and urge my empathy to extend to everyone, even those I fiercely disagree with. I urge you to do the same! (We can swap right-wing accounts so it seems a little more fun.)
Jokes: 10/10 (he even snuck in a Mr. T reference 🤣🤣🤣)