Upswell Pop-Up #7: In the Wake of the Election, How Do We Regain Social Trust?
// By Debra Rainey
The election may be over, but uncertainty, fear, and political unrest in our country continues. Contention over the results, divisions over politics and policy, fears about the pandemic, ongoing racial unrest, nervousness about national and personal economic concerns – the nerves of our nation are raw, leaving changemakers to wonder, “How can we navigate this troubled landscape and repair the knitting of civil society that binds us as a nation?
During Pop-Up #7, we were reminded that while civil society has its flaws, changemakers have a critical role in keeping social trust alive. We must renew the values that have long bound our country, and lean into our leading role in helping our country figure out how to share power and achieve equity in a way that rebuilds faith in democracy and trust among each other.
On the Main Stage
Daniel Weiner, deputy director of Election Reform at the Brennan Center for Justice, delved into what it will take to repair our democracy and create a sustained and inclusive society where all voices are heard, including addressing voter suppression targeting Black and brown communities; gerrymandering; a political money system that affords enormous power to an unrepresentative donor class; and eroding safeguards for the rule of law.
- Despite what we may think, there is broad agreement on a host of issues that transcend political, regional, and racial lines. A lot of Americans are on the same page.
- This is a big, messy, diverse country. The challenge remains that Americans are going to have to learn to come together and work on the issues we face.
- We need to make fixing our democracy a priority. A lot has gone well, but much remains to be done, including making safe voting available and accessible to all citizens.
- The majority of us want a truly multiracial, pluralistic society. To achieve this, we must engage with the political process at every level, not just the Administration and Congressional, but state and local levels, as well. Those are the people who matter in the daily lives of community residents. Social trust is built in neighborhoods and communities, where Weavers are working every day.
Two leaders from Weave: The Social Fabric Project — founding chair and New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Fred Riley, executive director of Weave — explored how we chart a path ahead and rebuild social trust in this age of hyper political polarization, distrust, and declining confidence in national leadership.
- Social trust is a sense of shared humanity and norms. When there is trust, people naturally come together to work on common problems.
- We’re in the middle of a massive trust fall. The percentage of those who trust is dropping, and we must find ways to turn that around.
- We have a system that has stopped working, and we’re chopping it up. It looks bumpy, unsettling, but with renewed hope we’re building a better system.
- Social change will happen on the local and community levels, and in that civic space in the years ahead will be prime movers who will help build social trust and move communities forward.
- While the United States is struggling to live up to itself, we are still the greatest country of opportunity.
- Remember that more binds than separates us.
Digging Deeper into the Roots of Social Trust
Fred Riley, executive director of Weave: The Social Fabric Project, led a deep dive into the research and science behind social trust in our communities. Joining Fred were Shayla Nunnally, professor and chair of the Africana Studies Program, University of Tennessee; Shaylyn Romney Garrett, co-author of The Upswing: How America Came Together A Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again; and Lee Rainie, director of Internet and Technology Research at the Pew Research Center.
- Eight out of ten Americans believe that institutional and social trust can be repaired.
- This is not the first time in our history we have had moments of deep political polarization. But each time we have managed to pull up and out. We must work to reclaim the promise of “we” and the sense that we are in this together.
- We can use social media and its networking sensibility toward community building to fight toxic information and misinformation and encourage acts of altruism as people look for ways to connect and do for each other.
- We must create space for people who have been written out of our national, historical narrative to promote true conversation and inclusion.
- As we’ve seen in this time of Zoom during the pandemic, we are yearning to be together, and we are enriched by technology that is encouraging connection and problem solving.
- Relationship is the greatest antidote to mistrust, and people are primed to want it more than ever due to the pandemic.
Radical Acceptance and Self Care: Reflection and Inquiry
How do we respond to the unprecedented health and civic challenges we face in a way that addresses our need for self-care, decreases suffering, and increases our resiliency? Fetzer Institute mindfulness practitioners Shakiyla Smith, director of organizational culture, and Nathan Moore, public engagement and COFG coordinator, demonstrated how the “theory of radical acceptance” can help us respond compassionately to ourselves, the world, and events that upset and anger us, and how to accept unsettling feelings and extend passion during these challenging times.
- Resilience and courage are important concepts, especially for people being of service to others.
- We don’t experience just one emotion – happiness, sadness, anger. If we pay attention, as radical acceptance asks us to do, we realize the nuances in our experiences.
- Self-care is critical to clear seeing and being with ourselves – this notion that when we sit in our experience, what arrives is heaviness, tension, sadness.
- Self-care includes community care, enabling us to be with ourselves and others in a way that is compassionate and caring. Radical acceptance offers us clear-seeing, sitting with our experience, and the ability to respond with compassion and caring.
- When we talk about self-care, we think of surface and performative notions: massages, spas, going on vacation. But if we leave it at that level, it feels optional. For people with marginalized identities, self-care is essential. It goes to our inner sources of refuge in a world that is sometimes hostile to our life and our community.
- There are 3 sources of refuge that are more sustaining that we can cultivate for ourselves. They are (1) taking refuge in a beloved or divine being or ancestor or presence that cares about us and our suffering; (2) teachings and practices of our traditions, such as yoga, physical movement, prayer, meditation, and journaling; and (3) community – our families, spiritual communities, and our friends.