by Meg Newhouse
I am writing these reflections almost four weeks after the election, with its shocking, depressing outcome. I’ve had the advantage of traveling in Myanmar (Burma) and living without US media for the past two weeks. It’s like burying my head in the sand, but it has somewhat restored my equilibrium and it also brings new perspective. The Burmese are getting their first taste of democracy after 50 years of military dictatorship, and I hear how much they value their new freedoms but also how high—and easily dashed—their expectations are for quick change. (By the way, most Burmese love Obama and supported Clinton.)
So I see even more clearly the need for we Americans who cherish our ideals to guard against their ongoing erosion by our own inadequate education, growing inequality, compromised democracy, and ideological media that disregard their obligation to provide truthful news and engage in civil debate. And, sadly, I see the need to guard our democratic ideals and institutions against the threat of a President-elect who has authoritarian tendencies and appoints known bigots and unbalanced retired Generals as his close advisors and cabinet members. I encourage you all to read Yale professor Timothy Snyder’s article “A 20-point Guide to Defending Democracy Under a Trump Presidency.”
Finally, I am convinced more than ever of the importance of our work as conscious elders; at the same time, I am more realistic about what that entails. I assumed, on the basis of the adult development and the conscious aging literature, that a sizable pool of “olders” existed who would respond to CEN’s (and others’) vision of wise, pro-active elders addressing our society’s fundamental rifts and problems for the sake of future generations.
After my research for a pre-election article entitled “Where Have All the Elders Gone?” I had to revise my expectation that a majority of older voters would think like CEN members. The polling data I looked at showed a plurality of voters over 65 supporting Trump, as well as opposing action to mitigate climate change. In contrast, voters in the 18-25 year-old demographic supported Clinton and the need to act to counteract climate change. Post-election analysis supported this unexpected Trump support from older Americans.
I can only conclude that we aspiring conscious elders have our work cut out for us; growing older by no means guarantees growing wiser, more tolerant, and more concerned with future generations. Our best allies in achieving the kind of fundamental changes in consciousness and policy we seek may well be the millennials.
What does this mean for CEN? How do we reach the painfully disaffected Trump voters? How do we learn to listen without judgment in an attempt to find common ground How do we summon the courage to stand up for our values in the public square? How can we effectively work with younger generations? (Personally, I am drawn to World Café models such as Juanita Brown’s and David Isaacs’ “Wiser Together” program that joins elders and college students.)
What is clear to me is: The time is now. “We are the ones we have been waiting for” and the challenge is greater, and the stakes are higher than we expected.
Meg Newhouse, PhD, directs Passion & Purpose LifeCrafting, founder of The Life Planning Network, founding member of CEN, independent educator, coach and author, most recently of Legacies of the Heart: Living a Life That Matters (2016). Meg is passionate about Conscious Aging and many other things, including music, nature, yoga, learning, “sacred activism,” and grandchildren.