A peace-building response to the rise of ‘Trumpism’

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A peace-building response to the rise of ‘Trumpism’

By Cheryl Duckworth

(Original article: Sun Sentinel.  July 25, 2016)

This is a presidential election cycle like we’ve never seen before. One person — Donald Trump — has ascended the ranks of his party not by calling for unity and focusing on what brings us together, but by espousing racism, incivility and divisiveness. Critics of Trump, scholars and even members of his own party have been involved in a debate over whether, in fact, he can be labeled as authoritarian or fascist.

This is new in U.S. history.

Trump has exhibited many characteristics typical of autocrats throughout history, such as centering his campaign on misogyny, nationalist xenophobia and of course, ending the ability of Muslims to enter the country. One does not need to expect another Holocaust or Civil War to see the fascist impulses that such a president would institutionalize in America, whose founding national story is standing as a beacon of openness, courage and freedom.

Peace building moves beyond security or the cessation of violence — it works to build cultural norms and institutions that are equitable and inclusive, focused on shared historical narratives, pluralism, collaborative problem solving and building consensus. Three steps can move us forward.

Given our tattered social fabric, consciously protecting public spaces (parks, public transport) and other means of connecting neighbors must become a national priority. For those who argue we must focus on the economy (which, of course, we must), they should be reminded that markets depend on social peace and functional politics. A society that is isolated from others and on a treadmill of labor that rarely allows for reflection is a society easy to manipulate. Alternatively, a socially connected society will be better prepared for the national dialogue that it needs regarding the cumulative impact of generations of racial and economic injustice.

We must mainstream peace education in every American student’s classroom to teach them to resolve conflict without violence, to respect multiple historical narratives of conflicts past, to be able to identify scapegoating and to value human rights. Global citizenship education, a sister of peace education, strengthens a nation by ensuring its youth have intercultural skills and global awareness.

Secondly, peace building experience and research notes the need for “cross-cutting ties” in local communities, a principle that suggests heterogeneous communities where people work, intermarry and send their children to school across border lines of past conflict. Such communities foster social peace. The opposite trend has been occurring, according to recent reports.

Cross-cutting ties enable conflict resolution and prevent violence by ensuring people have an opportunity to experience others different from themselves first-hand in everyday life. This can build trust and familiarity that enables communities to nonviolently address conflict when it arises. Local city and business leaders, academics, activists and others must work together to reverse the geographical institutionalization of our ideological differences. “Trumpism” depends on racial fears and division; hybrid and diverse communities will be less susceptible to such.

Finally, a peace building response to the racism and global isolationism central to Trump’s campaign must address cultural narratives — the story we tell ourselves about who we are as an American people. Trump has broken with some core American values and norms. There are some practical ways we can support the pluralist narrative of the U.S., which promotes peace.

We must mainstream peace education in every American student’s classroom to teach them to resolve conflict without violence, to respect multiple historical narratives of conflicts past, to be able to identify scapegoating and to value human rights. Global citizenship education, a sister of peace education, strengthens a nation by ensuring its youth have intercultural skills and global awareness.

We must not allow autocracy to win come November. This is largely a matter of turning out the vote. The actions I call for above can help us defeat not just Trump but “Trumpism.”

Cheryl Duckworth is an associate professor of conflict resolution and peace education at NSU’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

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