Alan Chartock: Courage can be found in the Four Freedoms

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People are living in fear about the incoming Trump administration. We all know what mass depression is all about and we are living in it. People wake up feeling blue. Some are given over to tears while others are just plain angry.

This depression has no real geographical limits although it does seem to be endemic in the Berkshires of Blue State Massachusetts. I can't tell you how many people have asked me what they can do. Some will march, many will write their legislators who will hopefully have the strength and courage to do what is right. Some town meetings will have resolutions passed that try to fill the gaps that will be left in the social welfare net. Groups like the Volunteers in Medicine will be overwhelmed by those in need of affordable health care. Our emergency rooms will surely be strained. One person wrote me this week with what seemed like a good idea: "Time for a general strike."

In any case, this is a time for courage. This is nothing new in this country. Those of us who are a little older remember Joe McCarthy and the scourge of the House Un-American Activities Committee who were given to sending people to jail because they would not name others they knew to be Communists.

One of my heroines in the Berkshires introduced me to an idea for coalition building that really makes sense. Megan Whilden has been doing a phenomenal job running OLLI, a superb organization that offers continuing education classes to Berkshire residents taught by some of the brightest retired professionals in the area. Now she and some of her colleagues have come up with the idea of "The Four Freedoms Coalition" (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, freedom from want). The idea is to bring together a whole group of people from across the political spectrum who will insist on preserving Roosevelt's Four Freedoms as depicted so beautifully by Norman Rockwell. These are the very Freedoms that the incoming administration seems to want to undermine, all the while arguing that they will "Make America great again." Let's remember that a lot more people voted for Clinton than for what looks like a new fascist group composed of generals, military men, and corporatists who want to eliminate the very essential protections that this country needs to provide a future for our children and grandchildren.

When Hillary Clinton lost the electoral vote, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer issued courageous remarks. "Let's weave together a city that's compassionate and inspired," she said. Her can-do message ended with a little optimism, "See you on the bright side."

Whilden says, "The Four Freedoms Coalition came together because of our need here in the Berkshires to come together and reaffirm our belief in core American values of tolerance, kindness and freedom and against the bigotry and prejudice that have been rising throughout our country and even here in the Berkshires." The list of participating organizations in the new coalition is too long to get into the 650 words I am allotted in this column but it is impressive, including the local branch of the NAACP.

Should you want to get involved, go the Facebook page or to the soon-to-be-finished website 4freedomscoalition.org. You'll find a list of courageous politicians who have endorsed and joined the effort. The coalition will march and rally in downtown Pittsfield on Saturday, Jan. 7.

In union, there is strength. This is no time for fear. Trump will have the FBI, the CIA and all of the agencies of government to do his work. I remember Pete Seeger's manager, Harold Leventhal, telling me that when Pete was arrested and thrown in jail because he had defied those who derail our republican democracy, Pete was annoyed that he was released from custody after just a few hours.

The time for courage is now.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.


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