Oct. 29, 2020

Country over party: this is what democracy looks like

Country over party: this is what democracy looks like

Today, as voters head to the polls in record numbers and with concerns around the election at a fever pitch, we’re talking about a topic that has us alternately feeling like Chicken Little and Pollyanna.

But we’re not alone. Everywhere you look people (and organizations) are prepping for this election—and most would say with good reason.

So when we heard about a training designed to prepare people to take action in the event of an undemocratic power grab, we decided it was definitely worth our virtual attendance. The premise of the training, called Choose Democracy, can be distilled into a few simple sentences: We will vote and we will refuse to accept election results until all of the votes are counted. And if this, the most basic principle of democracy, is denied, then we the people will defend our democracy through nonviolent mass protests. (Now, it’s important to say here that no one candidate is supported for the win. The objective is simply that democratic processes are honored and all votes are counted.)

About a week after the training we sat down with facilitators Michael Levi, a Quaker and long term activist schooled in non-violence and Alaine Duncan, also a Quaker as well as a healer and author of The Tao of Trauma. Her East-meets-West approach to trauma feels more needed than ever.

And one last thing: we hope you’ll stay tuned after this conversation as Kelley seeks some advice about coping with situations like this from our co-host, Tanvir, in Bangladesh—a country that has definitely seen its fair share of struggles for democracy over the years.

We hope you find this useful—and that it turns out we were Chicken Little after all.

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>Check out Alaine Duncan's book, the Tao of Trauma. Published by Penguin, you can find it wherever you buy books. 
>For more information about Choose Democracy go here or go to www.choosedemocracy.us
>Here’s a super interesting episode of Radiolab called What If that takes on the speculation about what Trump might do in the wake of the election. "Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa’s Transition Integrity Project doesn’t give us any predictions, and it isn’t a referendum on Trump. Instead, it’s a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution.”
>Here's an interesting article from Buzzfeed that places our divisions and the potential for violence over the longer term into the larger context of rising inequality.



Kelley Lynch (00:00:04):

Hey, I'm going to go get a trolley.

Cindy Sealls (00:00:07):


Kelley Lynch & Cindy Sealls (00:00:21):

So what did we need again? Gas can. Oh yeah, for the generator? I think there were other here. Oh, here's one. Are we forgetting anything? Uh, we have, let's see, you already have emergency food, water containers, flashlights, chargers. I think we've got everything.

Kelley Lynch (00:00:56):

You know, this whole thing just still feels so weird to me. I feel like some sort of conspiracy theorist or some sort of prepper person. Um, it's just weird. I mean, this is an election and this is America.

Cindy Sealls (00:01:20):

It suddenly occurred to me as we're standing here in home Depot with masks on, thank you for shopping at the home Depot buying supplies in case there is some trouble with a contested election. I almost want to say is this one of my covid dreams?

Kelley Lynch (00:01:44):

I wish it was one of your COVID dreams.

Cindy Sealls (00:02:00):

Hi, I'm Cindy and I'm Kelly. Welcome to a new normal, a podcast about re-imagining a future that starts with each one of us.

Kelley Lynch (00:02:09):

You know, today with concerns around the election at a fever pitch, we're talking about a topic that has us alternately feeling like Chicken Little and Pollyanna. And yet I think we're not alone because everywhere you look, it seems people are prepping for this election. Officials in closely contested States are preparing for potential election related violence. Wall street is bracing for election related market turbulence. There are podcasts about war games simulations around the election and the months that will follow it. And the Carter Center, which routinely oversees elections in countries where democracy is under severe threat has for the first time in its history, trained its eyes on an election in the United States, and many would say with good reason. The president has stoked fears of voter fraud; actively sought to limit which ballots will be counted and of course, flirted with the possibility of an authoritarian power grab by suggesting that he's iffy about a peaceful transfer of power, should he lose the election. Add to this, the feelings of anger, distrust, grievance, and partisan division. And it looks like we're headed into an election season that will be if nothing else interesting.

Cindy Sealls (00:03:40):

And so when a friend forwarded an email about a training that would help us prepare for the possibility of a contested election, we decided it was definitely worth our virtual attendance. The training called Choose Democracy was designed by civil rights, veteran George Lakey, and has been taken by tens of thousands of people. It's premise can be distilled into a few simple sentences. We will vote and we will refuse to accept election results until all of the votes are counted. And if this, the most basic principle of democracy is denied, then we the people will defend our democracy through non-violent protest. Now it's important to say here that no one candidate is supported for the win. The objective is simply that democratic processes are honored and all votes are counted. Of course, this year many scenarios suggest that the election may not play out over a day or even a week, but more like the 2000 election in a season. About a week after the training, we sat down with facilitators, Michael Levi, a long-term activist schooled in nonviolence and Elaine Duncan, a healer and author of the Tao of trauma whose East meets West approach to trauma feels more needed than ever. We hope you find our conversation useful.

Kelley Lynch (00:05:07):

And one last thing we hope you'll stay tuned after this conversation for a short conversation with our co-host Tanvir in Bangladesh, a country that has definitely seen its fair share of struggles for democracy,

Cindy Sealls (00:05:23):

Michael and Lainie, welcome to the podcast.

Michael Levi (00:05:28):

Thank you. I'm delighted to be here.

Kelley Lynch (00:05:31):

Maybe you guys could tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do, and then we'll go from there.

Michael Levi (00:05:37):

All right. So my name is Michael Levi. I'm a member of Adelphi Friends Meeting, a Quaker. Before I had children so many, many years ago, I was very involved with the peace movement, the anti intervention movement, the anti-nuclear movement, and among other things spent many of my evenings and weekends training people in non-violence in civil disobedience and in how to be effective politically. How to bring peaceful, but radical change to a world that desperately needs it. And just a few weeks ago in our Quaker Meeting, someone gave a message and started by quoting the saying that the antidote to helplessness is action and kind of elaborated on that a bit and changed it a little to the antidote to helplessness is community. And to me that just resonated. In this moment where it is so easy to feel despair, to kind of watch catastrophe unfolding in an almost inevitable way, the thought that we can take action and that we don't have to take action by ourselves, but we can do it with community. Just kind of sets off a light bulb in my head and it just changes everything. And so in my mind, that's what Laney and I are trying to achieve here. It is trying to help ourselves, but others as well to see that we can be actors, we don't have to be the audience. And if we do it with others, we're more powerful. We're safer. We're more likely to be effective and we will get the sustenance. We need to keep us going.

Lainie Duncan (00:08:00):

So I'm Elaine Duncan. I go by Laine to my friends. I'm an acupuncturist. I'm also a fellow member of Adelphi Friends Meeting with Michael. I'm an acupuncturist with a kind of unique specialization in the integration of neurobiology of traumatic stress with acupuncture nation medicine. And I've developed quite an interest in the study of trauma and how it influences not only individuals, but also our nation. So I've watched the summer unfold and watch the, what I would call from this integrative perspective, the sympathetic arousal that's come on the streets and also watched the energy body of our nation expand. There's more space in our energy body for a broader conversation about issues of race, issues of the environment, issues of COVID-19. There's a wider conversation and a bigger conversation. And in fact, there's been some movement and change towards creating a bigger world. We've engaged in a much broader dialogue about white supremacy and about transgender rights and all kinds of things. And I think that's been because we've been able to release some of the sympathetic arousal that's been thwarted and not allowed to express itself really for generations. So I've kind of developed this real fascination for looking at our nation through this lens of trauma physiology. And through this lens of the role that healers can play in creating a better world for us all to live in.

Cindy Sealls (00:09:47):

Tell us more about the choose democracy training.

Michael Levi (00:09:53):

Choose Democracy is a, it's really a network founded by George Lakey, who is a very long time, um, activist, uh, going back to the civil rights movement and pretty much every movement for social change since then. And they, as well as many other people in this country have identified the period from election day to inauguration day as a time of great risk with a real potential for a power grab, an illegitimate power grab. And what Choose Democracy is insisting upon is that every valid ballot be counted. That the election not be declared finished until all those ballots are counted. And that whoever has won the vote becomes the next precedent. And there's concern that in particular Donald Trump will not respect that. And there's a number of different scenarios that that would fall under the umbrella of illegitimate power grab.

Michael Levi (00:11:23):

So Choose Democracy is, is trying to do, and what Lainie and I are helping with is kind of a two phase approach to this. One is to do our best to prevent a power grab from taking place in the first place. And that means organizing and being visible before the election. So that a coup is discouraged and doesn't happen in the first place, but then also being prepared to take action if such a coup occurs sometime between the election and inauguration. A lot of this work is based on a great deal of research into coups around the world over the last 50 years. What makes them successful? What makes them fail? And the evidence shows that coups are typically defeated within a matter of days three to five days, maybe as long as two as two weeks, but that's kind of pushing it. And after a certain time period has passed, the power grab becomes entrenched and becomes much more difficult to overturn.

Michael Levi (00:12:42):

The second is that the magic tipping point is when about three and a half percent of the population visibly opposes the coup. And that there have been few, if any instances of coups in the last 30, 40 years, which were opposed by three and a half percent of the population that were successful. In other words, once you hit three and a half percent and in the United States, that's between 11 and 12 million people, once you hit that point coups fail, period. So mobilizing people, getting people to be visibly supporting democratic process democratic rule is absolutely essential. Um, and then the third facet is that non-violent opposition to a coup is dramatically more successful from a purely pragmatic basis, two or three times as successful as violent opposition to a coup. And again, this has been borne out empirically in case after case. So what we're trying to do is first of all, prevent a coup from happening in the first place, but then should we find ourselves in a situation where there's an illegitimate power grab, that people are ready to act rapidly and effectively because we have days; we only have days to make a big difference.

Kelley Lynch (00:14:27):

I could see people saying that this is all a bit alarmist, and I could also see that one of the big questions would be at what point do you take action? Because I think it's like that, that old story of the frog boiling in the water, right? I mean, it gets hotter and hotter. And, and particularly with what we've seen to this point, it's a very slippery thing. You know, the envelope gets pushed and then things kind of move into that space and you just think, okay, we should have stopped this. Well, we should have stopped that. You could see that there's a very slippery progression and it would be very hard to know potentially when to get involved and thus, you know, you could also feel very alarmist, like, you know, you could be running around and people will be like, ah, you're a chicken little, come on. So how do you think about that?

Michael Levi (00:15:20):

I have to agree that there is a piece of me that just feels silly talking about a coup in the United States. I think there's just kind of this real cognitive dissonance, where I was raised to think of the United States as the beacon of democracy, the model for the world, the example of successful democracy for centuries. And so to seriously contemplate the fact that that might end and it might end within the next month or two. Um, there's a piece of me that feels like, you know, you're overreacting. Um, that's ridiculous. You've turned into one of these paranoid people that you always sneered at. And yet the political situation, certainly in the last four years, but it didn't really even start four years ago. It's been going on for a while, has led me to believe that it is rational, not to assume that a coup is inevitable, but that it's a real possibility. You know, the presidents on well for a long time refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power is a pretty strong signal.

Michael Levi (00:16:46):

And he's made some movement away from that in recent days, but it's hard to know what to believe. And, you know, the possibility that a large number of ballots will not be counted or that competing, uh, delegations to the electoral college will be appointed; that a state of emergency could be declared at some point and, um, used to work, uh, the democratic process or that the president could simply refuse to leave the white house. These just don't seem like wild fantasies anymore. They truly seem like plausible scenarios. And I think your analogy of the frog and the slowly heating water is a very good one. It is conceivable that there will be a point where it's like, it's very clear. It just happened, but we're not talking about kind of the stereotypical scenario where, you know, the troops storm the presidential palace and take over the national television station.

Michael Levi (00:17:58):

You know, that's not how it's going to work in the United States. It will be gradual though, potentially rapid. It would be really nice if there were a single respected authority who could tell us, okay, the line has been crossed, go, and here's what you need to do. That's not going to happen. That's not the way it works. This is where we individually and collectively have to take responsibility. And we have to assess the situation and say, okay, now the line has been crossed and we need to start acting. That could be at slightly different points for different people. But I do think the general sense will be fairly clear. There's going to be a great number of people looking at what's unfolding and talking about what's unfolding, taking action in response to what's unfolding. And the important thing is that we not rely on, you know, some other authority to tell us, but that we take agency in this, that we trust our own instincts. Um, or our instincts with those of our communities and move when it feels necessary.

Lainie Duncan (00:19:18):

I just want to add just a little bit, because in some ways the coup is already happening in terms of voter suppression, attacks on the postal service that don't allow if the efficient movement of mail, lack of locations for voting, pushing through a Supreme Court justice that is going to tilt the court in a dramatic way so that if the election lands in the Supreme court, there's a certain predictability about what might happen. So to me, like focusing on the election is creating an, an environment and perhaps a culture for us to cultivate relationships and cultivate meaningful responses in our communities to help preserve peace, to help preserve the honoring the voice of every individual in our country. Ensuring the rights of all voices to be heard. It's part of our ongoing challenge to create the world that we want.

Lainie Duncan (00:20:18):

And we can name, you know, November 3rd is as the dating question, but really it's today. It's now it's. How do I relate to my neighbors? How do I relate to people who are new to my country, who left the land of their ancestors and are trying to make a new world here? Just like many of our ancestors did, some of our ancestors came against their will. How do we help create a world that's welcoming for everyone? It's today. It's not November 3rd. And I think that the challenge is how do we approach these kinds of questions in a way that ensures that we're approaching them from a point of view of relationship and not just simple reactivity? You know, it's easy when we feel threatened to want to throw sand in our friend's face or kick down their sandcastle, but we have to be able to inhibit those kinds of impulsive actions that are antisocial and don't build community.

Lainie Duncan (00:21:20):

Don't build trust between people who are different from us. How do we inhibit those? And instead respond through diplomatic kinds of ways that involve our voice, our sense of relationship, our sense of connection with each other. So it's very connected to trauma physiology, actually, how we're going to relate to each other and how are we going to solve our nation's problems? How are we going to make use of our more mature, more human aspect of our physiology and less use of that reactive, violent, more primitive style of thinking that's rigid, black and white impulsive, and so on. We need to cultivate regulation and relationship so that we can operate in a higher human function.

Kelley Lynch (00:22:04):


Kelley Lynch (00:22:21):

Maybe you guys could a little bit more about non-violence and what's productive and, and how that works for change. And, um, you know, it seemed this summer kind of like it's, maybe it's a little bit out of favor, you know, I mean, there was a lot of clashing and it was happening from, with people from both sides.

Michael Levi (00:22:49):

The black lives matter protests over the summer were overwhelmingly peaceful. There were instances of violence, but I do not believe that they, in any way represent the movement that took place since the killing of George Floyd, I'm some protesters will become overwrought and take actions that they might not under other circumstances. And sometimes it's just the rage boils over and people do act out of that undiluted frustration and anger. What you did see was a lot of people in crowds, speaking with their peers, doing their best to calm them. And I think that's really important. So nonviolence, like I said, the research shows that it is very, it is extremely effective.

Michael Levi (00:23:49):

And, you know, when I look at the kind of movements that have adopted nonviolence, there's kind of three places that these come from one is a religious or ethical basis. And Quakers clearly are one of those groups, but it's by no means limited to Quakers. There's a strong non-violent strain in say Catholicism in Protestant Christianity, but also in other faith traditions. Obviously, um, Gandhi was admitted the whole concept of a hemostat, which is non harm is essential to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Janism.

Michael Levi (00:24:32):

Um, so that's, that's, you know, actually substantial percentage of the world population and Islam. I mean, Islam is a religion of peace and there is a strong non-violent strain running through Islamic theology, going back a very long time. So that there's kind of the religious ethical strain. There's the strategic strain, which does not come from kind of a philosophical ground. And, but it's really kind of coldly pragmatic, disciplined non-violence works. And history shows that it works at least as often and probably more often than violence.

Michael Levi (00:25:31):

I mean, you know, the reality is the most opposition to entrenched power fails across the board. That's why we call it entrenched power. And, you know, whether you're violent or not, the likelihood is that entrenched power has all the tools to stay in power. But so, we look at the successful resistance. There have been a number of scholars, especially over the last 40 years, who have studied this and purely pragmatically on nonviolence is effective. And then there's the kind of tactical approach, which is in this situation right now, nonviolence seems to be the best tactic we have. The danger there is that it's easy to stray. I mean, I remember the first time I got a Billy club to the head and up until that point, I was like, I'm going to be non-violent. And there was a period afterwards where I was just so angry about this, you know, that I really questioned it. So I think tactical non-violence is dangerous because it's easy to kind of fall off the wagon. I think strategic nonviolence is probably the center that really matters here.

Michael Levi (00:26:53):

When we think about nonviolence, sometimes we think about civil disobedience, you know, sit-ins that sort of thing. But the range of tactics is much, much broader than that. Ranging from talking to neighbors or putting a sign in your window or in your front yard, and then including things like strikes or boycotts, um, simply refusing to cooperate with institutions that are unjust all the way to demonstrations, picket lines, civil disobedience, um, you know, direct action. So, there's really a very broad spectrum to choose from. And, you know, a boycott, there's nothing violent about a boycott. There's nothing illegal about a boycott. It's simply refusing to purchase something.

Michael Levi (00:27:52):

A sick out, you know, calling in sick to work, an organized sick-out. There's nothing illegal about not going to work one day. Um, but it can have enormous effect. When you look at the Montgomery bus boycott, as an example of simply refusing to do what is expected of you; to participate in things as usual. Now, the boycotters in Montgomery paid a price for this. Among other things, there were many people who walked for miles for hours to get to work, but this boycott transformed the climate, not only in the public transportation system and not only in Montgomery, but nationwide. And this is the kind of effect that disciplined non-violence can have. And coming back to some of the things we were talking about earlier, what piece of ourselves do we bring to this? I do think it's critical to come to political action from a position of centeredness as best we are able.

Michael Levi (00:29:06):

So, you know, one of the techniques in confrontation say, a demonstration where there are counter-demonstrators is to look at the people who are yelling at you and smile and look them in the eye and speak softly. Now I've been thinking that's much harder. It's not harder to do, but the effect will be different when you're wearing a mask because the smile is not obvious. And so I've been thinking a lot about that actually. And two things struck me. First of all, that we also smile with our eyes, but perhaps equally important. If I am smiling, I have the right attitude to diffuse the situation, whether anyone else sees it or not, it puts me in a place where I am likely to be much more effective in de-escalating the threat, whether anyone else knows about it or not. And it reminded me, I used to do, I used to be a peacekeeper for demonstrations.

Michael Levi (00:30:21):

And so a group of us would kind of be responsible for maintaining the peaceful nature of often very large demonstrations. And I remember kind of being at the edge of a demonstration with, I don't know how many thousand people and getting a call over my radio, saying there was a potential disturbance on the far side of the crowd. And could we get there as fast as possible because we might need to intervene and peacekeepers typically have arm bands or t-shirts or hats or something that identifies them as such. And so you can imagine that a group of, you know, kind of the moral equivalent of people wearing uniforms, running through a crowd with serious looks on their faces is not going to calm things down. It's going to alarm everybody. So we said, so how can we get to the other side of the crowd really quickly without alarming anyone?

Michael Levi (00:31:19):

And what we did was we started skipping and we started singing the Wizard of Oz song, you know, we're off to see the wizard. You can skip really quickly. So it's almost as fast as running. You know, it was very effective as a tool to get to the other side of the crowd. Everyone that we passed in the demonstration smiled at us. And when we got to the disturbance, we were all really happy, you know, because you can't skip and sing and not be happy. So we entered the confrontation feeling good. So that's the kind of piece of ourselves that we can bring to confrontation, where we can deescalate situations, where we can be very effective. Even through silliness. We make a difference.

Lainie Duncan (00:32:28):

I heard your comment earlier, Kelly, about the summer and the arousal out on the streets and bouncing off of what Michael said. And also what you said. I want to just jump in with a little bit of neurophysiology. There's very interesting research. It's called epigenetics. It says that if my generations that preceded me experienced threat, experienced trauma, but their ability to protect and defend themselves and others who were vulnerable was thwarted. They were unable to complete their punch. Held back from running that forwarded arousal will influence the genetic imprint of their ancestors. So for example, they did some fascinating research with mice, where they put male mice in a cage and put electric shocks in the floor of the cage and pumped in the smell of cherry blossoms. At the same time, it became true that they could just pump in the cherry blossom smell without any electrical current and the mice would go into arousal. They put some female mice in there, mated the females, took the males out before the pups were born and their pups, you put cherry blossom smell in the cage and their pups would go into arousal.

Lainie Duncan (00:33:46):

And that went on for several generations. All that was needed was the cherry blossom smell. So daddy granddaddy, great granddaddy actually was sending the message to their heirs, If you smell cherry blossoms, you need to be worried. You need to respond. You need to react. So that obviously mice are much less complicated than human beings, but there's been fascinating research in that adverse childhood experiences research in the centers for disease control about intergenerational up to three generations in human beings of Holocaust survivors, of oppressed nationalities, of people who have generations of war behind them, that they're going to have arousal in their system. That's one thing that I think is really relevant because it then plays into higher levels of mortality and morbidity with COVID because immune systems in communities of color, because our immune system is less effective when it's influenced by traumatic stress.

Lainie Duncan (00:34:50):

So it's kind of too much to think that a community of people who have experienced generations of threat before them, when that arousal has a chance to be expressed that it's going to be polite or it's going to be measured, or it's going to be even all the time. So that's one thing that we know from release of stress. The other thing, and this kind of dovetails into your instructions, Michael, that there's what we call a neurologic platform in our autonomic nervous system. Then it's about our capacity to have relationship. So the more that we're able to experience safety and relationship, the more able we are to mitigate impulsive, potentially violent actions and the ventral vagus nerve to be exact that helps us be in relationship and resolve conflicts in the context of diplomacy, rather than knock your socks off. It enervates the smile, wrinkles around our eyes. It enervates our whole face. It enervates our capacity to hear distinctions of sound. So we can hear tone of voice and recognize safety and relationship when we use low tones, when we speak more slowly, we're more likely to feel safe and connected. Then if we're running fast and making a lot of noise.

Lainie Duncan (00:36:18):

So we can consciously use these techniques of smiling underneath our mask, because our smile shows up on our whole face. It isn't only on our mouth. And we can use quieter voice, softer voice, slower pace as techniques to help people feel safe. And when they feel safe, they're more able to make decisions and choices that include the seven generations that are coming after as well as the seven generations that came before. And that's what we want to be able to achieve as peacemakers is the ability to take in the whole community and the future, and honor the past. So consciously using these approaches that put us on what I call a neurologic platform that allows for diplomacy and problem solving instead of reactivity, we're going to be better off.

Cindy Sealls (00:37:18):

Say something happens and we make a decision. I make a decision Kelley. We say, Hey, let's go out here. And we're going to do our nonviolent thing in a crowd of people. How do you get people to buy into that behavior that you all just described? When, you know, when we're out here showing that we are not supporting this person with this kind of behavior. You know, usually when, when you go to a protest, it's like, Hey, Hey, ho ho you know, everybody's yelling.

Lainie Duncan (00:37:53):

And there's lots of ways to help your body access. This more regulated aspect of our nervous system. That's going to be more effective in a situation like this. So one thing is, don't go alone. Go with a friend, someone who you trust, and you have a caring relationship with so that you can co-regulate with each other, because auto-egulation arises out of co-regulation with your pal.

Lainie Duncan (00:38:23):

Then there are things like singing a song or a chat actually stimulates that nerve that helps us make decisions out of relationship. So sing a song that has some meaning to you and sing it with other people so that the vibration is being carried from person to person and being enhanced through the context of relationship. There's also this very interesting thing. If we rock ourselves, we will self-soothe. This is why our parents walked the floors with us when we were infants and we couldn't soothe ourselves. They used this technique of rocking. So you may be in a crowd where you're swaying as a community. You're actually helping to regulate your nervous system and keep by a regulated nervous system. We'll be able to make subtle and nuanced choices instead of reactive impulsive ones, like throwing a bottle that might be acting out, but would be strategically less effective at calming a situation down and harnessing a group energy field that makes something impossible to happen, which is what we want to do. We want to harness the energy of a large group of people that says, no, we're going to count all the votes. We need to create a culture that an energy field that ensures democracy.

Michael Levi (00:40:04):

I just wanted to echo and reinforce what Lainie said. If you're going to go to a demonstration, go with a friend, but ideally go with a group of friends with whom you have already discussed, how far you're willing to go, what you're willing to do, what you think is effective in different situations. I mean, I call those affinity groups. I understand the current term of art is democracy pods, which I love. The second thing is that in fact, crowds are very suggestible that that's one of the power powers, but also dangers of crowds. So there was an example this summer at a Black Lives Matter protest in Philadelphia, where police started to throw tear gas at demonstrators. And the typical reaction if you're being gassed is to run. And when a large group of people starts running, it is just physically dangerous for those involved, you know, people get jostled, people could fall, people could get trampled.

Michael Levi (00:41:17):

You kind of lose perspective in a potentially harmful way. One of the demonstrators raised their hand and started saying, at the top of, chanting at the top of their lungs, walk slowly, walk slowly and model the behavior and turn to the person next to them and says, do what I'm doing. And the second person did and other people did. And that whole portion of the crowd, instead of running walked slowly away from the tear gas. One's influence can go way beyond yourself and the people, you know. In a situation like that, being clear as to what you're advocating and doing it in a calm way can influence an enormous number of people. But the last thing I wanted to say to this is that non-violence and conflict are not an opposition. Non-violence is an approach to conflict. It is not pretending conflict does not exist. It is not escaping conflict. It is active participation in conflict in a non-violent manner. So to me, a crowd that is chanting is a wonderful thing. It is people taking back their power being clear. This is one technique of non-violent action.

Lainie Duncan (00:43:09):

The one thing I'd like to add to what Michael said about sort of the benefit of being in relationship and being in an experience of safety in a group is that we're more able to make this important distinction between I'm uncomfortable and I'm unsafe. Because if I mistake being uncomfortable for being unsafe, I'm more likely to do a really stupid violent thing. Every time an African-American young man gets shot, the person who did the shooting says, I was scared for my life. I didn't feel safe, but they weren't unsafe. They were blowing their own anxiety, their own discomfort through someone else's body. So we need to be able to have that moment of time between the impulse. "I don't feel safe." And our action that can discern "is it that I'm uncomfortable or is it that I'm unsafe?" And if I'm uncomfortable, can I look at why I'm uncomfortable and maybe create a little more space around that?

Lainie Duncan (00:44:25):

I think that's really what our world is asking us to do is to create a little more space so that we don't act out these impulsive, reactive, potentially violent anti-social kinds of actions. And instead can deal with our discomfort, to deal with why am I this uncomfortable? Why is that so? What can I do with myself to help myself feel more safe and more in greater and deeper relationship so that I can create the world that I want to create.

Lainie Duncan (00:45:04):

As a healer, I'm committed to helping people understand the impact of historic and current trauma on our ability to be human beings with each other. I'm really committed to that as a tool for social transformation. The question is how do we work with our own nervous system so that when someone is in front of us and we really disagree with them, we really think their idea is leading our country in the wrong direction; and we start to feel that urge to protect and defend. We start to feel that urge into what I'll call sympathetic arousal. We want to punch their lights out, basically. So how do we stay in relationship, especially if it's uncle Fred, you know, or, or sister Sue, you know, like people who we actually love in spite of having a disagreement with them, how do we stay in ourselves and in relationship enough so that we can continue the conversation in a more thoughtful way and actually come to a conclusion. Because while I don't think that all sides are equal, there are elements of value in what everybody has to say.

Lainie Duncan (00:46:19):

And the person who's saying the thing that's really racist or really homophobic, or really expressing a violent solution. Like they're coming to that state of mind out of their own contracted experience of a threat. They feel threatened. So the more they feel threatened, the more likely they're going to have these kinds of narrow, rigid thought patterns. So our energy field, our ventral vagus nerve, which emanates from our hearts, it actually has a vibrational field of six to eight feet. So that the more that we can stay regulated when we're talking with someone who is six to eight feet away from us, we can actually influence the regulation that's in their energy field, by having a loving presence, having a thoughtful, slowed down pace, using a deeper tone of voice.

Lainie Duncan (00:47:19):

Help me understand. Express curiosity, not judgment. Like how can I understand that? I have this friend who's, who's, uh, who's gay, who's transgendered. They are pretty meaningful and important person to me. How can you, how do you reconcile that for me? When you say that really narrow, rigid thing? You know, make it relational, make it personal and, and try not to shout, you know, the election is going to happen on November 3rd, but the the sense of arousal in our nation is not going to be done on November 4th. These dynamics of needing to help bring some regulation to our communities from the outside, in terms of the political structures, as well as from the inside of individuals finding regulation for themselves. Those two things need to continue to be happening in partnership with each other. It's a bigger dynamic that we're going to be figuring out how to resolve for probably for years to come.

Lainie Duncan (00:48:30):

You were going to leave the listeners with some tools or some things that they could look into. Some things that they could do. Some things that they could kind of take away. What would that be for you?

Michael Levi (00:48:45):

I think it would be that no one is going to come and magically save us. We are responsible for saving ourselves and you don't have to be a hero. You don't have to be a Saint. You don't have to be extraordinary in any way. All you need to be is yourself. To stand firm for the things in which you believe. To speak with your family, your friends, your neighbors, and find people who will act with you. Power can come from the bottom up. The most effective power comes from the bottom up, and it is our responsibility and our opportunity. We can make the world a better place. We just need to stop waiting for people to tell us how to do it. We need to do it ourselves.

Cindy Sealls (00:49:44):

Lainie, you shared this great meditation at the start of our training session. And I wondered if you'd like to share that now.

Lainie Duncan (00:50:01):

So give yourself a moment to simply find yourself in your chair. Maybe check in with your bones and invite them to be heavy. Invite your muscles and your soft tissue to be soft so that your bones can sink and settle into your body.

Lainie Duncan (00:50:24):

And maybe you're in a space where you have a window and you can look outside and maybe there's something beautiful out there, a tree or some clouds or bright sun stars, whatever you see out there. Just let yourself look outside and see what you find that you find pleasant. And notice what happens as you shift your attention from your, the worries of your day, the challenges of your day to that tree. It's quite magnificent and amazing. What happens inside you? There might be some movement. There might be some stillness might be a change in your breath or your sense of tension in your tissue.

Lainie Duncan (00:51:19):

And then bring your attention into the room that you're in. See if there's maybe a piece of art or photograph, a special book that's meaningful to you, a color that you like. Just look for pleasure. Let yourself look for pleasure and notice what happens.

Lainie Duncan (00:51:54):

Maybe you feel heavier. Maybe you feel lighter. Maybe you feel more present. Just notice. And I'd love for you to bring to mind. Next, the next layer bring to mind a person, someone alive or dead, might be a pet, could be four legged might be two legged. Bring to mind someone who either holds you in high regard, respects you, someone who you feel safe when you're in their presence. Someone who's always encouraging or relational and loving. Someone who cares about you. Could be someone from long ago. Might be a grandparent, school teacher, an aunt or uncle. Just invite them to come and be with you.

Lainie Duncan (00:53:00):

And again, notice any movement, any stillness, any emotions or meanings that come up, any sense of safe connection, relationship, ease, coherence, congruence. And I invite you to use this person, this creature, or this state of being, this experience. You can bookmark it. You can take a snapshot of how you're feeling with this person, with you. And as you fall off to sleep tonight, bring this experience back to you. So you fall into sleep with this little bit more regulated state, this ally, this comforting presence with you, and you can invite them to come along with you when you're going into a challenging situation. They can help you be more reflective and less reactive.

Lainie Duncan (00:54:46):

They can help you hold a longer scope - the seven generation. They can help you choose a diplomatic solution instead of an abrupt, potentially violent solution. They can help you distinguish I'm uncomfortable from I'm unsafe. And when you feel ready, you can, if you've closed your eyes, you can open them. Come back to the room. Maybe just note one word for how you feel differently and let that one word be your anchor point that brings you back to this place.

Kelley Lynch (00:54:46):


Lainie Duncan (00:55:41):

Thank you, Laney, so much.

Lainie Duncan (00:55:45):

Yeah. It's, it's amazing what we can do really to shift our neurology to more productive and helpful states of being.

Kelley & Cindy (00:55:56):

Thanks, Michael. Thanks, Lainie. Take care. Yeah, you too. Bye bye.

Kelley Lynch (00:56:12):

Hey Tanvir. For me listening to that and even, even going to home Depot like Cindy and I did, we bought a generator. We've got no, I've been buying an emergency radio bunch of batteries. Um, some emergency food. I mean, but, but you know, I mean, in all honesty, I mean, these are things I should have done a long, long time ago in preparation for any kind of a storm or anything else, but so now it's there, but I can't, I can't help but feel that it, I mean, it feels like overreacting. It feels like you're some sort of kooky crazy person. And yet I was reading yesterday that like people on wall street are prepping. I mean, then there was a radio lab episode that I listened to and it was all about how these very high-level people had done essentially war games, simulations about all of this and what would happen.

Kelley Lynch (00:57:19):

And they had four different scenarios that they played out. And then I know Cindy and I have some friends like one friend we went walking with and she is not an alarmist person at all, but she was buying iodine tablets in case there was a dirty bomb. I mean, I'm not kidding you. I am not getting you. It feels so crazy, but the problem is, if something happens, then you're like, Oh, why didn't I do anything? You know, I mean, what an idiot I was, cause I didn't prepare. But, but in the moment you feel like totally an over-reactor. I think what's driving us at the moment is fear of what the other side might do or more truthfully, perhaps fear of what the president may do. And thus what might happen as a result, because he has a lot of power in this situation.

Kelley Lynch (00:58:30):

He could say, I want to stop counting votes, or he could push a conflict. So when we were in Bangladesh, there was so much that went on with cartels and you know, the general strikes and all the other political unrest. But you have lived through so much more political unrest than I ever have. And I mean, at that point, of course, we were under the protection of the embassy, you know, in that case, the high commission. And so I think we lived through it really differently. I remember one story about a guy driving a land Rover and he drove it on a hartal day and he got down to the center of town and somebody said to him, "Excuse me, sir, could you please step out of your car? We'd like to burn it." Suppose you didn't hear these stories at the, at the British High Commission, they were very popular. So obviously being foreign, being white, we had a very different experience. I mean, for us, it was just stay inside your house. But for you as a Bangladeshi, you were living it in a different way. And I don't think I appreciated that at that point.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir (00:59:44):

Yeah. I think the sentence that you are looking for is fear of unknown. And so these, these ideas running wild, and it's been fueled by all this misinformation. That is one aspect of it. The other aspect of it is like, yes, you are very right. When you say that when all those things happened, while you were here, you were immune as a foreigner. As a general culture, whatever happens within ourselves, we are happy to settle it within ourselves. Bangladeshis don't want to hurt, especially guests. Foreigners are always guests. So that's why, you know, like I would very much believe that the story, although it's feels like a bit exaggerated that, you know, excuse me, sorry.

Kelley Lynch (01:00:40):

Well, you know, you know the power of British storytelling, right?

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir (01:00:44):


Kelley Lynch (01:00:45):

As somebody who's lived through political unrest, how do you manage that?

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir (01:00:53):

You're forced to adapt. This adaptability makes you resilient to all these political changes. You have never seen this. You have a steady, smooth lifestyle. That's makes it difficult for you to adjust. It's like you're driving on a fantastically paved highway. And then you have this one patch - a mile long patch, which is really rough and, you know, full of potholes and things like that. When you have a smooth highway, you drive like 60, 70 miles an hour. And suddenly you jump into this pothole ridden patch and the car starts flying all over the road, you know, jumping all over the road and you have zero control of the car.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir (01:01:45):

It's something like that. All your life, you have been driving on this high-speed, you know, no obstacle road and suddenly it's a different kind of road that you have. You are not prepared to navigate. That's what makes it frightening. Again, if I go for the car analogy, the cars are made to withstand potholes. You don't know how much strength is in your car because you have never put it to the test.

Kelley Lynch (01:02:15):

So that's like the that's an interesting point. Actually.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir (01:02:20):

You're democratic,--all the institutions which uphold the democracy, you have never put them to the test.

Kelley Lynch (01:02:26):

Probably the civil war. But I mean, we've changed a lot since then. So would you say that what you have learned from your experience would then be entirely different, do you think from, from ours? I mean, because you're coming from a different kind of country with a newer democracy.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir (01:02:48):

But in the end, you're dealing with people. People all over the world are the same. They may look different. They may feel different, but the basic human qualities are the same. So I am banking on that basic human quality. And with 200 years of smooth driving, you may have become a bit soft, but deep down inside, you still getting those basic human qualities. So I'm not worried for you. You will have a rough patch like the COVID itself. Like Cindy was saying that she misses history. Now she has seen history firsthand. This would be something that would be similar. You'd see what we go through day in, day out in the so-called third world countries.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir (01:03:51):

In the '80s, early 80's, the elected president was murdered and the interim government, like the democratized system, the interim government tookover. But at one point, the army chief took over the power and he was the dictator who ran the country for 10 years. And after 10 years people had enough of his corruption and basically lack of democracy in the system that they thought enough is enough.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir (01:04:38):

And so there was like a regular unrest for three months, huge unrest. And one day suddenly everybody came out to the streets. They were not protesting. They just came out to the streets. And there were military with machine guns. And the vehicles patrolling the streets and they could not move because literally the whole street was packed with people who did not about the bullets or the machine guns or the military. They just stood there. Non-violent they were not threatening anybody. And you know, at that point, the military gave up. You know, it was like overwhelming. So they joined the people and they forced Ershad to resign. Every situation is like a domino effect. Once one thing falls, it starts a chain reaction and things changed rapidly. Like within 24 hours, everything changed and Ershad was gone. Such is the power of people.

Kelley Lynch (01:06:06):

So, any last parting words of wisdom that you have before? I mean, because it's possible. I mean, I'm sure I'll talk to you on election day or election night, but any parting words before we head down this last track to the election?

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir (01:06:28):

This is going to be a long road. So brace yourself for that. Don't think that with all the system, this is going to end soon. Healing will take such a long time. It's so easy to break a system, but to rebuild a system takes so much effort, so much time and so much strength. So the only thing that I hope and pray for you as a nation, that you have that strength and that you have that perseverance to withstand that long struggle ahead.

Kelley Lynch (01:07:13):

Thank you. All right. Talk to you soon.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir (01:07:17):

Take care. Bye.

Kelley Lynch (01:07:19):


Kelley Lynch (01:07:28):

We're so glad you're still here. I know this was a really long episode, but I hope you found it useful, but just wanted to remind you that we've got our website, a new normal podcast.com. That's where you can subscribe to the podcast and to our newsletter, you can read reviews, you can leave reviews and we would love for you to do that. You can also find more information about us and get in touch in the coming weeks. We're going to be featuring people who are being the change in their own communities. And we've already got a few of those people lined up, but we would love to hear from you. If you've got a good story, please click on contact and get in touch. We're not quite sure what's happening next week. I think most of America is not quite sure what's happening next week. We will be back, be sure and vote and take good care. See you later.