A DANGEROUS WOMAN: Exposing the Dark Underbelly of the Nonprofit World and How Cancel Culture Came for Me, Chapter One
Below is the beginning of this chapter. To read the entire chapter please got to : November 8, 2016–A Night of Nightmares and Miracles – Break Free with Karen Hunt (substack.com)
Or, if you’re like to listen, you can hear my readings at Break Free with Karen Hunt • A podcast on Anchor
November 8, 2016 was a night of nightmares for some and miracles for others. It’s hard to imagine an event that has caused greater division in our nation than the election of Donald Trump as president. A man “of the people” as many saw him. For others, a man who threatened the stability of the status quo. Certainly everyone agreed he was an outsider. Unpredictable. Trump was not a puppet of the Washington DC democratic or republican establishment. Both sides hated him. How had this even happened? He wasn’t a politician or a beloved actor. He was a reality show host, for goodness sake. A huckster. Gaudy and gauche. He could have cared less about Hollywood or the corporate elite. He said what he felt and he didn’t filter it.
The common folk listened and saw themselves in him. Those common folk who lived in what the cultured East and West coasters liked to call the “fly by States.” Those common folk who would come to be known as “deplorables.”
Don’t the erudite upper classes ever learn from history?
As one of my favorite authors, C. S. Lewis, says in That Hideous Strength: “Why you fool, it’s the educated reader who CAN be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they’re all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the high-brow weeklies, don’t need reconditioning. They’re all right already. They’ll believe anything.”
Never have words from the past so applied to present-day circumstances. As I point out in my article Happily Slipping into Our Straight Jackets, it’s been a slow and insidious “drugging” of the United States people. Not surprisingly, it’s the common folk who have refused to take their medicine.
That night wasn’t just about the shocking revelations on every news channel. No night, or day, ever is. Billions of people were going about their normal lives, with all their personal joys and sorrows. Babies were born, grandparents died. Parents worried about paying bills. Arguments ended friendships and marriage proposals were made. Families ate dinners in front of the TV and watched the news. Some cheered, some booed, many were too busy to care. Life went on.
For Silvia Sanchez and her family, this night meant more than all the other nights before it and all the nights to come after. And it had nothing to do with who became president.
This was the night Silvia Sanchez returned home after more than twenty years in prison. No fanfare in the press, no public statement from a prominent attorney, no patting on anyone’s back or big congratulations. Just the long slow journey of one human being overcoming personal tribulations, never giving up, her family always standing by her.
For me, that night was a mixture of hope and trepidation. I’d had plenty of experiences being silenced for my thoughts and ideas in the past. I knew the signs. I knew I couldn’t express what I wanted to say to my liberal friends: that Trump might be a better choice than Clinton. I knew I couldn’t even dare to say “maybe” or “perhaps” or “who knows.” The night before the election results I’d been at the home of some very close friends. Their hatred of Donald Trump knew no bounds. CNN blasted all day, every day, and up until the moment they went to sleep at night. Rachel Maddow was on a pedestal so high as to be irrefutable. One word of question from me and I would no doubt have been thrown out of their home. That’s how high the emotion was. This, in itself should have given any rational thinker pause. But rational thought went out the window that night and it never returned. Hatred started with the Orange Man. Over the next five years, it spread to include the more than 75 million people who committed the unpardonable sin of voting for him the second time.
That night the truth that everyone knew was there, but no one wanted to acknowledge, started pushing to the surface: that our government was steeped in corruption.
Everyone talks about “truth,” but who actually wants it? Truth is a murky business at best, a deadly tool at worst. How dare could someone like Donald Trump keep on speaking? Someone who was so obviously flawed, and who let it all hang out? How dare he say that what we’d been fed as truth might actually be lies? How dare all those ordinary “stupid” folk be emboldened to speak out, too? Put them in reeducation camps. Take away their children. Shut them up.
I thought back to an afternoon years before, towards the end of my days as president of InsideOUT Writers. The new chair of the board, a socialite married to a powerful Los Angeles businessmen, was obsessed with having a charity event at the Pacific Palisades home of one of the most successful directors in Hollywood. This would have been IOW’s first big event. I’d organized quite a few small gatherings before, such as a showing of the writings and art of our youth in the children’s book gallery, Every Picture Tells A Story. I’d written all the invitations by hand and with a wonderful team of people, we’d put together the exhibit and it had gone very well. Now, in 2005, the board wanted to move the organization to the “next level.” And that meant big Hollywood names and glamour. I preferred having the event at a neutral setting, such as the Writer’s Guild. But no, it had to be in this exclusive home. Even though the wife and her husband didn’t really want it there. The wife had complained that they didn’t want the parents of our alumni coming, since they were afraid for security reasons. That right there should have stopped the event. We worked with incarcerated youth. What message would we send if we didn’t let the parents of our youth—the ones who had overcome so many hurdles and were receiving awards that night—to come?
That afternoon, we had a meeting at the event coordinator’s office. On the events’ committee was one of our former students, an intelligent and articulate young man who had spent seven years in adult prison. You will hear more about him later. He was the only one who dared to agree with me that we should change the venue. I should add that others expressed this opinion privately, but no one else would say it out loud. And a lot of good that ever did anyone. In a calm, rational manner, this young man suggested that having such an exclusive event would send the wrong message about who we were as a program.
I drove home and my phone rang. The chair of the board was on the other line. She commenced screaming at me at the top of her lungs. “Who the fuck does he think he is? Doesn’t he know we’re doing this for him? He should just shut up and be thankful! And it’s your fault, you let him do this!”
Of course, she didn’t talk like this in pubic. She and her husband were philanthropists. They gave away millions of dollars to causes they promoted, got their names on public buildings. They would leave behind an impressive legacy of good deeds.
But this was who she, and so many others, was really like beneath the generous exterior. And this was what the upper echelons mostly thought. Disdain for those beneath them.
The event didn’t take place at the director’s house. I wrote a letter refusing to support it, knowing I had sealed my fate. It was unbearable that someone like me, who was not a part of their elite club, could sit at the head of the board table and, with my words, end their event. I was ousted not long after that.
Funnily enough, in the end, the event did take place at the Writer’s Guild.
These memories went through my mind that night. And then I put them aside. For a few hours, I could forget all the lies and manipulations, the fear and hatred that was brewing in government, the calculations going on in newsrooms, and the propaganda that was to become so blindly accepted by the public.
At least on this night I could celebrate the victory of one small person over the system. Good things could come from evil actions. There was always the hope of something better for those who had only known suffering. Silvia had never given up hope. Nor had I—not for her or for myself. The past… it had been such a long journey. How had we gotten here?
Let me tell you…
To read the rest of the chapter please go to: November 8, 2016–A Night of Nightmares and Miracles – Break Free with Karen Hunt (substack.com)
You can also listen to readings at Break Free with Karen Hunt • A podcast on Anchor