Feeling blue in deep-red America: Advice for progressives in Trumpland

An ethical culture specialist has advice for progressives in predominantly conservative areas

By Matthew Rozsa
June 26, 2017 8:33PM (UTC)
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(Getty/Kena Betancur)

There is an undeniable overlap between the tenets of the ethical culture movement and the ideals of many progressives. Founded in the 19th century, ethical culture movements attempt to apply secular and humanist values to real-world problems using sociological approaches similar to those effectively employed by organized religions. Despite viewing itself as a religious congregation, it attempts to use logic and ethics rather than theology as the basis of its moral mission.

So what advice would ethical movements have for progressives living in President Donald Trump's America — and, in particular, those in deep red Trump country? According to Dr. Richard Koral, a leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, it's a lonely life — but it doesn't have to be.


"Progressives living in predominantly conservative areas sometimes feel isolated and alienated from their community and yearn for the society of others who share their most basic outlook on life, even if they do not agree on every feature of a plan or program," Koral explained to Salon. "People find emotional sustenance in having an opportunity to be heard and understood by other people.  It gives them confirmation of their core beliefs as well as support and encouragement to take a moral stand."

His advice for these individuals? Become activists, even if the opposition around you feels overwhelming.

"Ethical NYC encourages activists to get involved, even if an issue doesn’t directly impact them," Koral said. "Thinking compassionately about fellow community members requires us to step outside of ourselves and put time into causes for the good of our community, not necessarily just for the good of ourselves."


He also emphasized that compassion must include even those with whom you disagree.

"Ethical NYC is a proponent of 'compassionate communication,'" Koral explained. "In the age of screaming, it’s important to stop and listen—even to those who do not agree with our views. We strive to remember and recognize the humanity of others who have a different perspective. In order to effectively communicate one’s views, especially in a way that will spark change, it is important to be patient, empathetic, and a listener as much as a talker."

This advice may seem obvious — get involved in activist movements, think beyond yourself and show empathy toward those with whom you disagree. In an era that elected a race-baiting, science-hating reality TV star as its president, however, even common sense sometimes needs a boost. Regardless of whether one agrees with the ethical culture movement's broader objectives, it's hard to dissent from their sense that our society needs a lot of activism and empathy at this juncture in its history.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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New York Society For Ethical Culture Partner Video Richard Koral