I have been talking to and hearing from so many of my friends lately. As each new executive policy is signed, we all look on in horror at the latest and greatest efforts to undermine and repeal every last shred of decency, democracy, and bit of progress made over the last 60-70 years. These are dark times. We knew from the moment DJT got the Republican nomination, that things would get worse – we could not imagine the child rape allegations or the many women who have come forward saying he sexually assaulted him. We could not imagine the Russian collusion. Many struggled with his pathological lying and tweeting out fake news. And we still struggle to understand how one of the most reprehensible and self-serving people on the planet is in the highest office in the land and how do we continue our work for a better and more perfect union now that he and the GOP are so hell bent on tearing all down?
Over the last nine days we have watched and born witness to DJT and his team making the world a more dangerous place for any number of people. He has signed orders related to women’s healthcare globally, he has signed orders to cut portions of EPA oversight – clearing the way for him to sign orders to get DAPL and the Keystone Pipeline rolling again, he signed orders effectively gutting some of the most important parts of the ACA, and most recently he has signed orders to ban Muslims from a handful of countries where he has no financial interest (oh, and did I not mention that he has not divested from his multi-billion dollar businesses?) Almost as soon as the immigration orders were signed, people – with green cards, legal permanent residents, and others traveling to the U.S. legally were barred entry. Some were already in the air, thus detained upon landing and treated as criminals. Others were barred from boarding U.S. bound flights. Part of this ban is going to bar Syrian refugees indefinitely – Syria one of the largest, if not the largest, humanitarian crises the world has ever seen. He and his team have railed against mainstream media, said CNN and other reputable news agencies are “fake news,” have created a new term for lies – “alternative facts,” he has shut down government agencies from speaking to the public – the National Parks who tweeted the comparison pictures of Obama’s and his inauguration crowds, and put gag orders on other agencies. Every day a new list of horrors to observe and fight against, a new spectacle of cruel policy decisions, and a growing list of constitutional crises. And this is just the first 9 days, things are going to get darker, much darker.
Through all of this, I have been witnessing my friends, so many of my friends struggling. Some are frightened for their own safety, considering carrying their passport with them at all times for fear of being stopped and deported to a country they never lived in. Others are so overwhelmed that they are fighting paralysis and see us heading toward a third world war – China is repositioning their nuclear arsenal to read the west coast of the U.S. right now. Other friends are desperately looking for where and how they can contribute to the resistance and not knowing where to start or get plugged in. I am worried that the changes to the ACA is going to leave both of my kids without health insurance. My son who is finally ready to deal with his mental health, will only be on my insurance for another month before he turns 26, my daughter is 18 and off to college, what will these changes mean for her? And I am forever living paycheck to paycheck, so am unsure how I will be able to contribute to help support them as they move into different phases of their lives. I have other friends locked in a life and death battle for their own health or the health of their children – lifetime caps and preexisting conditions are real threats to them as they work to secure the healthcare they and their loved ones need. Things are dire, and this is only the beginning. Only the first 9 days.
One of my close friends and I have been talking a lot over the past few months. She has reached a place where she is starting to feel hopeless – like really what good are marches and pussy hats, what good are postcards? Too often the response to these backwards policies, the white supremacists, the hate within our communities has been met with reason and understanding, protection of First Amendment rights, and love. Now I firmly believe in the power of love to transform, but I’m not going to lie, that is really being tested right now and I am losing my ability to find love in my heart for people who do not see me and so many other people as human and worthy of safety, security, or human decency and for those who so easily, comfortably, and conveniently ignored the white supremacy, xenophobia, misogyny, mocking of people with disabilities and POWs during the campaign and are all to comfortable ignoring it now as the worst is being recognized. I am having a hard time finding that love. We are living in a time that is beyond reason. Evidence bears no weight, scientific knowledge is called into question, truth is suspect, and lies are just alternative truths.
My friend, as am I sure others are, is feeling that white supremacy is on the rise. And it is easy to think that, to see that – anecdotally. I am not sure that it is on the rise, just that those who believe in that ideology are more emboldened now and are coming out of the woodwork – like little parasitic pests, the internet and social media elevates and heightens our awareness of these people and their ugly beliefs, our methods for tracking these people and groups is becoming more sophisticated, but I am not sure they are really growing in numbers. I think about it like rape. Rape was rarely talked about until the 1970s, it wasn’t until the 70s that rape laws really started to take shape. After the laws changed, rapes seemed to jump. But was that because there were more rapes or because the laws finally deemed rape a crime and police started pursuing rapists more earnestly? I think we have to be careful to not inflate white supremacy and we have to be careful in our thinking – not everyone who voted for DJT are white supremacists (and all the other ugliness that he spouts), they were just comfortable ignoring white supremacy and all the other ugliness. Those are two different things, related but different. It’s similar with racism – there are honest to god racists and then there are the rest of us who have racist thoughts or ideas. Some of us recognize when we have them and interrogate where that thought or idea came from and work to eradicate it from our being – this is the work of anti-racists. Others ignore those thoughts and ideas and just go about their lives – and this, while cognitively lazy, is not racism but racist thoughts and ideas.
Anyways, while the future is uncertain and the each day brings a new horror, I don’t really know what to do. Some are predicting that it is time for some catastrophic event to wipe out a huge swath of humanity – whether plague, war, or famine – and honestly, we are inching closer to each one of these daily. From the spread of mumps in Washington State; the Doomsday Clock is closer to midnight as it has been in the last 64 years due to environmental issues, DJT and Putin and the rising tide of nationalism sweeping the globe, and a few other things; and as China moves their nukes so they are within reach of the western U.S., things are looking dark indeed. It is likely that very few of us can prevent the apocalypse (or tumpocalypse as one friend called what is happening), so what can we do? Well, the one thing I am certain about is that we cannot give up, give in, cave, or turn inward. I know that conversations need to happen across the aisle. I know there is still work to be done – we still have racist policing problems (although that has gotten harder under DJT), we still have sexual assault and domestic violence problems (although, this is going to get a lot harder under DJT), we still have huge issues with our immigration policies that separate children from parents and tears families apart (which, again just got a whole lot harder for a lot of folks), we still have DAPL going on, citizens being treated as the enemy, and of course more issues within the world – the Israelis are emboldened by the DJT presidency and his wanting out of NATO and have started demolishing more Palestinian homes and illegally building on Palestinian land, leaving families homeless; the Syrian refugee crisis is still ongoing; and meanwhile Putin is funding ultra-conservative groups in many countries waiting to destabilize and undermine the foundations of many different nations. Things are looking especially bleak, both nationally and globally.
So what do we do, how do we move forward, what actions can we take to strive toward the ever elusive unity? I don’t really have any answers and my anger grows daily, love and compassion are getting harder to find. I do know that we have to keep working. We have to work in our own communities to facilitate safe spaces for some of the most marginalized and vulnerable people. We have to come together in unity to protect the most vulnerable among us – that might mean marching with groups, that might mean surrounding a local mosque with a human chain, that might mean developing local programs – teach-ins and the like. It definitely means that a whole lot of us have to get better at activism and make ourselves uncomfortable. We have to be calling, emailing, and sending letters to our elected representatives. We also need to be identifying and cultivating people to run for elected positions from school boards through to the national level. And in all of this, there is plenty of work to go around. Figure out what you are comfortable with, what your talents are, and put them to use somewhere. If we can all make small contributions, we can make movement toward a more humane place. We all need to run different scenarios in our heads and think about how we would react if something happened – whether that be witnesses a racist act, a hate crime, police brutality. By running the scenarios, we can prepare ourselves for if something happens to act instead of freeze. Finally, I highly recommend that all of us take some upstander or bystander training and self-defense course. Those of us who are comfortable around firearms, need to get firearm training, and need to seriously consider buying a gun and getting our concealed carry permit. There are many places to contribute – volunteer for an organization in your community that needs help (most non-profits always need volunteers). Start a reading group and choose readings to expand your thinking about various issues – use whatever sources you can – scholarly, fiction, articles, books, watch documentaries, learn histories of different groups. I created a list of readings and am working on another that I will post in my blog. There are other such lists out there. Be creative, mindful, and take some action somewhere.
What stumps me more is how to counter the lies and the gaslighting. In a personal relationship, one can just leave after they have found the strength to do so, but in this particular moment, there is no leaving for the vast majority of us. So how to counter that? I don’t know. We use evidence, we ask for evidence, we ask people with wonked out ideas to explain their reasoning. But none of that seems to make a dent in the proliferation of wrong headed thinking and the spread of these lies. I just don’t know. I’d love to hear ideas from others on this. I do know that you can’t argue with someone who is unreasonable – a drunk, a pathological liar, an unhinged person. You can’t argue with someone who is so ill informed that you have to teach them things they should already know. It doesn’t work, so I vote to stop trying and expend your energy in areas that will make a difference. Search out those people who are more middle of the road – the folks who wanted to vote for Bernie but voted for DJT, those who voted Obama last election but voted DJT this election. Have conversations with these folks about the issues, humanity, the threats we are all facing. These folks might be brought along toward a more humane union.
My last bit of advice: remember there really are more sane people in this country than there are white supremacists. Find hope, hold on to that and let it illuminate a path forward for yourself. Because, as I keep saying, this is only the beginning and things are about to get a whole lot darker in the coming years. Whatever damage will be done, will take decades or more to unravel.