So this is real. This is happening. This is now.
Re-litigating the election or the primaries doesn’t do much good. Maybe you supported Hillary all along, or shifted to her after the primary. Maybe you supported Bernie. Maybe you went with Johnson or Stein or McMullin. Maybe you were so disgusted by the general election you didn’t vote. Maybe you thought it didn’t matter. I’ve got thoughts about all that, of course, but far more pressing concerns are now at hand.
Or maybe you voted for Trump, and maybe you don’t consider yourself a racist. Maybe you really just wanted to shake up the system, you thought he wouldn’t win and your vote was a protest against the same old same old, or maybe you didn’t take the uglier stuff in his rhetoric seriously. I could rage about how that’s a mistake, of course. Doesn’t change the past. The election was last week. This is now.
The question is whether you’re okay with what is happening, and if you’re going to say or do anything about it. Trump suggested some dark, awful, ugly things in his campaign, and it’s irrational to pretend that will all just go away. You need to decide if you’re going to fight it.
It is…understandable to say it’s time to put the election aside and give Trump a chance to unite and heal the country and all that. At least, that was understandable in the first couple of days. I hesitate to say that’s a reasonable reaction since he said what he said during the campaign and that shit doesn’t go away, but I get that people will have that reaction. The problem is he has already shown he’s unprepared for the job and didn’t realize what he’s getting into. Worse, he has already made decisions to show he’s not interested in uniting or healing anything.
You will note that very little anger or even hot air came out of Trump selecting Reince Priebus as his Chief of Staff. That’s because, like him or not (I don’t), Priebus is a competent choice. As a former RNC chair, he has the familiarity and the managerial experience for the post. He can do that job. He’s also not a racist, or a white nationalist, or an anti-Semite. However, that’s exactly the guy Trump installed as his top advisor.
So let’s grant that you’re not a racist or a sexist or a fascist or whatever. You wanted to shake up the system. Are you okay with Steve Bannon, a white nationalist and anti-Semite whose website, Breitbart, makes those views plain? He’s the CEO. Doesn’t matter if he didn’t write any individual article; that stuff is on the site, he’s the CEO, and he was the guy to take action on it if there was a problem. There was clearly a problem—the problems are all over the site, in big, bold headlines, and he’s okay with them.
Are you okay with that guy having a chief advisory role in the White House? If not, and if you’re not a racist and you’re not anti-Semitic or whatever, regardless of whom you voted for (even Trump), then it’s time to call your representatives in Congress and say, “Hell no.”
And then there’s the rest of the transition shitshow. Trump and his transition team are plainly making loyalty a priority over all else, including competence or experience. Even if you’re a loyal Republican, even if you voted for Trump because you agree with him on the economy or thought he would “drain the swamp” or whatever, this should alarm you.
And they’re already talking about their Muslim registry. And making nice with Putin, despite how the sitting chief of the NSA has now called out deliberate interference in this election by the Russian government.
If we pretend this will all pass, if we hold to the notion that the responsibilities of the office will mellow him out and the checks and balances of government will limit any excesses or abuses, we are ignoring history. This guy’s party has a majority in both houses of Congress, and they like being in power. They will eventually put more people on the Supreme Court and then they’ll have leverage over that check on their power, too.
Right now my most realistic hope is that Republicans in the Senate will co-opt the Trump administration and the House will follow and we’ll have an erosion of the “imperial presidency” as it’s called in government studies. I would love it if the shift we see is just a bunch of right-leaning stuff I can’t stand rather than the real nightmare possibilities.
I would love to trust the Republican majority to protect basic civil liberties and to block incompetent crony appointments to the cabinet and elsewhere. I want to believe that McCain has found his spine and will dust it off and fight for what’s right along with Lindsay Graham and other Republicans who’ve spoken up against Trump. I would love to believe that John Roberts and other conservatives on the Supreme Court will exercise independent judgment and basic humanity and reject this Muslim registry shit out of hand on First Amendment grounds. More importantly, I would love to believe it will never get that far.
History shows we cannot expect all that on good faith. Japanese internment is still within living memory. That actually happened. It’s not hyperbole. It’s not something that happened in some other country. And to think that worse can’t happen here is to ignore history.
Even apart from Trump—even pretending, for the sake of argument, that Trump somehow has nothing to do with it—we’ve seen a spike in hate crimes and harassment. I can tell you my friends have witnessed and intervened in Islamophobic harassment and sexist harassment and more right here in nice, liberal Seattle, but that’s all anecdotal stuff. What isn’t anecdotal is the FBI confirming such incidents are on the rise across the country. So, laying Trump aside: are you okay with that? No? What are you going to do about it? Anything?
Trump has installed a white nationalist and anti-Semite as a chief advisor. That’s real. That happened. As Molly Knefel observed on Twitter, “Critics say Bannon is a white nationalist, while white nationalists say Bannon is in fact a white nationalist.” Are you okay with that? What are you going to do about it?
What are you going to do if his administration wants to register Muslims? History has shown what follows. Are you going to speak up against it? Are you going to fight it?
If you’ve ever looked back at history or even the awful regimes elsewhere in the world today and wondered, “How did people ever let that happen?” your example is now. The test is now. I will love, LOVE to be proven wrong and for all of the ugly possibilities here to fade away. I will be SO HAPPY if in a couple of years everyone can give me a ton of shit for warning people of a government of fascist and racist oppression when nothing of the sort ever came to pass. But history is far too clear to take any of this lightly.
None of this is normal. Do not expect anyone to treat it as such.
One more quote from Twitter, this one from author April Daniels: “First they came for the Muslims and we said, ‘Not this time, motherfucker.’”
Call your Congressional representatives. Calling is more effective than emails or printed letters. Tell them who you are, tell them you’re a constituent, and tell them to speak out against Steve Bannon and the rest of this shitshow. Even if they cannot block his appointment, their opposition matters.
And if you’re looking to do more:
Donate to the American Civil Liberties Union: https://action.aclu.org/donate-aclu?redirect=donate/join-renew-give
Southern Poverty Law Center: https://donate.splcenter.org/
Two last notes:
1) Any assertions that authors (or artists/actors/musicians/athletes/whichever) should keep their politics to themselves will be rejected out of hand. Don’t even bother. That’s crap. Anyone who thinks my work didn’t have my “politics” in it right from the first page of my first book simply failed to notice.
2) I have no compunctions about deleting any racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic or pro-harassment comments or memes from my online spaces.