November 14, 2016

Here’s an idea — let’s NOT normalize Donald Trump


By Carly Miller.

By Carly Miller.

Yesterday I read a tweet from the New York Times, referring to possible Chief of Staff and definite racist Steve Bannon as a “conservative provocateur.” I mean, come on. Surely we can come up with a better word for someone who has made a career out of fomenting and providing a forum for white nationalism. Let’s save provocateur for someone who flashes a nipple on Instagram, agreed?

So, let’s call it the Great Normalization, and yes, it’s already begun. In the spirit of remembering what’s at stake, and remaining angry, sad, and motivated enough to make a plan and stay active in the face of our fear and dejection, here are some things I’ve read since the election that I’ve found helpful, enraging, hopeful, or illuminating.

David Remnick at The New Yorker writes of An American Tragedy.

On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President—a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit—and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.

It is all a dismal picture. Late last night, as the results were coming in from the last states, a friend called me full of sadness, full of anxiety about conflict, about war. Why not leave the country? But despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals — that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do.

Autocracy: Rules for Survival by Masha Gessen at the New York Review of Books.

Trump is anything but a regular politician and this has been anything but a regular election. Trump will be only the fourth candidate in history and the second in more than a century to win the presidency after losing the popular vote. He is also probably the first candidate in history to win the presidency despite having been shown repeatedly by the national media to be a chronic liar, sexual predator, serial tax-avoider, and race-baiter who has attracted the likes of the Ku Klux Klan. Most important, Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat—and won.

I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now.

Brian Beutler at The New Republic writes that we’re looking at an emergency, and we need to call it that, so America can prepare.

In addition to the banal chaos that the Trump administration is likely to unleash, we’re facing a moment that threatens equal protection, due process, free expression, democracy — not just press freedom. It’s not a drill. The media undersold the threat to many freedoms before election night, and it would be self-dealing, and a disservice, if the only liberty under attack we rose to defend was one that undergirds our industry.

There’s a fine line between whipping up panic and informing the citizenry so that people can respond in orderly, considered fashion. But this is an emergency and people need to be prepared for it — even if, in the end, the category-five hurricane is downgraded.

Senator Harry Reid’s statement.

“We as a nation must find a way to move forward without consigning those who Trump has threatened to the shadows. Their fear is entirely rational, because Donald Trump has talked openly about doing terrible things to them. Every news piece that breathlessly obsesses over inauguration preparations compounds their fear by normalizing a man who has threatened to tear families apart, who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and who has directed crowds of thousands to intimidate reporters and assault African Americans. Their fear is legitimate and we must refuse to let it fall through the cracks between the fluff pieces.

“If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate. Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans. Donald Trump may not possess the capacity to assuage those fears, but he owes it to this nation to try.

“If Trump wants to roll back the tide of hate he unleashed, he has a tremendous amount of work to do and he must begin immediately.”

Patrick Thornton writes at Roll Call that the conventional wisdom of the bubble is all wrong, in a piece called I’m a Coastal Elite From the Midwest: The Real Bubble is Rural America:

To pin this election on the coastal elite is a cop-out. It’s intellectually dishonest, and it’s beneath us.

We, as a culture, have to stop infantilizing and deifying rural and white working-class Americans. Their experience is not more of a real American experience than anyone else’s, but when we say that it is, we give people a pass from seeing and understanding more of their country. More Americans need to see more of the United States. They need to shake hands with a Muslim, or talk soccer with a middle aged lesbian, or attend a lecture by a female business executive.

We must start asking all Americans to be their better selves. We must all understand that America is a melting pot and that none of us has a more authentic American experience.

Ali Watkins writes at Buzzfeed about the despair in the anti-torture community.

For this small community—made up of a smattering of human rights groups, activists and former national security officials—that rhetoric threatens to invalidate nearly a decade of anti-torture efforts and void the marginal, but significant, successes under the Obama administration. While Obama has been fiercely criticized for failing to prosecute Bush-era officials for the CIA’s now-defunct torture program and for aiding the CIA’s obfuscation on the issue, there has been slow, but significant effort to close off pathways for the US to torture in the future, including policies that have passed through Congress.

“I think there’s a real sense of trepidation, almost dread, at the thought that all the work that has been done, including on a bipartisan basis, could be erased,” said Raha Wala, director of national security advocacy for Human Rights First. “It’s really hard. Personally for me, having worked on this stuff for six-plus years, it’s really devastating to think about the possibility that all the work that we’ve done could be rolled back.”

Ilhan Omar is one bright spot on the dark horizon. From the Guardian:

In an election that starkly divided the country on Tuesday, one result was a glimmer of hope for people who opposed Donald Trump: Minnesota elected America’s first Somali American legislator, Ilhan Omar.

The 34-year-old, who came to America as a refugee almost 20 years ago, beat out a Republican opponent to gain a seat in the state house of representatives.

“Tonight, we are celebrating this win, our win. But our work won’t stop,” she said after her victory. “We will continue to build a more prosperous and equitable district, state and nation where each and every one of us has opportunities to thrive and move forward together.”

And James Baldwin, always James Baldwin. From our own James Baldwin: The Last Interview and Other Conversations:

BALDWIN: Statesmen, exactly. People who are sitting in government are supposed to know more about government than people who are driving trucks, and digging potatoes, and trying to raise their children. That’s what you are in office for.

STUDS TERKEL: Someone, then, with a sense of history?

BALDWIN: That is precisely what we don’t have here. If you don’t know what happened behind you, you’ve no idea of what is happening around you.



Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.