by: Michael Shields
One week ago Americans woke up to the reality of a President-elect Trump, and many are still coming to grips with this sobering truth…
“On these core issues about treating every single human being in this country with dignity, on that, we stand up, and we fight back. We do not back down, we do not compromise. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.” – Senator Elizabeth Warren
Read Part One of “What Now?” – an emotional initial reaction to the election of Donald Trump – here.
The five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are part of a structure that defines how we as humans learn to live with loss. They are tools to help us better understand and cope with the overwhelming physical and mental anguish that envelops us when something or someone is taken from us. But – I must ask – what if each stage were to occur to a human being simultaneously? What if grief commingles with furious anger while blending with heaping measures of depression? And what if acceptance, the endgame to the process, the promised reprieve, seems not only far out of reach, but unattainable altogether? This all-encompassing feeling of despair is life for many of us in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.
I appreciate optimism. I continually swat off and combat the ethos of a cynic as the years blow on. But there is something so off-putting to me about the normalization of the election of Donald Trump that has been occurring in the past week. This regularizing of such an extreme and unqualified President-elect can be seen in President Obama’s meeting with Trump, and his comments forthwith. It is beheld in Trump’s interview on 60 Minutes this past Sunday, where he was treated as though he were a normal President-elect, even in light of swift and jarring alterations to his campaign promises during the conversation. It is heard in the streets, where those in positions of privilege, protected and untargeted by Trump’s rhetoric and his supporters’ angst, are claiming that those incensed by Trump’s election are being whiny, and that little will change. While I can appreciate a glass half-full attitude to this chaotic moment in American history, what is more evident than ever is that what is happening is not normal. It’s unprecedented, shocking, and potentially devastating.
What cannot be forgotten, as Trump sombers his tone and momentarily backpedals for the impetuous pomposity that stoked the fires of his campaign, is the promises he made to his supporters. The ones that spoke of deporting millions while crafting a system of surveillance targeting Muslim Americans. Those that championed war crimes and advocated for extreme torture of terror suspects, and the killing of their kin. And all the while he threatened his opponent in the general election with special investigators and a prison sentence. What too cannot be forgotten is the man behind these promises, the one that objectifies women, mocks the disabled, and lies without remorse. The fact that all of this, in the eyes of many of his loyalists and all too often in the media, has simply been glossed over in favor of talk about transition and about Trump’s first hundred days, is almost too much to handle for someone deep in the throes of a mangled infusion of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.
But, in examining the unfathomable nature of Trump’s arrival as the 45th President of the United States, we must indeed talk about this transition, and the team that Donald Trump is assembling. It appears the worst fears of those who defend and believe in equality for all people are coming true. In conjunction with the Vice President-elect, a man whose war on same-sex marriage is well documented, Trump has recently made it readily apparent that the hordes of people who voted for him as an anti-establishment candidate were extraordinarily hoodwinked. With his first appointment since the election, Donald Trump chose Reince Priebus, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, a Washington insider, as his White House Chief of Staff. This appointment, a betrayal to Trump’s most loyal of proponents, is unsettling. However, it is also unsurprising that Trump is tapping into Republican mainstays, Wall Street elites, industry insiders, and lobbyists in composition of his transition team and as potential cabinet positions as…let’s be honest, he doesn’t know what the fuck he is doing. But while shocking, and in direct contradiction to the anti-government ethos of Trump’s rise to power, that bombshell pales in comparison to the announcement of the man slated to become Trump’s Chief Advisor, one of the most powerful positions in the country.
Steve Bannon, a former president of the dissentious Breitbart News, and more recently Chief Executive of Trump’s campaign, a man even Glenn Beck has described as “terrifying” and “a nightmare,” has been appointed as Chief Advisor, which is both telling and spine-chilling. This appointment is a clear indication that Trump is embracing the white nationalism that helped propel him to the White House. Breitbart News is a haven of hate, a home for misogyny, bigotry, and xenophobia, and Bannon, who champions these beliefs, is a flat out unacceptable candidate for this position of power. He is a man, as Cory Booker stated, “who will burn bridges, not build them.” He has continually catered to racist and anti-semitic ideals, and this brand of unadulterated intolerance in such a lofty position is repugnant. And this is why, I believe, we cannot rest on our laurels. We cannot sit back and wait and see – because the writing is already on the wall. Admittedly, I have been spending a great deal of time in contemplation of the recent protesting taking place around the country in response to Trump’s win. There was a part of me that was perceiving this as crying over spilled-milk, as Donald Trump won the election fair and square as the (faulty Electoral College) system is currently set up. I figured more than whining about it, the results of the election should serve as a mammoth wake up call that elections matter, especially considering that almost half of the country abstained from voting in this pivotal election. But as the Trump era begins to take shape, and his rhetoric, actions, and partners in crime are all fueling a well of hate in this nation, it is time to make some noise.
Obviously, the backlash to Trump’s budding empire doesn’t begin and end with the rallies, marches, signs, and chants. We must stay vigilant, focused, and attentive to what changes are occurring. We must open our wallets, when able, to support charities and organizations that protect civil rights and stand firmly against what a Trump presidency represents. We must remind ourselves, daily even, that the 2018 midterm elections can potentially act as the beginning of the end of the Trump regime, and votes must be cast. We must seek out and enable leaders that fight for equality of all people, like Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison, and demand a reform to our education systems as the reality of the situation is that 6 out of 10 Americans do not have a college degree, and it was those without college degrees, both men and women, who elected Donald Trump. The Democratic Party must build itself back up, from the local level all the way up to the top, keeping in mind that they are the true champions of the working and middle class. We must dig deep and gain some perspective, with a goal of not dismissing, but understanding, the struggles of all citizens of the country. We must remember that the fight against Global Warming begins at home, and that being environmentally conscious is an everyday enterprise. And most importantly, we must be kind and love each other on the daily. As Kum-ba-yah as that may sound, it matters profoundly. Love can spread like wildfire if you set it aflame.
The sky is falling, there is no doubt. But let’s take a moment to look on the bright side – because there is one amid the falling debris. Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote, by more than one million votes. In fact, she turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, meaning that Trump’s positions are not held by the majority of the country. This is exemplified by the fact that gay marriage continues to have overwhelming support nationwide (55 percent of the population in favor of it as compared to 37 percent against), legal abortion is favored by 56 percent of the population (41 percent opposed), over 60 percent of the population is concerned about Global Warming (only 36 percent of the country are blind to the predicament), and a colossal expanse of the population supports background checks for gun buyers, almost 90 percent in some polls.
But with all this in mind, I cannot help but wonder what America actually is. Who are we? As the outspoken coach of the San Antonio Spurs, Gregg Popovich, so pointedly put it, “[The election] leaves me wondering where I’ve been living, and with whom I’m living.” While historically, America, and those that perceive themselves as white, have drippings of blood on their collective hands, for the last sixty-plus years we have gradually been striving towards a Democracy that guarantees all people’s individual rights, and with the election of Donald Trump this is decidedly in jeopardy. Do not get it twisted – those (women, minorities, the LGBT community, and all those who stand firmly and righteously with them) who are subjugated by Trump’s policies and pomposity, those whose fears are appropriately heightened following his rise to power, find the votes cast for Trump flat out unforgivable. The way they see it is that while you might not all be racist, you were content with looking the other way as racist policies that could undoubtedly put them in physical danger came about. And they are right. Not everyone who voted for Trump dons a white hood and robe, but if you voted for Trump you made the decision that what you were voting for (change, a vote against “crooked” Hillary, etc.) was more important than their well being.
And so the battle that must be waged is an uphill one, one that involves not only waging against a growing evil, but in coming together as a people. Those that believe America should persist as a safe place for all who inhabit it, must hunker down and fight for what they know to be right, and on the behalf of those that are threatened most by Trump’s alienation. Many are saying Trump should be given an opportunity to govern, but this – in light of recent events and a campaign riddled with enmity and alarming promises – is not enough. I believe, down to my very core, that those who stand against Trump and his outdated, exclusive and intolerant agenda, are on the right side of history. America’s legacy is at stake like never before. We must stand together against this oncoming storm.