January 19, 2017

Staring into the abyss

As I write this, it's the last evening of the Obama Administration. Tomorrow, the new Administration will begin.

It's hard to know exactly what to say at this moment. Those of us who opposed the incoming President are apprehensive and worried about what's to come. The new Congress has already begun to dismantle the social advances of the last fifty years, and there's more of that on the way.

Still, for all that, we have to hope that the new President will succeed in improving the economy and creating jobs, because that will benefit all of us. But wishing for his success in limited areas does not mean wishing for his success in all things. I am highly skeptical, and frankly the outlook is not good. I still believe this will be an Administration dedicated mostly to enriching the occupant of the Oval Office and his business empire (of which he hasn't divested himself yet), and he's packing his Cabinet with people who are either incompetent or dedicated to destroying the missions of the departments they will head--or both. His kids are his advisers. It's nepotism run amok.

Earlier today, I read that the incoming team plans a budget that will abolish the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which has to rate as one of the great ironies of the age. This won't do much for the budget, but it will go a long way towards punishing and silencing the opposition. This is the act of a strongman, not a President.

In the days and months to come, you will hear from the government and its supporters that they have a mandate. They do not. We must remember that the majority of Americans did not vote for this government. Because of the quirks of our electoral system, not even a majority of those who voted voted for it. If this were any other country on Earth, our own government would make some kind of statement about how the election did not represent the clearly stated will of the people. And you know what? They'd be right.

On the whole, the best advice I've seen on how to face the coming years is from John Scalzi:

One suggestion I’d offer people is not to spread yourself too thin — per above I think the Trump administration is going to make pushes into all sorts of areas: Free speech, women’s health, public education, minority voting, LGBT+ rights and so on. They want you to be dazed and thinking there’s too much to focus on. Pick one as your main focus and drill down on it, hard. Others will take up the other categories. Help them when you can but push hard on the one area you know and care most about. If enough people do that, everything will get covered and energy won’t dissipate. It’s going to be a long four years. Best to keep focus.

So find something you care about. Fight for it like a California grizzly bear defending its cubs. Support the people around you fighting for what they care about, and together we'll see each other through this. It's called solidarity, and it's the weapon that's been used successfully by oppressed and marginalized people throughout history. It's what allowed shipyard workers in Gdansk to defeat a Soviet-backed military government in Poland. It's what allowed Cesar Chavez to bring about reforms in the treatment of farm workers. It's what drove the British from India. It works.

And finally, don't be afraid to be radical. If you leave it up to the current leadership of the Democratic Party, nothing of consequence will happen lest it upset their corporate backers. Raise a fuss. Lead a protest. Write vitriolic letters. Organize, organize, organize, or you may find one day that it's no longer allowed. I'm not joking. At the state level, the GOP is already trying:

In North Dakota, for instance, Republicans introduced a bill last week that would allow motorists to run over and kill any protester obstructing a highway as long as a driver does so accidentally. In Minnesota, a bill introduced by Republicans last week seeks to dramatically stiffen fines for freeway protests and would allow prosecutors to seek a full year of jail time for protesters blocking a highway. Republicans in Washington state have proposed a plan to reclassify as a felony civil disobedience protests that are deemed “economic terrorism.” Republicans in Michigan introduced and then last month shelved an anti-picketing law that would increase penalties against protestors and would make it easier for businesses to sue individual protestors for their actions. And in Iowa a Republican lawmaker has pledged to introduce legislation to crack down on highway protests.

So there you have it. I'm not saying this is the last night of a free Republic, but I also don't want to look back on this night years from now and remember that it was. Do your part. Support each other. Stop the darkness from descending.

Now go do it.