Turning the page

I haven’t posted since the US election, as it didn’t feel right to engage with the abstract self-design questions I’ve been pondering without acknowledging the change in the world that I live in.

Trump’s election was a shock to me. I saw the possibility (even 538’s models had him at a 1-in-3 chance on election day), but I didn’t really believe it would happen. I didn’t want to live in a world where nearly half of US voters would vote for a candidate that I found repugnant for his prideful inexperience, his misogyny and his declared xenophobia. But it turned out 63 million Americans found Hillary even more repugnant, and decided that mattered more than the vast difference in their experience and Trump’s potential impact on disadvantaged populations in America

Even after the election, I held out a tiny flicker of hope that Trump could deliver on his promises to “drain the swamp” and shake things up with the Washington establishment. But every move since election day has reinforced that Trump is only looking out for himself, and the Republicans are using him to accomplish all of their dreams, regardless of who it hurts. His cabinet is the whitest cabinet since Reagan and has a higher net worth than a collective one third of Americans. Many members of the cabinet are appointed specifically to work against the department they are running (e.g. a climate change denier in charge of the EPA, a charter school advocate in charge of the Department of Education, etc.).

I don’t expect these white male billionaires to work for the “common man” – their incentive is to find ways to keep growing their wealth. Trump has declared that he doesn’t have a conflict of interest in running his businesses and the US government at the same time, despite obvious conflicts like directing diplomats to stay at his Washington DC hotel. And as this high school student points out, she is held to higher standards of attendance, language and civility than the President-Elect.

People have pointed to the fact that the stock market hasn’t crashed as a sign that Trump will be good for the economy. Of course Trump will be good for the stock market – he’s going to help the people running companies to make even more money! But the stock market is not the American economy – and profits are not jobs. The American stock market has doubled since 2010, but it hasn’t helped with people getting jobs, nor with the inequality that allegedly drove many Trump voters. We know that the stock market and how people are doing are not the same, and Trump’s actions will continue to show that.

So how do we live in a Trump-led America?

First of all, we need to remember that Trump is not America. The US government is not America. We, collectively, are America and we have to model the behavior we want to see in the world.

When the government does not represent our interests, it is up to us to make that clear – many of my friends have now made it a habit to contact their senators and representatives regularly to register their disapproval of Trump’s declared policies and Cabinet picks.

When racists and misogynists use Trump’s election to justify their behavior, we need to declare that is not acceptable. Hate crimes have increased since the election, and we need to be vigilant for micro-aggressions and step in as bystanders to show that harassing others is not acceptable. This British short video has three steps for combating this behavior. But more generally, those of us that care about human rights need to stay on high vigilance and not allow for any compromise on these issues.

This is not a time for “moving on” or “healing the divide” or “respecting the presidency”. The Republicans never did that with President Obama, to the point where the Senate refused to do its job of reviewing Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court for an entire year. They don’t get to have it both ways, where they can fight on every procedural point when they’re out of power, but expect the Democrats to kowtow to them when they are in power.

The sad thing is that I will probably do well in Trump’s America. I can pass as white and I’m male, so I benefit from privilege. I’m rich by most people’s standards, so the planned tax cuts will only help me. I also live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I am sheltered from most of the agenda that is being pushed by Trump and the Republicans (barring large-scale events like a trade war with China or a war instigated by Trump that are now more probable than I want to admit). So I need to find ways to use my privilege to help those who have less privilege than me – that’s my challenge for the next four years.

If you are interested in taking action, here are a few suggestions:

  • Please take advantage of the experience of those that have come before – see my friend Lina’s plea to recognize the practiced skill of those who have been on the front lines.
  • Along those lines, please support the organizations who have been fighting for our rights for years. I’m donating to:
  • I mentioned this above, but contact your representatives in Congress to let them know what you find unacceptable – phone calls are taken far more seriously than online polls or emails.

Lastly, find ways to support those around you. I believe that the way to effect change in the world is to change oneself and model the behavior you want to see prevail, so this is our opportunity to do so. We can use the tactics of Vaclav Havel, who lived “as if” he were free despite being under the control of the Soviet Union (a nice summary is here). We must continuing living as if we live in a society which values all of its members, whether white or black, male or female, immigrant or native-born. And if we keep acting that way, we can hopefully create that society, as Havel did with Solidarity.

3 thoughts on “Turning the page

  1. Eric, this is by far the best post on the subject. I will share with all my friends and practice what you suggested! Thanks for your thoughtfulness!

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