Six Days Into a Crumbling U.S.

via Unsplash

It’s only been six days since Trump was sworn in as President. I knew things would start happening, and that it’d be fast, but I couldn’t have imagined how quickly.

Before Inauguration Day, Congress voted on their annual budget, which is normal. However, they re-allocated the ACA budget to miscellaneous. In Trump’s six days of office, he’s signed executive orders to:

  • give power to agency and executive department heads to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the [Affordable Care Act]” while he works on repealing it
  • pull federal funding from women’s affordable healthcare organizations that provide abortions, ignoring the fact that these same organizations also provide cancer treatment and other healthcare to low-income women, men, and teens
  • resume and speed up the Dakota and Keystone Oil pipeline projects, continuing to route them through Standing Rock despite environmental concerns, land treaties, and President Obama’s executive order to halt the DAPL and look for alternative routes
  • pull the U.S. out of the United Nations
  • withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • ban refugees from entering the U.S., begin deportations, give police officers power to act as immigration officers, and block federal funding from sanctuary cities
  • allow torture of political prisoners, which breaks the Geneva Convention
  • begin building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, which Mexico has refused to pay for; I suspect the ACA’s re-allocated funds will be paying for its materials, and political prisoners will be used for slave labor to build it
  • impose a federal hiring freeze
  • put a gag order on federal employees from disclosing information to the public or press (Environmental Protection Agency; departments of Commerce, Health, and Human Services; the Interior; and the Department of Agriculture, which was later lifted after public outcry)
  • initiate an investigation into illegal votes, which can be used as a reason to affect voting in future elections

(Note: I will edit later and link to each EO; I’ve already spent too long at the computer and my joints are extremely sore.)

A President can sign as many executive orders as he wants, bypassing Congress. Congress can pass legislation to override EOs, but the President can veto them.

Trump said in a 2014 Fox interview that he wanted to wreak havoc.

You know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you’ll have a [chuckles], you know, you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.

So did Trump’s Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor, Steve Bannon, in a 2013 interview.

“I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.

Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

Trump has been leveraging our social, political, and working class issues, instigating the blame of our problems on disabled people, black people, Latinxs, and Muslims. He insists that the ACA is being taken advantage of by lazy people who don’t work. People who rely on the ACA and Medicaid for healthcare are veterans, single parents, people with disabilities, cancer patients, retired people, and low-income families. No statistical evidence suggests that any large percentage of people covered through the ACA are “lazy people.”

Trump blames crime on black and Latinx people, saying that killings in Chicago—largely populated by black and Latinx people—have increased, when they have in fact decreased. Chicago has long been a site for regular Trump protests. Yesterday, Trump threatened to send military into Chicago under the guise of preventing any more murders.

He’s destroying our relationships with other countries’ leaders, which may be irreparable.

Though Trump’s authoritarian regime and collapse of the U.S. has begun, there’s still a lot we can do.

Kendzior also says, via several tweets:

There’s a lot to do. I advise working locally. Know your community. Pick an issue or two you care about and commit for the long haul. And understand that as horrifying as this all is, millions stand with you. Find common ground, stand up for others—and know the enemy.

Senator Markey and Representative Lieu have introduced legislation to prevent Trump from launching a nuclear first strike without a Congressional declaration of war.

Shit is real here in the U.S., my home. Most of the people I know are either completely oblivious, in denial. They don’t see how dire things are. I’ve been following all of this and urging family and friends to pay attention. They won’t. I think, honestly, most of them just can’t believe anything like this can happen. They believe that our Constitution and government will protect us. The Constitution can only protect us if our government upholds it. Right now, our government is fighting amongst themselves. There’s little opposition from the Democrats against the Republicans and Trump’s Cabinet.

This is really happening.

We’re really living this.

It’s not exaggeration or alarmist to say that we’re living in an authoritarian crackdown. It appears that Trump is compromised, by both the Nationalists he’s put into his Cabinet and Putin.

This is really happening.

Alexandra Erin says that even Trump might not understand what he’s doing; he’s being told what to do (click the tweet to read thread).

It’s possible that we mere peons cannot even begin to understand what’s happening to us. We just know that we don’t want it and we don’t deserve it.

I’m at a loss here myself. I read each executive order with growing cynicism and horror. To be honest, I didn’t want to believe Kendzior’s and others’ apocalyptic predictions before and around Election Day. I thought that by urging electors to vote against Trump would be enough, but now it seems that we were fighting the wrong battle. We should’ve been urging our senators and representatives to pass legislation to block all of the things that Trump promised during his campaign, protecting all of the people that Trump is trying to harm.

It might be too late.

I’m not giving up. I’m terrified, to be perfectly honest. With every executive order that I read, I find it harder and harder to focus on anything; writing and working as normal seems pointless in the face of what’s happening. When this has happened in other countries, millions of people died. It seems like a cleansing has begun: women, disabled people, non-white people, queer people, Muslims.

I am three of those groups.

I said that the best resistance is existence, to keep creating art and living in spite of what’s happening. I urged people to donate to the organizations that fight for us. I pulled out an old YA novel that I wrote in 2011 about two lovestruck seventeen-year-olds fighting Nazis and told myself that I should put all of my angry, anxious energy into revising it.

I still believe in fighting for our freedom. I come from a family of veterans and I will never dishonor their sacrifice and memory by giving up those freedoms. I will keep writing. I will send letters to the White House. I will put aside my phone anxiety and call my state Senator and Representative, and ask them to fight. I will start attending town meetings and make my concerns heard.

I will be brave by keeping on, even when I’m scared and overwhelmed. Even when people around me diminish my concerns. Especially then. Too much is at stake.

It’s Okay If You Can’t March

This morning my Instagram feed was full of pics about the upcoming Women’s March on Washington. Well, okay, books too, but the closer we get to the 21st, the more people are getting involved. This makes me incredibly proud, but also a little sad.

These days I’m lucky I can stand long enough to do dishes, never mind march for civil rights.

It doesn’t help that some of the slogans that people are using seem to reach out and pinch those of us who can’t march. I know they aren’t actually for us—they’re for those sitting by in apathy, doing nothing—but it still sucks that I can’t be there.

Still, I realized something.

These marches have historically been people more powerful joining hands with people less powerful to achieve the same goal. Every movement has been about someone stronger lifting up someone less strong—whether in voice, privilege, or ability.

It’s hard for me to let others do for me, when I’d rather do it myself. It’s difficult for me to just sit and watch, rather than participate.

I never thought I’d be sitting on this side of history; when reading about The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—AKA the civil rights march—as a kid, I always felt this burning passion inside of me. I knew, had I been born decades earlier, I would’ve marched right alongside those women and men. In reality, my body is the opposite of willing and able.

And that’s okay.

It’s also okay if you’re not marching, too.

You don’t have to explain why to anyone.

It’s okay.

In your heart, you know what you stand for. You know what you believe and who you support. And you can resist in other ways.

Keep breathing.

Keep making art.

Keep raising children who love.

Keep posting selfies.

Keep making posters for your town.

Keep denouncing hate.

Keep spreading love, even if in “small” ways.

Keep.

Just keep.

Because when someone hates you—for how you look, who you love, what illnesses you live with—the loudest torch you can carry is to keep living, in spite.

Let your fire blaze bright.


However, if it’s the cost of travel that’s holding you back from marching, there  are many sister marches happening all around the world. I had no idea until I saw a few overseas ones this morning on IG. There are even several in Connecticut, so I might actually be able to go to one, depending on how I feel. Click here to search by your state or country.

Then rise, baby, rise.

The Lone Crazy Person in the Room

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

I’ve been trying to collect my thoughts and feelings since last week’s presidential election, when it was announced that the majority of the U.S. electoral college voted for Mr. Trump. (The majority of the popular vote was for Mrs. Clinton.) Mostly I’ve been trying to have conversations with friends and family members. Many of the people I love and cherish have been rationalizing Mr. Trump’s words and behavior since the beginning of his campaign. It’s hard not to take it personally when I’m one of the marginalized people his presidency would affect; it’s even harder not to feel dismayed knowing that so many others are going to suffer even more under his leadership.

Most recently, Mr. Trump has announced his choices of RNC chairman Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff and openly racist white nationalist Stephen Bannon as Strategist. Even more alarming, David Duke announced his approval of these choices.

People I love continue to rationalize and normalize Mr Trump’s actions.

None of this has been normal.

Right now I feel like the lone hysteric shouting in the middle of the room: “We’re in trouble. This is serious. Please listen.”

Throughout the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to educate fellow white friends and family on privilege: how it works in tiers, how it builds a bubble around those who are more privileged than others, how it harms marginalized people. I’ve gotten into arguments with friends and family. People have tried to discredit me by saying “You’re not making any sense.” I am an educated adult with a college degree and also a published author, so I found this dismissive and sometimes even insulting. I’ve seen friends and family who previously thought racial relations in America were fine eventually begin to see that they’re in fact not, which gave me a lot of hope. Maybe I really could make a difference. Using my place of privilege—white—to educate others and elevate marginalized voices has worked, albeit slowly.

But I fear it’s no longer enough.

Right now, even friends and family who previously agreed that Mr. Trump’s campaign was toxic are beginning to normalize his behavior. When I say things like “He enlisted Stephen Bannon as his Strategist,” they say they don’t know who Bannon is. When I express my concern for our country, they tell me it will be fine or to give Mr. Trump a chance. At the very least, I and thousands of economically disadvantaged people are going to lose their health insurance and therefore our healthcare. At the very most, we’re about to have a president endorsed by the KKK who has made white supremacist statements. I’ve been told that I’m being ridiculous. I’ve also been told too bad, I’ll just have to live without my healthcare.

We live in a culture of busy. In fact, it’s glorified to be overwhelmed with items on a To Do list. If you’re a busy person, you’re an Important Person. But along with the rise of this fast-paced culture, I’m seeing a decline in critical thinking. Maybe it’s my love for reading and learning, but I’ve long been passionate about reading widely and trying to be objective. Being busy and having a position of privilege, I think, creates a vacuum around people. There’s less reading of a wide array of topics, less interaction with marginalized people, and more reliance on the environment around you to help form your opinions on issues—creating a more narrow perspective.

I’m surprised by how many people flippantly say Mr. Trump was just saying the things he’s said to get people’s attention or that the media created this bigoted image. There’s the old adage that if someone shows you who they are, believe them. Mr. Trump has been showing us who he is, and continues to show us. Even more, the mainstream media have done little else than schmooze him. His campaign has had unprecedented coverage from mainstream media, with little actual journalism. Journalism is intended to be unbiased, to investigate, to question, to present researched facts. Media outlets have gone so far as to praise him, without ever questioning the inflammatory things he’s said about disabled people, women, queer people, trans people, Muslim and Jewish people, Black and Latinx people… the list goes on. There is not a single marginalized group of Americans that Mr. Trump has not at least blatantly offended, yet the media continued on as if he was our lord and savior returned.

This election is not about politics. It never was. It’s about civil rights, about Americans’ unalienable rights and freedoms as described in the Constitution. The ACLU—a non-profit, nonpartisan group of lawyers who work to protect the Constitution—has expressed their shock at Mr. Trump’s beliefs and promises. They have mobilized their lawyers, researched the law in regards to Mr. Trump’s campaign and plans, and outlined the Constitutional violations that his promises represent.

Respected political analysts, economists, independent journalists, historians, environmentalists, and other unbiased and educated people have long commented on how damaging a Trump presidency would be to our country and, in ripple effect, the rest of the world. These are people with PhDs and published bodies of work, people who have dedicated their lives to studying their areas of expertise, people who have fled similar crises in other countries, all lending their voices to the same chorus: “We’re in trouble. This is serious.” We are witnessing a global shift.

The amount of apathy in Trump supporters or people who previously did not support him is startling. It’s made me question my relationships. It’s made me wonder whether people can really be so oblivious. It’s made me consider that maybe these people are truly secretly supportive of the bigoted views Mr. Trump holds. Which makes me wonder what they in turn think of me: a queer disabled woman. Do they quietly look down on me with contempt? Or are they just victims of their inherent privilege?

The thing I’ve realized is that there comes a point when one can no longer use their privilege as an excuse. Checking and acknowledging your privilege can be a difficult act, but as autonomous beings with naturally curious and logical brains, it’s not impossible. Nor is it impossible to turn off mainstream media and start reading academic articles and books outside of your own views. There is no such thing as being a victim of privilege; there is only a choice. We can either continue to live in the safety of our privileged bubble, or start to grow.

Here’s the thing about the safety that privilege affords: It’s merely an illusion. It’s an invisible cape that has protected those who are more privileged than others from being marginalized or oppressed too. It’s only a luxury that can easily be taken away in a different social or cultural context. Looking at the events of the rise of German nationalism pre-World War II, there was a systemic violation of privilege in tiers. To quote Martin Niemöller, a Protestant pastor who loudly spoke against Hitler:

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I quote this poem not to insinuate that we’re on the brink of our own nationalism and third world war or even second civil war, but to demonstrate the power of apathy. When we do not speak for others who are economically, racially, or otherwise less powerful than we are, we are only paving a path to ourselves and our peers.

However, I can’t help but notice the parallels between nationalism and autocracy in other countries and what’s happening now on our own soil. Those similarities scare me more than being without health insurance.

I love our country and I love our people. I think we’re already a great country that can only be better, especially under the leadership of qualified, experienced, and compassionate individuals. Just as I’ve never stopped fighting for my own right to equal healthcare, I will never stop using the privilege of being born white to elevate others’ voices. I will never stop fighting for marginalized people’s civil rights.

And I will never stop begging my friends and family to open their eyes and do the same.