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.

Under Water But We Still Don’t Understand

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

Every morning when I open my eyes, I hope for exactly two seconds that it’s all been a dream. Then as I wake up, it all sinks in again. How my country elected a man who has ties to known white nationalists. How my country continues to support a man whose rhetoric has been rooted in hate. People around me continue to rationalize his words and actions: “He was just saying those things for attention,” and “It’s not a big deal,” and “There’s nothing to worry about.” Then why is it that myself and other marginalized people are worried? We can’t all be paranoid and suffering delusions.

Existing in this country has never been easy, but until last week I thought I had a good understanding of what black women and other minorities go through. I’m laughing at that past version of myself. I had no fucking clue. Even now, as I’m only beginning to grasp the situation, I still have no idea.

As Rebecca Woolf of Girl’s Gone Child wrote:

This election has caused me to reevaluate my place in this country and it has caused me to redefine who I am as an American as well as a content creator. I know I have work to do and I hope you will join me in normalizing dissent, standing strong, and fighting the good fight for the good of our country and each other.

I feel blown apart. Even civil conversations with people who disagree leave me exhausted. Very rarely do I feel as though I’m being heard. Mostly I feel like I’m shouting “Fire!” in the middle of the room and I’m the only one who can see it. But I will keep having these conversations.

My manifesto was already to write diverse stories, especially focusing on strong female characters, and to lift up other marginalized voices. In the last week, I’ve realized I need to do more. Talking about and writing diverse books isn’t enough. Helping maintain marginalized people’s safe spaces online isn’t enough. Emailing and calling electors and local government officials isn’t enough. It’s easy to do these things in the safety and comfort of my own home, to sit under my electric blanket after my latest dose of pain medicine and get to work. But it’s not enough. I need to get together with people in my community.

Because things are moving too fast, so fast that I can barely keep up: the appointment of Stephen Bannon, a known white nationalist, to Trump’s Cabinet; the violence against minorities and other marginalized people; Trump’s announcement of requiring his employees to sign NDAs; VP-elect’s ironic moves to keep his emails private; the questionable, conflict-of-interest appointment of team members who previously were engaged with Trump in lawsuits… The list goes on and on. It’s all happening at light speed.

I often feel like I’m living in a completely different country than the one I grew up in.

Yet friends and family continue to justify these moves. They say “He’s not really racist.” No? So please explain why he continues to affiliate with known white supremacists. “Well, what are these people threatening to do?” Nothing, yet, but their appointment speaks volumes. It sets the tone for a very different country. It paves the way for more hate, for the growing white nationalist movement to continue. (By the way, did you know that the white nationalism movement has been growing faster among young white males than ISIS is growing overseas? Chew on that.) And putting racists in positions of power is dangerous; it allows them to make decisions for our country and change the progress we’ve made.

I really don’t know how people can be so oblivious about these things.

I decided to organize my own protest in my hometown; the demographic there is over 50% people of color. But my own husband won’t protest with me, because he “doesn’t do protests.” Even after a long conversation where he asked questions and I explained who Stephen Bannon, David Duke, and others are. Then he continued to try to placate me, insisting that there’s nothing to worry about. So far it looks like I’ll be standing alone. Or sitting, since I’m bringing my camping chair and cane.

I’m frustrated and dismayed.

Best case scenario, it’s like some have speculated, that Trump didn’t really mean any of the things he’s said and done. He’s just insecure and needed someone’s support, and the only people willing to give it to him were the KKK and other white nationalists. So he’s just been saying whatever to keep them happy.

Still, that’s just as outrageous. In my America, the KKK and other white supremacists are supposed to keep their bigoted beliefs to themselves. There’s no law stopping them from convening, but there are checks and balances keeping them in place.

There’s some speculation that Priebus was appointed just to keep Republicans appeased, that since he and Bannon are equal partners, it’s really Bannon running the show, but Priebus is there to also placate people’s concerns about Bannon.

All I know is, this is serious, we need to treat it as exactly what it appears to be, and change the things we cannot accept.

Worst case scenario, Trump has meant every single thing he’s said, and we’re facing a major shift in our country and thus globally. I’m not trying to be a doom and gloom apocalypse crier, but the direction we’re pointing in is horrifying. We’re talking more white nationalists in positions of power over our country, in a time when our presidency is at its most potency in our history. In no way is that a good thing or anything that should be acceptable, even if you’re white. Every single American who claims not to be racist should be outraged right now, or at least heavily questioning the chain of events in the past week (as well as Trump’s entire campaign).

To my readers: I’ve never been much into politics. I’ve purposely refrained from talking about my country’s government issues because politics tend to alienate people. In years past, elections have been the same old, same old: Democrats and Republicans smearing each other, each with arguably good points, but business as usual. Nothing that would hurt Americans on a mass level, because usually there’s too much arguing for anything to really get done. There’s eventual compromise, with both parties sated and things that most Americans can (arguably) live with. Change has always been for the better, in a progressive manner. I’ve never paid a whole lot of attention or commentated on politics, because I’m not affiliated with either party and I’d rather write about badass belles kicking ass. But I can’t say that writing diverse books and including marginalized people in the lit community is my brand if I won’t loudly fight for their rights. Our rights. And this entire election has been completely the opposite of normal. I keep seeing the word “unprecedented” thrown around, and while it’s getting tiring, it’s apt. Just not quite strong enough.

So I’m going to be talking a lot about my country and current events in the coming months and years, until things improve. Until disabled people aren’t worried about healthcare and benefits. Until my queer and POC friends feel safe. Until my Muslim and Jewish friends tell me they aren’t scared. I’m going to loudly and publicly denounce the open hate that has infiltrated my country. Of course it was already there in the shadows. But now it’s become normalized to share negative views of women and trans people and people of color, to openly hate anyone who fits into the non- straight white cis able-bodied male category. And if you disagree, you’re a crybaby social justice warrior at best and at worst the target of physical harm.

In the same vein as what Rebecca Woolf said in her latest blog post, I’m going to step up my game of supporting marginalized creators. I’m going to do giveaways and interviews in support of them—especially women. I’m going to continue intercepting when I see others being bulled online and in the physical world. I’m going to keep talking to electors and local government officials and putting pressure on them to Make America Safe Again and #StopBannon. And I’m going to continue writing books that shine more light into the world, normalizing diversity in fiction.

None of this is going to be easy. It’s already been really fucking hard. I have to take frequent breaks. I honestly don’t know how POC deal, because this country feels alien to me and so many of them are telling me, “It was always this way for us.”

Even as the water continues to rise and we gasp for air, we still barely grasp the situation. With my last breath, I’ll keep talking, keep trying to get people to understand and fight with me. I hope that you, my lovely readers, will fight with me too.

If you can’t, I hope you can still find safety and solitude in my fiction. Supporting my writing and even donating to me helps me—a lower class, queer, disabled woman—continue to survive and therefore continue to write and stand up for others. I’m already struggling financially because of my health. Now more than ever I need your support in whatever form you can give: kind words, sharing my books with other readers, purchases, and donations.

The revolution has begun and, as much as I never saw myself doing anything like this, I don’t feel as though there’s any other choice.

Elizabeth Barone