By: Lessa Leigh
It’s February 1, 2017. We are effectively 13 days into the Trump Presidency. Fascism moves fast, y’all.
Yesterday, on the playground of my kids’ school, a father asked me if I had any idea what was going to happen on January 20, 2017. I told him I had. We had renewed our passports and gotten passports for the kids in December of 2015. I’d protested Trump at a rally in April of 2016. I’d spoken out to the point of irritating almost everyone, who knows me, saying that Trump was the next Hitler or Twitler, as Jess likes to call him. I even, despite gritting my teeth so hard I may have cracked a molar, bit the bullet at the ballot and voted for Hillary Clinton, not Jill Stein. It’s extremely rare that I don’t follow through on the courage of my convictions, but I knew that my vote as an Ohioan was crucial. I voted for Hillary Clinton, a woman I have actively loathed since about 1993, to stop Donald Trump, a man I have actively mocked for just as long.
Obviously, it didn’t matter.
Here we are in the worst possible time line. While I was talking to the dad on the playground yesterday, I admitted something that I hadn’t known. This time line isn’t only awful, it’s accelerating at a speed that is nauseating. My calendar for a Trump Presidency had everything falling apart by about August of 2017. How naïve to think we would all have six or seven months to assess, to think, to plan, and to make excruciatingly difficult choices.
There is no possible way to tell you what to do, when to do it, or how it will all fall into place. What you do need to know are these important facts:
- Whenever a terrible policy position or preventable feud comes to the public’s attention, give it some of your attention but reserve a few moments to look around and see why you’re being distracted. Case in point is the immigration ban. It’s terrible; no one sane is debating that fact. However, it was announced around the same time that Donald Trump removed the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the National Security Council and replaced them with his advisor, Steve Bannon. For days, the focus has been on immigration. It’s a big story. People want to know how such a thing affects them directly, and we all have reasonable concerns about its efficacy in actually keeping us “safe.” Our human nature to pay attention to the immediate threat means that the far more dangerous threat can sneak up behind us and attack. There is no possible way that having Mr. Bannon advising President Trump on national security will in any way help anyone in this country or outside it be “safe.”
- Protest matters. Raising your voice and calling all your members of Congress does help. Meeting en masse and demanding better from your government is important. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Yet, it cannot be all that you do. Protest is the first level in political work, but protest fatigue is real. It’s not only exhausting for the protesters, though. The people you protest become inured to it. Their threshold for pain, embarrassment, shame, and fear will rise. What you need to know is when to escalate protest, when to pull back, when to move in another direction. In all things that we do, we will need an element of surprise in order to be effective. Trump surprises us. We will need to surprise him.
- There is a very real possibility that fear will be used to silence us. Remind me when I’m cowering in the back of the closet that my mantra is “Once they silence you, they have won.” It’s the truth, and we must hold onto it. Our courage and our willingness to sacrifice will need to match what our government intends to throw at us. We will need to speak out. We will need to have contingency plans for everything. We will need to know where our nearest exits are, especially when they might be in the row behind us. This is not a drill.
- Our “leaders” will use ebb and flow techniques. We will be hit with a barrage of information and then things will settle down. Pace yourself in absorbing events as they happen and give yourself time to occasionally recharge.
- Know who is “ride or die” for you and vice versa. Keep those people close. Have a second tier of people you trust but don’t want to bother except in extreme circumstances. Everyone else is a stranger, even if they’re related to you by blood or you’ve carpooled together for twenty years. If you don’t feel that they would help you in your time of need, whether it’s to pour you a glass of wine and chat or arrange transport for you to flee the country secretly or stand and die with you on the streets, then they’re strangers. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help from them; we’ve all depended on the brief kindness of strangers in our lives. It does mean that you can’t plan with them or expend energy on them when your life is at risk.
- Know who our government is to us. It is not, nor has it ever been, our “friend.” Its interests are diametrically opposed to ours, except when our interests are profitable for it. If you doubt the truth of this, look at how our government abides by corporate interests and the demands of lobbyists long before they extend a hand to help individual people in need. This is especially true since 1980, as we accepted the Reagan “Trickle Down Economy” lie. The middle class has become a zombie-like shell of itself, shambling into Big Box stores and mindlessly applying for credit while hoping that next month, next year will be better. We have been pitted against each other, when the people who have orchestrated our demise own private jets, private islands, private security, and private banks. You will be asked to look at your neighbor to compare circumstances. You will need to understand that even if your neighbor’s house is nicer or their car is better or their vacations are more exotic, they are not the ones who are throttling you. Do not engage in fighting against them, even if you disagree with their politics, their taste in lawn furniture, or their inexplicable hatred of guacamole. The people, who you need to worry about, are already hunkered down in their bunkers on Skullcrusher Island. Focus on finding ways to make their lives…uncomfortable. Discomforting them will require fortitude and ingenuity, but it’s possible to do so, if we work together. I’m not even referring to violence. Work stoppages, divestment from financial institutions, engaging in a barter economy, and creating our own methods of labor/production/capital are all really good methods to get their attention.
Know that our government will pick us off by the weakest and most vulnerable first. Indigenous/Native peoples. Immigrants. Muslims. Individuals who aren’t lily “white”. Mexicans. Asians. Jews. Hindus. People with disabilities. Atheists. The indigent. Those who fall anywhere beyond cis-het on the sexuality and gender scale. Teachers. Activists. Librarians. Artists. Religious leaders. Unionists. Children. Elderly. When the government can no longer feed its maw with the supposedly easy pickings, it will move on to you, if it hasn’t already. Please know that your position in society, your wealth, your education, your beauty, your talents will be meaningless in the Trump regime. What will they value? Three sets of people: The soldiers. The athletes. The mechanics. Why? The soldiers will do their dirty work. The athletes will bring glory to the leaders and serve to remind the rest of us we are weak. The mechanics will make and repair the machinery of destruction.
If those seven points make your heart race and your palms sweat, that’s good. You were paying attention. Do I think it’s going to come to anything terrible? Yes, I do. The rise in white nationalism alone indicates this. Do I think it will become violent? I hope not. My hope is that we are all better than violence and hatred, when we realize how we are all at risk. My hope is that our better angels prevail, vanquishing the devils. My hope is that we learn to work together, to love one another, to stop seeing the “other” when we should really see ourselves.
Do my hopes have merit? We will find out together. If we don’t want raw fear and anger to drive our decisions, we do need to study the above points, have a semblance of a plan, and be ready to act when needed. Do not be complacent. Do love. Do reach out to others in need. Be kind. Be generous. Most of all, be wary.