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What white people need to do to resist the Trump administration

After the violence and protests in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, I started following journalist Sarah Kendzior on Twitter. She was a local white woman who had a lot of insightful commentary. Eventually she started posting about Donald Trump and the danger he posed to the country. I didn’t disagree with her, but she was also sure he would win. I thought that she was being alarmist. I knew what the polls said. I knew many people who had worked to re-elect President Obama were also working for Hillary Clinton. I was pretty confident we would get the right woman for the job. Last spring, I muted Kendzior.

Then, of course, everything she predicted came true. Trump won the election, and his bizarre behavior over the course of the campaign made sense through the authoritarian lens Kendzior provided from reporting on Central Asian dictatorships.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am not paranoid. But I believe the United States is heading toward being an authoritarian dictatorship faster than the majority of the population realizes. I underestimated the threat Trump posed once. I will not do it again. We cannot afford to. As the saying goes, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And because Americans are convinced of our exceptionalism, believe “it can’t happen here,” it will. It already is, faster than most of us can keep track.

This is not normal is only a partial list of all of the things that are abnormal–racist, misogynist, corrupt, immoral, etc–about the incoming administration. Every day, there are more things to add to it. It’s difficult to keep up, which is why a lot of it isn’t being reported as vigorously as it should be. Trump settled a fraud lawsuit over Trump University. His daughter is sitting in on visits with foreign dignitaries. White supremacists are being nominated for Cabinet posts. NONE OF THIS IS NORMAL.

This is not politics as usual. This is the freedom of our country and the world at stake. As someone on Twitter so aptly put it, the United States is one terrorist attack away from becoming a military state. And there are no checks on his power. The Republicans will go along with it. Democrats may put up a token resistance but people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, supposedly liberal lions, are already talking about compromising with Trump.

There is no compromising with a fascist.

Our institutions have failed us. The only thing we have is ourselves. Our belief in a better world than the one Trump envisions. The certainty that he and his supporters are a minority of the population. Roughly half of the voting population didn’t (or couldn’t, because of suppression) vote, about 25 percent voted for Hillary, and slightly less than that voted for Trump. Hillary won the popular vote by more than 1 million votes (and counting). There is reasonable suspicion that Russia hacked our systems and swung things Trump’s way. At the very least, there should be an investigation into foreign interference in a U.S. election.

I believe dire times are ahead; indeed, they are already here. The day after the election, there were reports of up to eight trans youths who had completed suicide because they were terrified of living under a Trump administration. Another woman had a friend complete suicide because she knew her health care would be taken away, and she could not live without it. Hundreds of hate crimes have taken place. And it will undoubtedly escalate.

There is little good news to be found since Nov. 8. However, there ARE things we can do to resist Trump and fight for the future. Here is a far-from-complete list:

–First, no safety pins. Most people who are being targeted by Trump–people of color, immigrants, Muslims–see this as an empty gesture with little real effect. And white supremacists are already planning to co-opt it and use the pins as bait to attack unsuspecting people.

–Call your senators and representatives and let them know you oppose any effort to put Steven Bannon and Jeff Sessions in the White House. Calling is more effective than emailing. If aides are on the phone all day taking calls, their bosses will hear about it. Call regardless of which party your representatives are. Let them know you are watching them closely and will hold them accountable for their actions.

–Donate to organizations that will be on the front lines: the ACLU, your local abortion fund, Planned Parenthood, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Trevor Project, CAIR, Sacred Stone Camp (fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline), Black Lives Matter, NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center.

–Reach out to your local mosque, synagogue, temple, and black church and ask what you can do to help. Let them know you will stand with them in the coming months and years.

–Consider running for office. Too many down-ballot Republicans run unopposed. Republicans understand many of the decisions affecting people’s everyday lives are made at the local level. Democrats haven’t made many strides here. If you can’t run for office, recruit your friends to do it.

–Donate to Foster Campbell, a Democrat running for Senate in Louisiana. He’s in a runoff election in December and could secure another seat for the Democrats in the Senate, which would be crucial. If you’re near Louisiana, consider volunteering for him. Encourage your friends and family nearby to do the same.

–Donate to and volunteer with your state Democratic Party. This is important for many reasons. First, the statehouses are the ones that do the redistricting for congressional seats. There will be a census in 2020, and whichever party is in control at the time will determine the congressional districts. In 2010, Democrats didn’t turn out to vote, and Republicans swept to power in statehouses across the country. They gerrymandered districts so that even though House Democrats, like Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote nationwide, Republicans are safely in control of the House. We cannot let them continue to dominate statehouses. Second, it takes three-fourths of states to ratify amendments to the Constitution. If many more statehouses turn Republican, they will have a clear path to doing away with any amendment they don’t like (for example, the First), and adding any amendment they please (forbidding marriage equality, ensuring lifetime terms for presidents, prohibiting abortion, whatever your nightmare scenario might be). The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is a nationwide group devoted to putting Democrats in more statehouses.

–Work to restore voting rights to disenfranchised people and felons. Voter suppression worked exactly the way the Republicans wanted. We must push back against this and work to expand voting rights. It’s crucial to our democracy.

–President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder have created the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which has a similar goal to the DLCC. Watch for more information on that and how you can get involved.

–Hold people accountable for normalizing Trump. There is no “everyone does it,” “both parties do it,” “nothing to worry about here.” Every. Single. Thing. He. Does. Is. Not. Normal. The media have already started by refusing to call white supremacists what they are. They won’t call a racist racist or a fascist fascist. Words have meaning. We need to use them.

–Read this and believe it: Autocracy: Rules for Survival

Read this.

–Lastly, but most importantly, we white people need to work on our racism. Many anti-racism activists and researchers, including Jane Elliott, believe we are all racist simply for growing up in the country we did. The United States is a country built on racism–first the genocide and colonization of indigenous people, then slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration. We have never acknowledged any of it. Too many white people, who often only know other white people, believe racism is a thing of the past. They think black people talk about racism too much. They insist “I don’t see color.” It’s easy not to think about race when you’re white because it affords us so much privilege. We aren’t targeted by police for being white. We’re not incarcerated at higher rates for being white. We’re not denied housing, education and employment for being white. We don’t die at earlier ages because we’re white. The list goes on.

We are all taught racism, if not by our parents, then by our culture. I grew up in a predominantly white area. There were no black students in my class until I got to high school. I had maybe two teachers who were people of color until I got to college, though I did have one white science teacher who would perform in blackface each year for his lessons on George Washington Carver. This teacher admired Carver and I’m sure he thought he was honoring Carver by wearing blackface. The administration allowed this. My classmates thought it eccentric but not incredibly racist, as it is for me in hindsight.

My classmates were more likely to be Asian–Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian, Pakistani–than black. There were two or three black students in my class of 300+ people. And it never occurred to me to discriminate against them for anything, but it also didn’t occur to me until years later how hard it must have been for them to live and grow up and learn in such a white area.

So, just because you don’t go around saying the n-word, that doesn’t mean you can congratulate yourself on not being racist. Being non-racist is a lifelong process. It’s a matter of degree. It’s being able to call each other out when we mess up. It’s being able to admit most of our favorite popular culture is racist–because most of it is created by white people. And it’s important to remember that liking it doesn’t automatically make you a bad person. But it’s also important to know that the issues are there.

Some favorites who are problematic: Elizabeth Warren claimed Native American ancestry, which genealogy has disproved. She has never really apologized or had a conversation about why what she did was wrong. That is racist. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which I love dearly, is racist. Her new series is racist. The Lord of the Rings is racist. Star Wars is racist. Katy Perry is racist. Gwen Stefani is racist. Johnny Depp is racist and an abuser. Cultural appropriation is a real thing. Stealing someone’s culture and identity for your own use is racist and wrong. White people having dreadlocks is racist. Saying things like “you speak English so well” is racist. Asking a person of color where they’re from is racist. Buying into the “welfare queen” stereotype is racist (the majority of welfare beneficiaries are white, not black). Consuming all-white media and not criticizing whitewashing is racist.

It’s also racist to think there is such a thing as reverse racism. Racism is based on power structures. As long as there has been a United States, white people have held the power. White people have never been an oppressed population here. So people of color may dislike white people as a group or stereotype them, but they cannot be racist against white people. However, they can be racist against fellow people of color. White supremacy is a powerful thing, and it rewards people of color who buy into its myths, the same way patriarchy rewards sexist women (e.g. Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, etc).

Don’t assume racism is something that will die out with older generations. Young people are plenty racist. Racism is taught, so if Baby Boomers and Gen X are racist, their children will be too. There’s also no rule that says just because you have one black friend you can’t be racist, or because you have gay friends you can’t be homophobic. It doesn’t work that way.

If you know people of color, remember it’s not their job to educate you about all of this. It’s your job to learn and do your own research. People of color have had to learn how to live in a white society to survive. White people’s lives don’t depend on knowing the ins and outs of black culture and history, so we are ignorant. The good news is, there are plenty of resources available. Go to your library. Use your friend Google. Make sure  to study and read authors and researchers who are people of color.

When the economy crashes–because Trump has plainly stated that’s his goal–remember it was white people who voted him into office and white people who implemented his policies. He will try to blame everyone else for what happens. Nothing is ever his fault. Remember. It’s not the fault of immigrants. It’s not the fault of people of color. It’s completely Trump and the people who voted for him.





Why I volunteer for the president despite disagreeing with him

The reason why I support the president despite sometimes disagreeing with him should be obvious. There’s not a single person in my life I agree with 100 percent of the time. If you respond you do have someone like that in your life, please go grow a spine.

Off the top of my head, I can think of several areas where I disagree with the president: he doesn’t support same-sex marriage; he hasn’t closed Guantanamo Bay; he signed an executive order when the health care law was passed banning federal funding for abortion; his support of the EPA has been tepid; more undocumented workers have been deported under him than any other president (not something to be proud of); and he and his defense secretary are opposed to any cuts in defense spending despite the fact that makes up the majority of our budget.

However, his list of accomplishments is vast: he has appointed more women and minorities to positions of power than any other president, including two women to the Supreme Court; passed the most sweeping health care reform in generations; killed Osama bin Laden; passed a stimulus bill that prevented a depression; saved the auto industry; ended don’t ask, don’t tell; stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act; made a video for the It Gets Better project; appointed former rival Hillary Clinton to secretary of state, where she’s had wild success and approval; improved the standing of the United States around the world; halted massive job loss and created new jobs; proposed the American Jobs Act to fix our aging infrastructure and project public sector jobs; and ended the global gag rule that prohibited U.S. aid to foreign family planning groups that even mentioned abortion to their clients.

Yet liberals who supported Obama in the 2008 election seem disillusioned this time around. Most of the people I talk with are planning to vote for the president again, but they’re not jumping in to volunteer for the campaign.

They’re disappointed for what boils down to two reasons: They thought Obama was more progressive than he really is, and they blame him because Washington is gridlocked.

First of all, I can’t think of a single issue where Obama has ever pledged a truly liberal stance, despite screaming from the right wing about how he’s a Marxist/communist/socialist. But because the United States got dragged so far to the right under George W. Bush, and even under Clinton, Obama looked like he was more progressive than he really is. He’s a centrist, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a far sight better than what we had from 2000-2008.

Second, in our government, it takes three groups to get anything done: the Senate, the House and the White House. After the 2010 midterms, the Republicans took control of the House, and although the Democrats still have the Senate, they don’t have enough votes to pass bills without Republican support. And even if they did, they’d still run up against the wall of opposition in the House, where leaders are determined to get nothing done. They want the economy to do badly because they want Obama out of the White House. There’s only so much Obama can do without the approval of Congress. And he has bent over backward to compromise with Republicans and include them in discussions to move the country forward. They refuse.

I’m disappointed that more people who supported Obama in 2008 don’t understand the above points. Over the weekend I had a union organizer tell me that based on what he’s hearing, if there were a Democratic primary challenge, Obama would be in trouble. I wanted to beat my head against a wall. Obama is the smartest, most serious, most reasonable president we’ve had in a decade. And one of his best characteristics is that he’s open to criticism, feedback and new ideas.

I wasn’t surprised to read about friction in the early stages of his administration over the role of women in the West Wing. According to the Washington Post, female staffers felt shut out of discussions and disregarded to the point where it could qualify as a hostile workplace. Obama’s reaction? He finally sat down with the women to hear them out.

“Those tensions prompted Obama, urged on by senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, to elevate more women into senior White House positions, recognize them more during staff meetings and increase the female presence in the upper ranks of the reelection campaign. … The complaints seemed to subside over the last year, as officials have made a greater effort to promote women and the tight-knit inner circle has shifted to bring new advisers into the building.”

That, to me, is the work of a good leader. No, he’s not perfect. No one is. But despite the areas where I disagree with him, I truly believe he is a good man. I truly believe he has the best interest of all Americans at heart. That is why I have put so much time and effort into re-electing him. It’s why you should consider doing the same.

Let’s bring the troops home from everywhere

I’m not a pacifist, but generally I think the U.S. military has too much money and too many troops in foreign countries. I don’t understand why we need a military presence in every country that will allow us one. As far as I know, we’re not actively at war with anyone except the nebulous “war on terror.” Do we really need 33,000 soldiers in Japan? Or 104 in Thailand? Why do we have 9,000 in Italy? Or 17 in Finland?

You can see these numbers at Mother Jones, which has a great interactive map on Mission Creep that shows how many troops the United States has in each country from 1950 to 2007 (the latest year for which data was available). It’s interesting to see the numbers change over time. However, a close look reveals there are few countries where there isn’t at least one U.S. troop. Maybe in addition to calling for troops to be brought home from Iraq and Afghanistan, we should ask to bring them home from everywhere.

Has justice really been done?

I found out through Twitter that Osama bin Laden had been killed, and had time to watch the live speech President Obama gave about the death of a mass murderer. I thought it was a good speech — I especially liked that he mentioned that the United States is not and never has been at war against Islam — but it left me feeling conflicted. I didn’t want to go out and shoot off fireworks or dance around in joy. If this had happened nine years ago, before we had a chance to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, maybe I would feel like celebrating. The fact remains that more than 3,000 people died on Sept. 11, 2001, and thousands of soldiers and hundreds of thousands in the Middle East have died in a battle against a nebulous enemy: terror.

A few things do make me glad: that U.S. troops were the ones to kill bin Laden, and none were injured doing so; that this might bring closure to the families of those who died on Sept. 11; it might make soldiers feel that their sacrifices have been worthwhile. Shallowly, I am also glad this might boost Obama’s re-election chances, because despite all of former President George Bush’s blustering about being tough on terror, bin Laden was brought down on Obama’s watch. It will be difficult to question his national security credentials in the run-up to 2012.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not sad at all that bin Laden is dead. And if this were the actual end of anything, on either our side or the terrorists’, I would be at the head of the parade. We could certainly use a bit of good news right now. But it feels like a hollow victory.

The budget as a moral document

The reason you should think of the budget as a moral document is because it lays out the country’s priorities in monetary form. Programs that suffered cuts were considered not as important as those whose funding stayed flat or increased. The more I read about the recent budget deal, the more disgusted I become. It turns out half of the cuts in spending are cuts only through legislative technicality. There are hard cuts to programs that help the poor, like WIC, which took a $504 million cut (mere pennies of the deficit), while the military, the government’s biggest expenditure, got $5 billion more in funding. The health of poor women and children was deemed less important than beefing up our already massive military complex. I don’t consider that a moral decision.

I don’t want to endanger our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else. I’d like them to be home where they belong. But I cannot believe we can’t cut any of the defense budget without endangering the safety of troops stationed around the world. I also don’t believe cuts in the military will make us vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Terrorist attacks are caused by the hatred of disturbed people. No amount of money can prevent them from carrying out their missions if they are determined enough. We might see fewer attacks and better worldwide sentiment toward the United States if we invested more money in the State Department and diplomacy instead of the Defense Department and its firepower. But the State Deparment suffered $8 billion in cuts under the budget deal. As Sarah Morgan at American Progress said:

These kind of lopsided cuts are the wrong approach. We need to refocus our spending priorities so we can adequately address and respond to the threats we face today — not those from yesterday. Today’s global challenges are far more complex and interconnected than yesterday’s, and traditional military might is not the only way — and often not even the best way — to maintain our leadership role in the world.

What really gets me is if most of these budget “cuts” aren’t really cuts, this deal could have been reached weeks if not months ago. We came way too close to an unnecessary shutdown. The New York Times had an interesting interactive graphic on its website where you could balance the budget by making a series of choices. I was able to balance both the 2015 and 2030 budgets mostly by raising taxes on the rich and cutting military spending. As people have been saying on Twitter lately, we don’t have a debt problem, we have a revenue problem. We could solve at least part of our problems by collecting taxes from companies who are earning billions of dollars in profit each year.

President Obama spoke today about his plan to address the deficit problem. I thought it was a great speech that really framed the issue in a way that benefits the Democrats. He said in part:

“Part of this American belief that we are all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security and dignity. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff, may strike any one of us. ‘There but for the grace of God go I,’ we say to ourselves, and so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, and those with disabilities. We are a better country because of these commitments. I’ll go further — we would not be a great country without those commitments. […]

“The America I know is generous and compassionate; a land of opportunity and optimism. We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the country we want and the future we share. …  This is who we are.”

He also criticized the Republicans’ vision of austerity:

Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can’t afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy.  Think about it.  In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined.  The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each.  And that’s who needs to pay less taxes?  They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs?   That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.

The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.

That’s the kind of president I can support.

I know the budget is a complicated problem. I don’t claim to understand all of the issues involved. But what it comes down to is a lack of funds. And as most families these days know, you can only cut so much fat out of your budget until there’s just nothing left. At some point you need to go out and get more income — i.e., raise taxes. I like keeping my money as much as the next person, but we’re kidding ourselves if we pretend we can cut our way out of the deficit. And the people best able — and unforunately the least willing — to help us out are millionaires/billionaires and corporations. It’s their obligation to do so, and we should keep up the pressure to make them contribute their fair share. MoveOn.org is hosting a Tax Day: Make Them Pay event Monday to bring attention to the country’s biggest corporate tax dodgers, including Fed Ex, General Electric and Amazon. Think about joining a nearby rally. Or, if you’re busy that day, let your senators and representatives know you agree with the president’s plan for the future.

WHM Day 30: Thinking in new ways

In a small attempt at balancing out this month’s coverage of able-bodied women, today I want to recognize two women who have overcome some significant challenges to achieve their success: Dr. Temple Grandin and Tammy Duckworth.

I first became familiar with Temple Grandin through the eponymous movie starring

Temple Grandin

Claire Danes, which won several Emmys. Grandin was born with autism in the 1940s, well before awareness campaigns and research made it a household word. Even today, autism spectrum conditions are not well understood by the general public, so that was Grandin’s main problem, I think. There was never anything really wrong with her — she earned her doctorate in animal science, she’s a professor at Colorado State University, she’s an expert on autism and as a pioneer in animal behavior, she consults for the livestock industry — she is just different. Clearly she is brilliant, but as she says, she thinks in pictures, not verbal language, and her challenges have come from learning to navigate a world that doesn’t understand her. Read more on Grandin and watch a talk she gave at a TED conference last year at Temple Grandin: The World Needs All Kinds of Minds.

Duckworth works as an assistant secretary in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

President Obama with Tammy Duckworth

She herself is in the military. As a result of her service in the Iraq war, after an attack when she was co-piloting a Black Hawk helicopter, she lost both of her legs and partial use of an arm. She was awarded a Purple Heart, the Air Medal, and the Combat Action Badge. Just two years after that, she ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois’ 6th Congressional District. She narrowly lost but has continued to be active in public life. She has refused medical retirement so she can continue serving in the Illinois National Guard; she speaks fluent Thai and Indonesian; and she completed the Chicago Marathon in 2008 and 2009. She’s inspirational, to say the least.

Overreaching in Libya

At the OFA meeting I attended yesterday, one woman explained her support of President Obama by saying she doesn’t agree with everything he does or says, but she believes in his vision for the country. I do, too, but I am very concerned and disappointed by his decision to attack Libya. From the beginning I thought the invasion of Iraq was a big mistake, and as the war there and in Afghanistan has dragged out, my opposition has been justified. In general I think violence should be the last resort to solve anything, although I know reasoning with Gaddafi is useless. I don’t claim to understand the complexities of the situation, but I know our country can’t afford another entanglement over oil in that region of the world.

Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish is covering events with typical zealousness and has a good roundup of his thoughts as well as analysis from the experts.