A former student messages me on Facebook early this morning that she needs help. I assume she means it was the dark night of a terrible election and she doesn’t know how to go on, what to do or think.
This is a very difficult moment, one of the worst in American history and world history in my opinion.
This sounds extreme. I have been thinking of times which were so much worse: I would for example recommend watching the excellent 1974 British series, The World At War, to realize just how horrible things can get from which one can return to civilization. Yet this seems very bad, connecting to fascist returns in Europe and Asia that reset the clock to 1938. And at a time when climate change threatens our future on earth.
We are reeling and grieving and so so angry. The 53% of white women who voted for Trump……I am trying to figure out what to do myself, what to say to you and others: be as smart as you can be and learn to be the toughest, smartest, funniest, most *knowledgeable* fighter for justice you can in the sphere of life you occupy. Knowledge is so important, especially knowledge of history, and finding other smart people, women in particular, to have solidarity with and greater power together than any individual can have.
I just listened to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. She was composed and gracious, but also her concession speech was a fierce clarion call for vigilance for the integrity of the Constitution. She proved in that moment that she should have been our President. The racists, misogynist, xenophobes, male and white supremacists whose victory this is are a shame on our nation and the world.
This is a painful moment for me personally because I am a first generation American, child of refugees from Hitler and the Shoa. My parents found a welcoming expansive place in America–though McCarthyism darkened their first years as full citizens. Still they like so many millions thrived. My biggest fear has always been that “it could happen again.” I don’t believe that I personally will be sent to a concentration camp for being Jewish though anti-semitism has reared its ugly head yet again, but I do believe that the “Golden Door” inscribed on the Statue of Liberty will be closed, in reality for some and symbolically for all, and I do believe my life will be shortened by the grief and anxiety of this time. And I don’t believe that the failsafes which have preserved our nation before will function. The killer is inside the house and the police is the killer.
Worse is my other fear, that comes from the knowledge that in the end in such moments you have to prepared to risk everything, you have to be prepared to be arrested. I find I am not prepared to do so. I can use words, what a pale force though also sometimes a powerful one, and I can use art, also a pale force but a powerful one. On that score I will have patience with joy in art but not superficial eye candy, I want to be fed real food now.
In the short term, I think people need to learn about the Suffrage movement, the Labor Union movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement, Gay Liberation, LGBTQ rights movement, the figures, the history, the actions. I also think it is very important to study the history of the Great Depression and the New Deal. What brought Trump to victory was white male fear, mainly, as well as economic troubles that he will not be able to solve. But what will govern is the final attack on the New Deal, because it is Paul Ryan who will be functional President of the United States or someone like him, and the goal has always been to destroy the support systems and regulations and freedoms that were put into place by F.D.R.: the goal is to privatize Medicare, and Social Security, first and foremost, and reduce taxes on the wealthy as well as so many other civil and gender related rights and further corporate power and voter suppression. But first Medicare, SS. healthy insurance, and taxes. That is it, that’s all they care about. That’s why Ryan would not effectively denounce his party’s nominee. So knowing the history of the New Deal is absolutely vital. Also knowing about the heroic figures of that time and of the civil rights movement and the feminist movement etc is absolutely essential. The voices and the texts and the films are there to be studied. Their eloquence fills my soul, always has done. Miss Fannie Lou Hamer: “Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
It is also important to understand that what has happened was part of a long term plan. Read the so-called Powell Manifesto, written in 1971. Everything was laid out in it, there was a plan to take back the country from “Others” and the left, step by step, and they adhered to the plan and it has worked. I have been disappointed in the left, the academic left, it alienates even its own, frankly hearing privileged white men long for revolution makes me sick, and I have not seen the plan, unlike for example the plan that led to the victories of the Civil Rights movement in the 50s and 60s which had been laid out carefully though with much debate and disagreement within. As Hillary Clinton said in one of her last campaign speeches, “anger is not a plan.” It is the instigation and drive for a plan.
There is so much to do and the young have to do much of it, because it is your future, and because you have more of the physical energy, the unconscious strength in the body to do it. You don’t know it until you begin to lose it. You can think you are so so tired, but you are not, and youthful health gives an unconscious optimism that must be channeled and used. But historical awareness, knowledge, humor, and solidarity are vital. And each small gesture does make some kind of a difference although it doesn’t feel that way right now in the face of such infamy. For yesterday, November 8th, 2016, is “a date which will live in infamy” (FDR)
And, in the short term: I’m going to give a few bucks to the ACLU and The Southern Poverty Law Center and Planned Parenthood because we will need them and organizations like them in the months and years to come.