We Have Nothing to Fear but Bigotry

Trump has been president for 11 days and during this time, he has confirmed everything that was feared. He is doing exactly what he said that he would. While this comes at no surprise to those that were really paying attention, it has caught others off guard.

Trump has issued an executive order to build a wall along the Mexican border. There is no reason to build this wall. Illegal immigration from Mexico is at a near all-time low. It will also cost in the 10s of billions to construct. There are many better uses for this money. Despite Trump’s claim that Mexico will pay for it, we will be paying for it.

More recently, Trump signed an executive order banning all travel from 13 largely Muslim countries. This order was implemented immediately and those that were currently in transit when the order was signed were detained at the border. This order is specifically target at Muslims. This is wrong. Similar to when we turned away Jews during WWII, we are sending refugees back to die. This ban is not protecting us from anything. Even if it was, it is still wrong. This is only going to cause more people to radicalize and want to do us actual harm.

So far, Trump’s presidency has been marked with hatred. These are exactly the things that he campaigned on. If he has been pushing so hard in the first few days, where are we going to be at the end of 4 years?

Defending Democracy

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.
1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.
2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.
3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.
4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.
5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.
6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.
7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.
8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.
9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.
10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.
11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.
12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.
13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.
14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.
15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.
16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.
17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.
18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)
19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.
20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

Timothy Snyder, Housum Professor of History, Yale University

Why it’s different this time

I’ve found myself wondering if a Trump presidency will really be as bad as I fear. After all, there are always fears about a new president. This time, it really is different.

When George W Bush was elected, we were mainly concerned about his economic plan and the possibility of war. It turns out that our fears were well founded. When Obama was elected, people were afraid that he’d give us healthcare and, he did. They were also afraid of many other things but not what he said.

Trump is different. He was elected based on hate and bigotry. In his campaign, he promised to deport millions of Mexicans, prevent Muslims from entering the country (regardless of citizenship) and to reinstate our tourture program. None of these things are things that we should allow to happen and yet they’re why he was elected. Even if he doesn’t do any of these things, rhetoric is harmful as it is.

His actions since being elected have only reinforced why it’s different this time. His pick for chief strategist is an actual nazi. His pick for Atorney general was eliminated during the Reagan administration due to his racial views. He is not moving his assists to a blind trust as is ethically required. He is instead figuring out how to properly maximize his profit. He has also started disseminating fake news. He claimed that Ford was going to move a plant to Mexico and because of him, they aren’t. They were never planning on moving it.

Failure

On Tuesday, we elected a child rapist, mediocre businessman, sexist, racist pig to be our leader. We elected the man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. He has no experience in politics, his only experience is in business, where, he managed to lose money running a casino. The man’s only discernable features are a hatred of all non-white people.

I was aware of how racist the US is, I just didn’t expect white supremacy to be the only issue that mattered to 26.5% of the population. I want to be clear, furthering White Supremacist causes make you a White Supremacist and therefore, voting for Trump makes you racist.

These are what he has promised:

  • Build a wall between the US and Mexico
  • Deport all of the illegal immigrants
  • Deport US citizen because they’re “anchor babies”
  • Prevent Muslims from entering the country
  • Bring back water boarding and introduce worse forms of torture
  • Kill the civilian family members of terrorists
  • Reverse Women and Trans rights
  • Remove millions of people’s health insurance
  • Jail his political opponent
  • Reverse the legalization of Gay marriage
  • Reverse Roe v Wade
  • Restrict the freedom of the press (ironic since they handed the presidency to Trump)
  • Restrict the freedom of assembly
  • destroy the economy in order to induce riots

None of that sounds like making America great again. None of those things are things that should ever happen. This is not ok, we are not fine. These things can not be allowed to happen.

This is the result of a number of systemic failures. The GOP failed to prevent one of the fascist candidates from securing the nomination. The GOP failed in what should be a primary purpose, ensuring that our country doesn’t fall to fascism. The primary process for the Democrats resulted in a candidate that was not compelling enough to win.

Our final hope is the electoral college fulfilling their purpose and protecting us from a threat to our democracy. I think it is very unlikely to actually happen. While this is the explicit purpose of the electoral college, it has never been done before. It is also likely to cause extreme backlash from those who supported Trump. While this backlash is likely to be pretty damaging, a Trump presidency would be worse.

I could have done more. I’ve been too consumed with taking care of my family with our 5 month-old daughter. I haven’t been following along with the presidential race as much as I should. I, as well as much of the country, thought that the chances of Trump actually winning were negligible. We were very wrong.

The Party of Fear

It is extremely unfortunate that the United States has developed into a two party system. It’s even more unfortunate that one of those parties is unable to field respectable candidates. Prior to Tuesdaysʼs debate, the two leading candidates, Trump and Cruz, are both literal fascists. The two appeals of the Republicans: American isn’t safe and, Make America great again.

It seems that the Republican party can be characterized by a desire to have the biggest and best military force in the world so that we can stamp out any possible threat (by bombing those fuckers into the ground). Have we learned nothing? Nothing from Vietnam and both Gulf wars? The lessons of which should be apparent, we can use our military to kill people but, we can’t control them. In fact, our belligerent attitude is causing us to be significantly less safe. How many people will join ISIS after we kill their family members in collateral damage?

Unfortunately, the damage may already be done by Trump. Even if he fails to capture the Republican Nomination, he has already made open bigotry acceptable. A year ago, I would have expected provably false, racist slander to eliminate a political candidate from any election, instead, it has only propelled his campaign. I, unfortunately, know people that have a hatred of Mexican immigrants. Trump’s comments have made this sort of sentiment into something that is able to be discussed.

Condemning an entire race wasn’t enough for Trump, all Muslims are in the crosshairs as well. Not only would he prevent the US from taking in the abysmally small number of Syrian refugees that Obama has committed to, He would also prevent any citizen that happens to be a Muslim from returning to the United States. This is wrong. It is against everything that this country was built upon and every sane citizen should find this idea repulsive. This is already having repercussions, violence against Muslims is up. It is inciting the true American terrorists, white people.

In addition, Trump advocated for committing war crimes during the debate. He would like to target the families of ISIS members. This is flat out sickening. Under no conditions should we every consider doing this and those who preach it should be nowhere near running this country.

None of these things comes from a position of strength. The primary strategies for the Republican party appear to be the creation of fear and nostalgia. Their strategy requires all of us to live in a state of fear, a fear that they alone can resolve. This is not the world that I live in and you shouldn’t either. Egregiously, theyʼre also exploiting the widespread hatred of Mexican and the hatred and fear of Muslims to further solidify their following. I want no part in this and you shouldnʼt either.