(Art by Daniel Hagerman)
It happened. We have to recognize that Donald Trump has been installed as President of the United States of America by the Electoral College.
We have to recognize this. But we don’t have to accept it. Or be silent about it.
I’m sure many of us appreciate the fact that the U.S. has had peaceful transitions of power between presidential elections with no military coups or mass upheaval. But the peace of these transitions is a “negative peace,” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would say. That is, it is a time without unpredictable physical violence, but also without justice. It’s not peace and morality, it’s merely law and order.
To quote Dr. King exactly:
I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”
In other words, there will never be a peaceful, perfectly opportune time to fight against injustice, but we still have to fight it. Me personally, I’ve given up on telling people how to fight against injustice, despite my experience organizing in various protest movements. I believe people know themselves, and know what they want. I do, however, want to share certain things in the fight for justice that I cannot accept.
FIVE THINGS I WILL NOT DO IN TRUMP’S AMERICA
- Meet Hatred in the Middle
First, can someone tell me where one meets racism in “the middle?” To be sometimes racist? To be middle racist? Is it to only occasionally classify a Mexican immigrant in the U.S. – whom you’ve never met – as a criminal? Hm, would meeting racism in the middle be the act of profiling half of Mexicans in the U.S. all of the time, or profiling all of Mexicans in the U.S. half of the time? I don’t know, because I refuse to do so anyway. Certain things are never worth compromise – and xenophobia and racism are two great examples.
Compromise is having a limited budget and debating on whether new mental health facilities or new educational facilities get built in a community first. But allowing opportunists to refuse to fund either facility and opting to sell both services off to private corporations is not compromise.
As a proudly Queer male, I also refuse to “compromise” on living my life openly, and I refuse to relinquish any rights regardless of what Mike Pence has planned. Also, if Trump was so keen on meeting in the middle, why is Pence far to the Right and full of extreme prejudice?
If you can compromise on the safety, dignity, and human rights of marginalized groups, you’re not meeting anyone in the middle… you’re reinforcing systems of oppression and prejudice.
- Give Trump a Chance to Lead
Mein Kampf was published by Hitler in 1925. He details his hatred for Jewish people. He details his dreams of German territorial expansion. Just over a decade later, Hitler was well on his way into materializing the words of Mein Kampf. This all happened, of course, after years of appeasement from the UK, France, the U.S., and the League of Nations. I’m sure many contemporaries were shocked by the evil of Hitler, but he had been disturbingly upfront with his ultimate intentions for years.
Trump has literally spent a year and a half inciting fear and animosity towards people identifying as Mexican, Muslim, Refugee, Immigrant, Journalist, Woman, Black, and the list goes on. Why should we believe his presidency will be any different?
Because of his radical tax plan? That allows the rich to not pay their fair share, and squeezes money from the working poor? Or his radical or progressive student loan plan, which still could cripple people with payments? Not only do these less than progressive proposals leave me unimpressed, but his other actions speak louder than these overblown words. The perverse and greed driven cadre of puppet masters that Trump is considering for his cabinet keeps me from fooling myself about his presidency. Trump has even wasted precious preparation time to toy with Mitt Romney. Toying with political opponents, apparently is not a red flag or an omen of a crumbling semi-democracy.
Ultimately, when it comes to giving Trump a chance, I have to ask one question: why wait until something terrible has already happened to push back against it? Isn’t it better to prevent tragedies than to react to them?
Just like Maya Angelou once told Oprah, “when people show you who they are, believe them.”
- Condemn Violent Protesters
Like Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “…riot is the language of the unheard.” While I agree with most that violence isn’t a good thing, I disagree that violence is left out of conversations regarding activism. First, let me clarify the definition of what I mean by violence.
Violence isn’t just a punch or a broken window. It starts long before that on a societal level. The violence of deprivation from food and shelter. The violence of erasure from history and decision-making. The violence of police brutality. Why speak out on protesters and rioters using violence, if you’re also silent about the everyday societal violence against marginalized communities?
Citizens also regularly peacefully petition government and economic institutions to have their concerns heard. But often times it is only when protests get out of hand that institutions actually respond. Why blame rioters for speaking the only language institutions choose to listen to? Again, those who fight back should not be the starting point of your criticisms.
Many of the non-violent moments that we reference existed alongside armed struggles. For example, the demands of the non-violent Satyagarha movement that helped bring about Independence in India were so attractive to the British because armed uprisings by the Indian National Army and various riots offered a less favorable alternative. The non-violent struggle for independence was only normalized after more extreme armed uprisings became visible.
This was also true of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. The non-violent March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom that was ultimately led by Martin Luther King Jr. was so accepted by government institutions and major corporations because it was a peaceful alternative to the initial march considered by young, radical Black Americans who were determined to disrupt every last bit of order in Washington DC. In other words, the mere whisper of radicals can serve to normalize non-violent progressives. Malcolm X even discussed this with Coretta Scott King in Selma, while King was imprisoned during the Voting Rights Act campaign there. Malcolm X knew that King was still viewed as too radical, and that Malcolm X could make King’s ultimate goals look more appealing by showing White America a more militant alternative.
Let me be clear, I’m not advocating or promoting armed violence in social movements; I’m just here to let you know that they have long held a place in many of the movements that we often romanticize.
- Give Everyone Equal Air Time to be Trump’s Victim
White women, I understand that Trump’s incendiary comments about grabbing women by the pussy (aka sexually assaulting/raping them) have horrified you. They ARE horrifying comments. But imagine also being poor (if you’re not), disabled (if you’re not), a racial minority, an immigrant (with or without papers), or trans/non-cisgendered and grappling with the future under a Trump presidency. Joking about leaving the country with people who might be forced out of the country isn’t cute.
Even with the presence of my marginalized identities, my experience as a lighter-skinned cis-male with a U.S. passport means that people shouldn’t let me take up too much space in political discussions either.
- Accept Lesser Evil
Russian hackers are a threat to peace and democracy… but they don’t magically undo the Democrats’ actions. Democrats, Republicans, and Putin’s henchman CAN ALL BE EVIL. Don’t cling to the opponent of your most immediate enemy, and then be surprised that your vision is led astray.
Of course I’m detested by Trump’s stance on diplomacy, militarism, immigration, and racial justice, but the last 8 years haven’t been a dream either. Not a good dream, at least. Barack Obama may be the greatest president that we’ve ever had, but he’s really only competing against crooks, slave-owners, weapon-smugglers, and George W. Bush. Keep in mind that the horrid immigrant detentions, the refusal of asylum to Central American children, and a minimal response to police brutality (especially anti-Black police brutality) have all happened under the Obama Administration. Don’t even get me started on how Trump’s underhanded corporate dealings are matched by the Democrats as well.
My faith is not in the party that continually lets us down. My faith is in us. People who demand change in the face of injustice. We’re all we’ve got.
-Timothy Singratsomboune, email@example.com
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