Not my President

donald-trumpMy head is spin­ning with how fast the lash and back­lash about #not­mypres­i­dent has come and gone (and frankly, about a lot of elec­tion issues). I had thoughts about it when it start­ed right after the elec­tion, and I still have thoughts about it now, a long, long week lat­er.

To be clear, Don­ald Trump is not my Pres­i­dent. As George W. Bush was not, nor his father. But of course I respect the office of the Pres­i­den­cy, and he is the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States (bar­ring some fever dream about unfaith­ful elec­tors or exit-vote proof of fraud). I do not think he is an ille­git­i­mate Pres­i­dent. I do not think the mil­i­tary should dis­obey him as their Com­man­der in Chief (but note, I do hope that, if he should order nuclear launch­es, the mil­i­tary will defy him, as I hope they would do under any Pres­i­dent, no mat­ter the cir­cum­stances).

I have no prob­lem with this appar­ent para­dox. It is the basis of non­vi­o­lent protest. I will not over­throw the gov­ern­ment, but I will resist the poli­cies I can­not accept. Or as writ­ten on a sign Ani DiFran­co held up at a protest, “I’m done accept­ing the things I can­not change. I am chang­ing the things I can­not accept.”

And there are things I can­not accept about this administration’s float­ed plans. Reli­gious reg­is­tra­tion and intern­ment? Ced­ing the Asia-Pacif­ic region to Chi­na? Turn­ing a blind eye to Russia’s Sovi­et-style repres­sion? Tripling down on trick­le-down eco­nom­ic fan­tasies? Unchecked Fed­er­al spend­ing on tax cuts for the ultra-rich? Ille­gal nepo­tism in the White House? And that’s not all of it. The list grows dai­ly.

So yeah, he’s not my Pres­i­dent. In fact, in an eerie par­al­lel to Kansas (just one of many) Trump was elect­ed by about one quar­ter of the elec­torate. So he’s like­ly not your Pres­i­dent, either.

What can we do to change the things we can­not accept? How do we stand up to this Pres­i­dent with­out attack­ing the Pres­i­den­cy? Protest, as we have in march­es already, as we will in march­es to come. As we have with phone calls, and as we will con­tin­ue to do with phone calls. Get involved in your local and state elec­tions, because trick­le-up pol­i­tics is a real thing.

But most impor­tant­ly, of all these things, get out the vote. There is no action that will change our nation faster than involv­ing some of the 100 mil­lion (or so) reg­is­tered vot­ers who did not vote, and get­ting them vot­ing. This is the sin­gle thing you can do to make a dif­fer­ence in two years, and in four years.

In the face of despair

Mon­day morn­ing I woke up feel­ing the most despon­dent I have yet since elec­tion night. Well, since after elec­tion night. That night was pret­ty bad.

But I’ve had a sort of ener­gy since then, maybe a bit man­ic, that may have been prop­ping me up. Yes­ter­day, I woke up and read the news as I usu­al­ly do, and it hit me. We are in for four years of unmit­i­gat­ed crap. I don’t like this feel­ing, so I’m set­ting about to fig­ure out what I can do to, yes, make myself feel bet­ter. Here are the prob­lems I see, in big wide gen­er­al­iza­tions that sure­ly don’t address all of the impor­tant issues. And here is what I am doing about them, per­son­al­ly, local­ly, and nation­al­ly.

  • Trump’s cam­paign, whether inci­den­tal­ly, demon­stra­bly, or even inten­tion­al­ly, has made it okay to be a misog­y­nist, racist homo­phobe.

What am I doing about that? Per­son­al­ly, I’m wear­ing a safe­ty pin, both to pro­vide out­ward evi­dence that not every­one is an ass­hole, but also to remind myself to be more inten­tion­al in my inter­ac­tion with folks who might feel tar­get­ed. I live in Kansas, and I don’t run into many mar­gin­al­ized peo­ple, which makes it all the more shame­ful that I have not reached out.

There are any num­ber of good groups, local­ly, I am sure, to which I could give mon­ey, or ener­gy. There’s a Social Jus­tice com­mit­tee at my church, and I am hop­ing they will help me iden­ti­fy places I can give my time. Our church does a great job with hunger issues and Islam­ic out­reach. That’s a start.

Since the elec­tion, Tiffany and I have become month­ly givers to the South­ern Pover­ty Law Can­ter and Planned Par­ent­hood. SPLC coun­ters and pro­tects those who are sin­gled out and attacked in hate crimes. Planned Par­ent­hood pro­vides ongo­ing health ser­vices and sup­port for women and poor fam­i­lies through­out their lives.

  •  Trump’s Pres­i­den­cy will roll back much of the progress we achieved under Bill Clin­ton and Barack Oba­ma. The trend­ing of the nation’s vot­ing coun­ties towards the right will lead to more chal­lenges for real people’s lives. The econ­o­my will pro­vide less for more. The influ­ence of Trump’s white suprema­cist friends, his oli­garch cronies, and the oppor­tunis­tic extreme right will turn actu­al, real free­doms upside down.

In a nut­shell, he has the full pow­er of the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment, for at least two years, prob­a­bly four, to enact the agen­das of his friends and sup­port­ers.

What can I do about this? I can stay active in pol­i­tics. I work in state lev­el pol­i­tics in Kansas, where we actu­al­ly had a retreat from con­ser­v­a­tive posi­tions this elec­tion. We’ve seen the destruc­tive results of unfet­tered extrem­ist ide­ol­o­gy here, and Kansans have cho­sen change direc­tion. There’s much more work to be done, espe­cial­ly to make this a last­ing change, and I will keep work­ing at it.

We’ve also opened up our pock­et­book on this issue, becom­ing first-time month­ly sup­port­ers of the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union and the Nat­ur­al Resources Defense Coun­cil. The ACLU works to pro­tect civ­il lib­er­ties at the local lev­el with an eye towards nation­al influ­ence. The NRDC pro­tects the envi­ron­ment, among oth­er ways, by fight­ing laws and reg­u­la­tions that affect our future on the plan­et.

  • In two and four years, the coun­try will vote again. The chance that we could con­tin­ue down this path is fright­en­ing, and must be pre­vent­ed.

Per­son­al­ly, while I’m not cut out to actu­al­ly run for office, I have skills and expe­ri­ence that would be use­ful to those who are. I will con­tin­ue to be active in pol­i­tics, in get out the vote efforts, in sup­port­ing can­di­dates who will change this direc­tion. I’m well versed in local issues (and the max­im that all pol­i­tics is local is unques­tion­ably true) and yet I will work to explore issues I don’t know much about.

I plan to learn more about how the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty works nation­al­ly, what can be done to sup­port those local Repub­li­cans who are on the right side of the issues I care about (remem­ber, I live in Kansas), and how I can encour­age more peo­ple, espe­cial­ly women, to step up to pub­lic ser­vice. Is there any­thing more awe­some than Tam­my Duckworth’s smile?

I’m encour­aged by the num­ber of peo­ple who are look­ing to get involved, and the num­ber of groups step­ping up to offer them an avenue, from estab­lished groups to new ones.

This is how it starts. That’s how you defeat despair. You do some­thing.

You’re safe with me (now with added thoughts)

Earring and safety pin

Yeah, it’s a safe­ty pin.

I’ve got a new piece of jew­el­ry. On my bed­side table, next to the ear­ring I wear every day, I now keep a safe­ty pin. In the morn­ing, when I get dressed, I pin it on where it can be seen. I do this to let peo­ple who see it know that if they feel threat­ened, scared, sad, or dis­placed, I will do what I can to help.

It’s an action that was tak­en in the U.K. after Brex­it, when immi­grants and oth­ers sud­den­ly found them­selves unset­tled in their own com­mu­ni­ties. It took hold here after the elec­tion.

A lot of peo­ple have tak­en umbrage at these safe­ty pins. At first the elec­tion “win­ners” called it a sym­bol of hate. They said it was divi­sive. They said that it sup­ports a cul­ture of per­pet­u­al fear. Soon after, some on this side decried it as a bland, feel-good ges­ture that is inef­fec­tive, insin­cere, and fleet­ing. A nice­ty meant for white peo­ple to assuage their guilt.

I gen­tly say to them, bull­shit.

I’m not doing this out of shame. I’m not putting it on to look good to my friends. I’m not wear­ing it to claim some high­er moral ground. I’m not belit­tling the fears of white peo­ple. I’m not pre­tend­ing a safe­ty pin will mag­i­cal­ly make black lives mat­ter. This isn’t a sym­bol.

It’s an action.

It’s an offer of res­cue, sol­i­dar­i­ty, and solace.

If you feel unsafe, or alone, or afraid, because you’re white, black, brown or anoth­er shade of human­i­ty, because you have an accent or a drawl, because you wear cer­tain clothes, because you work with your hands, or you despair over num­bers at the din­ner table, because you dare not walk alone at night, or you lie awake wor­ry­ing about what will hap­pen tomor­row… you deserve bet­ter. You deserve safe­ty, com­mu­ni­ty, and secu­ri­ty.

I will work to meet peo­ple where their needs are. I will engage in my com­mu­ni­ty to rec­og­nize these inequal­i­ties and make some dif­fer­ence. But I can’t always be doing that. I have a fam­i­ly, kids, the mil­lion things we all have that take away our best inten­tions in favor of just get­ting through the day.

So I wear the pin because I want you to know, even if I’m just out get­ting gro­ceries, or going back to my car in a park­ing lot, or wait­ing in some line with you, that you’re safe with me.

I may not look like you. Or maybe I do. But you’ll know me by the safe­ty pin. And by the way I won’t turn my back if you need me.

Added: There’s a lot of back­lash to the safe­ty pins, and a lot of back­lash to that back­lash. The arti­cle that start­ed it, “Dear White Peo­ple, Your Safe­ty Pins Are Embar­rass­ing,” has been repost­ed to Medi­um and Huff­post, which means it’s most­ly click bait now. (His orig­i­nal sto­ry at his own site is swamped, and he has a sec­ond, more con­struc­tive post up now.) The com­ments, and I’ve read a cou­ple hun­dred, most­ly con­sti­tute a back­lash of their own. Here are the impor­tant points:

  • Some mar­gin­al­ized peo­ple are grate­ful for the safe­ty pins.
  • Many mar­gin­al­ized peo­ple are not giv­ing it much thought, one way or the oth­er.
  • No, the white nation­al­ist move­ment is not co-opt­ing it en masse, what­ev­er one trolling graph­ic pre­tends to imply. 
  • Yes, you def­i­nite­ly need to do more than put on a safe­ty pin and pre­tend you fixed it.

For me, wear­ing it yes­ter­day, it made me think. It made me uncom­fort­able, prob­a­bly in the right ways. More present in the world I was walk­ing through. Aware of what the black woman at the radio sta­tion might be think­ing.

Final­ly, my bit above was not meant to encour­age any­one else to wear a safe­ty pin. It was explain­ing why I am. 

I am eager to hear why you might wear one, or won’t wear one, or what you think about it.

How I’m doing: 2016 election edition

It’s been a hell of a week, I won’t kid you. I spent the entire elec­tion sea­son being pret­ty con­fi­dent in Hillary Clinton’s vic­to­ry. I guess, I fell into the trap of believ­ing my expe­ri­ence of the world was shared by every­one. Clear­ly, I was wrong. And intel­lec­tu­al­ly, it seems stu­pid of me now.

But I believed she’d win, she’d be the first female Pres­i­dent, and that much of the progress we’d made under Oba­ma would con­tin­ue. Because, you know, the alter­na­tive was too unbe­liev­able to imag­ine. But on elec­tion day, with no real rea­son, I began to get ner­vous. By evening, as the polls were clos­ing, I couldn’t stop think­ing about elec­tion night in 2000, when we were at a bar watch­ing the returns, and some­one looked up at the TV and asked, “Hey, where did Flori­da go?”

It seems a small mer­cy now that Tues­day night’s returns were con­sis­tent­ly dis­ap­point­ing, with a long slow slide into a Trump vic­to­ry, no false hope moments to raise us up before dash­ing us back onto the rocks. (The Neva­da win was too late in the evening, at least for me.) But I felt numb, and kind of… blank. I was up until 1 am, just after John Podes­ta announced that Hillary would not be speak­ing. I went to bed know­ing the out­come, but when I woke up at 4:30 am, I checked any­way.

I work in pol­i­tics, albeit at the state lev­el, and I live in Kansas, so I’m pre­dis­posed to crap­py polit­i­cal news. I have spent the last few days read­ing and read­ing and read­ing, and think­ing, and talk­ing and think­ing some more. I think this immer­sion in the reac­tions of oth­ers, like a sort of shock ther­a­py, has replaced my mourn­ing peri­od. I’m not much of a mourn­er any­way (I’ll call it “wal­low­ing” when I’m pis­sy), and I just didn’t want to dwell on it.

Now I find myself itch­ing to do some­thing. I’m work­ing on under­stand­ing, and under­stand­ing will reveal the things that need to be done, I know. But until I get there, I need some­thing tan­gi­ble, some action, some dif­fer­ence to make. I feel, ener­gized.

It may all come crash­ing down, I sup­pose. Some day I’ll break down in the mid­dle of walk­ing the dog, or at the bus stop wait­ing for my kid. But there’s just so much to unpack, I think I’ve got some time.

Don’t get me wrong, if I sound blasé. This out­come is hor­ri­fy­ing to me, in every way. If I stop to con­sid­er the real con­se­quences, to peo­ple, to our coun­try, and to the world, I can feel the gib­ber­ing pan­ic creep­ing in at the edges of my vision. But these last cou­ple of days, I feel great. Like I have pur­pose, like I’m coiled and ready to spring. It’s weird. It’s inter­est­ing. And I intend to take full advan­tage of it.