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.