Sunday, November 13, 2016
I have hesitated to say anything publicly post-election, mostly because I am as much in the dark as anyone else. I felt badly for students who looked to me to provide some solace when all I could do was listen to, and empathize with, their despair, confusion, and anger.
Nonetheless, in the last few days it is becoming apparent that much of President-Elect Trump's platform will prove impossible to implement. The United States government is a complex behemoth of House and Senate, courts and legal system, a massive home and overseas bureaucracy, with many multifaceted interests and alignments. It's likely that the swamp will get bigger rather than be drained. To switch metaphors, like a massive oil tanker it is both difficult to turn and almost impossible to stop. President Trump in power is likely to be different that Mr. Trump the candidate, at least as far as the implementation of policy. At least I hope so. Time will tell.
I have been wearing my poppy all week in remembrance of those who have died in humanity's seemingly endless wars. One hundred years ago, November 1916, saw the end of the Battle of the Somme. The battle had been raging since July of that year. Best estimates are that in those four months over a million French, German and British lost their lives in the most senseless of all wars. During the the whole war some 39 million were killed, wounded, or missing in action. The aftermath of the war fueled fascism and paved the way for the Second World War, when a further 73 million military personnel and civilians were killed. In those thirty years the world tore it's own heart out.
We are not there now. Perhaps we ought to count your blessings. For most of us life is better than it was then.
Quit whining then? Weirdly that's the point. Since the madness of the world wars, humanity has been making steady, if halting, progress. It is not to minimize the suffering of all too many since World War Two, but it is to say that we have managed to avoid destruction on the sheer scale of the world wars. It is to say that colonialism ended, and freedom increased for millions of people. Human Rights are high on the agenda of most nations. We have numerous and important international agreements, cooperation, and trade between nations unheard of in human history. Here in the USA we have seen progress in civil rights undreamt of before 1960—a largely popular Black President, and gay marriage equality, to name but two.
Why then the mourning? What has died for me is that I had hoped we were farther along the path toward a just, open, kind and pluralistic society where everyone counts; what Martin Luther King Jr. characterized as the Beloved Community. For the last several years it seemed that we were making progress. But the sad fact is that just about half of those who voted, voted for Mr. Trump and did so because of, or for some despite, the racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic rhetoric that fueled Mr. Trump's base. That suggests to me that we are a long way from the Beloved Community. Already around the United States those emboldened by the campaign rhetoric have begun a campaign of hate against muslims, Jews, Latinos and Latinas, women, gays and trans folk. In a local school, not far from here, White boys attacked minority students "for Mr. Trump." More people are afraid, and for good reason, than I can remember.
In office, President Trump may not turn out as bad as many feared. But his campaign rhetoric has given legitimacy to hate speech and actions, and it is likely that many will suffer at the hands of those he has emboldened (witness the glee of the KKK and its plans to hold celebratory marches.)
Where does it leave me? I still grieve. Yet, I am resolved to continue to stand with and to support all women, and my Black, Latino and Latina, gay, trans, Muslim, and Jewish family, friends, colleagues and students. I am resolved to continue teaching and writing about love and nonviolence. I am resolved not to give in to bullying and hatred wherever I see it. Love overcomes fear.
Poppy image from http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/remembrance/how-we-remember/the-story-of-the-poppy/