For many people- even for some of those who voted for him- the election victory of Donald Trump and the ensuing clustering of a motley crew of hawks, white supremacists, economic hitmen, and science-deniers came as a shocking knock on the reality door. The Presidential (system), stable since the country’s founding, was pushed over and a bombastic businessman with no public service record assumed the position of “boss.” Strange days indeed.
Why strange? First, it’s hard to extrapolate from our pool of knowledge (about America.) History doesn’t serve as precedent because we haven’t been in this situation before. We’ve had other ideological presidents (Reagan for instance) but they had decades of political “compromise” to buffer their worst instincts. Second, Trump’s campaign was won because of its venom and bile not inspite of it. Decades of economic gutting has led much of America to want change and the persistence of race-hate, pushed partially underground, resurfaced. Third, because many are “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Take immigrants for instance. Some “native” sons hate them for having good jobs and for their elitism and some hate them for “being on welfare” and “taking our jobs.” So jobs bad, no jobs bad. Should they cease to exist? Ask the Alt-Right and you might get an eerie answer. Fourth because it’s easy to blame others for their biliousness but not ourselves for our passive indifference until AFTER the shit hits the fan.
But here’s the thing- for many this passivity is extending to beyond the election. Sure, many good people have been activated but others are “waiting and seeing” and “normalizing” ideas and language that is so beyond the pale as to make even George W Bush seem like a liberal and bleeding heart. The Rightists are on the ramparts and we are strolling in the park.
Each of us has 3 obligations- personal, financial, and political.
On the personal front, one must not turn away, smirk righteously, or shuffle with discomfort when someone around says something racist, misogynistic, or violent. Confrontation is needed and passivity has a high body-count.
On the financial front, one must not operate in the business as usual mode. If one is used to writing $25 checks for progressive causes, the time is now to write $500 checks. It might hurt a bit but it’s hardly a sacrifice if compared to the sacrifices that millions the world over make in the struggle for daily life, for breathing room to live.
On the political front, one must prioritize and fight clear, winnable battles so as to stave off the worst while simultaneously vigorously imagining a rational, fair, and sustainable future. And all of us must cease internecine battles immediately and find common cause, find the ability to join together as a bulwark to protect civilized society from the rise of fascism.
Some societies in the past have failed to heed the warning signs. While they may have sunk into the abyss for less than a thousand years, they took many innocent lives with them as they went.
Daag Ujjala is a freelance writer