After Donald Trump won the election, I made myself an action plan to resist the administration on whatever level I realistically could, if only to feel like I had some small amount of control and positive effect on a world that seemed to have lost its mind. My plan included supporting organizations that I feel strongly about, including the ACLU and the Washington Post, with whatever money I could spare. But I also promised myself that I would donate more of my time to take part in protests, since it's one of the few means we have of exercising our democratic rights at the national level outside of an election.
I'm an introvert, so this was no easy promise for me. There have been many times in the past that I've thought about participating in a demonstration or volunteering my time somehow, but haven't because I'm shy and often struggle with getting out of the house and interacting with other people. Once I get my butt moving, I almost always enjoy the activity, but I know how drained I'll feel by the end of it, and that's been a major obstacle to doing more. I'm working on it, because introversion is no excuse for letting your country circle the drain.
So several months ago, I decided to attend the March for Science. I was going to drive up from North Carolina and stay with my parents in Maryland in order to demonstrate on the National Mall on Earth Day. It was a good plan.
Then my husband and I decided to split up, and frankly since then, it's been really tough. It just feels like I'll never be happy again, even when I know we're making the right decision. I'm trying not to wallow in my sadness and self-pity, but it's hard when you're losing someone you love. Understandably, a lot of my good writing, exercise, and productivity habits have deteriorated over the last few weeks as a result. I'm definitely still working at finding my sense of equilibrium again.
Yet ironically, one of the few things that separating from my husband made easier was attending the March for Science, since I wound up moving back in with parents and was only a hop-skip-and-a-jump from D.C. anyway. Even though I've been feeling pretty low of late, I still managed to get myself out of the house on Saturday, in the pouring rain, so that I could march for a cause I really believe in. This wasn't easy, but I'm glad I did it.
A lot of people were out there marching against the suppression of truth and data by an administration that unabashedly favors big business in the face of damning evidence to choose otherwise. Another perhaps less publicized reason why we were marching was to save our jobs. The Trump administration has proposed unprecedented cuts in funding for scientific research, particularly in the medical field, which makes so little sense. You would think that an administration that claims to put America first would also support American research, so we can all benefit from the basic and applied studies that result in new technologies that can save and improve lives AND make money.
I stopped doing research about a year ago, but I now work as an editor for scientists, helping them to communicate their findings more effectively so they can publish their work faster and in better peer-reviewed journals. So if there are cuts to funding, it will certainly affect my customers, who will either have to tighten their belts, or in some extreme cases - close down their labs and stop conducting research altogether. Under those conditions, very few researchers are going to be able to hire someone like me.
And in the big picture, it's such a loss. Why should we stop supporting scientists, whose highest aim is to find new information that could keep our planet and our bodies healthier, but also could be used to employ more engineers and companies to create amazing new devices and technologies, which will make more jobs! It can all be traced back to the work of a few lowly graduate students and their over-worked, under-paid, and under-funded advisers. It's an investment that pays off. There are so many reasons for supporting science with public funding. I couldn't possibly do the argument justice.
So I marched to show my support, along with several thousand like-minded people around the world. To be frank, it wasn't much fun. It was wet, cold, and over-crowded for me, and I have no doubt that my current state of mind colored my experience more negatively than I would have wished, but I'm glad I did it anyway - using my presence like the vote that I feel was taken from me back in November.
Here's some pics if you have any interest. They don't really do justice for how many people were out there that day, far more than I had expected. Some of the signs were fun, the chants were pretty weak at best, but how much can expect from a bunch of nerdy introverts who have traditionally shied from making political statements. This was a big move for my community and it shows how seriously we take the administration.
One of the things I'm constantly confronted with is how little I know. In fact, the more I study a subject or think about it, the more I realize there's so much more out there to learn and it's so much more complex than I had originally imagined. It can be daunting. I know a lot of people in science struggle with this issue. You go through life being a know-it-all, then you put in all this effort to get a Ph.D. In the end you feel stupider than ever because the process basically only taught you how very big the world is and how you will never completely understand anything - just the tiniest sliver of a fraction of knowledge, of which you get to claim "expertise."
But even if it feels quixotic, that doesn't mean I want to stop learning. This is one of the reasons why I love podcasts. About 50% of the podcasts I listen to are for pure entertainment (The Weekly Planet, Serial, Imaginary Worlds, Bitch Sesh, Death, Sex, & Money, This American Life, The New Yorker Fiction Podcast), but the remaining 50% I see as free learning resources (Fresh Air, Coffee Break Spanish, How I Built This, History Extra, Radio Lab, History Chicks, TED Radio Hour, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, Call Your Girlfriend, On Being, Stuff Mom Never Told You, etc.).
This week I'm adding a new podcast to that list: Civics 101.
The Trump Administration's flagrant disregard and ignorance of the way the Federal government works is not just pathetic, it's fucking scary (and hypocritical as hell to criticize the Obama administration for executive overreach...).
In general, I'm interested in the news, government, and U.S. History. I also grew up in the D.C. area and both my parents have strong professional connections to the Federal government. My Dad actually is a Federal employee. My mom is a lawyer for a trade association and works on congressional legislation and enforcement. So just by osmosis alone and by asking my parents questions, I've learned a lot about how the government works. But it's a super complicated system! There are still so many things I don't understand.
To help fill in some knowledge gaps, I've started listening to the Civics 101 podcast. It's a great resource on all sorts of issues related to the U.S. government. In short 15 minute episodes, they explain things like executive orders, how the constitution can be amended, commenting periods, how supreme court decisions are overturned, etc. It's very helpful and I think EVERYONE in the U.S. could use a refresher on these topics. I know my government class in middle school was pretty inadequate for some of the constitutional questions that have been popping up on a daily basis since the inauguration.
If you're interested in the Supreme Court, I would also highly recommend More Perfect, which is a short podcast series done by the same people who produce Radio Lab. They choose interesting Supreme Court cases to explain and discuss, providing some much needed context and history for the way the Judicial branch works.
So if Trump is giving you anxiety, go ahead and try listening to Civics 101 and More Perfect. It's easier to fight against an autocracy (or an administration that would like to be one) if you understand what protections and subsequent revisions were put in place in the Constitution to defend against exactly this type of situation.
Consider this step 5 of my action plan to resist Trump and his cronies (or should I say Bannon and his crony Trump?) Get educated and know your rights.
I'm not going to sugarcoat it, the Trump administration is acting far worse and more quickly than I ever could have imagined. All the good intentions I had about thinking of ways to get Democrats to work with Trump (in order to get as many of our action items on the agenda) have pretty much fallen by the way-side. Clearly, I was hopelessly optimistic/naive.
When news of the travel ban hit the internet, and particularly how legal residents of the United States were being barred from entry, I had a moment of panic. The executive order just seemed so extreme, sudden, poorly thought out, and discriminatory, which doesn't bode well for other policy actions in the future.
And then I felt powerless. What could I possibly do to stop this? How do I prevent the undermining or outright dismantling of what I believe to be America's most important values? Equality for all, is that really too much to ask?
I already voted to keep the lunatic out, but clearly that failed. What other say do I have in the governance of this country besides my ability to vote? The thought of feeling this way for more or less the next 4 years, as I predict we'll be bouncing from one insanity to the next (like cutting 2/3 of the EPA's staff!), was pretty sickening.
I really admire the people who reject the limitations of elections and instantly take to the streets to lodge their protest, but I live an hour away from the nearest metropolitan city. What are us country-mice supposed to do to be heard?
And I know a lot of people are calling their representatives and senators to voice their non-support of various Trump policies and nominees, but unfortunately I don't think my representatives in North Carolina are going to be very sympathetic to my opinions. Such is gerrymandered democracy...
So I gave myself a few days to think about it, asking what can I do to help?
And here's what I came up with at both the national and local levels:
So there it is, my 4 step action plan. I've already finished Steps 1 and 2, and am in the process of step 3 (volunteering for our upcoming book fundraising drive). Like I said though, step 4 is going to be the hardest for me, but my aim is to report back sometime this year that I accomplished that one as well.
If you're feeling freaked out by the Trump administration, have you thought of any ways you can stand up and fight back? I'd love to hear your ideas. They're going to be different for each and every person according to their needs and abilities. I'm not a full-time activist, and I don't think I would be very good at it, but that doesn't mean I can't donate what money and time I have to causes I do believe in.
Let's do this together.
Are you going to the Women's March on Washington? If you're not familiar, I think the organizers do a better job of explaining the mission than I ever could:
"The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us."
My family lives in the D.C. area, so I was pumped to go, but it turns out I'm going to be out of the country then. Aggh, such bad timing. I really wanted to be a part of this.
Since I can't be there in person, I decided to donate instead. They're not even half-way to their goal, so you may want to consider donating too if it's a cause you care about. I don't have a lot of money, but every little bit counts, so I'm happy to contribute what I can. Hopefully, others will consider donating as well. I think it's a great way to send a public message to our president-elect and his administration that they aren't above the law, that human-rights matter, and we're going to hold them accountable to those standards.
Are you in?
I've just spent the last 24 hours writing about the election (emails with family, twitter, blog posts, here), and you know what? It made me feel a lot better. I think I understand how this happened, and in retrospect it's a lot less shocking. The polls made us complacent and hid a lot of issues in the Clinton campaign.
Now that the result feels less arbitrary, it's also something that's easier to accept. I don't want Trump to fail. I want him to succeed, because like Obama said, then we all succeed.
Writing has always helped me figure things out. If you're still struggling, seriously, give it a go. Write some emails. Send them, or don't.
And for all the people who are getting frustrated with the degree of negativity on Facebook right now, remember that people are still processing this result. The polls were so misleading, it shocked everyone. There's also an element of fear because Trump didn't seem emotionally stable during the campaign, and he insulted and threatened several groups of people. He also came off as incredibly narcissistic, which isn't a quality I admire in anyone. If he can pull it together for the presidency, and work to do good for the country, and try for the love of god to stop insulting women, minorities, and veterans, then I can support him.
My mother works on Capitol Hill and has ~30 years dealing with the enactment and enforcement of laws at the congressional-level. Here's what she wrote me, which put things into perspective:
"One comforting thought is that the professional federal bureaucracy will moderate the impact of the leadership. Another is the rule of law. A third is trade associations and NGOs. They know how to slow bad laws and regulations. We felt exactly like this in 1980 with Reagan. Somehow we survived. We will again."
I'll just add that she was the first person who suggested to me that the election was going to be a lot tighter than it seemed. I don't know where she gets her DC-insider knowledge, but she has her sources, so I'm going trust her don't panic response.
All of this is negated of course if there's any proof Trump assaulted women (or any other criminal act). Then throw the mf in jail. I think he probably did, but I suppose everyone is innocent until proven guilty. That's the standard I've held Clinton to, and that's the standard I'll continue to hold for Trump.
So I'm moving on. There's plenty I can do to support the causes I believe in. I'm going to take a positive attitude at this point, though I reserve the right to change my mind in the future based on whatever new information is available. Let's see what he does before we condemn his presidency.
As hard as it is to believe, he ran a better campaign and won. We can't condemn his earlier statements about not promising to accept the results of the election if we don't ourselves accept the results. Sometimes you lose. You accept it, because to do otherwise is the antithesis of democracy.
Finally, although I admire people who feel strongly against Trump and are participating in peaceful protests, I think he may be the kind of person who is more easily managed with flattery, or at least calm respect. After vilifying Obama more or less continuously during the campaign, Trump met the president at the White House today and called him "a very good man." Seriously, check out this Washington Post article. Here's a quote:
"Trump told reporters Thursday that he expects to work closely with Obama now and in future to seek his advice in guiding the country. He noted that a session that was supposed to last 10 to 15 minutes went on for an hour and a half.
Is he lying? I don't know, the length of the meeting suggests more sincerity than I would have expected. Maybe it's because he felt respected?
So instead of protesting Trump, maybe we should be following the Ivanka approach. Be polite, respect his interests, look the other way when he says something dumb, all the while getting him to do more or less exactly what you want. You think she became the vice president of development and acquisitions at his company by accident? Read this New Yorker article, especially the part about how she handled her parents' divorce, and tell me what you think. Because I think she knows exactly how to get the best out of him, and maybe we should be following her example. My guess is other people in D.C. are picking up on this dynamic too, which would be great. I am so ready for a less acrimonious political landscape. I just hope it doesn't result in the loss of anything I value (equal rights, women's health, science and learning, etc.).
What do you think? Are you getting closer to acceptance?
I have so many thoughts. It would probably take me two hours to write a decent, coherent post, so forgive me if I resort to bullet points.
Now on to Trump:
So what do we do next?
The Democrats made some serious errors, but I hope we can learn from them in the future. They need to build a stronger coalition between urban and rural voters, which I think is possible because there's actually a number of issues they can agree on, particularly cost-of-living.
It would also be worthwhile to throw rural voters a bone on the second amendment. When you live out in the country, you own a gun for all kinds of reasons: hunting, sport, vermin control (ever heard of rabies?), self-protection (because the nearest cop is a half-hour away from your home). I own a shotgun myself for a few of these reasons, mostly for sport (I enjoy skeet). That doesn't make me a bad person. So Dems, stop vilifying gun ownership. It's not getting you elected, and if you're not elected, you can't institute reasonable, moderate gun reforms (like universal background checks, which have bipartisanship support). Republicans get a bad rap for being uncompromising, but honestly Democrats can be just as bad on some issues.
So there you have it, my emotional regurgitation of last night's election results. Now will you hold my hand for the next four years and tell me everything will be ok?