November 7, 2016
I am blanketed in the secure comfort of knowing that I’ve lived to see the election of the first female U.S. President. I am as certain as the sky is blue that Hillary Rodham Clinton is headed to the White House and, although she is not my favorite candidate, I’m comfortable with the status quo I am certain she will maintain. Little do I know that my world would get flipped upside down by the following evening, and that America would become a living hell from which there is no escape.
November 8, 2016
Self-satisfaction sets in as I ink the box by Clinton’s name, doing my part for democracy and feminism – or so I thought. A sticker on my shirt proudly crows, “I Voted!” When it becomes inevitable that the very opposite of what I thought was certain is coming true, I sink to the floor and grieve, lying in a lake of tears of my own making. How could I have been so wrong? The phone rings. It’s my friend, and she’s grieving too. “There is a war on women being waged in this country,” she declares. “America is so against the idea of a woman in the White House that they opted for an evil sociopath instead.” The war isn’t only against women, I assure her as my mind flashes to what my friends of color must be feeling at that moment.
November 13, 2016
“America’s done it, we’ve actually elected an Internet troll as our President,” jokes Dave Chappelle on SNL. I laugh to keep from crying.
January 20, 2017
I watch on Inauguration Day as rain starts drizzling onto the head of the newly sworn-in Bloviator-in-Chief, and imagine that the heavens are weeping.
January 21, 2017
I watch as the Bloviator-in-Chief proclaims that it did not rain during his inauguration, and then join a throng of the righteously angry holding aloft a sign that read, “They Give Us Corruption, We Give Them Revolution.” The Women’s March draws over one million humans together worldwide to advocate for women’s rights. The dense thickets of people marching peacefully around the globe is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I feel a pinprick of hope pierce through my despair.
January 22, 2017
I make a list entitled “Do something” that outlines a playbook for personal activism and philanthropy. I join several local political organizations and campaigns, regularly call my senators and representatives, start volunteering at Meals-on-Wheels twice a week, and donate money for education and women’s reproductive rights every month. I recruit friends to the same causes. I begin to educate myself in earnest. I am suddenly more involved in politics and my local community than I have been in my entire life.
When Donald Trump took the Republican’s long-standing “Southern Strategy” (i.e. a political maneuver that couches racial politics in terms of economic insecurity) to new extremes, baiting a generation of whites who felt disenfranchised by the benevolent reign of President Barack Obama, America reached a new low.
Trump ran on a platform of open racism, misogyny, and bullying, threatening and attacking the media on a daily basis. Heck, he even openly bragged about sexually assaulting women. Still, even though he lost the popular vote by nearly three million, he was elected.
Every tweet, every speech, every executive order that has uttered forth from his fleshy corpus is meant to disrupt and inflame. At the same time, his blustering is largely an act to cover up the fact that he is the least qualified President in the history of the country – that he and his cronies have no idea what is going on or how the office of the Presidency operates. He wasn’t even aware that he was supposed to appoint hundreds of people to positions within the government. Nearly a year later, many spots are still idling, empty.
Those hired by him to helm his administration are remarkably unqualified, bloated billionaires who are working to dismantle the very departments that they’ve been appointed to oversee. The rate of turnover within the White House itself has been almost comedic, especially in the case of blowhards like Anthony Scaramucci, who barely lasted a week as the Communications Director.
This says nothing of the trauma and confusion that his reign of terror has showered onto the poorest, most vulnerable, and most disenfranchised among us. Where he has failed at high-level promises like “getting Mexico to pay for a border wall” or “repealing and replacing Obamacare”, he has succeeded in more off-the-radar activities like giving Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE) unchecked power to round up illegal immigrants, even in cases where small children are being torn away from their families.
He has also presided over the nation’s biggest disasters in memory with all the compassion and wisdom of a dung beetle. From hurricanes Harvey and Maria (as of this publication, one million Puerto Ricans are still without power) to the wildfires destroying California and the devastating shooting in Las Vegas, Trump has done nothing but use these moments to enlarge his own self-image.
Not only that, but he has routinely praised and befriended dictators, escalated war rhetoric with North Korea, pulled out of the Paris climate agreement, decided to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, canceled the Trans-Pacific partnership, fired the FBI director who was investigating him for collusion with Russia, and supported Nazis who marched in Charlottesville. The list of vile “accomplishments” goes on ad nauseum.
Furthermore, he is a dishonest as he is corrupt. The Washington Post has been keeping track of every lie he has uttered since he took office. The total is 1,628 claims in 298 days – that’s nine lies a day on average.
America’s new reality has been hard to come to terms with. In fact, I frequently feel the initial grief that washed over me when the election results came in. Every day, there is some new horror to wake up to, whether it’s repealing Net Neutrality or the hideous Tax Reform Bill. I look at the country that has been my home for decades, and I simply do not recognize it anymore.
However, I’m going to risk sounding insane by stating that I think this year of Trump has actually been a good thing. It has shown us the failings of our democratic system, exposed its weaknesses, and prompted young Americans to get involved in politics for the first time in their lives – myself included. Contrariwise, it has demonstrated the dire consequences of not participating in democracy. It has also shown the unchecked power that social media has over us, and how easily it can be manipulated to evil ends.
First, American democracy has looked impervious from the outside, but the fact that Trump and his cronies have so easily staged a coup proves that the regulations and safeguards in place were not enough. Our Founding Fathers simply did not account for America electing an openly unapologetic authoritarian.
The Emoluments Clause (which holds political governance to ethical standards that prevent officials from accepting payments from foreign governments) and the 25th Amendment (which delineates presidential succession in the event that the President dies, resigns, or is “unable” to hold office) are not enough to protect American democracy from Trump’s bulldozer. He is destroying everything around him because he can. There was nothing in our laws that could prevent his havoc.
Instead, he has acted as if he was above the law at every turn, and the laws need to be revisited in order to ensure this can never happen again. At least we know where to start now.
Furthermore, in my 33 years on earth, I have never been able to name every member of an administration’s cabinet before. Today, I can instantly issue a dossier on everyone from Secretary of Interiors Ryan Zinke to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. I’ve never once called my political representatives before, but now, I practically have them on speed-dial. I have never attended a Town Hall meeting to speak directly to my representatives, but I am now comfortable not only going to them, but getting up to ask questions and hold them accountable. What I’m trying to say is that this year of Trump has forced me to get involved at a level I never considered engaging in before. In fact, millions of Americans are participating in politics for the first time ever, for better or worse. Stagnation and apathy are simply no longer an option.
Stagnation and apathy are simply no longer an option.
This terrible political year has also exposed the depths that Facebook and Twitter will go to for ad revenue, allowing Russian agencies to buy millions of dollars of ads that were intended to manipulate voters. They’re now being held accountable by Congress. Trump has also been able to use social media, Twitter in particular, to bypass the media and talk directly to his supporters, even when that means re-tweeting posts by Neo-Nazis and anti-Muslim organizations. He is able to deal damage directly to his constituents, who tend to believe everything he says, truth be damned. Now people are demanding that these social-media sites equip themselves with more strident safeguards that would prevent cyber-bullying and spreading propaganda, especially the malicious kind peddled by the President.
After the election, I often lamented my own naivety. I thought I was “woke”, but now I see that I was really sleepwalking. I thought having a black President indicated America’s progress. I thought things were getting better, not worse. I thought a woman was about to become President. I had no idea that the festering wound of racism in this country had become septic, tainting the entire body system.
I long suspected that misogynists were hiding in every industry on the planet, and then Trump came along and all of his fellow cockroaches – the Weinsteins, the Lauers, the CKs – came scuttling into the daylight along with him, exposed as the abusers they had always been. In order to heal, progress, and revolutionize, we must first know what the problems are so that we might address them head-on. Trump’s presidency has laid all of America’s problems bare for the entire world to see.
If Clinton had become President, everything would have marched along as usual, and the racists, misogynists, and bullies would’ve been safely ensconced in their everyday lives. They say you have to hit rock bottom in order to climb to the top. Trump represents America’s absolute bottom, the lowest of the low – and then a little lower.
Now, we climb.