1 December 2016
hope as the acceptance that progress and diversity are fragile bits of spun glass
Johnathan Chait once chided Ta-Nehisi Coates for his hopelessness. If there is a more persistent demand of the marginalized and oppressed than that they perform hope for their benefactors, it is difficult to find it. We have, of course, a nomenclature problem. When white allies want us to be hopeful what they really mean is that they require absolution in exchange for their sympathies. And, when black people say that they are plenty hopeful we tend to mean that our hope is tempered by a deep awareness of how thin is the veneer of white civility. Our grudging acceptance that progress and diversity are fragile bits of spun glass looks like hopelessness because it doesn’t absolve. But, it is the most enduring kind of hope and it is the hope that President-elect Donald Trump will require of us all if we’re to organize and resist.
history is not a straight line, but a spinning top
My hopelessness is faith in things yet seen and works yet done. Hopelessness is necessary for the hard work of resisting tyranny and fascism. It is the precondition for sustained social movements because history isn’t a straight line. It is a spinning top that eventually moves forward but also always goes round and round as it does. Those erasers applied post-mortem confuse us to this, blind us to the defeats that will come and ill prepare us for the reality that most of what we believe in will not come to pass in our lifetimes. A transactional hope is anathema to social progress.
5 December 2016
We need a new civil disobedience in the American tradition of Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau and King. Our efforts must be organized, focused and coordinated with each other.
Throughout this effort I have stressed the importance of acting at all times in a peaceful and prayerful manner – and that is how we will respond to this decision. With this decision we look forward to being able to return home and spend the winter with our families and loved ones, many of whom have sacrificed as well. We look forward to celebrating in wopila, in thanks, in the coming days.
I’ll go step by step, but the 4 big takeaways: 1. it erases white supremacists from the places where they are inconvenient, 2. It imputes innocence to anyone who is not a member of an explicitly white nationalist organization, 3. It treats easy-to-explain developments with a who-could-have-predicted-this? surprise and 4. It blames liberals for white nat’lsm & the alt-right, arguing it’s a backlash to multiculturalism rather than the bedrock of US politics.
7 December 2016
If the polity is not the state but its citizens, the most important thing individual Americans can do is deny Trump aid, collaboration, agreement, and acceptance. Not accept, not adjust, not adapt, not appease, not conciliate. There is something sinister in the media’s “ten-step plans” to adjust to a President-Elect Trump, as if this were a personal upset needing therapy rather than a question of democratic legitimacy itself.
11 December 2016
When I read stories of suffering, I still feel something. It seems inhuman not to. At the same time, I’m more aware than ever of how little my feeling is worth, of how, if we are to truly keep alive the conditions that make ethical life possible— it is not empathy that’s needed, but insight, organization, and action.
Self-care has long had political undertones, primarily pertaining to activist burnout, said Yashna Padamsee, who works for the National Domestic Workers Alliance and has written about the term. “Audre Lorde’s quote refers back to an act of preservation and act of survival for people at the margins,” Ms. Padamsee said. “Self-care is an act of shoring up and resourcing ourselves to bring a stronger self to the movement. That’s the school of thought I come from.”
Gabrielle Moss, author of the Goop parody book, “Glop,” thinks that self-care is starting to (surprise, surprise) lose its meaning and become a marketing tool. “Things that get branded as self-care now have nothing to do with taking care of yourself, like detoxes and juice fasts,” Ms. Moss said. “I do them because I hate myself, not because I’m taking care of myself. It’s poised to be wrenched away from activists and turned into an excuse to buy an expensive bath oil.”At Indiana University, one professor is trying to combine activism and pampering. A week after the election, Jeanne Vaccaro, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of gender studies, handed out phone numbers to students to call their political representatives. “I said, ‘If you haven’t had a chance to do these things, I’m giving you this dedicated time,’” Ms. Vaccaro said. “I think self-help these days is more about providing a collective scene to hold the chaos rather than going off into a quiet corner to decompress.”
12 December 2016
Don’t Forget What’s Subtly Changing
Before reacting, ask some important questions:
- Is the story so outrageous you can’t believe it? Maybe you shouldn’t. Respect the voice inside you that says, “What?”
- Is the story so outrageous you do believe it? That’s also a warning sign. Many stories play on your existing beliefs. If the story perfectly confirms your worst suspicions, look for more information.
- Does the headline match the article? Many compelling headlines don’t.
- Does the article match the news story it’s lifted from? Many sites rewrite other news articles to fit the political slant of their presumed audience. Look for links to original sources and click through and see what the original says.
- Are quotes in context? Look for the sentences before and after the quote that makes your blood boil. If the article fails to give them, that’s a warning sign.
- Is the story set in the future? It’s hard to get firsthand reporting from there. Any story that tells you what will happen should be marked down 50 percent for this reason alone.
- Does the story attack a generic enemy? Vague denunciations of “Washington” or “the media” or “Trump supporters” or “the left” should be marked down 99 percent. Good reporting doesn’t make these kinds of generalizations and is specific about who is making a claim about what.
- Are you asked to rely on one killer factoid? Not a good idea. If a hacked document “proves” an implausible conspiracy, look for the context that shows what the document really means. As for photos and video, use Ronald Reagan’s old slogan: trust but verify. If there’s any doubt about a “stunning” video, see if more traditional sources link to it. They love video clicks as much as anyone. If they refrain, there may be good reason.
- Who is the news source, anyway? Traditional news brands may occasionally get it wrong — sometimes hugely wrong — but at least you know where to find them and hold them accountable. Less prominent news sites might carry compelling stories — but expect them to show you who they are and where they gathered information.
- Does the news source appear to employ editors? Many news organizations produce stories that are checked before publication. Others don’t. It’s a big deal. Hiring an editorial staff shows the publication’s respect for you, and matters more than “political bias.” The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, for example, have different owners, audiences, stories, perspectives and obsessions. Both have made mistakes and omissions; but both send reporters out into the world and back them up with an editorial process that catches and corrects many errors. This means both can be informative, regardless of your politics or theirs.
- Are you told, “Trust me”? Don’t. It’s the post-trust era! Expect everyone to show where their facts come from, link to underlying articles, and demonstrate that they’ve argued honestly.
Building trust and bolstering credibility:
- Did the writer engage with anyone who disagrees?
- Did they call a senator whose legislation bugs them?
- Did they try to grasp what the president-elect was doing, or merely repeat one of his more outrageous statements?
- If it’s a broadcast interview, was the guest presented with genuine opposing views and challenged to answer?
14 December 2016
We can understand without sympathizing or empathizing
If the trouble with Trump was that experts called him incompetent, or that he should have been disqualified for saying things that, while terrible, could be spun as “honest,” then the trouble with Trump was the trouble with the struggling voters themselves. They, too, had been told that they were incompetent, that they were unqualified. To turn against Trump would be to turn against oneself. To embrace Trump was to embrace a particular version of oneself, to give free rein to impulses that on other occasions — four and eight years ago, for instance — had been restrained. One does not need to sympathize with this logic to understand its force.
To what extremes of disobedience and resistant behavior do peaceful Americans know how to go?
- Refusal of allegiance.
- Refusal of participation.
- Not showing up.
- Leaving key government jobs, or staying in those jobs to slow down or stall illegitimate actions.
- Daily refusal to go along with orders coming from an illegitimate executive.
- Refusal of bureaucrats, tasked with reporting on citizens, to report if it could put their subjects in jeopardy.
- Refusal of enforcement agencies to enforce.
- Refusals and resignations in the armed forces.
- Refusal of those tasked with cooperating with the government to cooperate.
The most valuable lesson the United States could learn in 2016 is that it can get along without a President. It would throw weight back onto Congress — the place where political power should lie in a democracy.
a collective will to refusal, being uncooperative placed beside more urgent and dense forms of collective cooperation and community building.
A Refusal to Comply
16 December 2016
the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents. The guide is intended to be equally useful for stiffening Democratic spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve.We believe that the next four years depend on citizens across the country standing indivisible against the Trump agenda. We believe that buying into false promises or accepting partial concessions will only further empower Trump to victimize our fellow citizens. We hope that this guide will provide those who share that belief useful tools to make Congress listen.
28 December 2016
the election of Trump is the realization that much of this has, for too long, been normal.
By electing Donald Trump we are normalizing sexual assault, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant hate speech, ableism and racism of all kinds. By electing Donald Trump we are normalizing rape culture and bullying. By electing Donald Trump we are normalizing white supremacy and a ferociously violent patriarchy. By electing a President who allied himself with Mike Pence, a proponent of gay conversion therapy, we are normalizing an atmosphere of violence and intimidation against the LGBTQ community. Gay conversion therapy means nothing less than normalizing people out of existence. The proposed Texas Senate Bill 242, which would make teachers into mandatory reporters of gay, lesbian and gender-nonconforming students is a harbinger of this normalization. We are normalizing graft, political corruption and the destruction of the rule of law. We are normalizing the further marginalization and increased vulnerability of the working class of all colors. We are normalizing Flint and a government that will turn a blind eye to poisoning its citizens. At a more abstract level, we are also normalizing the systematic evasion of civic responsibility and simple human decency and replacing them with a rapacious ethics of absolute selfishness. Perhaps the election of Trump is the realization that much of this has, for too long, been normal.
We should teach about power. We should be in classrooms, in discussion groups and anywhere where students need to be listened to.
I do not know if philosophy has any special role to play in resisting Donald Trump in 2016. It is certainly not the moment to hunker down to work out fine philological details—work that I normally value. If we work on thinkers who were oppressed by totalitarian regimes of any kind, we should learn from and teach about their resistance. If we work on thinkers who became perpetrators, we should learn from and teach about what lead them to become complicit. But this is what many of us already do everyday in the classroom anyways. We should teach ceaselessly about language and the power to manipulate language, as exemplified by Marianne Constable’s “When Words Cease to Matter.” We should teach about power. We should be in classrooms, in discussion groups and anywhere where students need to be listened to.
Being a self-styled gadfly is not enough
being a self-styled economic and intellectual gadfly does not qualify as resistance. Philosophy alone is not an act of resistance. It may even be an act of complicity.