When most of us launch into a new morning it is nothing like storming Normandy Beach on D-Day.
Most of us are not being shot, deported, jailed, evicted, or starved. Whatever brutal measures Trump and his minions have in mind, most of our freedoms have not yet been blotted out by a fascist state. We still have our voices and our power to act. It is for us to use them.
Some say we’re letting Trump distract us from the harm he’s doing. Really? We can’t multitask? What is he up to that we’re missing? Lining his pockets? Packing the courts? Rolling back environmental protections? Gutting USDA? Raiding FEMA funds to cage more migrant children? Promising pardons to staff who follow his unlawful orders? Attacking immigrants and people of color at every turn? Deporting students and sick children? Mocking journalists and scientists who don’t echo his desires? Letting Wayne LaPierre lead him around on a leash? Jerking off on the drapes? What?
If we are so unserious that we cannot keep track of this demagogue’s despoilments, we are done. I do not believe it. We will not all sleep through the next fourteen months. I may not be Edward R. Murrow reporting from a London rooftop during the Blitz, and you may not be Julia Child spying in Sri Lanka, but we can rise to our moment.
We bring different gifts, but we all have a part in the election. Each of us can contribute: register voters, reach out to neighbors and family, have the difficult discussions, challenge our representatives, give our time and money to candidates, run for an office ourselves.
One of the best things we can do is simply not surrender to the erosion of standards. We don’t have to accept diminished expectations because of Trump’s unrelenting trash talk and provocations. We can stand our ground. We can defend things we care about regardless of what the man-child and his rabble say.
Reality provides a backstop. Gay and trans people do not disappear because some wish to erase us. Women, people of color, immigrants, and religious minorities do not become devils or infestations or denizens of The Handmaid’s Tale because of a sociopath’s rants. Sea levels do not stop rising nor storms growing more extreme by ignoring (or nuking) them. Mass shootings are not stopped by thoughts and prayers. Crumbling infrastructure is not rebuilt by neglect. Pesticides don’t stop killing bees because of Monsanto’s denials. Sooner or later, the truth bites us in the ass. Trump’s alternate facts (that is, lies) do not become true by repetition.
45’s incompetence causes harm that mean tweets do not mitigate. He weakens our standing in the world with his obliviousness to soft power.
We, in the meantime, continue in our diversity to create, innovate, inspire, and enlighten. We do not require permission to step up and assert ourselves. We build and rebuild alliances and go where others haven’t because, as Murrow said in confronting Sen. Joseph McCarthy, we are not descended from fearful people.
The campaign ahead will be long and nasty. When you feel overloaded, you may have wandered into Trump’s funhouse. “Aha!” his trolls love to cry, as if Putin’s useful idiot is above reproach and every journalist who issues a correction (as honest people do) should be dragged off in chains. Break out. Look around you to clear your head and reorient yourself toward the reality-based community.
The idea of America, if it lives at all, lives in us. That is our wellspring. All of us are its guardians. Federal employees in particular, including DOJ attorneys and Secret Service agents, take oaths to defend the Constitution. The great majority take their oaths seriously, as I did during my own federal career. Pledges of service do not morph into plunder because a toddler scribbles over them.
Don’t give Trump’s band of saboteurs rent-free space in your head. We might win, we might not. We don’t know. Cable news is full of experts who were wrong about the last presidential election. Much is at stake. There is no point in hand-wringing or giving up without a fight. We can do this. Let’s go.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at [email protected].