We know what’s going on and we know what to do

Donald Trump is the President-Elect of the United States of America. What a catastrophe. I’ve been trying for days to write some thoughts. Every time, I am gobsmacked by yet another insane development. Bannon. The Muslim Registry. The “blind” trust. The business meetings interspersed with mild transition planning.

We know what’s going on. We know who Trump is. He told us throughout the campaign, and he’s telling us again, every single day. He wants power and money. The truth doesn’t matter as long as he gets his way. He doesn’t believe in the Constitution unless it serves his purpose. Trump only believes in Trump. Truth is defined as what he says. Grace is defined as what he does. Reality is defined as what he sees. He can do no wrong. Oh also, he is a racist, a misogynist, an Islamophobe, and possibly an anti-Semite, or maybe he just surrounds himself with anti-Semites, you know it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.

How did we get here? It will take a long time to really understand it in detail, and I’m no fan of rushing to judgment, though I get that it is satisfying to find a simple root cause to soothe the pain, uncertainty, and raw fear of the world we now live in. That said, we got here probably by some combination of economic anxiety, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, fake news, and voter suppression. Complex systems fail in complex ways [PDF]. And in  the end, fewer than 100,000 votes across three states made the difference.

Where do we go from here? I’m not sure yet. But I do know a few things:

  1. I will risk looking foolish and paranoid rather than risk not taking the Trump threat seriously enough. Now is not the time to play it cool, to be above the fray, to “let politics be politics.” I will fight. I will speak up. I will not be ashamed to stand for the values of Democracy and against Trump, for he represents the very opposite of our democratic values. And it starts by not being afraid to say that. If I’m wrong, all I’ve lost is a little bit of pride.
  2. I will not normalize. I will not let conversations I have, with family, friends, or strangers, ever veer towards normalizing Trump as just another politician. I will remind myself to read this post every month to make sure I do not let down my guard.
  3. Voter suppression is repugnant and I will remind people every day. I don’t know if I can help make people less racist or sexist, and I respect that many people felt economic anxiety and wanted to blow up the system. But the one thing that is unequivocally wrong and deeply disturbing is preventing people from voting. People who make it harder for others to vote should be in jail. It’s not fair game, it’s not another political tactic. It’s a crime against Democracy itself.
  4. I will take care of myself and my family. We’re two weeks in, and it’s emotionally exhausting. I will take time every day to disconnect and be with my family, distract myself, and generally stay sane, so that I do not run out of steam in this long fight.
  5. I will defend women, minorities, and anyone oppressed. In public spaces, online, at work, wherever I go. I will not cower. I will strive to be the very best version of myself, the version of myself I can look up to when all is said and done.
  6. I will do things that scale. I’m not sure what those are yet. Probably something around voting rights & technology. Crypto policy. Maybe some judiciously written software to help organize action against Trump.
  7. I will also do things that do NOT scale. I will call Senators, Congressmen, and political organizations. I will write letters. I will donate money to the right politicians and to organizations fighting for our civil rights. I will pay for good journalism.

The day after Trump’s victory, I told a few people about how my grandparents survived the Holocaust and how I was taught to “never forget.” I worried I was exaggerating a bit at the time. Two weeks later, it’s pretty clear those concerns are well warranted.

This weekend, I spoke with my dad, who spoke about how his mother – my grandma – became pregnant with my aunt in 1942, at the height of discrimination against Jews in France (and in French Algeria, where my father’s family lived.) My grandma’s brother chastised my grandpa, saying “are you serious, you’re having a child with everything that’s going on? That’s crazy.” My grandfather answered “don’t worry, the Americans will come and save us, and we will fight alongside them.” A year later he joined the North African Front against the Nazis. He lived to have two more children, to meet and teach math and reading to almost 20 grandchildren, and to see a few of his grandchildren move to the US, the country that saved his life.

He never lost hope, but he never stopped fighting. I plan to make him proud.