Friday, January 27, 2017

Week One of the Regime



It Has Begun - Starset

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Trump became POTUS last Friday. For that and other reasons I was in a pretty awful state of mind Friday and the beginning of Saturday. Then I went with some friends to the San Jose Women's March.

I've never been to a protest before, nor any kind of march. The energy I felt there was very positive, and I felt a lot better about existing, being surrounded by people who cared enough to show up. Although this was a Women's March and deliberately not billed as a protest, obviously it took an anti-Trump flavor.

Chants I heard: "Yes we can"/"Si se puede"; "2-4-6-8 It's okay to immigrate"; "This is what democracy looks like"; &c.

Signs I saw: "Women's rights are human rights"; "Bernie 2020"; "I'm with her" (and arrows pointing off the sign into the crowd, or Lady Liberty); Rosie the Riveter either in the original or with Michelle Obama photoshopped in; "A Woman's Place is in the Resistance" with a graphic of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia; "Not My President"; "If you build a wall I will raise my children to tear it down"; "By the way, Climate Change is Real"; "I burned it once I'll burn it again" with the charred remains of a bra taped to the sign; Martin Luther King, Jr. shushing Trump; "End White Feminism"; "I am alive because of Obamacare"; "Humanity First America Second"; &c.

Lots of people were wearing those pink knit hats that are supposed to look like cat ears.

We didn't bring any signs. I'm not sure what I would have written. Not sure if it is my place to carry such a sign, but I would have liked to see a sign saying "Trans Women's Rights = Women's Rights = Human Rights" because, although I had an overall positive experience, being trans in that crowd felt pretty uncomfortable. More signs focused on the struggles of women of color would also have been good, although since I'm not actually a woman but am relatively privileged (the "model minority" concept is bull but I do have to own up to how that stereotype changes how people perceive me in a way that, net, makes my daily existence safer than it is for someone who is read with different stereotypes), I'd again have to think about what I would be justified in saying.

So we went, and came back. I spent a while lying on my floor scrolling Facebook and seeing everyone I know posting photos from the marches they went to. I didn't take any photos because I want to make sure that when I do the right thing, that I'm not doing it for social validation from my wider network. Not to say anything against people who do post things--communicating your solidarity, making your stance clear, is valuable too. But going to one march without a sign and listening to one speech at the rally afterward does not make me an activist. I am a beginner.

I also saw a lot of quotes/links/photos posted that took a more nuanced view of the Women's Marches. Many LGBT friends took issue with the trans-exclusionary rhetoric of signs equating reproductive organs with gender. Many other friends pointed out the double standard between the media coverage of these marches and of the Black Lives Matter marches.

This picture made a particularly big impression on me (shoutout to GG for sharing it). I am not a white woman, but fall into the same position of benefiting from social movements but not being in a whole lot of danger from police etc. I have never gone to a Black Lives Matter rally or march. Why? Now that I've gone to the Women's March, what is my excuse if I skip out the next BLM event?

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I wrote the first part of this post on Sunday, when I was still in...not a good mood, but a positive, optimistic mindset. Then this past week happened. The news is filled with the terrible actions the administration is taking, from the global gag rule on abortion to censoring national parks and environmental agencies to banning Muslim immigrants to approving both the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL to...

Saturday's energy was mostly positive. The numbers of people protesting made headlines, made history. And yet--despite all of that, these orders are making their way through the system.

Festina lente, said Augustus. The way to change is not just in momentous occasions, not just in big stands, not in single actions. It takes concentrated everyday effort over a long period of time to get anything done--so what do I do, when the goal is broad and the timeline is long?

There are small things I've done in the past week. Walked by a pro-life group demonstrating on campus to donate to the people collecting money for Planned Parenthood right next to them. Emailing the guy I know at the EPA. Small, small things. I feel silly even writing about them, especially given what I said above about not being performative about my actions. But as I said--I'm a beginner. I'm starting small, but I'm starting...

...and that's another thing about which I'm ambivalent. The fact that it took as abominable a person as Trump taking power to get me to do something. Obama and the Democrats were not perfect by any means, and if Clinton had won I am sure she'd have signed into law things that I would disapprove of. If I'd been paying more attention over the past eight years, I probably would have a much less positive impression of Obama than I do. But now, those kinds of conversations seem less urgent because the basic things that we could count on the Democrats to defend are being uprooted. Science, access to family planning methods, and the like.

I haven't personally spoken to anyone who said that Trump and Clinton would be the same but I wonder if they still think that way. Sure, Clinton would have been the status quo, but this is actively going backwards on all sort of measures. These questions--is climate change real, is it monumentally stupid to try to build a wall along the border with Mexico when real and worthwhile infrastructure projects languish--should be settled. We should be ready to move past them.

I've heard a lot of people say "it's going to be a long four years" and I have thought it, too, but there are several things wrong with that. First--some people aren't going to make it. If the Republicans succeed in getting rid of ACA and don't replace it in a timely way, how many people are going to die? I thought Obama wasn't accepting enough refugees--but now even fewer are going to be able to resettle here, and how many of them are going to die? Hate crimes are rising--how many people are going to die?

Second, it's not just four years. I haven't let myself consider a Trump reelection, which may be naive, but depending on how things go I could see a Pence or Ryan presidency following Trump, which would be awful. (DNC, please for the sake of all of us get it together.) And even if a Democrat is elected--I believe many things would improve but would we be back to Obama levels? And in many ways Obama levels aren't good enough either.

Trump did not start the global rise of white nationalism and extremism and he's not going to be the end of it either. This past week has been particularly bad for the country and the world, and this is just the beginning.

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After that dreary post, please enjoy this video. It (as well as various other remixes of the moment it depicts) has been one of the few things this week that made me smile.

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