The time has passed for “What’s the matter with Kansas” discussions in which we sit around trying to figure out Trump voters, why they would vote against their own best interests, why they ignored facts, or why they continue to do so. We have better things to do now. We have to take care of each other. They voted for an “us and them” country and now they have it. I no longer care whether or not they realize that despite voting for this, they are still not included in that exclusive “us.” Unless they are here to say, “Sorry. What can I do to fix this?” I have no time for them. They knew what he was about. The facts were there. He told us what he would do, and now he is doing it. We are too busy now to worry about them. And, like most bullies, they have turned their own responsibility into something they blame others for. Enough.
If you are not reading The Establishment, start. I cannot say enough how sustaining this publication has been over the past few months. Better yet, if you can find a few extra bucks to support The Establishment, do it. We need these voices.
“Supporting Just, Diverse Journalism Has Never Been Easier” https://theestablishment.co/we-want-you-to-help-us-build-a-new-establishment-11a2eb942abe#.jhjwqur2o
I was twelve when I picked up a book off the clearance table in Macy’s bargain basement. The book, The Movement Toward a New America: The Beginnings of a Long Revolution, was a collage put together in 1970 by Mitchell Goodman. When I bought this book for a dollar in 1975, it seemed to me like no one I knew cared much about anything. I was miserable at home and this book was fascinating and validating. I could not stop looking at the collection of photos, stories of the anti-war movement, student movements, The Black Panther Party, Stonewall, women’s liberation, and hundreds of other social justice movements, ideas, poetry, music reviews, etc. It was a sample of the amazing work of activists collected in this giant paperback.
In my many moves over the years, I lost my copy, but I always remembered it fondly, how it inspired me, made me feel less lonely, and made me think there were people actually working their assess off for change. It sometimes made me feel inadequate and certainly always reminded me of my privilege, though I am quite sure I had no idea what that meant back then (as a white woman, I did not have to). A couple of years ago, I found another copy through Better World Books online. I was flipping through it today saddened by how much has changed and how little. Many of the people in this book are dead, but many like Angela Davis, have never stopped.
I was getting a handle on how to make some time to breath when I woke up Saturday morning to the news the, “U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday abruptly removed inspection reports and other information from its website about the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities” (Brulliard, 2017, para. 1). It seems like I can get a handle on a great deal during the day, but these first few moments on the computer each morning, seeing wave after wave of horrors, are draining at best. It can be difficult for many of us to practice self-care with so much going on, and that is the point.
The new administration is bombarding us with so much that we may not even see some of the worst slip through. I have been saying since the election that non-human animals will suffer even more because even their best human advocates will find it hard to balance everything that is coming at them. And, those completely uninterested are going to try to shut down any focus or action with the usual, “You care more about animals that humans.” While the title of this post may seem kitschy or clichéd, we do need to weaponize ourselves right now with an emphasis on an inclusive “WE.”
Whether or not a person gives a shit about non-human animals, one of the most important personal actions to take right now is to stop eating or using in any way the labor of non-human animals, their flesh, their skins, their furs, or their secretions. In other words, a personal action with immediate results is to go vegan. I want to make it clear that I am not arguing for a vegan ethic out of some kind of ableist “good for your health” perspective. I am arguing for a vegan diet as a way to weaponize one’s activism, for justice, for inclusion, and to fuck up the fascist agenda.
I understand this choice can be difficult for many people. There are food deserts, issues accessing plant-based foods, and folks who do not have control over the food that is presented to them, but if people can, it will make a difference. There are ways to do it less expensively than many realize. And, if you are like me and are thinking a lot about the idea of “prepping” for what may come our way, going vegan is a good bet for survival.
It occurred to me this morning that my anger and fear of what might be coming with the Trump administration was completely overshadowed for a few minutes by my concern about the coming ice storm. There was a time when I thought about the personal as political, but did not really have the space to think about how politics affected my day-to-day existence. I was too busy dealing with those affects. In the 1980s, an ice storm might have meant no way to get to my job, which could have resulted in losing that job. Always on the edge of having the phone turned off, not having transportation, or being evicted, my worries were all spent. While we sociologists like to talk about how these issues squelch many grassroots movements, it is mostly theory, not lived. This is not about blaming people or telling anyone to check their privilege, but it is about thinking about my own, what I have time to think about v. what I never really had time to think about, and what it must feel like for many to be seeing all of these talking heads going over the incoming administration when this ice storm may result in a car they cannot get into, or will not start if they can, roads so slick to drive on that they cannot get to daycare and/or work, resulting in a significant loss of wages that could be disastrous.
Calls for action are great, but not everyone can take action, at least not in the ways many would like. We do not know exactly what the next four years will bring, but we know it will be bad, and that is probably an understatement. My personal vow is to do as much as I can for individuals trying to live through this. It might be the woman in the Target parking lot holding the sign that reads, “Car broke down; can’t fix it.” It might be the couple with the dog in the Dillons’ parking lot holding the sign that reads, “Trying to get to family in Indianapolis.” I have been close to homeless, but never homeless. There was always someone to bail me out. What if there had not been? My father used to always say, “You’re only one illness away from living in the street.” He was an asshole, but he was right about this. I do not ever want to forget that. I hope everyone has a safe and uneventful weekend.
Hold them accountable.
This is not the time for white progressives to shame activists with pseudo Buddhism.
People are going to die.
This not the time to tell us to try and get along.
People are going to die.
This is not the time to sit around trying to figure out why they voted the way they did.
We know the answer to that one.
People are dying.
This is the time to take them at their word and believe their hate.
This is the time to hold them accountable.
People are dying.
They are no longer off the hook for being dupes in the culture wars.
They are the ones who must seek education.
They are the ones who must rid themselves of their willful ignorance.
They are the ones who must seek forgiveness from us.
We are not responsible for fixing them.
They must fix themselves.
In November of 2015, I had a self-identified white, gay, male student in one of my sociology classes who told me he was thinking of becoming a Trump supporter because the class was forcing him to think about privilege and inequality (“forcing” was his word). Jacob made it clear he had no intention, nor did he care, about learning about inequality and being “forced to do so,” made him want to become a Trump supporter. He wrote long rants in the discussion about being terrified of Muslims. He wrote long rants about how Black Lives Matter is racist. He said he could not possibly have privilege, be prejudiced, or discriminate because he is gay.
Jacob was also a shitty student. Other than his rants in the discussion, which he always did at the last minute, he did not turn in several assignments and then claimed he did. He carried this lie so far that he even left me a threatening phone message implying that I had done something with the assignments and he would report me to the dean. When I told him all he had to do to clear this up was attach the assignments to an email and I could tell when the documents were created, he dropped it. I have not forgotten how astounding his fake outrage was. It was almost like he believed the lie he was telling. I am not sure what he thought he would get since I could not give him credit for the missing assignments, but I guess he wanted to see if he could bully his way in that direction. I think he actually thought he could make me put grades in for work he never did. I think about this student every time someone mentions Trump’s toddler-like tantrums and attempts to lie, blame, and refuse to take personal responsibility for anything he does.
My point with this story is Jacob is not an isolated case. In my long history teaching in distance education, I have had over 20,000 students pass through my English and sociology classes, and I have noticed a disturbing pattern. Students who cheat, lie, and plagiarize almost always have the same ideology. Like Jacob, they feel entitled to good grades, even if they do not do the work. When they do not get what they want, they try bullying. When the bullying does not work, they whine. Sound familiar?
A few months ago, I started doing a content analysis on the plagiarism and conduct issues I see in my classes. I keep everything, so it is not all that difficult to search for plagiarism cases, look at my notes, and sort self-disclosed ideologies. One might wonder how I classify those that do not self-disclose, but here is the thing, the cheaters always do. They are the loudest about bootstrapping, taking personal responsibility, etc. They write long rants about welfare fraud, voter fraud, immigration, what’s wrong with kids today, “blue lives matter,” and how much they love Jesus. When they are caught cheating, many just drop the class, some argue that it must be wrong, and some just take the zero and I never hear from them again. One thing they never do is make a connection between their rants about personal responsibility and the fact that they were caught cheating. They never admit they lied. They never take responsibility for cheating. Sound familiar?
I want to make it clear that I am not pathologizing these students, but looking at patterns of behavior, and these patterns are connected to an ideology older than this nation. This is about a culture that encourages ignorance and hate, and claims anything is okay if it furthers that agenda. It is born out of the entitlement of white supremacy, a deep fear that someone may take their stuff away. Many of these students are poor (I do not see students with money where I teach). They have been duped into believing people like Trump are going to take them to the top. They firmly believe eliminating difference will give them that access; they do not know they will never get in. They write a lot about how afraid they are. Their fear drives them. To ignore that they really think they will be forced to give their stuff way, forced to have abortions, forced to give their jobs to immigrants, etc., is dangerous. They are driven by this cowardice. They see “those people” in the bushes waiting to pounce on them. These are the “not in my backyard” people. These are the folks that see war in other countries and say, “Life is cheap there,” and they believe that. They simply do not see people different from them as real people, and they feel righteous about it.
While denying Trump the presidency will not stop this (our country has been building toward this for a very long time), let’s not make it any easier for them. Let us hold these people accountable and say no to fear, no to hate.
I am on a neighborhood social media site. There are some things it is good for like finding a plumber or a handy-person. One thing it has become very good for lately is determining which neighbors can be trusted and who I want to stay the hell away from.
Someone in the neighborhood posted an announcement for a page taking orders for local Black Lives Matter merchandise—t-shirts and bumper stickers. The trolls came after her in full force. It is amazing how much confidence white men have in their shit. On this list, I not only know their names, but where they live. They do not give a shit because they do not have to.
This is how Trump Land works. Shout down any attempt to acknowledge difference and the importance of respect, and act like a victim if you get called out on your hatred. It must be hard to be so scared all of the time.
Scared that the black and brown people are going to get them.
Scared that the queers might make them marry men.
Scared their wives might abort their evil spawn.
Scared they might have to give up their SUVs.
Scared they might have to help a stranger.
Scared the terrorists are going to blow up their favorite Bass Pro Shop.
Scared they might have to make changes to their diets to fight climate change.
Scared to read.
Scared to learn.
They are just fucking scared all the time.
Like I said, the neighborhood list is great for some things like knowing who to avoid at all costs. We neighbors do have some power. There is that old saying, “Don’t shit where you eat.” I will certainly be making a list of who says this hateful shit on the neighborhood list and matching it to their businesses. I know I would not want to pay for services from any of these people, and I certainly would not want them in my house.
When I was in the last year of my MFA program in 2006, I wrote a screenplay about an apathetic lesbian college student joining an underground group of freedom fighters trying to oust a party that had hijacked the American political system. The party called themselves “RVs” for “Responsible Values.” This party was a white supremacist, extremist machine lead by a white man from the business world who was a master at propaganda. The name “RV” also described the party’s lack of regard for environmentalism. They drove huge cars and approached pretty much everyone and everything with a “God made this for me” worldview.
The 2006 logline for the screenplay was, “In 2010, a politically apathetic lesbian finds herself swept up in a revolution when her friends begin to disappear.” When I workshopped the idea, my classmates and professor said it was not believable because 2010 was too soon and that would never happen. I argued that many of the events in the screenplay were already happening to some folks and the rest of us would have to deal with it soon enough, not in some science fiction reality of the future. Against my better judgement, I gave in and set the year to 2050. While I did make it to the semifinals of a screenplay competition with Responsible Values, I was never happy with the finished product and have not looked at it much since.
I woke up this morning thinking about Responsible Values and how funny it was that my classmates and professor kept arguing with me about how unrealistic it was. I guess that’s privilege at work, and I am not letting myself off the hook here either; it was not like my characters were particularly representative. It was a very white, cisgender, ableist, screenplay. What I find hilarious now, or perhaps chilling, is the opening scene. The main character is making out with a woman oblivious to the news on the radio in the background that is reporting a takeover by this RV Party. As she tries to redirect her partner’s attention back to the kissing, the NPR reporters are talking about a coup:
In an unexpected turn of events, PRESIDENT JONES has announced that he will resign and HAROLD HEARSTON, leader of the Responsible Values party will lead the county. More from White House correspondent JANET JAMES after the break.
What the fuck!
It doesn’t matter baby. Politics is politics.
Thanks Jeff. Sources tell us that the Responsible Values Party has been working with President Jones’ advisors behind the scenes for months now trying to come to some kind of agreement regarding the border issues with Mexico. Tensions have been high since the RV Party became the majority in both the Senate and Congress last year. While many are shocked by what appears to be a nonviolent coup, experts are not surprised. Back to you Jeff.
Thank you Janet. After a shaky start four years ago, the Responsible Values Party has taken a significant piece of this nation’s politics. Political analysts and social justice activists have expressed concern regarding what many are calling Harold Hearston’s extremist politics. More after the break.
I think there was this part of me that agreed with my classmates and professor that all of this was a little farfetched, that this could not happen in America. While I see myself as the kind of cynic who thinks this could totally happen, there is a part of me that relies on an idea that it cannot, so I suppose, I am not nearly as cynical as I think I am. Lately, I have been thinking about this screenplay a lot and wishing that I had pushed it a bit harder, not because I think it would have made any kind of difference in the world, but because so many white Americans do move through the world with this privileged expectation regarding sameness and safety. Many of us feel that while we may disagree with a particular kind of politics, that does not mean our daily lives are going to change much. Not feeling touched by politics is a privilege.
Trump is like that procedural show cliché serial killer who longs to get caught so he can be a celebrity from within prison, be studied by academics, and build a fan base of copycats and marriage proposals. I am not going to pathologize Trump the way so many have. There is too much ableism there that is as bigoted as he is and far too dangerous to too many people. However, when people say they worry about whether or not he should have nuclear codes, they should worry. Trump is not crazy, but an entitled asshole, and entitled assholes rarely see anyone outside of their immediate circle as valuable. They can rationalize anything. If Trump is sitting in his gold chair and imagining himself remembered as the man who pushed the button, he will push it and hope that he lives long enough to crawl out of his bunker and do it again so he can be remembered as the man who pushed the button twice. That is what entitled assholes do; that is what dictators do. They build a legacy and once they have it, they do not give a shit how it ends. All I can say to those who think it is okay to sit this one out is, how nice it must be to be so privileged that the lives of real people do not matter next to your hatred of Clinton. I would appreciate it if you would not throw the rest of us under the bus.
“How privileged do you need to be to imagine that it’s a good idea to risk the actual lives of vulnerable Americans because you ‘hate’ Clinton?” (Hillman, 2016).
“While Bernie Sanders claims that it is important to defeat Donald Trump, many of his supporters are not convinced. These people, many of whom are young white men who proudly label themselves the ‘real progressives,’ are watching as the United States stares down the barrel of a fully loaded gun of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia and are shrugging. To even hint at voting for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, or claim that they are the same, is privilege personified” (Rankin, 2016, para. 7).