Editorial Cartoon: The Swamp

November 30, 2016

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, like so many others, did not foresee Mr. Trump’s election.  Of course, as the nominee of one of our nation’s two major parties, I understood Mr. Trump’s chances to fall within a mathematical realm of possibility, but I admit that such clinical assessments were outweighed by a fundamental faith in the basic decency and good sense of my fellow Americans.  And while it may be viewed as undemocratic, or worse yet, condescending to say so, that faith has been strained to the point of breaking by the events of the past two weeks.

After two weeks of reflection, commiseration, and at times outright despondency, I am no closer to understanding how nearly half of my fellow citizens saw fit to entrust the Presidency to a man so uniquely unqualified by dent of temperament or experience for that office.  This is a man, as we must continually remind ourselves, who cruelly mimicked a disabled reporter and insulted a Gold Star family.  This is a man who maligned immigrants from a neighboring country as “murderers” and “rapists,” instead of the latest to seek a better future in a land our forefathers came to with similar hopes.

In so doing, he denied our shared history and appealed to our basest instincts.  This is a man who said he prefers war heroes who did not suffer the misfortune of falling into enemy hands.  This is a man who speaks of women not as equals but as objects of domination and sexual violence.  He has stated that Muslim-Americans should be forced to enter some sort of registry – ignorant or uncaring of the historical precedents that make such a proposition horrifying.
This is a man whose narcissism and insecurity impel him to respond to the slightest provocation or criticism, and coo at the most disingenuous and transparently manipulative flattery.  This is a man whose election was aided by the nefarious acts of a foreign leader who jails and murders dissidents.We all know this. How could we not? And yet roughly half of the American people saw fit to entrust him with our nation’s highest office – one once held by Jefferson and Lincoln and Roosevelt.

In the wake of this stunning choice, the remainder (or should I say majority) of us are forced to ask why.  There, we are given a menu of unsatisfying options from which to choose.  For example, we are told that Trump won because he spoke to the social and economic dislocation of the white working class.  He donned a red hat and adopted an empty slogan upon which voters could hang a wide assortment of grievances.  Never mind that Trump offered no concrete solutions to address these grievances.  Never mind that so many of these grievances were the misguided imaginings of Macedonian teenagers peddling social media fiction that would make the Editorial Board of the National Enquirer blush.

Others argue that Trump won because the Democratic Party nominated a person too beholden to special interests, too wooden, too secretive.  Should Hillary Clinton have used a private server?  Of course not.  Is the avarice of her and her husband off-putting? Yes.  But she was also imminently qualified, hard working, thoughtful, and intelligent.  And her policy prescriptions were based on inclusion, progress, and hope rather than separation, regression, and anger.  There is also the added bonus that she spoke in complete sentences.  To my mind, elections are about weighing the experience, temperament, and ideas of two imperfect candidates and choosing the person best suited to the job.  Perfection is not on offer.  A democracy should be viewed as a set of obligations discharged by its citizenry and not a form of spectacle or entertainment.

In the end, however, I think it best to draw our own conclusions, focused less on the past and more on the immediate future.  I offer my own.  The first is that we must not normalize Mr. Trump.  There is nothing normal about his personality, his actions, or his temperament. If this election had been a debate about the proper role of government or marginal tax rates, I would have expressed my views, cast my vote, and given the eventual winner my best wishes – Republican or Democrat.  After all, in America, we are taught that after an election, we must respect the will of the people and unify behind our leaders.  But since Trump has seen fit to violate nearly every norm of our democratic process, I feel liberated to take a different tact. I do not respect this man. I do not wish him or his administration well. I will use whatever power and privilege I possess to oppose him and his policies. And I will work to ensure that history’s verdict is both unkind and unequivocal.

Second, I commit to each day take at least one small step to affirm democracy and our place in it. I will join advocacy organizations like the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  I will sign petitions, even if unsure of their efficacy.  I will share my views and not be silent, even if my views make others uncomfortable or make me uncomfortable.  I will fight, in whatever way I can, for the country I love.

Finally, I will do my best to act in the absence of leadership.  I think many progressives, myself included, became a bit complacent over the past eight years.  I felt myself blessed to have a President whose values, intellect, and character allowed me to shirk some of my obligations of citizenship. Let this be a reminder that no one man or woman, however great, can carry the full load.  That load belongs to all people of good will, and I commit to carry my part from this day forward, even if I am presently unsure of what that carrying might entail.

Sincerely,

M. David Ruff

ear You:

Hey, what’s up? I didn’t write this a month ago or a year ago, as perhaps I should have. In part because I believed that despite its faults, the United States was filled with more good than ill.

And You? You consider yourself a good person. Indeed you are a good person; a stand-up guy or gal… and yet You voted for Mr. Trump.

With Your vote you didn’t stand up against racism, or sexism; you didn’t stand up for the rights of gay men or lesbian women, or immigrant families. You voted that, at best, “I don’t care about you people, and I approve of Mr. Trump’s message. Your continued oppression does not concern me.”

Perhaps You consider yourself a Christian, but if so, You didn’t stand for the compassion of Christ — that tenet You hold as the cornerstone of your faith. You didn’t love your neighbor as thyself.

Maybe You thought about pop culture. Like: ‘wouldn’t it be great if the guy I watched on TV was elected as president? He’s a straight-shooter. He tells it like it is.’

If pop culture influenced Your vote, perhaps a reference from pop culture will be of benefit to You. A film You have probably seen; one You can probably quote from… so there’s little chance You need a Spoiler Alert. Take this scene from the 1992 film “A Few Good Men”:

Upon professing Your views over Mr. Trump’s election, You may have been confronted by a certain faction of your Facebook friends. You may be confused. Like Private Loudon Downey in “A Few Good Men”, You may be asking:

What did we do wrong? We did nothing wrong!

Lance Corporal Harold Dawson provided the answer:

Yeah we did. We were supposed to fight for the people who couldn’t fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willie.

This is The United States of America. A nation which has long held itself out as a beacon of freedom and opportunity. A country that has often fought to defend the right to live in peace; fought for those who could not fight for themselves. As an American, whether You served in the military or not, You should be fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves. This includes all the groups of people Mr. Trump has targeted; You should fight against the hate crimes that fringe slice of his supporters have perpetrated following the election.

If Your stance is now that Mr. Trump should be given a chance to implement his stated goals… that anything else would be counterproductive. I put it to You that You should disagree.

Counterproductive is exactly what You should be. Obstruct racism whenever You encounter it. Listen to people of color. Black lives matter because they are Your fellow Americans. Extend a hand and say “peace be with you” to people of other faiths, and especially to our Muslim brothers and sisters. Do not allow the rights women have fought for through all of recorded history be rewound. Stand shoulder to shoulder in defense of Your siblings in the LGTBQ community. Respect Your treaty obligations in North Dakota and the North Atlantic. Stand with Jews, when Mr. Trump appoints anti-semites as his chief advisors. Do not normalize bigotry; do not ignore hate speech. These are Civil Rights, by guaranteeing them for other Americans, they’re guaranteed for You too.

And don’t gloss-over the erosion of Your right to free speech, or to a free press. These rights are guaranteed by the Constitution, but have been targeted by Mr. Trump and are currently under threat. They are pillars of Your democracy, and without them, You will no longer have a democracy.

Turning this around isn’t just about changing how You voted — that’s done –, but changing how You see your fellow Americans. Do not vilify those with differing political views, yet also don’t forget exactly what Your vote meant — and will mean — if You stand idly by.

If You are still reading at this point, You have an open mind. You are a good person. So know that already much of the nation is trying to normalize Mr. Trump. They are roughing up his hair on the ‘Tonight Show’ in an attempt to humanize him and his stated ideology. Resist.

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark mustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

— George Orwell, ‘1984’

Resist what Orwell described in his prescient warning. Do not cry gin-scented tears. Do not win victory over yourself. You are a good person. You know Mr. Trump is wrong; do not come to love him. You must never get to the point where You love Big Brother. You cannot let this happen. You must stand up. You must resist.

You must halt this march of authoritarianism before policies of fear and hate are put in place. Don’t put Your head in the sand and say to reassure Yourself: “it does not affect me.” It does. And it will, incrementally.

To paraphrase Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Immigrants, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not an Immigrant.

Then they came for the Press, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not in the Press.

Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not a Muslim.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Remember: You are a good person. You are an American. You are supposed to fight for the people who couldn’t fight for themselves.

Sincerely,

Jason Riley

Your Fellow American