Kindness Matters (Even to Trump Supporters)

We are, in very real sense, in the midst of a civil “cold” war in this country. The far right has seized power either through manipulating the public to vote for them or by manipulating the elections themselves with help from Russia. Progressives are not the masters of violent behavior, we’re not the ones who have been storing caches of guns in our basements and bomb shelters for the last eight years, we are, as a group, far more civilized, more educated, more compassionate and more forgiving. It’s easy to forget those qualities sometimes, especially when you’re marching in demonstrations or battling trolls on the internet, but it’s those qualities that will turn the undecided voters to our cause, and those qualities which we want to use as the foundations of our country in the 21st century.

The last year has been a tumultuous one to say the least. There has been a lot of passion and anger from all sides of these debates and it becomes very tempting to hate everyone who voted for the opposition. I confess, it still boggles my mind that over 58 million people voted for Trump, I honestly expected him to lose by the biggest landslide in US history. But 58 million people did vote for him, and the bottom line is, most of  these people aren’t really evil. Misguided, ignorant of their own biases, sure, but not necessarily evil. Many of them will become disillusioned over the next four years, hopefully within the next two. It will take patience, reasoning and most of all, kindness to win them over to our side and not have them reflexively vote Republican again.

There are of course the virulent racists and homophobes, who will be constantly on the attack and as unlikely as it seems, sometimes even they can have a change of heart. These transformations won’t be accomplished with taunts and insults, those are the weapons of the opposition; we have to be better than that. President Obama was a great role model for responding to critics, he made his points without resorting to insults. The trick is to stay calm, stick to the facts, and if the person is open to it, show them compassion.

Every statement we make has a ripple effect. You’re not only speaking to one angry conservative, you’re reaching their family and their friends, some of whom didn’t vote in the last election, these are voters we want to win over to progressive causes, if they perceive us as no different from our conservative counterpart it will only deter them from getting involved.

Many Trump voters are about to lose their healthcare, or see their Medicare benefits slashed. It’s tempting to be smug, to say “serves ya right” but that will only cause them to dig their heels in harder and vote for the next Republican tool who comes along. Right wing media such as Fox News have been demonizing the left for years. So even though we’ve had 6 years of congressional gridlock due to the Republican majority, somehow it’s still “Obama’s fault.” Having their insurance either stripped away or the premiums skyrocketing until they’re unaffordable is the kind of wake up call that might shake off the media hypnosis. With Republicans running all three branches of government and trumpeting (pun intended) their repeal of the Affordable Care Act, it will be hard for even the most uninformed voter to blame that one on the democrats.

There will be other opportunities as well. As Republicans strip Medicare, Social Security and every other part of the social safety nets they can dismantle, more and more people will realize that they were duped. So many of these people said they wanted “change” but this was not the sort of change that they bargained for. In two years every congressional seat and 33 senate seats will be up for re-election.  If we want to win those seats, we need to bring these voters over to our side. We need to sympathize with them when they realize they were conned. We need to extend a hand rather than pointing a finger, and help them realize that progressive causes are for the benefit of the entire country  rather than just the select few. Perhaps some of them will feel less threatened by the idea of a homogenized America, where we are all equal regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or belief system. This is the America we should be creating in the 21st century, hopefully it’s the America we will see emerging four years from now.

 

How To Survive the Trumpocolypse

These are not normal times we are living in. There will be major changes over the next four years, and possibly for generations afterwards. At the very least we are likely to see an extremely conservative presidency, more so than even George W Bush, and one that will get to appoint multiple Supreme Court Justices. On the other extreme, Trump might use the fanaticism of his far right supporters to stage a full coup and become a dictator. The latter is not as far fetched as it sounds, and the greatest hope to prevent that from happening is to pressure the politicians of both parties who still respect the institutions of this government even when they rule or vote against them. Opposition to this regime has to start early and it has to be strong. If you believe in equality for ALL Americans, and you are opposed to the extremist policies that have been presented so far, you need to make your voice heard while you still can.

Trump has a fragile ego, and reacts to criticism very badly. His track record indicates that the First Amendment will probably be one of his first targets. He is very likely to pass some sort of Sedition Act shutting down both free speech and the free press. Right wing newspapers like the Wall St. Journal are already falling in line to stay safe and cozy in the Trump regime. There may be a time when posts like this one, or something you shared on Facebook, gets you a visit from the FBI. If you don’t believe this could happen here, follow my link to the Sedition Act of 1918, which made it illegal to speak out against the American government in World War I.

Consider the role you want to play in this new reality. There will be a great need for protesters both on the streets and on the internet. Trump is creating wars on Women, economic classes, religion, science, education and LGBTQ rights. He has the backing of a very vocal minority of white, neo nazis and religious extremists. Both of these groups prefer authoritarianism to democracy and see only their way as the right way. With this in mind, protesting may get dangerous. We’ve seen the kind of violence police have used in Standing Rock during the Obama administration, it will escalate quickly with Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. This means protesting can literally become hazardous to your health, we could even see another Kent State massacre.

If you’re Muslim or HIspanic or for that matter just non-white, you are at greater risk of persecution under this regime. It’s true that Trump has only promised to deport undocumented aliens, but how many innocent people will be harassed while hunting them down? Will have have ICE troops storming homes and businesses to search for illegals? What if you’re legal but don’t have ID on you? It’ s a safe be that this sort of harassment won’t happen to white people. For Muslims, he has hinted and teased about some kind of registry, deliberately obfuscating his answer in several interviews. It’s safe to say that if he can get away with making such a registry, he will do it, and we will have to react to it accordingly.

Churches and Synagogues have already been declaring themselves sanctuaries for immigrants. There may come a time these immigrants need an underground railroad to reach these churches, if you are in the right location and feel so inclined, your help will be sorely needed. Some churches may also need donations of food, bedding and clothing, especially if they become a long term shelter.

Watch for every day harassment and violence and learn how to stand up to it.  You can minimize the danger to yourself and to the victim by responding properly. If you are afraid or if are not able to intervene, call the police, you might save someone’s life. Also, if you see graffiti, try to find the building’s owner and encourage them to remove it. If the owner is unresponsive, consider starting a petition to get their attention. If you see a business practicing racial or homophobic policies, post their information to twitter and facebook, public boycotting of such places has proven very effective.

Finally, find something positive to keep your hopes up. Throughout the history of the western Europe and the U.S., there has always been a movement towards greater equality. Even when there have been occasional push backs, they never last and the next generation pushes for more equal treatment for all. Be a positive voice in your community, if you have an artistic talent, express it politically. Some of the greatest songs of the 1960’s came out of protesting the Vietnam War or supporting the Civil Rights movement. It will make a tremendous difference to those who feel oppressed to know that someone cares about them, whether they see it in deeds, spoken/written words, song or paintings and drawings. There is also 57% of the population that did not vote in 2016 and we’re going to need to reach the hearts and minds of some of those non-voters in order to make a real difference in the next round of elections.