I sometimes have moments of guilt when I think about the fact that 2017 has been a really good year so far for me.
There was of course that whole winning a federal lawsuit thing, which continues to stagger me even still. I’ve also had the chance to have great conversations with friends, to make music with some really talented people, and to plan some new projects for the new year.
Of course, I’ve known for some time — at least since November 9, let’s say — that 2017 would prove to be a challenging year, so I’ve tried to temper the ways in my life has personally been very positive so far this year with that knowledge. This week, it’s really started to hit me that the other shoe is about to drop.
My background is in English, and in my undergrad, we studied the short story “Entropy” by Thomas Pynchon, and one of the characters has a mnemonic device for the three laws of thermodynamics¹ that (fittingly) I have remembered ever since:
- you can’t win;
- things are going to get worse before they get better;
- who says they’re going to get better.
At moments like this, the cynic in me finds this all too fitting a metaphor.
After all, we’re beginning this last week with President Obama, our nation’s first black president, with the president-elect (who has himself tried to delegitimize this historic presidency for years, his attempt to wipe that history down the memory hole notwithstanding) going after a civil rights hero just in time for our national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And all this, after running a campaign that was stunningly xenophobic and racist (to say the very least). It’s breathtaking, in much the same manner as a suckerpunch to the gut.
The ways in which Obama and Trump can be contrasted are almost too many to enumerate. While Trump is a bully and a textbook example of toxic masculinity, President Obama has been for the nation a model of class, dignity, and much-deserved emotion over one of the great tragedies of our society. He hasn’t been a perfect president and he has earned plenty of the criticism he has received over the last eight years (including from me), but he has been a good president and a decent man. Few of his ideological counterparts can say the same, least of all Donald Trump.
On Friday, that horrifying transition takes place. I won’t be celebrating. I certainly won’t be watching the inauguration. (I’ll be working, in fact. I haven’t yet decided whether I will simply ignore it altogether or if I’ll take the chance to scream “Fuck you, Trump” to the heavens sometime after 12:00 pm EST.)
It is easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that this is a reversal of the moral arc (or, as I’ve called it in the past, the moral asymptote), and it is still true that this is a setback that both sets dangerous precedents and endangers the well-being — and even the lives — of many Americans.
At her blog Miracle Girl, my colleague Stephanie Savage has been documenting how her health is endangered — as well as many Americans’ in general — by Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress, and Ed Brayton has said much the same. I will almost certainly lose my own health insurance if Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act, and members of my family will almost certainly become uninsurable — again — if insurance companies are allowed to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
And that’s just one of the more wide-sweeping implications. There’s the very real threat to LGBT rights and reproductive rights (I see you already trying, Steve King), to public health and the well-being of autistic people, to Muslims and immigrants. I don’t even know if I could adequately list all the people who are likely to be adversely affected by the incoming administration, but I’d guess that if you randomly named a marginalized group in America, they would make the list. (Atheists are probably one of the groups less likely to be affected, although I fully expect the right to further entrench Christian privilege as much as they can.)
One could be forgiven for being pessimistic.
But despair isn’t the only response. We can take on big tasks, like demanding honesty at every level. We can band together and rally behind organizations who are fighting for civil rights or abortion rights or separation of church and state (or even all of the above).
We can resist.
Let me close with this, from Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall on how journalists can resist Trump’s attempts to control them:
Trump wants to bully the press and profit off the presidency. He’s told us this clearly in his own words. We need to accept the reality of both. The press should cover him on that basis, as a coward and a crook. The big corporate media organizations may not be able to use those words, I understand, but they should employ that prism. The truth is that his threats against the press to date are ones it is best to laugh at. If Trump should take some un- or extra-constitutional actions, we will deal with that when it happens. I doubt he will or can. But I won’t obsess about it in advance. Journalists should be unbowed and aggressive and with a sense of humor until something happens to prevent them from doing so. Trump is a punk and a bully. People who don’t surrender up their dignity to him unhinge him.
Don’t you surrender your dignity, either, friends. Brace yourselves, certainly, but this is not over, not by a long shot.
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Image via Pixabay
¹ Not counting the zeroth law, of course. ^