28 Nov Goodbye To All That #3
Buckle your seatbelts and hold on tight.
“Goodbye To All That” was my (in)famous 1970 essay breaking free from a politics of accommodation, especially affecting women. During decades of activism, I avoided writing another “Goodbye…” until the 2008 primary between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, when not since the suffrage struggle had two communities—joint conscience-keepers of this country—been so set in competition. I had hoped never to write another “Goodbye…” Then came the 2016 election.
Rage. It began rising in my throat the moment Hillary Diane Rodham declared for the nomination and the male chorus began denouncing her as ambitious and unlikeable. Since this then highly popular former Secretary of State had already survived 25 years of being pronounced guilty of everything from bad hairstyles to lesbian murder, with no evidence of wrongdoing—from Whitewater to Benghazi, from private suffering inflicted by her husband’s sexual betrayals to public humiliation at his impeachment, from being attacked because she was a “careerist” family destroyer to being attacked because she stayed with him—I thought Ho-hum the boys again, don’t dignify their egos with attention, since this astonishing woman is still standing. And I held my tongue.
Then came the fear. The fear now in full poisonous bloom across our country began further back for some of us, before Trump, in the Democratic primaries, when to be a Hillary supporter was to invite threats and denunciations—from the Left. The Sanders people still haven’t taken moral responsibility for how vile this was, or for its dangerous lingering effects—nor has Senator Sanders. I was violently shoved and screamed at with foul, sexist names on the streets of Manhattan—for wearing a Hillary button. Friends in other cities and states stopped wearing their buttons, from fear. The Bernie Bros singled out female campus activists with threats and physical acts. Cars with HRC bumper stickers had their windows broken. To post something positive about her online was to invite such vitriol that thousands of her supporters had to form secret, invitation-only Facebook groups. Think about that. And then Hillary supporters were accused of being insufficiently “enthusiastic.” But her campaign urged us not to alienate Sanders supporters. So I held my tongue.
Now comes the lemming-like stampede toward appeasement, with the (white male) Right calling for the “end of political correctness” joined by the (white male) Left calling for the “end of identity politics.” How swiftly they’ve agreed to silence the pesky majority of this country, all of us who aren’t part of a white straight male working-class yes identity that is only 19 percent of the population but apparently is again supposed to be regarded as generic “American.”
Well, no more holding my tongue. Goodbye to all that.
Goodbye to adopting their euphemisms. They coined “Alt Right” to pass as respectable. Call them what and who they are: Male supremacists. White supremacists. Neo-Nazis.
Goodbye to facile analogies between Brexit and the US election. Britain leaving the European Union was a self-destructive leap backward—but at least the Brits are going backward to something familiar: their millennia-long state of boastful distinction from the Continent. The USA, though, is careening toward a place we’ve never been.
Goodbye to analyzing Donald Trump’s slightest twitch. Was he pretending to be fascistic in his campaign? Or is he pretending to be moderate now? What did he mean How did he act What does he want. Forgodsake, look at him! He is a deeply sick man, an egomaniacal psychotic with likely untreated ADD into the bargain. When facing an inmate who is convinced he’s Jesus Christ you do not try to rationally convince him that actually ocean waves are not his footprints on water. You cannot reason with madness.
Goodbye to “distancing” ourselves through incredulity. After seeing the 9/11 attack on our country, people gasped, “My god, it’s like a movie!” Now reverse the numbers. After the 11/9 election results—a different kind of attack on our country—we awoke captive in a ghastly reality TV show: “The Coup.” Distancing from reality—reducing life to entertainment or eternally auditioning for it on social media—creates passivity. Passivity leads to normalization. So Democrats are repositioning themselves to cooperate with a Trump administration (and House and Senate and Supreme Court) “For the sake of getting stuff done.” You can hear the pathetic whispers: Maybe he’ll keep some of Obama care? Or just fence the wall in parts? Dear people, this is not a slippery slope. This is a sinkhole. This is an earthquake.
When President Obama met Trump in a disciplined exercise of civility, clearly hoping to influence disastrous policies through diplomacy, he was protecting the office of the presidency and the peaceful transfer of power. I respect him for that. He was doing his job. And I realize—up to a point—that certain decent elected officials are trying to do theirs.
But that’s not our job.
All along, Trump has actually been honest about who he is, what he hates, and what he intends to do. He simply wasn’t believed. He himself can’t believe he is getting away with this. He himself thought he would be stopped by now.
Yet no legislator ordered an investigation when he invited a foreign state to hack our government—a violation of the Logan Act, arguably treasonous. Nobody thought him serious when he endorsed torture and advocated war crimes—acts so extreme that they were literally beyond belief. Goebbels had warned that propaganda had to be really big—and hammered into the populace by repetition—so that people couldn’t take it seriously until it was too late. Trump’s taped Access Hollywood remarks plus almost 20 women coming forward with credible, graphic testimonies of sexual assault—this was believed (his own voice, after all). But the FBI, press, and public decided that returning to unfounded hatred of another woman, Hillary, was more satisfying.
Now, after vowing he never settles, Trump’s done exactly that, to the (tax deductible) tune of $25 million in a Federal court trial over fraud in the Trump University scandal. Sadly (unlike Gretchen Carlson suing Fox News’s Roger Ailes) the plaintiffs decided to be bought off and shut up, rather than air the details in court and save their country. Trump still faces an onslaught of threatened and actual lawsuits—more fraud, sexual assault, racketeering. And they say we should give him another chance? Oh no, goodbye to more chances.
His transition website, greatagain.gov, has rules for job applicants that include these lines: “You will be asked about possible conflict of interest deriving from your sources of income; all aspects of your personal and professional life, including organizations to which you belong or once belonged, speeches you may have given . . . legal, administrative, and regulatory proceedings to which you may have been a party, in short anything that might embarrass the president or you if he should choose you for a position.” Trump, who refuses to meet those standards, ought to feel embarrassed by himself, but has shown he’s incapable of shame. Goodbye, goodbye to advice that we shouldn’t “rush” to judgment.
His business includes over 500 entities across five continents. He blatantly persists in refusing to release his tax returns. He has all along said he will turn the family corporation(s) over to his adult children, which radically violates the tradition of putting a president’s personal wealth in a blind trust. He is trying to get the highest national security clearance for his son-in-law to become a special adviser to the president. This, despite Number 5 US code 3110, which reads, “a public official may not appoint . . . any individual who is a relative of the public official.” It explicitly applies to the president and a possible son-in-law. So goodbye to hoping the office will sober and mature him.
His rancid racism and Islamaphobia evoked the worst in Americans to ooze from where it had been festering and slither into the public square. He incited mobs to chant for his wall against Mexico and his rounding up Muslims. But since he reassured everyone he is the “the least racist person you’ll ever meet,” it must be okay, no? Never mind how hideously reminiscent this is of Jews forced to register in Germany at the onset of the Shoah, and the shameful registration and internment of Japanese Americans in the US during World War II. Surely it can’t happen (again) in the land of the free. Yet his transition staff blithely acknowledges to the press that they are preparing plans for building the wall without congressional approval—and for creating a “Muslim registry.” Goodbye, goodbye to being told “Let’s root for him to heal the nation!”
He appoints as chief White House strategist Steven Bannon, notorious for his Breitbart-news misogyny, white nationalism, and anti-Semitism; a man who was formally charged with domestic violence; who writes, publishes, and states in interviews such filth as: “Birth control makes women fat, insane, sluts who unman men and destroy marriage;” and “To avoid violent threats online women should just log off, because men built the internet, along with the rest of modern civilization, so it’s only fair we get to keep it.” In a 2014 email, he wrote, “[GOP] leadership are all cunts.” He admits he wants to “destroy the state,” to “let the grassroots turn on the hate, because that’s the only thing that will make them do their duty.” But hey, that was in the past, and after all Bannon was merely in the campaign—Oh! Now he’s in the transition team! But he says those were jokes and just because he’s in the transition team doesn’t mean—Oh! Now he’ll be in the White House! Surely he’ll have to moderate his—Oh! Breitbart post-election still runs stories headlined “Wave of Fake Hate Crimes Sweeps Social Media,” while real hate speech and real hate crimes metastasize, while school children are beaten up because they are Muslim or Hispanic or African American or disabled, while sexual assaults against women are on the rise. Just how long should we wait and see? No, no, no, goodbye to all that.
Too late did the media take him seriously. It wasn’t until almost autumn that the venerable New York Times even used the word “lie” to describe what he was saying. (In the 1930s, the New York Times had assured its readers that “Hitler’s anti-Semitism is all posture.”) But at least the “dying” print press did mobilize, unlike broadcast news. The media-monitoring Tyndall Report found that in 2016 the three major broadcast network news programs combined spent 32 minutes on policy issues but 125 minutes on Hillary’s emails.
A free press, vital to a democracy, is invariably the first institution to feel tyranny’s ax. Ours has already been roughed up—Trump denied access, inflamed mobs against journalists at his rallies, threatened to change libel laws and sue anyone for negative coverage. Right then and there the press could have stopped covering him: let Fox News have him all to itself. Instead, they awarded Trump with an estimated $4 billion in free airtime.
Pause here for bitter laughter: men have wielded the First Amendment for decades mainly to defend violent pornography against feminist critiques of its real-life effects, such defenses hardly being what the Framers had in mind. Now that the press is under fire, let’s hope the pornocrats will defend real journalism with at least half that zeal. Otherwise, goodbye to an already endangered free press.
Immediately after assaults on the press always come assaults on the arts (“Hamilton,” to start). So hear Toni Morrison: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. That is how civilizations heal.” Art–music, language, vision—glides subversively under the radar to undermine authority. Artists deserve support because artists by nature challenge and redefine power. Nor does art wait for permission.
Waiting, not taking Trump et al at their words, has led us here. His own white, rural, blue-collar “low information voters” didn’t stop him even when he contemptuously insulted them, shrugging, “How stupid are the people of Iowa?” and “I could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and they would still vote for me.” He was right.
So goodbye to illusions. Believe what he says. He is where he is because of his statements and acts. He has nothing to gain and everything to lose by changing now. Why should he care about harming the GOP? They invoked and adopted him, ceded leverage over him, are rushing to accommodate him. Does anyone honestly believe his Supreme Court appointment will be moderate? Or that we will not be bloodied in the streets fighting to preserve a shred of abortion rights?
Even considering that question lowers standards: Gee, maybe we should settle for Mitt Romney or even Rudy Giuliani for Secretary of State, ’cause Sarah Palin would be worse. While he croons into the TV camera, “America, don’t be afraid.” To hell with that! Farewell to compromising with barbarians.
And goodbye to the roller coaster of grief, as realization of all this breaks over and over again in sickening waves. Just when you think you’re beginning to heal the least bit, some new cabinet appointment spins you back down into vomitus darkness. If you catch yourself thinking about anything else in a moment of blissful relief, you discover you’re actually fighting that healing moment—as if, were you to drop your guard for one second, you’d be collaborating with the insanity. As if giving up the grief were the same as giving up the ghost. It’s not. And we—I—have to learn how to keep the knife edge of fury sharp even while slowly pulling the blade out of my heart.
So goodbye to guilt about feeling whole again, for however brief a moment. We need to get whole in order to resist, fight, think audaciously, act creatively.
They sneer at us, Get over it.
We reply, YOU get the hell over it. America is opening up, to its own female citizens, to its own brown and black children—and yes, to globalization, to the information economy, to the technological revolution. You cannot ban the future or deport history. Refugees and immigrants, all those for whom Liberty raises her torch—we’re here to stay. The demographics of this country will change even more and there’s not a god-damned thing you can do about it. We will outnumber you, outfight you, outlive you. And we will not let you turn America into Amerikkka.
We need to say NO, every day, on every issue, in all the ways we can remember and all the ways we can invent.
We need the world to see that we global citizens are fighting back from inside.
We need the First Peoples at Standing Rock, enduring fire hoses and dogs, to know that the Second, and Third, and many more Peoples of this land stand with them.
We need unions to remember their power and use it. We need sick-outs and slow- downs and picket lines. We need national strikes.
We need anyone wronged by Trump—assaulted women, stiffed workers, cheated investors—to come forward and find a reporter who will tell your story, or band together and mount another lawsuit and refuse to settle so the facts aren’t reburied.
We need to start planning NOW toward early impeachment of this man who has raped the Constitution. (And don’t worry about Pence. One step at a time.)
Goodbye, goodbye forever to appeasement. If we are to suspend judgment, let it not be of Trump’s gang. Let it be of each other. Let those who want to march, march; let those who can organize do so; let others demand recounts and others sue for data under the Freedom of Information Act, and others run for office and tweet and post and email. No act of resistance too large, no act of resistance too small.
As for women, we will never ever go back. Either you men can change with us and enter the future in your full humanity, or hunker down in your emotional bomb shelters muttering to your angry, self-pitying selves. This is our country, our planet, and if you don’t like it, go back to the asylum.
Women, we need to rebel in all the ways women have rebelled for centuries–plus new ones available only now:
Courage: “If you ever lift a hand to that child again, I’ll kill you.”
Compassion: “Where is the wound? Here, let me fix it.”
Evasion: “The path is that way, hurry.”
Patience: “Wait until he’s asleep.”
Defiance: “No. Never. Never. Never.”
Humor: Laugh at Trump. Laugh your ass off. Any time he appears in public or drives by in a motorcade or tweets: LAUGH back. Cackle and hoot, giggle and snicker, roar and chortle, parody him, satirize him, mimic his accent and (lack of) vocabulary, his pudgy, stiff body in its costly but ill-fitting suits. Call him by his original German name: Drumpf. Nickname him: Carrot Top. Eeensie weensie peenie. Never let him forget we won the popular vote: call him Loser. Throw a party and have fun coining names.
“Sharing”: Courteously invite him into our realities, so he can “understand” women better. Perhaps boxes of soiled tampons and sanitary pads sent to The Penthouse, Trump Tower, Fifth Avenue, New York City? Perhaps sending used diapers, too—cloth and paper—to remind him that when he bragged he’d never raised his kids “because the wives did that,” it made us, well, cranky. (Think of it, thousands of boxes. Thoughtful gestures of educational sharing.) And do be “supportive”: Have stickers made to adorn and decorate Trump products in stores. Use your imagination.
Conspiring: (which etymologically only means “breathing together”) to think of ingenious ways we can help Drumpf fathom how women feel about him.
If all else fails, he will inevitably overstep himself—and hubris will bring him down. Our job is to lessen the number of people who will suffer and die until that moment. Our job is to protect each other, and save the planet.
So goodbye, goodbye to innocent by-standing. Goodbye to a carefree youth. Goodbye to a peaceful old age. Goodbye to quietude. And goodbye to fear—though never forgetting all there is to fear. Goodbye forever to all that.
We The People of The United States—people of science and reason and people of faith, across differences in age, ability, sex and sexuality, ethnicity, class, political party, geography, country of origin, all the boundaries that divided us; in order to retain and form a more perfect union, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and all posterity—now unite in Resistance.