“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” — William Faulkner
What follows is a small selection of journal entries that I kept throughout the many months of this project. These particular entries were important in helping me develop my thinking about power structures, but I never used them in any of my collected works, either in concept or in the form which they appear here. They live on this page as a way of bearing witness to the arc of my capstone. More than a few of my darlings have come to rest here, as well.
7/1/16: I support the notion of taxes. I think taxes are valuable and important for our society. I can’t hate help but hate the IRS, possibly because everyone hates the IRS, but also because I don’t necessarily feel like my tax dollars are spent the way they should be (which isn’t the IRS’s fault). More frustrating in my current day-to-day life if that I owe the IRS $46. Because I was in Ireland and didn’t get my W-2s until after tax season ended, I owe a $3 late filing fee, but the rest I owe because someone decided that I took home too much money last year even though I’m $30,000 in debt and made less than $10,000. I guess the government needs that $46 more than I do with my unpaid internships, loan burden, and car payment. Surely they couldn’t get that $46 from the billionaires who only pay a portion of their share for no reason that any middle- or lower-class citizen should accept without feeling intense rage. They collect their wealth and sit on it so it grows larger. They own this country but only take from it. $46 seems like a lot when you’re making $40 a week. When you have to commute 30 minutes each way to jobs that are really just glorified volunteer labor that I need in order to get a job. My mom is willing to pay my taxes for me, isn’t that nice of her?
My mom’s taxes are the real kicker here. Come to find out, she can no longer claim me as a dependent on her taxes because of my age, and her ex-husband claimed my sister on his taxes even though he regularly misses child support payments and doesn’t see my sister but four percent of the year (Mom did the math). I still don’t know why she let him claim her, but it probably has something to do with their divorce agreement. For the first time since she had children, Mom had to file as a single person. Which means she now owes the IRS an additional $800. Most of that, except the late file fees, are just extra taxes she is supposed to pay as a single woman.
But she’s not a single woman. She pays for everything of mine still, and way more of my sister’s share than her ex-husband does. And she still helps my brother with his college and the occasional boost. She pays for my car, my college, my healthcare, my car insurance, my phone, my ER visit bills, parking tickets, gas, food, water, heat, air, rent. Everything. I’m glad the government took that $800 from a woman who doesn’t have it rather than a billionaire living in their mansion in Northern California with their collection of convertibles. It makes sense to take that money away from a single mom with two kids in college and one yet to enter. My sister doesn’t need braces. We don’t need to pay the $1,300 ER bill we got yesterday when my sister was bleeding out of her ear and insurance refused to cover it. She woke up a couple nights before that happened with pain so bad she couldn’t sleep and even though I had work the next morning, I drove to Walmart at midnight and stood in the ear drop aisle while an employee ran a mop over my feet. Put that in my IRS tax file. We don’t need to pay rent, or for food. It doesn’t concern the government that more money leaves my household than enters it every month. Who cares that my mom has no savings and no life insurance and no retirement fund?
7/28/16: While reading Ghetto today, I read a line that underlined my privilege. I’ve never thought twice about including my address on my resume or cover letter. I didn’t consider that your address could affect your likelihood to get a job, or that anyone even looked at that part of the resume. For people who live in a ghetto and are trying to fight bad employer perceptions of people from the neighborhood, that address is critical. They could be anyone until that address reveals they’re from the ghetto. I’m amazed that I had no notion of this before today. No conception of the possibility. I knew it was easier to get a job as a middle class person with good qualifications, but I never considered how important my suburban address was to that.
7/29/16: We say the national anthem under God and we testify in court under oath of the Bible. In God We Trust is on all of our paper money, and religion is a valid reason to try and pass discriminatory laws in Congress. Religion is enough of an argument to defund Planned Parenthood and outlaw any sex education in schools save for abstinence. Religion is enough to pass restrictions on who can get abortions and where and how I can get birth control. “God is going to save us”—is that why we aren’t concerned about climate change? “God has a plan”—is that why we’re waiting on science to deliver some miracle fix-all that will deliver us from this climate disaster? Is that why so many insist that it’s just the earth going through natural cycles despite 97 percent of scientists agreeing that climate change is a significant threat?
For a country that invokes religious freedom and has a constitutional amendment separating church and state, we seem to let religion—Christianity—govern us. Your religion governs my body even though my beliefs are different and require a different method of governing. You can be Muslim, just don’t expect the government to reflect your needs. You can be Muslim in our country that was built on the idea of religious freedom, but Donald Trump is still going to throw you out of this country. “It’s God’s will,” I hear it all the time. It’s a way to say, “Yes, I’m being an asshole, but if God willed it, there’s nothing you can say.” God is our national scapegoat as well as our mascot and our martyr.
8/5/16: On Tuesday when we were leaving for Busch Gardens, my mom told me to wear mosquito spray so I don’t get Zika virus, since I’m of child-bearing age now. I got mad because we’ve had this conversation at least 10 times now. She told me 1) my sureness on not wanting kids makes her worry that I don’t want kids because she was a bad mother and I’m not confident that I have anything good to pass on. And 2) she doesn’t want me to be so sure I don’t want kids that I refuse to be open to the possibility. I had to explain that I’m sure for now but not forever. I’m open to the possibility; I just ask others to be open to the possibility that I won’t have them and don’t need to in order to be fulfilled or worth something as a woman.
8/6/16: So let’s talk about kids and why I don’t want them. 1) I don’t particularly like small children. I grew up babysitting, but I was never exactly a natural (which may be why I never earned more than $5 a day, or 62 cents an hour). I put small children on the back of a seatless golf cart and ramped homemade dirt hills until one nearly fell off the back. I climbed sappy pine trees instead of pushing them on swings. I took the last scoop of mac and cheese. When I was on my own, I watched a boy who cried endlessly. So I mastered the art of falling asleep during Handy Manny and endless tears. I even fell to my wit’s end one day and put him in the bathrooms (lights on; I’m not that cruel) and told him he could come out when he stopped crying. I caved and let him out three minutes later. I spent my hard-earned babysitting money on patterned rubber ducks off the internet. Nowadays, I can enjoy being around small children, but in doses. I don’t enjoy role-playing with them very much, or pretending to be grateful when they hand me saliva-covered tea cups and demand I drink from them. I see kids whining, begging, and screaming at the grocery store, and I want no part of that. Yes, I like the powdery smell of babies, but I don’t want to be responsible for one. It’s not that I don’t think I could be a good mother or that my mother has failed me in some way.
2) But I don’t have to be a mom, and if anything seeing my mother scramble around trying to provide for all our needs—a declaration of love—is one of the reasons I don’t want to be a mother. She finds joy in it most of the time, but all I can see is how much we need her constantly and I don’t want anyone to need me so much of the time. I don’t want doctor’s appointments and peanut butter sandwiches uneaten in lunch boxes, cheerios dumped off the high chair onto the floor. Some women find happiness in being needed, but maybe it’s not the only way to be happy. For some, maybe it’s not the way to happiness at all.
3) I refuse to be guilted into having children because it’s a duty I’m supposed to fulfill by nature of being a woman. We aren’t in danger of being under-populated. Quite the opposite. Our species doesn’t depend on my procreation, and if anything, not having children is a responsible decision for the planet. Less carbon to contribute, fewer resources to take.
4) I will be a woman regardless of whether I get married and have children or not. And contrary to popular belief, this will not make me a spinster, or undesirable, or unchosen, or the old bitch on the corner who has no love in her heart. It will make me happy if I don’t marry or have children because it will be my choice, not an unfortunate circumstance that I fell into. It doesn’t require pity or thoughts of, “I wonder what’s wrong with her?”
5) We’ve evolved to have deep thought and consciousness, and as such I’d like us as a species to consider that what fulfills us might also have evolved. Families are fulfilling to some, but maybe there are other ways to be fulfilled—careers, hobbies, causes, volunteerism, good friends. I so often hear people tell me that you love a baby in a way you’ve never loved anyone or anything else. And maybe that’s true for some, but for me, I think that love would scare me. What if makes me feel trapped rather than fulfilled?
6) I often hear people tell me that I’ll change my mind. People don’t take women seriously when we say that we don’t want kids, like it’s just some bad combination of hormones that will pass from our wombs, leaving us wide open and begging to be filled. It’s like people genuinely can’t imagine a woman being good for anything else, or that women might even get the thought in their brains that they can do anything else. It’s not great maternal/paternal wisdom you bestow on me every time you say I’ll change my mind; it’s a reminder that women and men are still not seen equally in our society. I find it demeaning, and I find it offensive. If women can start families at 21 or younger, why can’t I make the decision not to have one? I reserve the right to change my mind, but if I do, it won’t be because of the people who told me I’ll change my mind. It’ll be because it’s genuinely the best choice for me and what I want for myself. I recognize that at 30, I might feel differently, and I’m open to that. But at 21, I know right now that a baby is not part of the future I envision for myself. I’d appreciate it if you’d respect that.
7) I see a different life for myself, one that doesn’t involve children of my own but welcomes children of my friends and siblings. There may or may not be a long-term partner in my life; sometimes he’s there in my visions and sometimes he’s not. I’m happy on my own. I live in a 500 square feet tiny house and it has everything I need. I live in the woods and am surrounded by the smell of campfire smoke and the sounds of birdsong. Here, I write, here I read, here I live. The details are fuzzy but the message is clear: I can be happy without marriage and children. I often read memoirs from other women writers about how hard it was to write while they raised their children. 20 minutes here while one of them is napping. 10 minutes there while he’s strapped into his high chair. I have a lot of respect for these women, but I don’t know if I want that life.
8) I’m not keen on having kids while women still do 75 percent of the housework in most households and are seen as the primary caregivers. Women are expected to put their lives and careers aside for children, but men aren’t. Women are applauded for being selfless, for pushing their own needs aside, but I don’t think we should admire that loss of self. I certainly don’t want to reach a place where I ignore my own needs to serve others. That’s not healthy. I’m not willing to but my life aside when the father might not be. I’m not sure I’m willing to put my life aside at all. I feel that writing is the most important thing I can offer the world. People keep having children and expecting that they will change the world through this act. There’s nothing inherently wrong with expecting your kids to do great things or to be your greatest contribution to the world. But it would appear that this plan of letting your children fix or invent or impact things has left us in a cycle of inaction and my generation more than any other is expected to fix the problems that past generations have let get out of hand. I don’t think having children will contribute to solving any of the world’s problems, personally. I would rather use my precious time on actually fixing the things that are broken, not waiting for my kids to grow up and do it maybe.
9) I also don’t like the state of the world right now and don’t find it a particularly friendly environment to raise children in. I don’t want to explain to my children why some people think that black lives don’t matter, or why men are given short sentences for raping women while police get no sentences at all for murdering black people. I don’t want to explain that the people with the most money pay our lawmakers to fight climate change action and that’s why it’s getting hotter and California is in severe drought and plants and animals are dying off every day. I don’t want to explain that our country was built on the exploitation of black bodies, and irrational hatred continues to relegate black bodies as second class citizens. I don’t want to explain why women shouldn’t walk home at night alone or why it’s easier to get guns than birth control. But I couldn’t not explain these things to my child. We’ve made the world into this ugly place and we must bear witness. I can face this just fine without needing to bring a child into the mix. Some people say it’s selfish not to want children, but I think it’s also selfish not to think about the world our children will have to navigate, how unjust and cruel it can often be. We have lawmakers trying to make it impossible for a woman who has been raped to get an abortion—life is too precious—but police walk away from murder without a day spent in jail. These contradictions sear the heart, sever hope that we can do anything to make our world better for everyone. It’s not that I don’t think life is beautiful or worth the pain. For some it is. But I don’t think it’d be fair to bring another life into the reality we live in when I’m not even sure I’m willing to put my career aside for them.
10) I don’t want to have biological children for health reasons. I can’t wear jeans or a seatbelt without an adjuster to take the pressure off my bladder. I can’t take pre-natal vitamins, or eat a diet that’s good for an unborn child. I can’t give into my cravings. I already have a sensitive bladder and can’t imagine the weight of a baby pressing against it for nine months, not to mention the consequences of childbirth on a body that is already weakened by chronic pain. If the pain persists after childbirth, who will take care of the baby? What if I pass my bladder disease on to my child? What if my child can never eat chocolate or any of the foods her peers can because I passed her bad genes? How can I live with the guilt? How can I in good consciousness risk passing a disease that will irreparably alter the course of my child’s life for the worse?
11) I’m tired just thinking about the 18+ years of effort and struggle and worry and—yes—deep love. I am also scared. I’ve never failed at anything but the stakes have never been as high as another human life. Parents get it wrong all the time, but I don’t want to force my imperfections on a helpless being. I’m just not ready to have kids right now, and though I might change my mind, please prepare for the preposterous alternative that I won’t. That, at 21, I knew perfectly well what was best for me, and had the courage to stick to it.
10/18/16: No one has ever told me the dreaded, “You don’t look sick,” but I get looks all the time. When I walk through the dining hall with a big plate of rice—clearly different from what’s on the menu for everyone else—every eye is on me. It feels like they’re all asking, “What makes her so special?” When I go to coffee shops and request the one item on the menu I can have—steamed milk—the barista will inevitably ask me, “Are you sure you just want milk?” Or in restaurants when the waiter turns to me and I have to explain, “I can’t have anything on your menu,” and they raise their brows at me like I’m just another cheapskate with an excuse. I face this barrage of looks and unspoken questions daily, and it’s a constant reminder that I don’t look sick, but I’m also not like everyone else. The assumption is normalcy. The assumption is that every body that looks able is able. I constantly feel the need to explain to everyone who looks at me strangely, “No really, I am sick,” when really what I want to be doing is minimizing my difference.
11/12/16: It’s impossible to talk about this election without also talking about the Electoral College. For the second time in sixteen years, the president will not be the winner of the popular vote, and we have the EC to thank for that. Originally, it was designed as a system that would prevent a demagogue—someone like Trump—from being able to win an election even if they won the popular vote. Electors were enabled to act independently of how their state voted to ensure this didn’t happen. But who are the Electors? Who chooses them? These days, they are comprised of party loyalists, and if the EC was designed to keep demagogues like Trump out, we’ve proved in 2016 that it doesn’t work, at least not as it currently functions. The system was designed to limit the direct power of the people’s votes; that part of the system works. The question is, is it an outdated and/or broken system that we need to reconsider?
The EC, as we saw in this election, has a way of making some votes matter more than others, depending on what state a person lives in and how close the contest is in that state. A Democratic vote counts in Florida a lot more than it does in New York, and a Republican vote counts in Virginia far more than in California. With apps that encouraged vote trading—a third party vote in a “safe state” for a Democratic vote in a swing state—shows that people were understanding and attempting to act on this reality. It’s not quite fair that someone in Wyoming has a vote that counts 3.6 times more than someone’s in California, since the system favors small states over large ones (the EC is figured based on a state’s Congressional representation, and in the Senate, that’s wildly unproportional to population). This time, a third-party vote had far more weight in Michigan than in neighboring Indiana. A way to make every vote count is to either do away with Electors altogether and have the national popular vote elect the president, or to keep the Electors but pass laws that say they must vote according to the national popular vote. Some say this is undemocratic, but the system we currently have is not exactly a model of democracy. Some argue it’s not a democracy at all, but rather a republic. Whatever you classify it as, it’s broken.
Of course, the problem is much more complicated than just at the Electoral College level. Gerrymandering, which is legal and pervasive on the Republican agenda, has eroded past Democratic strong-holds and has effectively shifted power. The House of Representatives was designed to represent each district’s voice, but by redrawing district lines, certain voices have been shut out, many of them Democratic. Such redistricting has had the double effect of making it harder for Democrats to fight for districting that benefits them since they now face a steeper climb to win a majority in the House. The next redistricting happens in 2020, and the Republicans are in position to be the ones at the helm, which could spell more trouble for the Democrats. Another challenge is that Democrats are increasingly centered in urban areas, which leaves rural districts wide open to Republicans and also means that more votes are added into an already solidly-held Democratic majority. Those votes are needed elsewhere, but it’s not exactly feasible to tell Democrats they need to stop living in cities, especially if that’s where the jobs are. It’s the system that needs to change.
Democrats are at a serious disadvantage in the current system and fixing the problem now that we have less control than at any other point in the past 90 years is going to prove challenging. Maybe impossible. Democrats number at least half of the population, but likely more than that, even if our power doesn’t reflect that. Our government has been hijacked by one side of the political spectrum, something it’s vulnerable to. Instead of asking the Republicans to kindly stop playing dirty, perhaps we need a system that doesn’t allow it in the first place.
11/18/16: I saw an article this morning on the NYT that talked about how poor black people in Milwaukee didn’t vote for anyone in the election and don’t regret it. They said neither candidate gave a damn about them nor would it have made a difference. My first thought was, ‘But you’d have a president who didn’t openly lash out at people of color if you’d voted for Clinton.’ But in truth, racism has already proved itself to exist even if Trump didn’t win, and at least this way it’s much harder to deny that we are not living in a colorblind society. It likely didn’t help that Bill Clinton ramped up the War on Drugs that has decimated black communities. Hillary didn’t spend much time in Wisconsin because she expected it to be a strong blue state as it usually is.
In making that decision, she was showing the people who doubted her that she didn’t really care about them despite what she might say in her speeches. She expected them to vote for her but she didn’t give them any reason except to prevent a Trump presidency. It seemed like a strong enough argument, and I vehemently got behind this argument myself, but it was not stronger than an argument that gave real achievable steps toward helping poor people in this country. That’s what the black voters in Milwaukee wanted. It wasn’t enough to tell oppressed people that they would continue to be oppressed—they already knew that. A vote for Hillary Clinton gave no promise that their suffering would be lessened, that their lives would be made better. She expected the country’s minorities to be scared enough of Trump that they would vote for her, but I think all of us white people forgot our privilege.
The outcome of this election was a shock to me, but it was not a shock to the black community. Trump never seemed like an impossibility to them in a country that was built on the backs of their ancestors. The racist sentiments that Trump expresses are not new, but the vocal opposition to them is fairly recent. Trump is a different version of the same basic ideals of white supremacy and exceptionalism that built this nation. I was shocked that a man with such loud prejudice could be elected president because I liked to think that we’ve made too much progress for that. As a country, we can’t forget where we come from. We can’t forget that U.S. patriotism was built around a military effort to exterminate Native Americans. We can’t forget that we’ve had presidents like Trump before—namely Andrew Jackson, who was a brash political outsider and known Indian killer, which was what got him elected in the first place. We can’t forget that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both condoned and ordered the displacement and total destruction of Native American tribes. This is where we come from, not terra nullis lands or a Thanksgiving feast with some kind Indians. We come from genocide. We come from value attached to race. We come from hatred.
And so, it shouldn’t really be surprising that we elected a man like Donald Trump. Our country gave birth to the ideologies that helped get him elected. The people who voted for him didn’t come from nowhere. We created them through the telling of a history of no accountability. We tell a white-washed version of history so that we raise generations of proud Americans who have patriotism and a sense of nationalism. We don’t tell our children what we did to the Native Americans or to the slaves. We make it all seem like necessary collateral damage in the building of the greatest country on earth. We told them that black and Latinx and Native American lives don’t matter when we didn’t tell them the real stories of their oppression at our own hands. We taught them that to be American is to be white when we only celebrate the famous white Americans in our history.
We’re becoming a more diverse country without changing how we tell our origin story. We’re trying to move forward without addressing where we come from and Donald Trump and his followers are that history come back to ask for its reckoning. We can’t change the path forward if we don’t show the real path that leads backward in all its bloody, genocidal horror. We have to change the narrative of our own nationalism.
Trump is not a first. He has some pretty striking similarities to Andrew Jackson. Both were highly anti-establishment. Both were millionaires or more. Both used coarse and offensive language. Both scapegoated another race of people for the nation’s problems. Jackson got wealthy on real estate, just as Trump did. Jackson demanded that Denmark pay reparations for the Napoleonic Wars even though they weren’t much involved, just as Trump built his campaign on making Mexico pay for the wall he said he’d build to stop illegal immigration. It’s alleged that Trump used illegal immigrant labor to build his real estate properties just as Jackson used slave labor to make his wealth off the land. Both were wildly popular with segments of the population and both went up against very establishment opponents. For Jackson it was John Quincy Adams who was a public service and his father had been president. Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton had been a public servant and her husband had been president.
11/28/16: Ted (who works in Bernie Sanders’ office) was abroad in Switzerland when Hurricane Katrina hit. George Bush’s response was slow and inadequate to address the devastation, and he watched this happen from afar. When he played soccer with some of the neighborhood kids, they would ask him about what he thought of Bush. They would even ask him about specific pieces of legislation that were on the table—things Ted had no clue about—and ask him his opinion of them. He was floored because in America, these aren’t conversations he would be having, especially not during a game of soccer. Americans don’t talk about what’s happening in their government. It’s cliché to bring up politics at the dinner table. But people in other countries are willing to have a conversation about American politics, even if we don’t know the first thing about what’s going on in their country.
It’s clear when travelling to other countries how much our politics affect what happens in the lives of people around the world. The whole globe is watching and we are sheltered not only from what’s happening in their countries, but also from what’s happening in our own. We let ourselves be this way. In our global domination and rise to power, we have embodied the idea that we don’t need to know about other places. We don’t need to speak their languages. We don’t need to consider how our actions affect them. Not having conversations among ourselves is part of the problem, as is our willingness to be ignorant. Silence should be the new cliché. Let’s start talking.
11/30/16: I watched a documentary on bipolar disorder last night and it got me thinking about stigma. Who decided that mental health is a standard “healthy” or “crazy” with no spectrum or variation? We fear difference when we don’t understand it. We also fear difference when it’s convenient to. One of the men who was briefly in the documentary said that people discriminated against him because it was in their nature. But is discrimination really in our nature? Or is it a learned behavior? Is it both? It seems too convenient to say, for example, that racism is human nature. We’re no longer accountable for our behavior when we say that.
I have always tended to think that nurture has a lot more to do with who we become, but who we become also has to fit within the possibilities allowed by our nature. What drove the first human to be selfish and greedy? What drove our collective desire to collect wealth and things? Is this consumerism in our nature, just as a squirrel hoards nuts? Maybe it’s our nature to differentiate between people, but that doesn’t mean it is our nature to think less of some and more of others. That was a learned behavior, as my mother’s childhood experience with a black friend demonstrates. When she brought him home, her grandmother shouted that he had to leave, but my mother didn’t understand. She didn’t attach meaning to his skin color until she was taught to. We can recognize physical difference without also connecting that to the myth of innate inferiority.
12/2/16: We have a bad habit of making inanimate objects representative of women. Mother Nature can be controlled, and that’s why she is a woman and not a man. Ships have historically been named after women, or after a feminine trait like beauty. The ocean is a woman, as is the sun and the moon. And most recently, we have Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, both of which are computer interfaces designed to serve their owners. Both were designed predominantly by men, since men dominate the tech fields of artificial intelligence at even wider margins than in the rest of the industry. Objectifying women has long been one of the ways that men dominate us. When we’re objects, we no longer have feelings. And when the people you oppress don’t have feelings, they don’t get hurt by your domination. But that, of course, is not actually how it works. We’re still fighting to be more than objects, and we have a long way to go if Siri and Alexa are any indication.
12/14/16: Last night I cracked the idea for a new essay about shame that will draw on topics I have a personal relationship to but will also draw on topics I have no obvious relation to. The idea is to trace shame through a number of our political and societal governance systems to show how shame—inflicted by one another—is what helps keep those systems running.
I could trace shame through capitalism by showing how we shame those who don’t actively participate in the system. We value hard work, productivity, and progress and have been taught to feel guilt at our own limitations. When we lose our house, it’s our own fault, not a failure of the system to protect its most vulnerable. We are also shamed when we don’t have the latest and greatest new thing, and status is often assigned according to our accumulation of money and things. This is success in our society. That feeling many of us have that we’re never doing enough? That’s capitalism shaming the spark right out of our souls.
I could trace shame through patriotism and how being against military action and strength is often synonymous with being un-American. You are shamed when you kneel during the national anthem like Colin Kaepernick did. At schools across the country, we start the morning with the Pledge of Allegiance and we celebrate Veteran’s Day and 9/11 with commemorations. We learned “God Bless the USA” and all the military’s theme songs in middle school. To speak out against any of it is akin to blasphemy. Part of our public school curriculum is to make proud Americans out of us, and we are taught young that certain behaviors and mindsets are un-American (like socialism). We learn to be proud of our country and we never hear about the atrocities of our collective past. We are the greatest country in the world. We are the big brother of the world. To believe anything else is to be a traitor, to offend all those who served. We’ve made it shameful to be against the very enterprise that helped us secure global power. That’s not a coincidence. There’s also a reason why no politician wins when they have anything negative to say about military action. There’s shame attached to “draft dodging” and being a “tree-hugger.” To be unwilling to defend our country is to be a disappointment. You have to be willing to give up your life or you don’t really care about our country. To say the military does anything but protect our freedom is to be met with disdain. We are spoon-fed nationalism when we are young and if it doesn’t take, it’s our failure, not the failure of the ideology. To seek alternatives to war is be against tradition.
I could trace shame through the justice system. We began as country enthralled with public shame as a punishment. Though we’ve done away with that for the most part, the shame has not left the system. Mug shots, released over the web are designed to shame. Prisons with their uniforms and lack of sovereignty are designed to shame. The way prison sentences and charges stay on your record are designed to make it hard to get a job, vote, buy or rent a house, live any semblance of a normal life by attaching stigma to you. You carry that shame around with you for your entire life. And then you have the shame of the court system itself. The judge sets the bail after an arrest, meaning they have power to choose who will stay and who will be able to bail themselves out. If the trial goes before a jury, the prosecution tries to shame the aggressor so completely that the jury believes in a conviction. The defense tries to defend that person’s honor, convincing the jury to vote against a conviction. Sometimes the defense puts the victim’s character on the stand, as in sexual assault cases. The goal here is to reduce the victim into a sub-human no longer worthy of protecting. The goal is to shame the victim so completely that the assailant’s actions suddenly don’t look so violent or unprovoked. Jury duty is assigned randomly, but it often works out that juries are very white, particularly when the assailant is black. The laws of the system are open enough that a white man can get off for committing the same crime that a black man spends years in jail for. The system also tries black children as adults far more often than white children for the same crimes. The very system that is designed to give justice is a perpetrator of long-standing racial oppression and stereotypes that people of color are more dangerous. A white man has better shot of getting away with a crime than a black man. A victim of a crime committed by a black man is more likely to get justice than the victim of a white man. The system shames black bodies disproportionately and it disproportionately shames the poor. When you count the police and other law enforcement officers within the criminal justice system umbrella, the disparity in use of shame against black bodies is even more stark.
I could trace shame through the law, particularly focusing on laws designed to shame certain practices or ideas that go against the traditional moral compass. Law is one of our greatest keepers of our morality. We’ve always known that killing someone (particularly a white someone) is wrong because of our laws against it. During prohibition, the law sought to make alcohol a shameful thing and marijuana is currently going through the same process. Mike Pence’s religious freedom bill sought to shame gay people because gayness went against the tradition of Christian values. All the abortion laws that have been in the works these recent years seek to shame women in a multitude of ways just for having bodies and menstrual cycles. Jim Crow laws sought to shame black bodies for existing just as voter suppression laws seek to disenfranchise voices that aren’t white. The Declaration of Independence calls Native Americans “merciless Indian savages.” Man is the only one referred to in early laws, reflecting their domination in our patriarchal society. Our laws reflect the changes happening within our society at any given time, and there will always be those that seek to push back on the moral changes through shame. Law restricts freedom, creating shame in a very personal way for all to see.
I could trace shame through the perpetuation of gender norms. Shame is gender norms. To step outside the lines at all is to be immediately held accountable by a host of people, some of whom themselves hate the box that gender norms put them in. They are just so deeply ingrained, so personal to how we look at ourselves and others. Shame is so effective because we all become soldiers for shame. We keep others in line by looking down on them, by believing so completely in the myths of our own identities. That’s what makes shame so hard to overcome, or anything that is policed by public shame. I’m ashamed to walk outside with legs hairy enough that people can see. I’m ashamed to have any arm pit hair and Sex and the City long ago taught me that men won’t tolerate pubic hair of any length. We have so successfully shamed female body hair that we look at something natural as disgusting. I was ashamed when my ex-boyfriend wore dresses while we were still together. My brother never would have lived down playing with dolls and I was told I was too old to play with them at 14. We expect to be able to look at someone and know their gender: boy or girl? We are a culture obsessed with labelling everyone with an identity so we can sort them into a box. It’s how we order and make sense of our world. We expect things to be black or white. We like our identities divided along binary lines. We grow impatient when a “man” wears “women’s” clothes. We get angry when someone who doesn’t look like us wants to use our bathrooms. The public bathroom laws are 100 percent designed to shame those who don’t pass as part of the gender binary. Rumors that gay and transgender people are pedophiles are also designed to shame. I think of Melissa’s story about how she went into Disney World bathroom the day after Donald Trump was elected and watched as a woman pulled her daughter closer to her because Melissa didn’t “pass.” Gendered products are another way of instilling that binary divide and shaming those who don’t fit neatly within it. Tampons are taxed but Rogaine isn’t because there’s shame attached to the biological process of being woman, but not a man. Women leaders are belittled as bitches and aggressive because they are demonstrating traditionally masculine traits. The election of Trump and the way Clinton was constantly shamed for her emails, for Benghazi, for being corrupt all the while he danced around his faults—it had everything to do with the shame attached to being a woman in leadership. We grow up knowing who we are supposed to be based on the sexual organs attached to our bodies. Whether we like it or not, most of us follow the majority of these prescribed norms. Even I, aware and disapproving of these norms, instinctively shame others when they fall out of line.
Sex is another place shame plays a huge role. From a young age, pleasure is vilified—just think about the term “guilty pleasure.” We see it on TV when women seductively eat chocolate in private like it’s a secret. We learn to indulge, but always there is the shame of weight gain, or overindulgence. Dirty magazines, porn, movies about sex: all shameful. It’s okay for women in advertisements to be scantily clad, but the rest of us can’t wear “suggestive” clothing without being told we’re asking for it. It’s as though having a body alone is shameful, because to be a woman is to be constantly sexualized without your permission. Women can’t wear short shorts without everyone immediately assuming she’s trying to catch a boy’s attention. It’s never even considered that a woman dresses the way she does because it’s comfortable, because it’s hot outside, because she has a right to. The female nipple has been so overtly sexualized that women can’t show it in public with being indecent and facing possible arrest. Men with their nipples, however, can do whatever they please. Even breastfeeding in public has become a sexualized act. Masturbation was once illegal and remains totally taboo, particularly for women. We can’t even say the word without feeling icky, even though the majority of us do it. The female orgasm has also been historically shamed, demonized, and ignored. No sex until after marriage; no children out of wedlock: both of these traditions that persist are steeped in female shame. A woman physically has to carry her “promiscuity” around with her in the form of a pregnant belly, but men have no such visible signs of their sexuality. If a man leaves a woman, the questions remains, “What was wrong with her?” because it’s always the woman’s fault. That’s because male attention is the epitome of validation, and he’s the one who traditionally chose to stay or go. The woman just accepted because she had no choice. For any abandoned woman, there is a lot of self-blame. My mother still struggles to say “vagina” out loud and to say it in public is to be met with stares. You don’t discuss your sex life, unless you’re a man and then it’s expected. Young girls face the tough double standard of being an uncool, undesirable virgin or being a slutty girl who is said to sleep with anyone who asks even if it’s not true. Shame also keeps us from exploring our sexualities, from finding what really works for us in that respect. Family planning is shamed, Planned Parenthood is demonized, sex education is hardly taught and when it is, the main solution is abstinence.
12/19/16: One of the really interesting things about the people Trump has appointed to his cabinet is that nearly all of them seem to have personal vendettas that could be advanced through their official role with the U.S. government. This is quite clear in the case of Rex Tillerson, former Exxon CEO, who is slated to become Secretary of State. By encouraging the lifting of economic sanctions on Russia, his company will stand to make $500 billion, a staggering sum by any standard. The sanctions themselves are interesting because they show how the U.S., in its position of power, can put economic pressure on other countries by refusing to do business with them. We do this when a country does something we don’t like, particularly when that action also hurts one of our allies. These particular sanctions were placed on Russia for their involvement in gunning down a passenger plane that had over 100 Dutch people on it. Russia also backed the wrong side of a conflict we were involved in, where the U.S. backed the Ukrainian government.
Beyond the U.S.’s ability to economically punish other countries, which in itself is interesting and also troubling, the more immediate issues are the conflicts of interest that are the defining element of Trump’s cabinet. He himself refuses to fully divest from his companies, including his show The Apprentice. No other president has ever had such conflicts of interest. His business holdings may directly impact his decisions and priorities to benefit himself and not the country as a whole. People are talking, but there are no demands to divest. It’s in the constitution that this is strictly prohibited because it’s not compatible with a democracy. I don’t know who is supposed to hold Trump accountable. The Republicans will stand up for him over the constitution when it suits them to, and when it doesn’t they’ll hold fast to the constitution and claim they had been all along. If the constitution only applies part of the time, who’s to say a whole breakdown of the law isn’t to follow—and who’s to say it hasn’t already happened? If we start picking and choosing who the constitution applies to, our democracy is under serious threat.
So why aren’t we outraged? Frankly, it seems the outrage card is a little tired. We simply can’t be outraged at everything Trump does because we’d be outraged all the time, and that’s not easy to sustain in any meaningful way. How can you beat someone to whom the rules don’t apply? I’ve never felt more powerless than I do right now. I’m outraged, but that doesn’t seem to matter. A dangerous precedent is being set right now in Washington, and it says that there is no limit to the power and corruption that those at the very top can have. “Drain the swamp” was a popular saying during Trump’s campaign, but there’s a clip that Trevor Noah showed of Trump talking to a stadium of people about how he never even liked the phrase because it was hokey, but kept it when he realized people liked it. In the most blatant way, Trump knows how to tell the truth. What millions took as a campaign promise, Trump used as a sales pitch.
It can no longer be enough to call the society we live in a democracy without actually demanding that democratic structures and ideas are truly used as our organizing principles. So many people believe it when they hear that America is the greatest country on earth, or that it’s the greatest democracy the world has ever seen, but these sayings only distract from the true status of our country and democracy. Such sentiments eliminate space for questioning authority and for holding power accountable, and so many of us willingly lay down and let these rights—essential for a true democracy—go because we don’t want to seem unpatriotic or un-American.
Resistance in all forms has been purposefully vilified through our cultural beliefs and our understanding of our own nationalism. That’s power. And that’s what makes our situation as “free” citizens incredibly perilous. It will never be enough to ask for another freedom here, or a small pay bump there. The system we are entrenched in will keep squeezing until we have little agency, few rights, and no guarantee of safety at all unless we try to reform the whole of it. Otherwise, it will continue to be business as usual, and business as usual doesn’t give a damn about you and your student debt or your lack of health insurance or your mother’s inability to ever retire. We can all be replaced in a neoliberal order. We’re just a bunch of bodies, some with a little more value and freedom than others, but still entirely replaceable. We need to build a system where we can be more than that.
12/31/16: (Notes from reading Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?) Reason number 5,489 that our economy is flawed: it’s based on economic logic. Economic logic is supposed to be based on human behavior; it tells us who we are because it knows what we want. Which is to profit. Always. Corporations seem to more or less follow this economic logic. But people?
It’s according to economic logic that Lawrence Summers, Chief Economist at the World Bank (at the time) signed a memo that said, “Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Least Developed Countries]?…I’ve always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted…I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”
There are many things wrong this economic logic, the first being that people actually live in Africa. Real people who would be harmed by pollution. Real people who would have no real choice other than to say yes, since they need the jobs. And when their country is so polluted that people start getting sick, what then? There won’t be enough doctors. There won’t be the possibility of shipping their toxic waste to other countries, as America does with 90 percent of its electronic waste, which goes to China and Nigeria. There will, at the end of the day, still not be prosperity. The low wages will not off-set the cost of pollution.
But economic logic doesn’t care about anyone. Maximize profits, minimize wages, minimize regulation, minimize care. And, most importantly, take no responsibility. Economic logic never has to defend its decisions; it is the epitome of rational logic, and no one can question that. Except me. I have questions.
- Is it really in the economy’s best interest to destroy the environment and make it uninhabitable by the very consumers you rely on? Shouldn’t self-interest be more long-sighted?
- Just because people in that LDC don’t generally live long enough to get cancer, does that justify sending tons of carcinogen-producing industries there? Do we have a responsibility to try and, instead, help them live the standard of lives that we do?
- Why is the World Bank, a member of the UN, sponsoring memos like this one? Isn’t the UN supposed to watch out for LDCs, to be a moral consciousness for those less powerful?
Where economic logic does actually coincide with human behavior, it undoubtedly supports the worst aspects of who we are capable of being. When we get rewarded for putting our interests above all else, we keep doing it. Our compassion for humanity falls to the wayside. Sending dirty industry to an LDC becomes nothing more than a business transaction, something you can justify because that country said yes. You don’t have to care about the poverty they live in that made them say yes. You don’t have to care that they are an LDC in the first place so that your country could be a developed one. You definitely don’t have to care that your transaction will kill thousands, will take fathers away from their children, will deepen poverty in ways you can’t even imagine. You’ve never been there. Why would you have? It’s not your problem. You pocket your profit and move on to the next deal.
Economic logic: the separation of consequence from actions. The richest in the world can usually shield themselves from the poverty, the violence, the death, the hunger, the environmental pillaging that happens in the parts of the world that are invisible. The parts that have no money, no power. There are parts like that in even the developed countries. That’s just the way the market works. Others get left behind so others can rise. Poverty just means that it’s working. Lawsuits between industry and the poor never work in the latter’s favor. Many suits are drawn out for so long the plaintiffs die before justice can be had. The market has a twisted sense of justice, and that justice will always side with greed.
Economic Man has no connections, no impact on others—he is an island. Climate change, perhaps, is the first major evidence of a global consequence of capitalism. Economic Man may be an island, but now the world’s islands are under threat of rising ocean levels from melting ice caps. Is that the market’s responsibility? No. It’s Tuvalu’s. It’s the LDC country that’s producing so much dirty carbon. Better yet, it’s not even happening. Climate change is a myth not because it’s not true, but because it’s the biggest, most powerful threat to capitalism that has ever existed. An economic system that doesn’t see consequence is a system that will not work. Actions have consequences. The system may not care what happens to the people in an LDC in Africa, but I do. And I’m not alone in that. It may seem, at first glance, that Economic Man’s best interest is to not care about climate change because he’ll die before it’s a major problem, before resources start running out and the world begins to starve.
But that’s wrong because Economic Man is wrong. No man is an island. We all have family, people we care about. We exist in context and connection to everyone else, and our best interest is not just our own. We take in the best interests of those around us too, and it’s in the best interest of those we love who will be around to address climate change. And when you think about it, it is in the market’s best interest too. If we address climate change, the market will have a good chance of surviving, even if in a modified form. But if we don’t address it, humanity won’t survive and the market will die with us. Even if the market runs our lives, in reality, it is a human creation and it needs us far more than we need it.
An economic model that promises prosperity to some without consequences is appealing. But it was never a truth. The truth is catching up to us and we have a choice. We can believe economic man when he tells us we aren’t obligated to care. Or we can look at each other—the real people who make the market a reality—and decide if it’s in our best interest to stop basing our ideas about who we are on a model that, frankly, makes us all out to be complete assholes. You may believe we are not obligated to care, but the environment is not obligated to fix itself. And it won’t.
1/6/17: It may seem to you, as a Republican, that your Senators and Representatives are on your side while they’re busy defunding Planned Parenthood (which they’ve told you is a place of fetus murder), trying to get rid of the ethics committee (just another form of federal government regulation that does nothing, they tell you), and repealing Obamacare (which, despite what they tell you, disproportionately helps people in red states). But while they’re busy taking things away from other people, they aren’t doing anything to help you as a worker or a business owner, or someone who is trying to support a family on lower wages than you had ten years ago. That’s because none of what they’re doing in Congress is about you at all. It’s about maintaining the neoliberal order, which sees you as disposable. But because you’re never the one directly under attack, you are free to go on believing that they are on your side. That they care about you. That they are protecting your values.
Their real goal in taking away life-saving healthcare from millions of women by defunding Planned Parenthood is to hold us down, because while we’re fighting for the basic right to live, we aren’t facing the less visible problem, the problem that our democracy is gone, that the capitalist elite are in total control, and they care nothing for what happens to the rest of us. It may seem impossible that anyone could care nothing for their fellow humans, but you’re thinking that means that you do care. You aren’t like them. Taking away health care from women doesn’t get you any closer to the American Dream, but it puts your neighbors in peril. It threatens the women in your own family, who may one day need an affordable breast cancer screening when they find a lump and have nowhere else they can go. You may think that attacking the rights of other Americans is helping you, but when the poor get poorer and segments of the population are pushed closer to poverty, you come with us. You fall on our side of the success graph, not the side of the elites making the decisions.
We are all fighting for economic security, and it can’t be ignored that the path you’ve chosen is littered with the fallen. You’ve voted Republican in the hopes that they would push the rest of the down and pull you up. But that’s not how it works, because when we fall, you don’t move up. The richest people in the world move up. But you do not. That’s why nothing ever seems to get better for you, and for as long as half the country’s rights are being attacked, they won’t get better for you either. Protecting the rights of everyone means that everyone gets to move up. It means that Congress can focus on economic plans that stand a chance of making things better for us all. And if you are scared of government trying to regulate the free market, don’t be. Because the free market isn’t free for you, and the fewer regulations it has, the poorer you get.
If you truly believe that taking health care from the poor, criminalizing homelessness, and ensuring that women don’t have access to affordable health services are good things, it becomes hard to believe that you are on the right and ethical side. You can identify with the richest people, you can admire them, you can want to be them, but when you side with them over the same people who on are your neighbors and people who are fighting the same fights for the same visibility and relief, you have chosen the wrong side.
1/17/17: An article from the NYT talks about a survey from PerryUndem that gauged feelings about gender inequalities both on Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle. The result was that everyone except Republican men believed that it’s a better time to be a man than a woman. Even so, 81 percent of respondents agreed that sexism is an issue and nearly all said that they supported gender equality reforms that would benefit women. Trump, never one to miss an opportunity to utilize white men’s insecurities, said in a December rally, “I hate to tell you men, generally speaking, they’re better than you are. Now, if I said it the other way around, I’d be in big trouble.”
In an interview with the NYT, one Trump supporter who thinks women have it better than men explained by saying, “It’s easier being a woman today than it is a man. The white man is a low person on the totem pole. Everybody else is above the white man…Everything in general is in favor of a woman. No matter what happens in life, it seems like the man’s always at fault.”
When you dig a little deeper into the poll numbers, it’s evident that most people regardless of political affiliation believe in gender equality (except in matters of reproductive health, which Republicans opposed in larger numbers). The difference is, only Republican men believe that we have already achieved it. Things have certainly gotten better for women over the past forty years, and their status has edged closer to that of a man’s, but to say we’ve already achieved gender equality is to misunderstand what gender equality actually means.
Republican men, for example, were the most likely to respond that they didn’t think a lack of women in political office or unequal distribution of home and childcare responsibilities affected women’s rights. In reality, limited participation in the workforce based on an unequal expectation to care for their families and limited access to positions of power are critical in the fight for women’s equal status. One explanation for why Republican men don’t seem to understand what gender equality means or what feminism seeks to achieve is because they don’t know what it feels like to be a woman, and they aren’t as aware of how their own behavior could be oppressive toward women in a way that more liberal men may have been educated about. Another aspect likely involves feeling threatened by women’s changing status, though many likely don’t recognize that they feel this way.
Men of all political affiliations consistently underestimated the amount of sexism women face in their lives. Reading this, I can only recall my recent experience of walking home with two other female friends and one male friend. It was dark out and a car pulled up beside us, immediately putting my two female friends and myself on edge. We started walking faster and once it was clear the driver didn’t pull over to yell at us, we started nervously gushing about how cars shouldn’t do that to women. He hadn’t even noticed the car pull over, and when we told him that it scared us, he couldn’t fathom why. He’d never been cat-called. A car had never pulled up next to him and tried to convince him to get in the car. He had no concept that we as women were constantly afraid of what men driving or walking past us might do or say. We, for our part, were shocked that such a big part of our lives as women was completely invisible to him.
What this study really showed, for me at least, was something I’d been theorizing about for a while but hadn’t yet put to words: between the right and the left, there seems to be a great divergence in what different words mean to us. We have differing definitions of gender equality, justice, climate responsibility, and even truth. We’re not at all on the same page, and when we don’t have a consensus about what the issues even are when we’re debating them, it’s safe to say we’re not even debating the same issues. News sites that are refusing to call Trump’s racist behavior “racist” are not helping this phenomena of misunderstanding. Much of this can surely be blamed on the internet and the rise of partisan mass media. Journalism is evolving quickly to keep up with an internet that doesn’t seem to believe in concrete definitions, stepping into a world where one word means something entirely different to different people. It doesn’t serve us to work from different pages in the same book.
1/20/17: Today marked the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. His speech really highlighted some of the gravest dangers that he represents as president.
For one, he speaks to “all Americans” but we know from his discourse and his beliefs that this excludes anyone who is not white, straight, male, and Christian. But in framing his speech as though he’s talking to everyone, it seems like an act of solidarity—which he says must be protected—rather than an act of exclusion. We know who he is talking to specifically when he says, “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now.” By saying that his America is one that belongs to all people, it redefines who even counts as a person in our country. His inauguration is a win for white nationalism, and any message contained within his speech that suggests the contrary is a form of gas-lighting.
In his speech, Trump purposely included some factual inaccuracies, such as his claims that the military has been depleted while we subsidize foreign armies (we do subsidize foreign armies, but our military’s budget is by far the largest in the world and, therefore, not depleted), or that our education system is “flush with cash” (austerity policies have not been kind to public education, and schools have less money now than they did before the recession), or that foreign industry has deeply hurt American industry (not true; foreign industry has helped American industry, but hurt the American worker). These inaccuracies may seem small, but they represent a larger indifference to the importance of fact, and Trump himself represents the very real threat of lies becoming a new form of truth. Many people respect and believe what he says on principle, which means he has the power to redefine reality for us. And when we live in an alternative reality, we can’t say for certain how power is being used and therefore, we can’t hold it accountable.
There were moments of truth in Trump’s speech, such as when he said, “The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.” Trump is not wrong, but he is pushing the blame onto this “establishment” without defining who encompasses it. He ignores, for example, that the establishment is much more than career politicians; key members are the billionaires who fund these career politicians, and who lobby Congress for policies that help industry but hurt workers. He makes it seem as though he is entirely outside this establishment and as though he too has suffered when, in reality, he has long benefited from the very policies that have hurt those who voted for him, among the rest of us. Making it seem as though he is on our side and not on the side of big business and financial interests is disingenuous and misleading. He is claiming to be against the precise thing that he is for, as evidenced by his refusal to divest from his own business interests because he stands to make a fortune off the presidency. He has always been and will always be a member of the elite, and he always has been and always will have his own financial interest at heart first and foremost. When he says “America first,” he means his America first, and his America is not our America.
Within his speech, you can also find sentiments that tie certain key beliefs to what it means to be American. In saying, “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice,” he reinforces the idea that blind patriotism is essential for a dedicated American. Hiding deeper within this message is the subliminal idea that you can’t be prejudiced when you love your country, another way of saying that white supremacy is natural and reasonable rather than a form of prejudice. When he says, “There should be no fear. We are protected, and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we will be protected by God,” he is quietly imploring his followers to accept militarism and the use of state force as wholly good and just requirements for democracy. He is depoliticizing the people by telling them they have nothing to worry about and have no need to pay attention because those who are in charge of leading and keeping us safe will do their jobs. He is telling us that he will protect us so that we lie down, giving him the power to break his promises without accountability. He’s setting us all up to be swindled on a massive scale.
Lastly, Trump summed up his own greatest danger within the first few paragraphs of his speech: “Together we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come.” The decisions that the Republican-controlled congress makes in conjunction with Trump at the helm of the ship means that we’re in store for a lot of changes that will follow us into the foreseeable future. Any harm they do will be hard to undo because the majority they have right now is not guaranteed to swing to the other side quickly, or at all. His legacy will have the power to shape forces within each of our lives in ways we can’t foresee, and they will stay with us far longer than we can imagine.
The danger with Trump is that he has been given this level of power at all, and that he has been able to so effectively manipulate the fears and emotions of an entire class of people, which will have life-altering consequences for all of us. There’s danger in his ability to side-step all accountability and to so easily blame anyone else. He is above the law, and we are the ones who gave him that power. We’ve been played on a grand scale to believe that we are powerless and need someone who embodies power the way Trump does to makes us feel powerful again. But that’s not how power works. When it is held in ever fewer and more powerful hands, it doesn’t make its way down to the people. It stays at the top. It excludes and ignores and blames. Trump will not make us powerful again; only a strong democracy led by an engaged and informed citizenry can do that. Only we can do that. He can say that he is giving power back to the people all he wants, but hear me now: it does not make it true.
Cut from “The Real Story Of What’s Been Rigged”: In Donald Trump’s America, all Muslims who live in the U.S. must be added to a registry that will lead to their increased surveillance because his definition of terrorism wears a hijab. He wants to build a wall to keep Mexican immigrants out because his definition of terrorism has brown skin, speaks Spanish, and wants to take our jobs. He wants to keep Syrian refugees from entering the country because his definition of terrorism includes small children and their mothers and fathers who are fleeing from war-torn countries where rape is rampant and civilian murder is daily happenstance. His definition of terrorism does not stretch to the violence that kills innocent and unarmed black people on the streets, or the normalization of Russian hacking in our supposedly democratic election. He is not alarmed by the number of children in poverty or the people who will die next year of food insecurity and lack of access to health care. In the vast majority of cases, terrorism doesn’t wear hijabs or have brown skin or come here as refugees from horrors we can’t even fathom.