“There's something strange going on tonight/There's something going on that's not quite right.”—R.E.M. “Strange”
It came out in 1987, but R.E.M.’s album Document is the perfect album for this year. Each song fits with the apocalyptic-tinted, Trump-tainted incoming year. For the remainder of January, all my posts will share an R.E.M song title.
Questions I don’t feel the need to entertain: Why did so many women march? Why can’t people unite under our new President? Why are women angry? What was the purpose of the march?
I don’t want to ignore those subjects, but the questions, especially online, seem to be posed only for the sake of beginning an argument. In a recent online post, a local resident was writing about the overwhelming positive experience she had gathering in downtown Portsmouth NH as a part of the Women’s March on Jan. 20th. One commenter kept pestering her to answer his question: Why did women march? She advised him to do a little reading—google, it! But he wouldn’t let up. “It’s a simple question, right? Shouldn’t there be a simple answer?” He just wanted to argue. It was worse because I am acquainted with the rude-commenter, someone who seems nice enough if you were to meet him in the store. Online, behind the veil of the comment box, his questions was simply bullying. He might as well have been saying: “If you can’t answer me here, then obviously you don’t know what you’re talking about! You’re experience was useless and stupid.”
Seriously, in this age of information, you don’t have to ask those questions. A real debate does not start with those sorts of questions, or at least not those questions asked in service of belittling an experience. So how do I find answers to questions I have? I read. I’m doing my utmost to find the answers to all of these questions by reading. There is plenty I don’t know. I’m learning too. Although I’ve posted them many times in the last few weeks, I wanted to share again the list of news sources that I’ve been drawn to since Trump’s victory on election day (there are new sites on this list as well): Seacoast Online, Boston Globe, NYTimes, Washington Post (these guys have the best iPad interface, which really makes me want to read them more), ProPublica, Mother Jones (a friend notes correctly that MJ’s headlines are often divisive clickbait, but their investigative journalism is the real deal), The Economist, The Nation, Slate, The Guardian, BBC News, Frontline, NPR News, Investigative Reporters and Editors (through their blog Extra Extra), the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Real Clear Investigations, The Intercept, The Center for Public Integrity, Reveal News from the Center for Investigative Reporting, and about a half-dozen other newspapers from around the country that I’m paying attention to on a less regular basis. Here is a link for many of these groups: http://billmoyers.com/story/10-investigative-reporting-outlets-to-follow/ I’ve decreased my dependence on aggregate news sites—I’ve deleted those from my devices—and increased my intake for news from specific publications.
The tidal shift in our government has lead to an adherence to authoritarian rhetoric, self-aggrandizement, and doublespeak. Kellyanne Conway’s recent invoking of “alternative facts” during an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC is frightening, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. There are facts and there is interpretation of facts. In my news reading, I’m looking for facts (i.e. Here’s what happened; here is what was said; here are the numbers.) And then I’m looking for critical, verifiable, quantifiable, well-sourced interpretation of those facts.
If you want to argue, you can ask loaded questions that are designed to hurt or bully. If you want actual answers, facts and interpretations, I offer the only path: seek out reputable sources and read. Once that happens, a real debate can begin.
When I post about my political or social justice activities, it’s not an invitation to debate in the comments sections. If you yell at me online, I’ll just delete the comment. If you’d like to have a conversation about any of my ideas, I’m pretty easy to find. Let’s do it in person. I’ll even buy the first cup of coffee. We’ll get along famously in person. And in return, I promise not to yell at you online, too. Deal?
So on this sad inaugural day, things have begun to change quickly in our country. Our new president has, through his inaugural address and White House website, deepened his reliance on authoritarian rhetoric even as he continues to be vague about what it all means or how it will all be accomplished.
Any mention of climate change has been seemingly removed from the site (except to note that he will eliminate our nation’s Climate Action Plan, which his administration considers “harmful and unnecessary”). https://www.whitehouse.gov/america-first-energy
He has rather ominously vowed to end “American carnage” even though there are no specifics as to the sorts of carnage he means. He continues to use his tired and coded condemnation of urban areas and populations. He disparages our educators and, indeed, our entire education system.
Even as he claims to be taking “an oath of allegiance to all Americans,” his attention appears to be miles distant from the carnage of inequality or injustice toward our nation’s religious or ethnic minorities or LGBTQ community or marginalized groups of any sort. https://www.whitehouse.gov/inaugural-address
The website touts plans to re-energize manufacturing without any awareness of the necessity for organized labor or, at the very least, living wages—the very things that will make a manufacturing economy viable in this century (must as they did in the previous century). https://www.whitehouse.gov/bringing-back-jobs-and-growth
His rhetoric about strengthening America by turning attention back to our country can be read as encouraging. Who doesn’t want stronger infrastructure or better jobs or safer schools? Who doesn’t want a country that “shines as an example” around the world? And I agree with his “buy American” philosophy. But when he starts his reductive “America First” sloganeering, it’s unclear what we should expect. It’s worth noting here that “America First” was an anti-semitic slogan in the years leading up to WWII, started by people who believed the Jewish-Americans were pushing us into war for their own agenda. The Anti-Defamation League asked the president to stop using the phrase nearly a year ago: http://www.adl.org/press-center/press-releases/anti-semitism-usa/adl-urges-donald-trump-to-reconsider-america-first.html#.WIKHkaOZOdE
Truthfully, I really want to believe in this speech and I’d love to be a person who could get behind the president and work toward a better country, but I think my work for the country cannot come through this man. If he accomplishes the economic goals and does help the country, I will acknowledge the positives and give credit where credit is due. But:
I fear for the environment.
I fear for the marginalized.
I fear more of my tax dollars going to “rebuild a military” that is already the most expensive in the world.
I fear pretty much all of his appointments.
I fear for my daughter’s future in Trump’s America.
I want him to surprise the shit out of me and become a great president. I want him to really mean it when he says he’s a president for all Americans. But nothing so far has given me any hope whatsoever that he will surprise me. Everything I’ve seen and read—and if you’ve been reading my posts, you know that I have been spending a great deal of time reading a wide variety of respected news publications—does not paint an administration worthy of my hope.
I do have hope in my friends and family. Today, my daughter left to march in the Woman’s March tomorrow in D.C.. She went with friends of our family, will stay with a friend of the family, be surrounded by women and men of conviction, and do her part to make a statement about the country she wants to be a part of. I’ll be attending a march in Portsmouth tomorrow. These are good people working to make America the bright and shining example it might someday be. These are the people to whom I can stake my allegiance.
Note: I’m posting about my political or social justice activities thoughts each week. It’s not an invitation to debate in the comments sections. If you yell at me online, I’ll just delete the comment. If you’d like to have a conversation about any of my ideas, I’m pretty easy to find. Let’s do it in person. I’ll even buy the first cup of coffee. We’ll get along famously in person. And in return, I promise not to yell at you online, too. Deal? Internet comments don’t solve anything.