This week, I’ve been struggling with what to say, what to do, even what to think. I want to yell everything, and say nothing, and march in the streets, and never leave home.
Here are my thoughts. They’re not perfect. Tell me where I’m wrong. Tell me where I’m right. Tell me where I can be most useful. I believe in a progressive, inclusive America that supports and protects our most vulnerable. That’s not Trump’s America.
1. My president?
Donald Trump has no interest in being my president. There’s no need to yell about him not being my president, because he doesn’t want that job. I did not vote for him, I disagree with him, and so I’m a loser. Nothing he’s said, so far, has indicated any desire to reach out to anyone who disagrees with him, even on an issue or two. I’m a loser and I don’t matter.
So, yes: He’s not my president. He has no intention to be. And those feelings apply to 54% of voters, and many, many others who disagree with him.
That’s not good for our country.
2. The unmodern president
The morning Trump got inaugurated, I listened to Obama’s interview with his former staffers on the podcast “Pod Save America.” Obama is a hopeful man, despite all of this, and that was all nice. What struck me most was when he talked about the threat of automation to American workers, from manufacturing to service to everywhere else in the economy.
Obama mentioned Amazon dominating brick-and-mortar stores over Christmas, which we know is leading Macy’s to close stores, and lay people off. He talked about the job loss that self-driving cars would bring. He sounded like a modern president, who had consulted the smartest people in the world and formulated full thoughts about what will happen in the next 5, 10, 20 and 50 years. (It’s not as if Obama endorsed a universal minimum income, but he is considering the approaching future where jobs disappear and the nature of work is transformed yet again.)
Donald Trump seems to still live in an idealized 1980 version of America, where manufacturing is the most important industry and punishing China will bring all the jobs back. He doesn’t have solutions to the problems of today; instead, he offers bad, simplistic solutions that sound good to people.
My friends and I have been talking about whether Trump is worse than George W. Bush, or worse than Mitt Romney would have been. Three things are different, as I see it: Trump’s brazen lack of care about reality in favor of his own delusions, his sloppiness in every aspect of policymaking, and his incredibly thin skin.
It’s only been 9 days, but these things are obvious so far. His team might figure out how to think things through before they implement them, but I don’t see Trump stopping his absurd habit of using Twitter to insult everyone who criticizes something he does. We’ll see.
3. What Trump believes
The Trump administration believes Muslims are bad and we should fight all of them and keep them out. The Trump administration believes America should go alone rather than partnering with other nations, and that walls and division will help keep us safe, somehow. The Trump administration believes we should spend $20 billion (or maybe $40 billion) in taxpayer money building an impractical wall on our southern border, and we should not spend money on infrastructure or research.
The Trump administration believes, despite all evidence, that climate change is made up, and we should ask scientists not to talk about science. The Trump administration believes that Donald Trump will create a simple, beautiful health care plan out of thin air, and it’ll cover more people for less money than Obamacare.
All of those beliefs do not make sense to me, because they are not based in evidence and they are overly simplistic.
I remember not understanding protests in high school and college. I just thought it was a waste of time, and thought it was a European thing, not an American thing.
It took seeing a Black Lives Matter protest on Michigan Avenue in Chicago literally interrupting Christmas shopping for things to finally click in my head: The point is to force people to acknowledge and see the suffering, the problems, the concerns that people have. If a group cannot see what’s wrong, you show them by intruding in their lives, and in the process, you help them understand how to make the entire world better.
Christine and I have given money, started recurring donations, that type of thing. But I need to find better ways to make my voice heard. To be part of the chorus. That’s my next goal — to go beyond the social media posts and find ways to make more of an impact.
My street in Brooklyn has this fun quirk. Almost anywhere on the street, if you duck out of the way of the trees, you can see the Statue of Liberty, green and remarkable, even at night.
It’s a unique and special experience, to see the icon of your city — your nation — outside your door every day. It stands for American liberty, and consistency, and strength.
Tonight I keep seeing “The New Colossus” on Facebook. It’s a meaningful poem, and it’s important to the mythmaking of America. But this country has had mindless bigotry, and stupidity, and even Trump-like demagoguery, throughout its history.
We won’t outgrow, or outlive, hatred or wrong beliefs.
But we can fight. We must. And I will.