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'If we can form a truly unified dissent rooted in love,' write Hayase, 'we can have a real chance to end the era of Trumpism before it begins.' (Photo: Ramon Dompor/The Stranger)

Awakening Courage in the Era of Trumpism

Nozomi Hayase

American democracy is in deep crisis. As with every election cycle, electoral politics this year failed to provide true therapy for the pathology of the corporate state. There is no diagnosis of unfettered profit-driven capitalism or treatment for the heart failure of the ruling class, which has no ability to feel for the poor and working people. Whether it is Trump or Clinton, candidates are presented as symbols, as a prescribed choice of red or blue, manufactured to keep all addicted to the elite’s power grab contest and blind to the real cause of the illness of our society.

The symbol of Trump was effective in its tactics of divide and conquer. On one hand, with a crafted image of an outsider, it offered his supporters a possibility to challenge the establishment, while on the other, with his blunt racist and misogynistic remarks, it embodied hatred, making liberals paralyzed in their collective hysteria when he won. This Trump victory meant a triumph of this symbol of hate that continues to grip the American psyche, which captures our feelings and seizes our actions.

A true therapeutic process begins with feeling; to get in touch with our authentic emotions without being provoked or repelled. Demonizing and blindly fighting against this symbol that is being used to conquer our hearts will only give it more power. It is this hatred mixed with fear and terror of what has become ‘Trumpism’ that we must get to the bottom of if we are to bring true healing in this nation.

The Root of Oppression

The Trump victory sent shock waves around the world. It became a rude awakening for many. After the election, students walked out of classrooms and people all over the country took to the streets to protest against the president-elect. Some Americans began to have a bitter taste of what it is like to be on the receiving end of the American empire around the globe.

This awakening brought many closer to the roots of our real suffering. The potential degradation of society that many are terrified about with the ascent of Trump is something that has actually been taking place for quite some time. In fact, despite its noble ideals of equality and freedom, America from its beginnings has always had inherent contradictions within itself, manifested in the shadows of slavery, patriarchy, genocide and illegal wars. The dark side of its history is rarely acknowledged and wounds of this nation have not been healed. This deep pain was only covered up with more lies, denial and the posture of ‘progress’, through an elaborate coping mechanism. 

The further traumatization of the country has been carried out with both Republicans and Democrats in their unifying ideology of neoliberalism. Terror enacted through the invasion of the First Nations of Turtle Island at the founding of the American Constitutional Republic has not actually ended. It continues with fracking, injecting chemicals into the ground and building pipelines to contaminate water and destroy sacred land, along with climate genocide. The chains that once enslaved African descendants might have been broken, yet this bondage has morphed into a new Jim Crow, in the form of profit-driven mass incarceration and prison labor. Racism still prevails with police shootings along with stop and frisk programs, harassing fellow citizens as if they are all criminals. This has been institutionalized in a two-tiered judicial system that is deaf to the resounding truth that ‘Black Lives Matter’.

Despite Obama’s efforts to whitewash his legacy that has contributed to this oppression, the erosion of our civil liberties has escalated under his administration. Many are anesthetized by the image of him as a progressive, so they don’t feel the real terror of the situation. Actions like drone bombings of weddings, torture and extrajudicial killings were often seen as horrifying and radical when they were done by Republicans, but they are glossed over or ignored when done by a Democratic president.

With Trump’s blunt bigotry and white supremacy, the anesthesia that masked all symptoms is now wearing off. Many are beginning to see the horrendous reality of those who were never in the system in the first place and many who are now increasingly dispossessed by an oligarchic class.

The NDAA that gave any President authority to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely and the expansion of mass surveillance enabled with the Patriot Act, along with a mass deportation machine, have all arisen under Obama. This overblown executive power has set the stage for an authoritarian state where an Orwellian dystopia meets a ‘Brave New World.’ It is this system that Trump as ‘Commander in Chief' will inherit in January.

The Language of Hatred

So, what gave power to this symbol, paving the way for the rise of Trumpism? During his campaign, millions of ordinary people filled stadiums and enthusiastically chanted; ‘Make America great again’. The entitlement of the few and creeping white supremacy that begins to swallow a hollowed out America was mobilized with this campaign slogan that has no roots in reality.

It is also important to note in this, that not all who voted for Trump are alt-right and haters, as is often portrayed by the corporate media. Not all supporters are racist, filled with derision toward immigrants or people of color. What fueled many of them was anger at a system that is already corrupt to the core. Back in 2008, many swallowed the empty ‘hope and change’ slogan of Obama’s campaign. Now, a disfranchised sector of America saw in Trump a promise to mend this broken America.

Americans all across the political landscape are righteously angry. They feel trapped in a system that is merciless, mechanical and tyrannical. They are furious about the loss of jobs and manufacturing base that was a direct result of trade deals like the WTO, which was signed under President Bill Clinton. Clinton also destroyed the Glass-Steagall Act which opened the door to the insanity of Wall Street takeover of the economy.

The Democratic Party’s failure to listen to and validate this anger allowed this raw emotion to be exploited by teams of billionaires who are driven by rabid ambition. This anger translated into the language of hatred is being directed through the symbol of Trump toward Mexicans. Immigrants are scapegoated as stealing jobs, when in reality they are also victims of corporate trade agreements like NAFTA that destroyed their economy, bringing misery and poverty and forcing them to take up slave-level farming work in the U.S.

Manufactured fear by U.S. government sponsored terrorism in the post 9-11 world was repackaged again with radical Jihadism. Cheney and Bush kickstarted this program of fear and terror, yet the leaked Podesta emails have also shown Clinton Foundation’s deep ties to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who have funded ISIL or ISIS. It was Hillary Clinton who aided the murder of Muammar Gaddafi and the destruction of the Libyan State, coupled with the U.S. government’s aggression in Syria that led to instability, massive European refugee crises and a backlash against Muslims here in the U.S.

Striking Courage 

In this rat maze of engineered corporatocracy, we are surrounded by corporate media echo-chambers that give life to empty symbols that defend illusion over reality. The pathology emanating from Washington has become infectious, making people numb to what Hannah Arendt once described as the rapidly changing scenery during Nazi’s rise to power, which became the “terrifyingly normal”.

Fear, spread through religious fundamentalism opens the door to a new form of fascism. With its rigidity of thought, it tries to fit everyone in their godly image and crucify each person one by one; first the blacks, the gays, then undocumented workers and Muslims until there was no one left to speak out for us.

Where is a salvation? How can catharsis for healing be brought? Courage emerged, resuscitating our numbed heart. Day after day, activists continue to protest the $4 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which threatens to contaminate the Missouri River. Despite police crackdowns, protectors of water are holding ground, with many people joining the resistance of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as protests spread to 300 cities worldwide.

Whistleblowers who saw abuse and fraud defied authority in order to break the silence. WikiLeaks has shown how a small group of dedicated ordinary people can come together to create a network that no amount of violence can break. They showed that we can meaningfully challenge any superpower.

Ernesto Che Guevara once said, “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” Our direct engagement with the world keeps us in touch with reality and remain connected to one another.

Symbols are abstractions that cannot stand before the potent force of our imagination, which revolts against stagnation and oppression. Love awakened by our courage makes it possible for us to truly listen to the anger behind this language of hatred and kindle the ideals in the Declaration that all men and women are created equal, regardless of nationality, race, gender or religion.

If we can form a truly unified dissent rooted in this love, we can have a real chance to end the era of Trumpism before it begins and open an age for everyday people, where the heart of democracy can begin to inspire all to fulfill the promise that America once made to the world.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Nozomi Hayase

Nozomi Hayase

Nozomi Hayase, Ph.D., is an essayist and author of "WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate: History Is Happening" (2018).

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