Professions (and Confessions) of a Reluctant Activist in the Time of Trump
I missed the protests of the 1960s because I was too young. I was on the sidelines of 1970s activism because I was working and trying to get through college. In the 1980s I had young children. In the 1990s I was working a couple of jobs and did little more than sign the occasional petition. I have no excuses for not doing more to support or protect what I believe in, during the aughts and beyond, other than complacency—I am a journalist and I am well read, so I have absolutely no excuses.
That’s the mea culpa part. And that chapter is over. It ended effective Nov. 9, 2016, when I woke up, read the election results, and first stumbled around in a daze for a few hours, then began fretting, weeping, reeling and railing.
Sound familiar? Read on. Every day since Nov. 9, 2016, I have bristled at the unfolding diatribe and devastation issuing from the so-called president-elect’s compound. “What in the h_ _ _?” I ask of what remains of the benevolent universe, “is happening to my country?” Each new exhibition of racism and xenophobia, each reactionary rambling, each clear indication of a megalomaniac’s intention to dismantle our democracy and replace it with an authoritarian regime is a body blow. I take particular umbrage, as a healthcare journalist, at the rabid, rancorous push to get rid of the Affordable Care Act—this country’s first achievement in a long-overdue attempt to reduce the ranks of the uninsured and increase access to healthcare—and replace it with “To Be Announced.”
Last week, I came across the full-page ad in the New York Times sponsored by the grass-roots Refuse Fascism movement that seeks “in the name of humanity,” to disrupt the Trump-Pence regime before it can act on the racist, reactionary and increasingly rabid platform it’s trying to shove down America’s throat. I read every word, twice.
At first, I squirmed at the term fascism. It’s not in my lexicon. So I read a handful of scholarly summaries (including disputes) on the term. Here’s a short list for which there’s reasonable concurrence:
Fueled by forcible repression of opposition. Check.
Characterized by chauvinism and misogyny. Check.
Commandeered, typically, by a “strongman” whose statements are patently racist and xenophobic. Check.
Organized by a hierarchy of functions named from the top and sanctioned by the “leader” figure. Check.
Underpinned by actions to suppress unions, broaden state intervention, and employ technocracy and solidarity to place “productive sectors”—the economy in its entirety, in this case--under regime control. Check and double check.
Then, this usually mild-mannered suburbanite, and somewhat reluctant and admittedly inexperienced activist signed on and attended the first Refuse Fascism organizing meeting in Seattle. And then I went to work to enlist support for the cause. Next week, I will take to the streets of Washington, D.C. along with what I hope will be tens of thousands of Americans who show up to protest everything the Trump-Pence regime stands for and the inauguration itself.
Because the stakes are that high. Because the situation is that dire. Because if I value my First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceful protest, I have no choice but to wrench myself from the mire of helplessness and hopelessness, stop whining and get moving.