Our writing group met last weekend—just five of us—our first real work session since the November elections.
To no one’s surprise the conversation immediately descended to minority President-elect Donald Trump, how much damage he is capable of inflicting, and what to do about it.
Make no mistake—we are in trouble, not as progressives or conservatives or evangelicals or atheists, but as members of a suddenly fragile human race.
I was old enough to appreciate the gravity of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 when the world seemed to be stumbling toward war, a war which would have centered on—and probably involved—nuclear weapons. Fifty-four years ago, and had that war occurred, there’d still be uninhabitable parts of the earth—many of them no doubt right here in America. In 1962, however, we had competent leadership in all levels of government: the corrupting powers of money had not yet encouraged and allowed the inmates to take over the asylum.
(Incidentally the takeover is progressing quite nicely: Ben Carson has joined the inmates.)
As writers ourselves (we did write some that day) our attention turned to the media, everybody’s scapegoat. I was hard-pressed to defend television, but I argued for newspapers to a degree. The New York Times had spent the entire election cycles challenging and debunking Trump’s statements while underscoring Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness and history of working with both political parties. It didn’t help. Most Trump supporters eschewed the newspapers for Fox News, the Drudge Report, and various social media sites. They acquired their “facts” from the misinformed, ill-informed, and uninformed, none of whom were ever held accountable for their words. News outlets like the Times were accused of bias, this despite the depth of the reporting and the constant presentation of verifiable facts. No, I couldn’t blame the newspapers.
But who reads the Times? or the Washington Post? or the Boston Globe? People in the states where Clinton prevailed? If so, that didn’t help. Too many facts went unnoticed, and it fell upon the un-, and ill-, and misinformed to choose our next president. Which they did.
Maybe it’s unfair to say that every Trump voter was ignorant, but I will say that the illiterati have been empowered and either we weep about it or we reclaim the power. Even when a clown occupies the Oval Office, he does so at the pleasure of the people who put him there. That’s how a democracy works. And that adage—all politics is local—was never more accurate than it is now. As individuals in a small blue state we stand very little chance of affecting Trump’s appointments and selections, but we can start eroding the power of all the local politicians who supported him. They’re not hard to find, and unlike Steve Bannon or Rudy Giuliani or Steven Mnuchin, the local and state politicians need us.
But for them to be held responsible for their actions on a daily basis, we need them to understand something that we don’t realize often enough: the government is not there to bestow rights upon us; it’s there to defend the natural and inalienable rights we received at birth—not as Americans but as human beings. Anyone who has thrown in with Trump (the man who has threatened to abrogate freedom of speech and expression) has already lost the right to defend the Constitution. We start by making these Trump supporters accountable. To do that we need a local media that does more than pull stories off the wire or list “trending topics” and call it news. We don’t have those outlets now—but we can. And though the Courant is a good newspaper and serves a valuable purpose, it isn’t local enough. The dangerous times in which we find ourselves demand personal and community involvement.
More next time, including a disheartening list of Trump supporters. (Cheer up—you know you couldn’t be any more disheartened.) I invite your suggestions on how we begin the process…and leaving the country is not an option.