Regular readers of this blog will confirm that the most consistent thread running through my posts since the 2016 election is frustration. That’s not because I’m a voice in the wilderness–there are literally millions of Americans who share my revulsion at the appalling, destructive behaviors of Trump and his administration, and who worry with me about the future of the country. But they’re frustrated too.
The frustration is because we feel powerless–we don’t know what we, as individuals, can do that will really make a difference.
Yes, I can vote in November. I can encourage others to vote, and I can register people to vote (although virtually everyone I know already is registered). I can blog. But I am only one person and, unlike our delusional President, I don’t have an exaggerated belief in my ability to change reality.
What else can I –or anyone else–do? We are surrounded by people telling us to “take action”–without, however, specifying any concrete action we might take.
A recent New Yorker article quoted Dahlia Lithwick raising a related question that two of my former students raised with me, via email, following the election. Both are federal employees, and both were wondering whether they should stay or leave.
How is one to maintain sanity, decency, and a measure of moral courage? In a pair of thoughtful essays in Slate, Dahlia Lithwick tackles the problems of dealing with the everyday nature of our current political disaster and of deciding on the best way to try to save the country from Donald Trump: by staying close to him, or by walking away. The latter is a question for members of the Administration and for congressional Republicans. “This is the time,” Lithwick writes, to “think about what combination of exit and voice can make a meaningful difference if a real crisis were to happen. Or rather, when the real crisis happens—if we are not there already.”…
Is the possibility of moderating the damage done by this Administration worth sacrificing one’s moral principles? Should one protect one’s individual integrity by sacrificing the chance to moderate damage done by this Administration? We can’t possibly know.
For most of us, “stay or go” has a different meaning– and most of us aren’t going to leave the country, no matter how often we google “immigrating to Canada.”
The author of the article, Masha Gessen, concludes that each of us must at the very least protect facts from this “reality-destroying” regime.
The great French thinker and activist Simone Weil had a prescription that she wrote down in her journal in 1933: “Never react to an evil in such a way as to augment it.” A few days later, she added, “Refuse to be an accomplice. Don’t lie—don’t keep your eyes shut.”…
In our case, stepping outside the lie means refusing—stubbornly, consistently, incrementally—to lend credence to the opposite of politics, the opposite of diplomacy, and the opposite of sanity. That would require thinking, reading, and speaking critically: not treating an outburst as though it were politics, a tantrum as though it were diplomacy, and a delusion as though it were aspiration. The good news is that this is not an entirely impossible task.
I agree that standing up for sanity and empirical reality is extremely important, but it seems woefully inadequate to the task before us, which is nothing less than the restoration of a constitutional, democratic and ethical government that citizens can trust.
The loss of democratic governance has been a gradual, decades-long process which most Americans have ignored until Trump made it glaringly obvious. His wholesale assault on decency and sanity actually impedes collective action; there are so many issues, so many different egregious offenses, so many distractions, it fragments the expression of collective anger.
That said, a comment made to this blog a couple of days ago struck me. Gerald proposed a general strike.
Such a strike would be a massive undertaking, and not risk-free. It would need to be organized by a consortium of national organizations, and devoting time and person-power to such an effort before November would bleed resources from the critical work of getting out the vote. But after that– assuming Muller’s investigation is still ongoing, the Congressional GOP is still spineless and Trump still occupies the Oval Office– bringing the nation’s business to a halt for a day would send a message of resistance that even Trump might understand.
I”m probably just smoking whatever it is that Gerald has been inhaling–but anyone have influence with a national organization?