Tag Archive for election 2016

Excellent, thoughtful, fierce advice

From historian, Holocaust expert and Yale Professor Timothy Snyder. If you believe, as I do, we’re in deep trouble, this will help. If you don’t, then how can it hurt?

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.

6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

“Lock Up All the Poets, First” — J.S. Lamb

Lock up all the Poets, first

Before the revolution
Let’s make a resolution
To lock up all the poets
In a hall.

Give them roses, give them wine,
But never give them time
To stir up other people —
Not at all.

Shunting poor (or even rich)
Is done without a hitch:
Merely play to their fears
With finesse.

But poets can’t be bought
With a shimmy or a shot;
If they ever learn the Truth —
It’s a mess.

So give them cotton candy,
Or anything that’s handy,
To shield their stellar eyes
From the War.

By the time they discover
That Freedom has been smothered,
Their pens will have been shortened
By a sword.


Leonard Cohen, R.I.P.

In all the turmoil about the election I neglected to mention the death of Leonard Cohen — but I didn’t neglect to mark it. Leonard Cohen was of vital importance to me, a musician and poet whose worked I love deeply.

Here’s a link to him singing my favorite of his songs,  “Field Commander Cohen”

I’m making no claim it’s his best, and you’re welcome to pipe up with your own favorites in the comments.  But this is the one that resonates most with me.

Over the next weeks, months, years, I’ll continue to talk politics here, and also books, art, culture.  Because, as Bertolt Brecht said,

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”

ACLU briefing

Sara Paretsky, a writer well-known for her progressive views and actions, attended an ACLU briefing  and sent this report:


     The good news: in the wake of 9/11, people were afraid to speak out against infringement of civil liberties, but today, many people are speaking up.
     The difficult news: challenges to civil liberties, LGBT rights, immigrants, refugees, and reproductive health, inter alia, will be coming quickly and from both national and state governments. The ACLU sees keeping Planned Parenthood going as the top priority alongside immigrant and refugee rights: they are the health care providers of last resort for millions of low-income women, and if Congress removes their funding, millions of women will be in dire straits. PP provide not just reproductive health and abortion services but cancer screening and other well woman services. The ACLU urges all of us to support Planned Parenthood: Romero said, if you write a check to ACLU, send one to Planned Parenthood at the same time. Currently, the Federal Government gives them about $1 billion annually in support, and we will be hard-pressed to raise that money in the private sector if Congress cuts it out.
     Their best guess is that the new admin will want to make good on their anti-immigrant threats first, followed by dismantling Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. They’re thinking that Giuliani will likely be the Attorney-General, which has implications for anti-immigrant dragnets as well as Giuliani-style policing on the national level.
     The ACLU has been able to do some preparation. In July, after the republican convention, they did a thorough study of the candidate’s positions on issues that affect that Constitution. This has given them some pre-inaugural sense of where the biggest threats are. The report is available on their website.
     They are also preparing strategies for challenging some of the key sub-cabinet posts, which don’t usually attract media attention. They believe they can “peel,” their language, some republicans away from some votes. For instance, one south FL congresswoman who’s kind of alt-right also has a Transgender child.
     Strategies for individuals: don’t just give money but give service — we can write letters to the editor, participate in radio call-in shows, write our congress members, and visit state and national offices of elected officials. The speakers stressed that physical letters to Congress carry more weight than emails.
     More anon.


And more from me, SJ, anon, too.

Where We Go From Here, #4

It’s overwhelming, isn’t it, trying to decide what to do now?  What NOT to do, however, is to feel alone. We in our tribe are and must be here for each other.

For the next few posts I’ll be bringing you the words of others of us, hoping their strength can add to yours.

This is from Senator Elizabeth Warren, written the day after the election.


This wasn’t a pretty election. In fact, it was ugly, and we should not sugarcoat the reason why. Donald Trump ran a campaign that started with racial attacks and then rode the escalator down. He encouraged a toxic stew of hatred and fear. He attacked millions of Americans. And he regularly made statements that undermined core values of our democracy.

And he won. He won — and now Latino and Muslim-American children are worried about what will happen to their families. LGBT couples are worried that their marriages could be dissolved by a Trump-Pence Supreme Court. Women are worried that their access to desperately needed health services will disappear. Millions of people in this country are worried, deeply worried. And they are right to be worried.

Today, as President-Elect, Donald Trump has an opportunity to chart a different course: to govern for all Americans and to respect our institutions. In his victory speech, he pledged that he would be “President for all” of the American people. And when he takes the oath of office as the leader of our democracy and the leader of all Americans, I sincerely hope that he will fulfill that pledge with respect and concern for every single human being in this country, no matter who they are, no matter where they come from, no matter what they believe, no matter whom they love.

And that marks Democrats’ first job in this new era: We will stand up to bigotry. There is no compromise here. In all its forms, we will fight back against attacks on Latinos, African Americans, women, Muslims, immigrants, disabled Americans — on anyone. Whether Donald Trump sits in a glass tower or sits in the White House, we will not give an inch on this, not now, not ever.

But there are many millions of people who did not vote for Donald Trump because of the bigotry and hate that fueled his campaign rallies. They voted for him despite the hate. They voted for him out of frustration and anger — and also out of hope that he would bring change.

If we have learned nothing else from the past two years of electioneering, we should hear the message loud and clear that the American people want Washington to change. It was clear in the Democratic Primaries. It was clear in the Republican Primaries. It was clear in the campaign and it was clear on Election Day. The final results may have divided us — but the entire electorate embraced deep, fundamental reform of our economic system and our political system.

Working families across this country are deeply frustrated about an economy and a government that doesn’t work for them. Exit polling on Tuesday found that 72 percent of voters believe that “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful.” 72 percent of ALL voters — Democrats and Republicans. The polls were also made clear that the economy was the top issue on voters’ minds. Americans are angry about a federal government that works for the rich and powerful and that leaves everyone else in the dirt.

Lobbyists and Washington insiders have spent years trying to convince themselves and each other that Americans don’t actually believe this. Now that the returns are in and the people have spoken, they’re already trying to wave their hands and dismiss these views as some sort of mass delusion. They are wrong — very wrong.

The truth is that people are right to be angry. Angry that wages have been stagnant for a generation, while basic costs like housing, health care, and child care have skyrocketed. Angry that our political system is awash in barely legalized campaign bribery. Angry that Washington eagerly protects tax breaks for billionaires while it refuses to raise the minimum wage, or help the millions of Americans struggling with student loans, or enforce the law when the millionaire CEOs who fund our political campaigns break it. Angry that Washington pushes big corporate interests in trade deals, but won’t make the investments in infrastructure to create good jobs right here in America. Angry that Washington tilts the playing field for giant corporations — giving them special privileges, letting them amass enormous economic and political power.

Angry that while Washington dithers and spins and does the backstroke in an ocean of money, while the American Dream moves further and further out of reach for too many families. Angry that working people are in debt. Angry that seniors can’t stretch a Social Security check to cover the basics.

President-Elect Trump spoke to these issues. Republican elites hated him for it. But he didn’t care. He criticized Wall Street and big money’s dominance in Washington — straight up. He supported a new Glass-Steagall. He spoke of the need to reform our trade deals so they aren’t raw deals for the American people. He said he will not cut Social Security benefits. He talked about the need to address the rising cost of college and about helping working parents struggling with the high cost of child care. He spoke of the urgency of rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and putting people back to work. He spoke to the very real sense of millions of Americans that their government and their economy has abandoned them. And he promised to rebuild our economy for working people.

The deep worry that people feel over an America that does not work for them is not liberal or conservative worry. It is not Democratic or Republican worry. It is the deep worry that led even Americans with very deep reservations about Donald Trump’s temperament and fitness to vote for him anyway.

So let me be 100% clear about this. When President-Elect Trump wants to take on these issues, when his goal is to increase the economic security of middle class families, then count me in. I will put aside our differences and I will work with him to accomplish that goal. I offer to work as hard as I can and to pull as many people as I can into this effort. If Trump is ready to go on rebuilding economic security for millions of Americans, so am I and so are a lot of other people — Democrats and Republicans.

But let’s also be clear about what rebuilding our economy does not mean.

  • It does not mean handing the keys to our economy over to Wall Street so they can run it for themselves. Americans want to hold the big banks accountable. That will not happen if we gut Dodd-Frank and fire the cops responsible for watching over those banks, like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If Trump and the Republican Party try to turn loose the big banks and financial institutions so they can once again gamble with our economy and bring it all crashing down, then we will fight them every step of the way.
  • It does not mean crippling our economy and ripping working families apart by rounding up and deporting millions of our coworkers, our friends and neighbors, our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters. And if Republicans choose that path, we will fight them every single step of the way.
  • Americans want reform to Obamacare — Democrats included. We must bring down the costs of health insurance and the cost of health care. But if the Republicans want to strip away health insurance from 20 million Americans, if they want to let cancer survivors get kicked to the curb, if they want to throw 24-year-olds off their parents’ health insurance, then we will fight them every step of the way.
  • Americans want to close tax loopholes that benefit the very rich , and Donald Trump claimed to support closing the carried interest loophole and other loopholes. We need a fairer tax system, but if Republicans want to force through massive tax breaks that blow a hole in our deficit and tilt the playing field even further toward the wealthy and big corporations, then we will fight them every step of the way.

The American people — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — have been clear about what economic policies they want Washington to pursue. Two-thirds of people support raising the federal minimum wage. Three-quarters of Americans want the federal government to increase its infrastructure investments. Over 70 percent of people believe students should have a chance at a debt-free education. Nearly three-quarters support expanding Social Security. These are the kinds of policies that will help level the playing field for working families and address the frustrations felt by millions of people across the country.

The American people sent one more message as well. Economic reform requires political reform. Why has the federal government worked so long only for those at the top? The answer is money — and they want this system changed. The American people are sick of politicians wallowing in the campaign contributions and dark money. They are revolted by influence peddling by wealthy people and giant corporations. When Bernie Sanders proved his independence by running a campaign based on small dollar contributions and when Donald Trump promised to spend his own money, both were sending an important message that they could not be bought. And once again, if Donald Trump is ready to make good on his promise to get corruption out of politics, to end dark money and pay-to-play, count me in. I will work as hard as I can and to pull as many people as I can to end the influence of big money and return democracy to the people.

Donald Trump won the Presidency under a Republican flag. But Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and the Republicans in Congress — and their way of doing business — were rejected — rejected by their own primary voters, rejected during the campaign, and rejected in Tuesday’s election. Regardless of political party, working families are disgusted by a Washington that works for the rich and powerful and leaves everyone else behind.

The American people have called out loudly for economic and political reform. For years, too many Republicans and too many Democrats have refused to hear their demands.

The majority of Americans voted against Donald Trump. Democrats picked up seats in both the House and the Senate. And yet, here we are. Republicans are in control of both houses of Congress and the White House. And that makes our job clear. As the loyal opposition we will fight harder, we will fight longer and we will fight more passionately than ever for the rights of every human being in this country to be treated with respect and dignity. We will fight for economic opportunity, not just for some of our children, but for all of our children. We do not control the tools of government, but make no mistake, we know what we stand for, the sun will keep rising, and we will keep fighting — each day, every day, we will fight for the people of this country.

The time for ignoring the American people is over. It’s time for us to come together to work on America’s agenda. Democracy demands that we do so, and we are ready.

Where We Go From Here, #3

I woke up this morning in despair.

I don’t want to hide that. I seesaw between getting my we-can-do-this on, and feeling paralyzed.

The paralysis is the same sense I had immediately after 9/11. I’m sick, sad, scared. Suddenly I don’t recognize this world. I don’t know what to do here, where to look, where to put my feet.

I’m saying this because I know many of you feel the same. And some of you have begun to be feel bad about it. To think that if you’re still dazed, still unable to see a way out of this, then you’re not strong, you’re behind, you need to get with the roll-up-your-sleeves program.

No. You need to feel what you’re feeling. It’s real. In her concession speech, Hillary said, “This is painful, and it will be for a long time.” The other side doesn’t get, I think, how much more than just a political loss this is to us. For women, for blacks, for gays, for people of any color and all disabilities, it’s a repudiation of our importance as human beings. We’re not mourning our candidate. We’re mourning our hopes for ourselves and each other.

But last night I met with writers who’ve been in a workshop with me for a couple of years. We ranted, we swore, we laughed; we actually read and commented on some work. People shared articles they’d found, and we all felt better.

I woke up this morning in despair. But after 9/11, eventually we found our way again. We were able to act again. I spent a year writing a novel set in those first few weeks after, called ABSENT FRIENDS, and I still get letters telling me it helped people understand what those times were like here in NYC. Those times were much like these times. I’ll find my way, we’ll find our way, again.

One of the pieces a student brought last night was this.

It’s “Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Dr. Estés is a touch too religious for me, but though I don’t share her faith in God I do share her faith in us. She says we were put here for a reason; I don’t know about that, but I do know we’re here. We’re here, our tribe, together.

I hope this letter moves you as much as it did me. We’re still here. This isn’t politics. We’ll find our way, and it’ll be a wide, bright road.

Get your safety pin now!

Huh? Because this.

It gives you a super power: you can step in, stand up, help if you’re needed.

I have one on every jacket. Get yours, and carry some for friends who want them.


Where We Go From Here, #2

I have a lot more to say (well, it is me) but not a lot of time at the moment. But I thought you might want to see this list of pro-our-tribe organizations that could use your support right now.

Where We Go From Here

First: If you’re a Trump supporter and you’ve come to gloat, don’t do it. I will delete your post. I thought this election would prove that the forces of unity were stronger than the forces of division, but I was wrong. You’ve won; and you’ve made it clear this is still a tribal nation. Go talk to your tribe.

I’m here to talk to mine: to my beautiful rainbow, mosaic, melting pot, polyglot tribe. The openhearted tribe whose hearts have been broken, the generous hopefuls who thought this was our moment to step into the sun.

It’s not. It’s the thrashing death throes of misogyny, racism, anti-intellectualism — I do think they’re dying, yes, but the thrashing can kill us, too.

So what do we do?

Did you hear Hillary’s concession speech? Did you see her face while she talked?

We keep fighting, in whatever way we can.

What ways are those?

My sister got up this morning and made contributions she couldn’t afford to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.

The Center for Fiction here in NYC will be open tonight for writers to come together, share a mic and a glass of wine, talk about what this might mean, about how people feel.

People are talking about running for the small, local offices, to do the grassroots work.

This administration will probably cut the budgets for education, the arts, the environment. It will dismantle the Affordable Care Act. If you can volunteer at a school nearby, at Audubon, at a hospital to relieve the pressure, do that. If you can’t, maybe you could go to Staples and buy art supplies for a kindergarten class. There are small things we can do, until we have our strength back.

And the smallest and most important: be kind to each other. Here in NYC, where so many people are in a sort of mourning, people made eye contact all day as they walked by, smiled, held doors, wished me good day. As did I, to them. Do these things for people, especially people of our tribe who might have reason to feel threatened now in the dark days to come, and notice when people do these things for you. Be mindful of each act of kindness.

Am I planning to volunteer, will I run for local office? Right now what I want to do is crawl under the blankets and stay there for the next four years. Right now I feel stunned, shocked, feel the same as I did the day after 9/11. But I’ll recover. I did then, though it changed me forever. I’m a writer, a solitary profession, so maybe that’s the best thing for me to do: write. I’ll do what I can. You do what you can. Will it be enough? I don’t know. But I do know this: if we do nothing, that will most certainly NOT be enough.

I leave you with a Jewish saying: It is not given to you to finish the work, but neither are you free to refrain from it.

Do every small thing you can. Then, maybe, do bigger things. We can start to build again. Just keep the tribe together.


Thoughts on the election

In a comment on another post, Li Ann asked about my thoughts on the election. She said she knew I had distinct opinions.  Well, I sure do. I know lots of people don’t like Hillary Clinton. They don’t trust her. Okay, fine. To them I say: Do you LIKE Donald Trump? Do you trust HIM? Because if you don’t get out and vote for her, he’ll be President. There is no third way here. There’s no sitting this one out. The man who said that Mexico is sending its rapists, that African-Americans are living in hell, that Muslims should be banned from entering the country, that when you’re a star women let you do whatever you want, that he knows more about ISIS than the generals and that “I love war,” that man will be President. Is that really okay with you? If it’s not, then get out and vote for Hillary. Otherwise, you’re voting for Trump. You are. And if he’s elected, you who did not vote will have done it.