Monday, February 27, 2017

TRUMP WATCH #18: My Listening Tour


Please accept my apologies for the long silence since my last TRUMP WATCH post; I have been on a “listening tour” of sorts. Perhaps, not the sort of listening tour you might have expected me to take; i.e. listening to Trump supporters in an attempt to understand how they can possibly continue to support him after a month of ineptitude, pettiness, outrageously unpresidential tweets, un-American actions, and a failure to even begin to deliver substantively on his promises to address the needs of unemployed and underemployed workers.

No, my listening tour (which included reading assorted op-ed pieces and letters to the editors) was primarily about seeking to understand what my friends, family, and fellow progressives and/or liberals were feeling and doing about the current political situation. Here, in brief, are some of my impressions of various sub-groups in my coastal, liberal, mostly white bubble:
  • Overall, the millennials (born roughly 1982-2002) to whom I listened were optimistic and were engaged in intersectional resistance efforts to address long-standing problems in American society (and the world), many of which Trump’s election starkly revealed.  
  • In contrast, most of the baby boomers (born roughly 1946-1964) to whom I listened tended to focus on Trump, himself, and were highly pessimistic, while nevertheless engaging in a wide range of traditional liberal protest activities: the post-inaugural Women’s Marches and immigrant vigils, signing online petitions, calling and writing to elected officials, and donating to long-standing organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.
  • For literally everyone* to whom I listened, news (real and fake), opinions, and feelings about Trump (from the trivial to the profound) were dominating their lives, especially their emotions.
My primary takeaway (and concern) from the generalized observations above is that the emotions of too many baby boomers are so negative and so extreme that they are allowing these feelings to poison their own daily lives, not to mention preventing them from thinking rationally or acting constructively to change what is (and has long been) wrong in our society.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Donald Trump did not inject into our society the forces of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, proto-fascism, or anti-semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-press, anti-freedom of speech, white supremacist tendencies. His election merely brought these destructive attitudes and behaviors clearly into the open, where they can no longer be ignored by those of us whose lives may not have been directly affected by them.

All of which leads me to consider whether we older folks might be happier and more effective if we could be inspired by some members of the youngest politically aware generation and instead of sinking into depression and despair or burning out with indignation and fury, that we focus our resistance efforts and emotional energy on a few of the issues that have long posed a threat to the actual ideals of this country and the well-being of all who live here.

Thus, over the next two weeks (before traveling to China, Vietnam, and Cambodia for a month), I will focus my posts on a number of the following issues, all of which I firmly believe have the potential to gain the support (in some fashion) of a sizable majority of Americans and even some Republican elected officials:
  • Immigration reform
  • Affordable health care as a right of every American 
  • Employment opportunities throughout the country
  • The challenges of climate change
  • Human and civil rights for all, especially those who have been and continue to be victims of institutional discrimination and/or extra-legal actions
  • Federal, state, and local government investment in infrastructure
  • Effective public education from pre-school through college and beyond
  • Tax reform
  • Nuclear arms control
  • A strong but fair global economy
  • World peace and an end to both terrorism and arms trafficking to non-state actors
  • The four essential human freedoms (according to President Franklin D. Roosevelt): freedom of speech and expression (including the Press), freedom to worship God in one’s own way, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

 *For the record, I encountered too few Gen-Xers (born roughly 1965-1980) to draw any real conclusions about them, except to wonder if perhaps they were so involved with their careers and families that they didn’t have much time for “politics.”

When my daughter, Mira (a Gen-Xer), read the above note, she was quick to provide me with an impressive listing of Gen-x friends of hers who have chosen to do work and may even be well into careers that address many of the important progressive issues of our age. With her permission, I have appended her account (minus names) to this post:
My husband and I have nightly discussions about all this with each other and more or less regular discussions with our Gen-Xer friends, many of whom are engaged in publishing insightful political investigations and analysis, working with immigrant communities on producing media from their own perspectives, representing immigrants detained at airports under the Trump deportation order and children in deportation proceedings, moving across the country to organize with the Bernie campaign for a year, teaching 20th Century US history from a radical perspective to first generation college students at a Cal Poly, fighting in the courts to maintain abortion rights nationally, working to strengthen and diversify the Democratic Party, investigating and reporting on the international web of corruption in the mining industry that is draining Congo of its natural resources with no benefit to its citizens, fighting housing discrimination which seems to never end, educating poor kids of color in Bushwick, empowering girls of color by teaching them to surf, doing union organizing with home health aides, making radical collaborative and political art in the form of rap, doing national labor research and organizing, working in local government to provide immigrants with rights and defense that the federal government won't, defending poor people of color from the overreach of the state (my many Gen-X former colleagues at Legal Aid), filing lawsuits from Montgomery to Jennings to SF and winning injunctions to end for-profit probation contracts and other practices that trap the poor in endless cycles of jail and unemployment, writing letters and calling and marching to maintain educational and social benefits for children with disabilities, not to mention our friends and acquaintances who may work in the corporate sector but who are horrified by what is going on and remain informed and engaged, and all of whom in hundreds of ways, whether professionally or in their "spare" time, are working to promote equality and democracy and to counter oppression and authoritarianism.  I guess what I'm saying is there must be politically disengaged Gen-Xers out there, but I sure don't know any of them.

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