American voices

In this, part two of “American Voices,” we hear from more of those grappling with a bifurcated America. Like those featured in last issue’s part one, the columnists, historians, songwriters, and lawyers featured here take the divide personally. They’re liberals — they’re progressives, yes, but they’re Americans. And that’s the point.

Since Nov. 8, 2016, they don’t recognize our country.

And Donald Trump doesn’t recognize them.

Bob Kincaid
Co-founder of the Appalachian Community Health Emergency (ACHE) Act of Coal River Mountain Watch (Fayette County, WV)

At the opening of David Lynch’s “Dune,” Princess Irulan declares, “A beginning is a very delicate time.” That’s what the resistance feels like in Appalachia. Living in the Trumpiest place on Earth, resisting him and all the harm he is doing in my state is like clog-dancing on an eggshell stage. Unlike other places where people may be rousing from their Trumpioid nod, most of my fellow hillbillies remain true to the faith that he will do something, anything, for West Virginia. That, combined with our opioid epidemic, makes the matter of resistance a smidgen more, well, risky. The resistance is, however, very real. The Cult of Coal, Faith of Fracking, and Passion of the Pipelines are totems of Trumpism, and that’s where the Appalachian resistance stands and fights. We may even be better prepared for it. For those of us who know our history, Trump is just another in a century-long parade of funny-talking furriners looking to take what little we have. For us, a year in, the resistance is downright existential.

Jerry Izenberg
Columnist emeritus, The Star-Ledger (Henderson, NV)

Every time I ask myself how Donald Trump got to be president, this voice that lives in the backroads of my mind shouts back two words at me: “George Santayana.’’ It reminds me of the warning of this Spanish-born American philosopher: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I’m 87 years old, and I was born into an era in which hate was finally silent. But it wasn’t that way at all. We were about to live through America’s most frightening time. When I was seven, my grandfather’s tombstone was toppled and mutilated with the addition of a hand-drawn swastika.

As a nine-year-old kid, I sat with my old man in Newark’s Newsreel Theater and watched 18,000 German-American Bund members sympathizing and croaking their hate in Madison Square Garden. I knew about Camp Nordland and Camp Siegfried in my state, where kids my age marched in their Hitler Youth uniforms and their fathers fired rifles. After V-E Day my older cousin told me about the big white buttons a lot of kids in his high school class wore to class the next day: “First the Nazis. Next the Japs. Then the Jews.’’

But we survived it — just as America survived a terrifying depression and a frightening flirtation with evil.

But here we are again.

If we were too naive to see it, Charlottesville awakened the last of us. What do today’s protests mean? Don’t expect a man who thinks the Chinese invented global warming to hurt his business to understand. It’s over for him. It’s just a matter of time.

That’s how America works.

Lylah M. Alphonse
Managing editor for news, U.S. News & World Report (Boston)

A year after businessman Donald Trump’s victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the resistance is energized. Or the resistance is stalled out. Or the resistance is waiting for the opportune moment. Or the resistance has tossed its pink pussy hats into the closet and turned off the TV. Which is to say that the resistance is going strong or petering out, depending on which bubble you were in on Nov. 8, 2016.

Those who were aghast on Election Day were raring to go early on. Much of the media are offering up daily fodder for outrage, and resisters spend a lot of time thrashing former friends, adjusting profile pictures, and posting inspirational (but not always accurate) tidbits on Facebook or reading or writing multi-part rants on Twitter. All that action seems mainly aimed at decrying what Trump is doing, but it may be too soon to see actual change. For those who were elated on Election Day, the resistance may seem to be waning. While one side focuses on Trump’s Tweet-du-jour or spends hours dissecting each press briefing, the other is loudly applauding anything that could be considered an achievement.

Or maybe the state of the resistance one year later is simply this: It’s no longer really about Trump. He is the president, after all; it’s time to let election night go. The media, real and fake, have picked their sides — the media isn’t a monolith — but resisting means rededicating oneself to fact-finding and truth, to recalibrating what’s acceptable in society, to seeking information and not just confirmation. It’s a quieter kind of protest, but it’s one that has room to grow.

William Martin
New York Times bestselling author
(Boston)

I didn’t go down to a campaign office and sign up for the resistance. I am just a guy at the center of the political spectrum, neither registered Republican or Democrat. I write historical novels, so I have spent my life studying human nature, so I know hypocrisy. I also know about the separation of fact from opinion, of good research from bought-and-paid-for baloney, of multiple-source news stories from fake news. I also know about trying to see a moment in time through multiple sets of eyes in order to understand it. That’s called empathy, I guess. So maybe I can understand the hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell when he decides to destroy the Constitution in order to save it (see Supreme Court seat, stolen), or of Donald Trump whenever he opens his mouth. We have a president who says or does something every day that needs answering. Otherwise, we give in to what the psychologists call “the normalization of deviance.” But the real task, for the organized resistance and for the resistance put up by novelists on Facebook, is to persuade the 40 percent of American people who did not vote last year to recognize, as Obama once said, that elections have consequences. Well, hell yeah, they do. So, you like a free press, a Constitution, Social Security, Medicare, racial equality, clean air, a forward-looking economy, an equitable tax system, dry streets in seacoast cities, a sense of pride in being an American when you go abroad? I could go on, but if you like any of that … RESIST … however you can.

Roy Zimmerman
Political satirist, musician (San Francisco)

The 2016 election season was an un-fun roller coaster that ended in a brick wall. But after a period of shock and denial, the resistance kicked in, particularly after the Women’s March. Sometimes I think satire is the most hopeful and heartfelt form of expression, because in calling out the world’s absurdities I’m affirming the real possibility for change.

Jennifer Taub
Professor at Vermont Law School (Northampton, MA)

There will be the other side of this war on truth and decency. Sometimes I imagine that I’m standing there on the other side, looking back at all that has transpired. Mostly how I feel is proud. Proud of all of us who, even through the tears and doubt, kept our spirits up and kept resisting, moving forward, supporting each other, and began building the better world we envision. There will be much work to do on the other side, but we will have each other then, too.

Kathy Bader
Assistant vice provost, Duke University (Washington D.C.)

I’m afraid the world will blow up, dry up, and destroy the lives of my children and grandchildren. I wonder what comes next, and what resistance really means. Last night I watched clips on Sandy Hook and cried to learn of Principle Dawn Hochsprung sending her staff to safety through the back window, then going into the lobby to save her children and face her death. Her husband said, “Where does that come from? She was five-feet, two-inches for god’s sake!” I don’t know where that comes from, but we had better find it. The gunman is in the lobby.

Laura A. Belmonte
Professor and Department of History head, Oklahoma State University (Stillwater, OK)

The resistance has been both electrifying and infuriating. The solidarity, diversity, and scope of the Women’s March was awe-inspiring. But the vandalism and violence seen in Portland and Berkeley were counterproductive tactics that achieved little beyond providing fuel for Trump’s “both sides” myth. And while it is heartening to see people refusing to respond with apathy to the relentless assault the administration is making on civil liberties, the environment, social welfare programs, and a liberal international order that took a century to build, the cynic in me is not convinced it has done much to stop the juggernaut. Unless people translate that outrage into running for office and voting (and here’s hoping the Supreme Court will provide much-needed help in the form of striking down gerrymandering), we may not see the paradigmatic political shift we need to guard essential precepts of American life, leadership, and equality of opportunity.

James M. Cullen
Managing editor, The Progressive Populist (Manchaca, TX)

The resistance has organized largely on the Internet, with the progressive press helping to identify the targets, and the coalition has racked up a pretty good record in the first year, knocking down three shots at the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, and fighting the Trump administration and Congress to a standstill on the worst of the bad bills. Republicans have been working for more than 80 years to overturn the New Deal’s reforms that regulated capitalism and enabled the recovery from the Great Depression. The resistance will have to keep fighting back by getting the word out whichever way they can. But it was a great first year.

This article appears in the November B 2017 issue of The Tulsa Voice

Did you like what you read here? Subscribe to The Tulsa Voice »

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store