My filmmaker friend and colleague Laurie Kash made this film of the Women's March in Washington DC, January 21, 2017. Full disclosure: I'm in it. Watch it anyway. It is a beautiful portrait of national and global resistance.
In a series of tweets early in the morning after Friday’s ruling by the Seattle judge James Robart, the president wrote: “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”
Trump also wrote: “When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety & security – big trouble!”
So Tweety Boy is irritated that the nation’s judiciary does not support his whim to ban travelers from seven primarily Muslim countries.
Funny: he doesn’t rant that way about judges and the authority of the judiciary when he is putting forth a Supreme Court nominee who he hopes will enforce his agenda. Nor does he mock or malign state attorneys general when they use the courts to resist Washington imperatives like LGBT rights and oversight of police violence against unarmed civilians.
In fact, when it comes to the role of the Supreme Court or the conservative holy grail of States’ Rights (say, Texas’ ability to legally decimate the federally-protected right to abortion), Tweety seems really, really big on a strong judiciary.
So how come it’s the end of the world when the attorneys general of Virginia and New York and Massachusetts and Washington go to court to avoid being forced into unconstitutional discrimination at their own airports?
But Trump has already answered that question: Tweety wants what Tweety wants. Today he craves creamed carrots. The next day he heaves them against the wall from his SpongeBob bowl. It’s what little creatures do.
Tom McCarthy's Jan 28 Guardian piece is a good peek into President Donald Trump's jealous-toddler view of the world and what drives his policy moves, which are best understood as tantrums. What's most terrifying is that his triggers for his despicable acts rest so trivially, and even randomly, on perceived personal slights and disrespect (does the trajectory of Trump's weeklong tear have anything to do with media having dissed his tiny little inauguration crowd?).
Maybe it is ever thus with tyrants. But Trump does seem a wicked prototype for the pasty postindustrial piggycrat. He is eerily reminiscent of Dune's Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (below), right down to the first name and the iridescent hair. Call him King Twitter Thumbs. The tub of lard and lies whose tweets kill people.
Here is an excerpt from McCarthy's piece on this week of atrocities from His Grand Petulance:
Donald Trump's first week: carnage, both real and imagined
What started with an ominous inauguration speech has ended with executive orders on everything from immigration to banning refugees and reigniting the fossil fuel industry. What does it mean for his presidency?
The crowd was small, the weather was bad and the speech, which described “American carnage”, was dire. For the tens of millions who voted against him and countless concerned others, Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States felt ominous, no matter how widely Barack Obama smiled and no matter how gracefully he and Michelle Obama made the transition from hosts to departing guests.
The feeling of foreboding did not last. It was overtaken within hours by the realization, at the arrival of the first of the new president’s executive actions, that the most outrageous campaign promises Trump had made to the smallest core of his supporters were now official US policy, or about to be.
Within a week, the rally chant “build the wall!” had morphed into a phrase published on White House stationery: “impassable physical barrier”. A proposed ban on Muslim immigrants took shape as a suspension of visa programs from countries that, as Trump put it, “have tremendous terror”. Grumbling about excessive government regulation had become, in one document, an exhortation to bureaucrats to help an oil company skip the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
“He’s delivering the goods to his core constituency in a really visible way,” said John T Woolley, head of the American presidency project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “But there are a lot of things that he’s raising that may be above what he truly has the ability to do.”
Seven days into his presidency, the accumulation of Trump’s official actions, at the rate of as many as five a day, has created a new national reality on central policy concerns from the environment to voting rights to international commitments to immigration, healthcare and trade.
“You have to consider this a pretty aggressive use of executive power early on,” said Julian E Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “Using it not only on one marquee issue, which presidents often do, but on a series of major campaign issues, all within just a few days.
“So it’s rapid-fire, but more importantly, each one is a pretty significant decision.”
More difficult to assess than the new president’s official actions, but for many Americans just as significant, has been the impact on the public of Trump’s simple presence in office – the finally inescapable fact, as it were, of Donald Trump as president.
During the campaign, Trump’s lies about the fake scourge of voter fraud, his vain obsession with the size of his crowds (and his hands), and his explosions of bile and irrelevance on Twitter could be semi-ignored as the faults of a mercurial political figure who was quite likely, at least, to lose.
Now Trump is in the Oval Office and his lies are voiced by a press secretary standing behind the White House seal in the Brady briefing room. It was there that Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, falsely declared on the day after the swearing-in that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period”. Trump’s audience was in fact significantly smaller than Obama’s 2009 crowd, but members of the media who tried to brandish evidence of the fact were shouted down.
Spicer rolled out another whopper days later, informing the country that the president still (wrongly) believed millions of votes had been illegally cast in November. As supporting evidence, he pointed to a 2012 research report on voter fraud, prompting the author of the report to categorically deny that the report said any such thing.
“Of those votes cast, none of them come to me,” Trump told ABC News a day later, embroidering his fantasy. “They would all be for the other side. None of them come to me.”
For Americans who doubt his leadership, just as disturbing as Trump’s new freedom to spout untruths with significantly inflated authority were early reports on his conduct behind the scenes, as he made his first decisions as the most powerful individual on Earth.
Repeatedly, Trump threw thunderbolts from his Twitter account – threatening to “send in the Feds!” to stop violence in Chicago and impugning Chelsea Manning – immediately following negative coverage of those topics on Fox News, which Trump told the New York Times he watches morning and night.
It was TV coverage of his small inauguration crowd that prompted Trump to trot out Spicer. The bad press had not allowed the president to “enjoy” his first weekend in the White House as he felt he deserved, the Associated Press quoted “one person who has spoken with him” as saying. Trump’s decision to act on voter fraud was inspired, Trump told members of Congress, by a conversation with a German golfer.
If Trump’s character is immutable, however, his executive actions may not be. His orders have the power to guide the conduct of federal agencies and officials, but cannot contravene existing law.
Woolley said: “The question always is – and this is a real question for Trump – whether the president is going beyond the scope of the law, whether he’s infringing on congressional power, and whether he’s infringing on the divides between national, state and local power.
“There’s going to be a festival of lawsuits about almost every controversial action that he takes.”
Next week, Trump is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress and announce a nominee to fill the vacancy on the supreme court.
For those of us in America who have the cushion of assuming a daily life free of being physically kicked in the ass, jailed, blacklisted or fired from our jobs for political reasons, or threatened or worse by goons who do whatever the state pays them to do, it is now time to let go of the illusion.
That kind of normalcy has long been a First World problem. Not anymore.
Our personal American bubbles, within which our opinions don’t endanger our uneventfully going to the store or having company over or exercising our right to free speech, are bursting. Fast. Entire swaths of our population – people who work for entire governmental departments that are suddenly forbidden to talk to the public or to the press(!!), law enforcement officers who are ordered to round up newly targeted populations, journalists who are put on brutal notice for what they can and cannot ask or say, citizens who are forced to accept the possibility of being disappeared into unaccountable “black sites” according to the whims of a regime that makes and enforces its own rules in secret – are being herded, under threat of injury, into a new way of life.
This is me, and you, that I’m talking about. Every day this week in the United States, more corporate supervisors and religious leaders and mayors and teachers and police and janitors and hospital administrators and writers and child care workers and musicians and congresspersons and government administrative workers are treading more carefully, self-editing, yielding ground, backing off, facing an awful and humiliating choice between what is right and what is safe.
If you’re not scared, and if you’re not pissed off beyond belief at having to confront being scared, you’re in denial.
So let go of what you thought the ground rules were for America in 2017. Adjust to what they are.
And choose: in the face of half our population’s being drunk on an intoxicating autocracy, who are you going to be? Right now?
I shot these videos at today's Women's March in DC. At the latest count more than 500,000 people marched in DC -- double the number that attended the Trump inauguration -- and more than 1 million marched globally.
I received a link from my friend Aubrey to a piecewritten by a former resident of Chile remarking on the wicked irony of seeing Americans traumatized by Russian interference in our elections more than 40 years after his own country was ravaged by the bloody toppling of a democratically-elected Chilean government – that of President Salvador Allende – by the American CIA. The writer took no pleasure in the awful observation. But he also refused to spare we Americans the agony of the irony.
It reminds me of this podcast in which a Trump voter voiced her terrible sense of violation at seeing a community of Somali immigrants take over, from her point of view, an entire neighborhood that she and other enraged whites felt they intrinsically owned. She had not a clue about the wicked irony of her bitterness at losing "her" territory in a land where Native Americans know that very experience with far more gruesome familiarity than she will ever fathom.
That is the obscene, comic, tragic absurdity of the consciousness of tens of millions of scared American white voters: Their own tribal legacy on these shores is exactly, and I mean exactly, what they shriek for Trump to defeat in fetishized brown invaders: primitive ignorance, carnivorous violence, savage thievery, amoral entitlement.
It’s all right here in the making of a country that – over its few centuries of incompetent occupation – whiteness momentarily claims as its own.
This from columnist Lindy West on why we stop at “alt-right” when we’re talking about ethnic-cleanser racial supremacists:
What does it take to call a Nazi a Nazi? In the interminable fortnight since the election of Donald Trump, the US press has been floundering in a gyre of panic over the internal taxonomy of racists.
For months, many (myself included) indulged Trump’s base in their euphemism of choice, the “alt-right”, an attempt to rebrand warmed-over Reconstruction-era white supremacy as a cool, new (and harmless!) internet fad. Despite the fact that Breitbart News (described by former honcho turned Trump adviser Stephen Bannon as “the platform for the alt-right”) had, at one point, a news tag labeled “black crime”, and was a driver of the racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was a secret Kenyan Muslim, the press contorted itself into labyrinthine knots to avoid applying the word “racist” to Bannon or Trump in any committed way. (In our post-meaning world, being called a racist is nearly as grievous as being a racist.
Public outcry has prompted some hemming and hawing over the finer distinctions between “white nationalists” and “white supremacists”, the mainstream media not allowing either term to get too close to Trump himself, even as antisemitic, anti-black, anti-gay and Islamophobic hate crimes (not to mention KKK victory parades) continued to proliferate in his name. The website Boing Boing published a “White Supremacy Euphemism Generator for journalists”, explaining: “even when people pander to the idea Western culture’s wellbeing is inseparable from European ethnicity, they somehow avoid being called white nationalists or supremacists by journalists”. One hang-up seemed to be a lack of self-identification. If a person doesn’t consider himself a white supremacist, can he still be one? (Answer: OF COURSE.)
Finally, though, at Richard B Spencer’s closing speech at Saturday’s alt-right conference just a few blocks from the White House, it became undeniable what we’re dealing with here (at least among this particular sect of Trump’s true believers): it’s a bunch of straight-up neo-Nazis.
According to the New York Times, Spencer – who claims to have coined the term “alt-right” – “railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people … As he finished, several audience members had their arms outstretched in a Nazi salute.” The crowd joined Spencer in a cry of “Heil victory!”
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Richard Spencer: ‘railed against Jews and quoted Nazi propaganda.’ Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images
And yet, still, headlines were tentative. The New York Times gesticulated wildly toward Nazism without actually using the word (“Alt-Right Exults in Donald Trump’s Election With a Salute: ‘Heil Victory’”), and a CNN panel managed to avoid saying “Nazi” entirely, despite discussing a chyron that read, “Alt-right founder questions if Jews are people.”
But if declaring the superiority of the white race, quoting Nazi propaganda, calling for “peaceful ethnic cleansing”, and provoking Nazi salutes from his audience isn’t enough to qualify one as a neo-Nazi, then where on earth is the bar? What is the hesitation? And, given the close ties between the “alt-right” and Trump’s cabinet, how is the top story on every front page not some version of “NEO-NAZIS ATTEMPTING TO SEIZE CONTROL OF AMERICAN GOVERNMENT”?
My colleague and friend Keith Schlegel, a retired university English chair and owner of a baritone voice most guys would go to jail for, wrote and recorded a video reading of the following (I'll share a link when I have it [Update 12/8: video is here]):
"Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: "Words, words, words."
Well, yes, when we read or speak or listen, that is all we encounter, mere words, which, unlike sticks and stones, can never hurt us, or so we teach children. Hamlet's answer to Polonius is that it doesn't matter what Hamlet reads, that whatever it is is meaningless, that words are meaningless. Yet this play, itself made of words only, shows the meaning, purposes, and effects of words, which include cruelty, since words can hurt very much and not just our feelings about ourselves.
Words are in fact a species of action and the result of choice. Words are more than mere words to those who depend upon them to represent something like truth, to inspire us, to console, to teach us. Alas, words can also anger, harm, and, most dangerous of all, deceive.
Notwithstanding his claims that he has "great" words, President-elect Trump is pitifully lacking in good words, in accurate words. Is Pakistan really a "fantastic" nation full of "fantastic" people and led by a "fantastic" leader, as Donald Trump has recently said? When he said he "saw" hundreds of Muslims in America celebrate the horror of 9/11, his words were fully as perilous as a bomb thrown into a crowd. More recently, he exchanged words with the president of Taiwan, violating established diplomacy. Examples of irresponsible talk abound from the 2016 campaign, but now that it's over, Americans can and should assert a higher standard of active citizenship that listens, reads, judges, and most of all uses words critically and accurately. No excuses remain.
I doubt we can quickly or thoroughly change Mr. Trump's bad habits of careless speech, regardless of who is advising him. Those of us who worry most about the degradation of truth can, however, focus our resistance to the debasing of language. Accordingly, as we make ourselves the loyal opposition, we commit to name every misrepresentation, every unfounded assertion, every flattery of tyrants, every overly-general or unfair accusation. We plan to speak truth to power.
Over my decades teaching writing, I never let pass without comment any vague use of the word great. "Do you mean famous? large? powerful? important? good?" I'd comment. To make something "great again" surely first requires understanding what the word great means now and what it meant in the past, and much of the divide we now endure stems from people's not sharing the same meanings for words: in that way, the rise of Trumpism has made clear what before was hidden.
I'd be happy to agree that American citizens should try to make America great again if that means to return to the clear humanity of Abraham Lincoln or the hopefulness of a young President Kennedy or to the heroism of the civil rights workers or the sacrifices of American soldiers or indeed the promise of justice that lives in the Constitution, which our Presidents swear to defend in the words of their oath of office. I suspect these are not the values defining "great" of those who even now yell for the President-elect to throw Hillary Clinton in jail, albeit I seriously doubt one in a thousand could even name the supposed crime or explain how any President could exercise such unconstitutional powers. The Presidency is the most powerful office in our nation, but it is also limited in ways that would irritate any despot.
Much of the power of the American Presidency lies not in the exercise of force but in the authority and stature of the office such that Presidential words must be attended to. The Presidency is a pulpit (a "bully" one) to do good. This is a truth that President Obama knows well, as his soaring rhetoric has shown. Mr. Trump also gets the point, at least in part: when he tweeted this week attacking Boeing, the stock shares fell precipitously: now that’s power.
We do no disservice to our country when we demand high standards in Presidential speech: we show thereby that we honor the office.