That wreckage includes an ever-expanding parade of dismaying nominees to top Cabinet positions in the coming Trump administration – overwhelmingly men, overwhelming white – replete with reputations and histories of intolerance, bigotry, and prejudice.
It is extremely difficult to be even semi-conscious since November 9th and not be overwhelmed by the enormity of what is upon us. Let’s just take one element: Jeff Sessions to head the Justice Department. President Obama’s Justice Department boasts an aggressive civil rights division which upholds the rights of all citizens and actively seeks justice reform. All indicators suggest that Sessions will bring sweeping changes to these priorities and the work, as he stands ready to gut the Civil Rights Division of the Department he will inherit.
The Obama Justice Department reversed the defense of the Defense of Marriage Act and brought the historical same-sex marriage case before the Supreme Court. What will Jeff Sessions do? He is an opponent of same-sex marriage and and has earned a whopping ZERO rating from the Human Rights Campaign, our largest LGBT advocacy group. He voted against Loretta Lynch, citing her support of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. And the words out of his mouth are antithetical to those of Eric Holder, Jr., who came into the job pledging that rebuilding the Civil Rights Division would be his first priority. “He has left serious doubts about whether he would faithfully enforce civil rights laws as attorney general,” warns former Justice Department spokesman Matther Miller. In giving the hardline Alabamian the reins, President-Elect Trump seems determined to take the focus away from protecting the rights of minority groups and changing the culture of the nation’s police departments.
Instead of listeninig and learning, Trump has gone into immediate action overdrive. He is spending long days welcoming would-be appointees and kissers of the ring to the “White House North”- pledging not to take vacations (or presidential pay) because there is so much work to be done, and after all he already has so much money. He has sent out a questionnaire (100-Day Plan of Action Survey) to his supporters, asking their opinion and importance ratings on issues such as lifting the restrictions on the production of domestic energy, cancelling payments to UN climate change programs, and ending all federal funding for sanctuary cities. But Trump has continued to turn a deaf ear on the fear, uncertainty, and consequences that his campaign rhetoric and subsequent victory have unleashed. Dismissing the numerous protests throughout the country after the election as the result of ‘professional protesters’ has allowed him to completely delegitimize the voices– and therefore pretend that they do not actually exist. And he refuses to see any connection between the rise of bullying and hate crimes across the country and his electoral victory. The mind boggles.
What could President-Elect Trump be doing? After all, the national stage is now unutterably his. The most courageous act would be to actually acknowledge two elemental truths: the deep divisions in this country, and the need for inclusion. And yes, this includes the constant, vibrant change which inclusion entails.
But for Donald Trump to voice these truths from his own lips would be to take on the suffering of those millions of minorities, immigrants, Muslims, gays, transgenders, and women who are in fear, those who are in danger of losing their basic civil rights. To embody this language of inclusion, he would have to submit to an expansion of compassion which is vital to the success of all future endeavors. It means embracing the changing America, instead of fearing it and closing himself off to all of its possibilities. As he nods about like some foppish potentate - popping white, male nominees off the Trumpian assembly line of doom - he is spreading a creeping deadness and decay. The government cannot be run be a white male enclave because America is not a white male enclave. However, a man who has spent his life ruthlessly building an empire, being toadied to by subordinates and adopting a “Master of the Universe” (a la Thomas Wolfe) mentality is NOT a man likely to walk in another man’s (and certainly not woman’s) shoes.
And so we feel unsure, frightened, and vulnerable. We fear we are going to be seen once again as not worth what others are worth. But we have to remember that what is true in our personal lives also applies to our community lives – no one can make us feel worthless, unless we let them. We are not going to let him, or them. Defending ourselves and our communities from the Trumpian onslaught may well be our new priority. We dress in black and mourn today... but tomorrow we come roaring back, in vivid color.