A Journal from Trumpland: But what can we do?
By Laure Murat—February 22, 2017
A professor in Los Angeles, this historian has been organizing against the U.S. president for four months. She notes seven different ways to resist, or at least oppose, Trumpism.
“But what can we do?” I hear this question several times a day, in the street, on campus, from the mouths of students, friends, acquaintances, academics, who feel the urgent need to make themselves useful and to find an effective way to fight against Trumpism. The first to have asked this question was the journalist Rachel Maddow while interviewing Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachussets, the day after the election. The senator responded: “Well, for example, devote a few hours of your day at Planned Parenthood.” What she meant was: do things that are simple, achievable, and ordinary. Because all of these actions count.
1) Support journalism
January 25. I run into my friend Kaya, an IT specialist, on campus. Kaya is Turkish. He tells me: “Yesterday, we had a meeting of all of the employees and everyone asked: “But what can we do?” I told them: “Buy newspapers.” In Turkey, we saw how it happened. Erdogan denigrated the media, really hammered them, waited until the readership dipped, then bought them all. The result: there is no longer an independent press in Turkey, except one opposition paper that barely survives. So let’s support newspapers, let’s subscribe, let’s contribute to the independence of the press.” The same day, Steven Bannon declares that the media should “keep its mouth shut” since it neither understood, nor predicted the election. And he adds: “You’re the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.” On February 16, Trump turns it up a notch with a tweet denouncing the media as “the enemy of the American people.”
The phenomenal success of the “Women’s March” on January 21 stamped it as an important movement to support, without letting up.
January 27. Donald Trump signs the executive order prohibiting the entry of citizens from seven Muslim countries, provoking panic and chaos across the country. By the following morning, thousands of people were protesting in airports, from New York to Los Angeles. Sally Yates, interim Deputy Attorney General, decides to oppose the application of the ban, the legality of which she questioned. She is fired by January 30. Those who remain confident in the checks and balances of the U.S. democratic system start to have doubts. On February 9, hope resurges with the decision by the court of appeals to forbid the application of the order.
January 28. Brief meeting with Laurie Anderson, the iconic author of O Superman and Only an Expert. “But what can we do?” she asks. I tell her Kaya’s story about the newspapers. As for her, she would protest in front of the apartment of New York Senator Chuck Schumer, shouting “what the fuck, Chuck?” to demand that he be more resolute in his opposition to Trump. Conclusion: anything we can do, it must be done. Everyday.
Fiscal disobedience and economic boycott: the sinews of war?
January 25. Donald Trump signs an executive order threatening to block federal funding from states that are home to “sanctuary cities” (which protect immigrants). California immediately responded by threatening to not pay its taxes, which are crucial for the federal government.
January 28. Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber and a Trump supporter, decides to suspend “surge pricing” for all journeys to and from airports, where taxis are on strike in protest of the Muslim ban. As of February 3, 200 thousand users have deleted their Uber accounts. Most then turn to Lyft, who had just, opportunely, pledged to donate $1 million to the very powerful ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). Travis Kalanick might well apologize and resign from the economic advisory council on which he was supposed to sit at the behest of the Trump administration, but to no avail.
4) Call your representatives
January 29. Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, opens a telephone line for Americans to leave their complaints and criticisms of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, on an automatic answering machine. Thanks to social media which relayed the information, a call goes out to inundate the answering machine with arguments in favor of keeping Obamacare…
February 6. A friend shows me a new app, Indivisible, which published a guide explaining all of the means by which citizens can contact their representatives—given that a Congressperson’s only real concern is, generally speaking, to assure his or her reelection.
5) Sign petitions
The moment the Muslim ban was published, dozens of petitions began circulating. Academics wrote their own, which garnered 43 thousand signatures, 31 thousand of which reside in the United States. Among the signatures, you’ll find the names of 62 Nobel Prize winners.
6) Get creative with “digital activism”
February 15. A group of professors at UCLA launch “We Stand with Our Students” (https://westandwithourstudents.org/), an informational site for all students affected by the ban. A veritable “toolbox” for learning your rights, offering resources and allies to students all over the country.
7) Reflect on the situation
January 28. A Night of Philosophy & Ideas (“la Nuit des idées”) in New York, a “marathon of ideas” organized by the French Embassy at the Brooklyn Library. Between 7pm and 7am, dozens of thinkers and philosophers expand on a topic and discuss with the public. By 6:30pm, hundreds of people are waiting in line in the cold. More than seven thousand visitors would attend the event, opened by a talk by Achille Mbembe on a society marked by a “negative messianism.” Not once did the historian name Trump. It wasn’t necessary.
February 15. Judith Butler accepts at the last minute to give a talk at UCLA, at the invitation of our group named Rave (Resistance Against Violence through Education). Title of her lecture: “This is what resistance looks like,” in which she tackles, among other things, the difference between opposition and resistance, in front of a full and overheated house. The video recording of her talk will soon be available on our website.
Published in Libération, Wednesday, February 22, 2017. Translated from the French by Elizabeth M. Collins.