“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities becomes irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.” – Elie Wiesel, 1986 acceptance speech of the Nobel Peace Prize.
This has not been a normal election, a pitched debate between different visions of the role of government, abortion and gay rights, and the other customary issues that divide Democrats and Republicans. Those differences I can accept, to a point. But what I cannot accept–what I will NEVER accept–is a man who won, not on policy, but rather on all the building blocks of a fascist regime: scapegoating minorities, inciting hatred and violence, promising mass deportations. A man whose victory has been hailed by white supremacists. A man who has promised to hand the keys of the kingdom to the coal and oil and gas industry, to cut taxes for the wealthy and the powerful, to jail his opponents. A man who has admitted to raping women. A man whose insecurities and likely mental illness make it impossible to predict what he will do.
Let there be no doubt that what the American people just did is a terrifying and disgusting thing. I have family members who were jailed by brutal regimes for being Jewish. And just like Hitler and Mussolini and countless other dictators before him, Trump won through legal means. And just like in the dark days of the early 20th century, those who refused to oppose him did so because they thought that they could control him, that he would “pivot,” that he never actually meant what he said. Let me be clear: I take him exactly at his word.
These are dangerous times, times where we cannot afford to be silent bystanders. In these times there are only two types of people: those who are complicit in fascism, and those who relentlessly oppose it. There is no middle ground; to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, “There comes a point where silence becomes betrayal.” This is that point. There is no pretending that things are fine, that we can just go about our daily lives, that perhaps the lesser of two evils lost but the political system is corrupt and it didn’t really matter who won. It matters: this is a matter of life and death.
We cannot be so naive as to rationalize what has happened, to normalize the brutalization of women, the disdain for minorities and the rule of law. The man who won this election (and I am loathe to even say his name) is a hollow man, an empty man, a con man–in short, the most vile and despicable and dangerous of men. We’ve all heard the quote about Nazi Germany, that first they came after the Jews, and no one did anything because they were not Jews; then they came after gays and lesbians, and no one did anything because they were not gay or lesbian; then they came after the Gypsies, and they did nothing for the same reason; and then the Nazis came after them, and there was no one left to help. In these dark, dark days, I vow to relentlessly and mercilessly oppose fascism. I will go to jail, I will put my life at risk, I will go without food and sleep and comfort–anything and everything to protect people and the planet. For not only are the rights of the powerless and the vulnerable at risk, but so too is the future of our climate, the stability of the world, the civil liberties that citizens of this country have come to take for granted.
Unfortunately, the more I think about it, the less surprised I am that hatred has won the day. This is a country founded by slaveowners who declared that all men are created equal. This is a country that fought the Nazis while at the same time interning hundreds of thousands of Japanese and denying basic human rights to millions of African Americans. This is a country that opposed communism because of the police state it entailed while at the same time allowing McCarthy and his ilk to flout the law and attack those who dared to speak out against their actions. This is a country that lectures the world about human rights despite having 25% of the global prison population, despite engaging in torture and illegal detention at Guantánamo Bay, despite supporting murderous regimes from Saudi Arabia to Egypt to Bahrain and beyond. And this is a country that does all this without any sense of the brutal hypocrisy involved.
Today everything has changed. Today nothing has changed. No matter the outcome, there could be no denying that nearly 60 million Americans were likely to vote for hate (and don’t tell me you aren’t a racist if you voted for Trump; you know exactly what he stands for–there is no excuse and no justification). Our work is cut out for us. Silence is betrayal. Over the next weeks and months I will be strategizing specific, nonviolent actions we can take. Will you join me, support me, follow me, guide me, lead me, help me? I need you, we all need you–people of conscience and good will–more than ever.
Some of my other posts on the election: