Friday, January 27, 2017

Orwell's not our go-to guy

One week into the new regime ruling the US, resistance is mounting on all fronts (even in, of all unexpected places, every rank of the Democratic Party), as the PotUS has signed a flurry of obnoxious and inadequately thought-out executive orders, fired the four senior career officials managing the State Department, censored and harrowed employees of the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, and made a series of wild, incoherent tweets and speeches.  (Among other things, of course. My list is in no way comprehensive.) Added to that, a lot of people are becoming preoccupied with rumors circulating furiously about how many top Republicans and West Wing staffers are voicing concern about the PotUS's sanity with reference to the Twenty-fifth Amendment (presumably with special reference to Section 4, which makes provision for the removal of the president should they be found unfit to carry out their duties). I agree, of course, that it's scary to think about the VP's taking over: we know a lot about his place on the ideological spectrum, and we can't help but suspect that Washington insiders would be so relieved to have him replace the sitting PotUS that he'd likely enjoy the proverbial "honeymoon" with both the press and Congress that the sitting PotUS has done his best to sabotage. But let me point out: this all just speculation. Even if the top Republicans manage to make the VP the US's commander-in-chief, we'll need to go on as we've begun. Make no mistake, because he would be disciplined and methodical, the VP would probably actually be worse

And how is it we've begun? With resistance and the organizing of resistance. To quote Rebecca Solnit's report on the first week in the Guardian:

 The word resistance is everywhere. Former labor secretary Robert Reich gives a daily address on Facebook Live called the Resistance Report. The group, which represents Asian and Pacific islanders in the US, has launched a “100 Days of Resistance” campaign. The Working Families party reports that on Tuesday more than 10,000 people went to congressional offices to protest against Trump. Climate and human rights groups launched to link human rights, racial and environmental justice. Greenpeace hung a gigantic banner off a crane next to the White House: it said “Resist”. Organizers tell me that hordes of people who have never been active before are looking for ways to plug in. People whose immigration status, religion or healthcare needs mean they may be directly threatened are terrified, and in many cases mobilized.
For me, the picture of the US today is one of dawning hope. Congress has been chipping away at us for years, doing incremental damage that many people either did not recognize or simply stomached in silence. The sitting PotUS, in all his unhinged, ill-informed, self-deceiving outbursts, puts a single face on the demand for privilege in all its possible manifestations, visible as it's never been visible before. Maybe 34% of the US public is in accord with his sentiments, but that's as much support as he's going to get. The rest of us know we don't want to live in his reality. I hear that Orwell's 1984 is selling like hotcakes. May I suggest a more heartening choice of reading, one that refuses despair and has a more realistic view of change and possibility? Rebecca Solnit wrote Hope in the Dark back in the chill, gray days following the 2004 election. In it she notes how quickly resistance to power is forgotten, how insistently power crafts narratives that obliterate how often and significantly resistance brings about change. Change begins first in the imagination. And I don't mean in Orwell's imagination, either.

1 comment:

Gary Farber said...

I think Orwell's warnings remain extremely valuable and timely even though they don't provide a road map of resistance.