He is coming for us if we don’t go after him

TEXT: Ebby Abramson
FOTO: Arkiv

I had not anticipated that I would ever again feel as deadened, withdrawn, and disappointed as I did after my grandfather passed away. Yet that hope was a failure of my own imagination – I was completely wrong. We were all wrong when we assumed that Donald Trump would not become the next President of the United States.

I was in Milan when the news came out. Walking down the street, I found myself surrounded by giant buildings erected during the rule of Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini, and could not help but be reminded of Trump’s ugly New York City towers and his proposed border wall. I couldn’t stop thinking about Hannah Arendt’s warning that the world’s greatest atrocities are not merely the result of leaders misusing their power, but also of average citizens who remain silent and go on about their business as usual: “we have hardly the time, let alone the inclination, to stop and think.” Well, that at least explained the minimal voter turnout in this election.

After my return to the US, as Tuesday’s aftermath has begun to set in—and as an explicitly bigoted, Islamophobic, anti-Semite white supremacist has been named as Trump’s “Chief Strategist”—two camps are beginning to surface: a resistance camp and an empathy camp.

The resistance camp argues that we must initiate and rally behind a movement that will obstruct the person who will soon take the most powerful office in the world. His supporters likewise must also be the object of that resistance, since their approval of Trump’s fascist, nationalist rhetoric implies consent of that rhetoric. 

In the empathy camp, on the other hand, people argue that we have to give him a chance, and that what he said was meant only to mobilize people. However, history shows us something quite different: on November 11, 1922, The New York Times published an article about Adolf Hitler which catastrophically misjudged the authenticity of his anti-Semitism:  But several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic, and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.

Most in this camp obsess over the question of why, and argue that we must do our best to understand the motivations of those who voted for Trump: some argue that it was James Comey’s interventions that changed the result of the election; some argue that WikiLeaks and Russia were behind it; and many, including some close friends and colleagues, believe that economic disparity and the increasingly precarious position of white identity led to Trump’s presidency.

Does it matter now? I don’t think so.

As people start to move on, arguing that politics must continue as usual and we should begin preparing for the next election as soon as possible, what I find extremely dangerous is that this approach risks the normalization of what has certainly not been politics as usual. A know-nothing demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, and a liar is becoming the president of the country, and that is not even the worst part: Trump’s successful candidacy has opened the floodgates on an unimaginable kind of sewage. In my own institution of The New School—originally the University in Exile, the academic home given to scholars threatened by the Nazi rise to power in 1933—swastikas were discovered on the doors of four dorm rooms. There have been similar incidents across the US in the wake of this election. Most cases appear to involve graffiti or violence directed at racial or ethnic minorities. African Americans and Muslims in particular have reported a dramatic rise in racist harassment since Trump’s election. At the University of Pennsylvania, students were added to a chat group where users with names like “Daddy Trump” sent them racial and sexist slurs, along with an invitation to an event called “Daily Lynching.” Anonymous users also called the students “dumb slaves” and sent a picture of a mass-lynching with the caption “I love America.”

In the aftermath of any disaster, damage reduction is of the most vital importance. Trump’s stance on climate change and his team’s discussion of a Muslim registration system are among the most worrisome of his plans, and those that will have the gravest consequences beyond both the US and the West. Right now, Trump is the only head of state in the free world who does not accept the scientific consensus that climate change is driven by humans. He has appointed Myron Ebell to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team. Ebell is a legendary science denier who believes that global warming is hoax and, in his own words, ”nothing to worry about.” We can expect him to bring Obama’s legacy on climate change to an end. 

The next four years are going to be hard. As humans, we have a responsibility to protect what has been achieved in the areas of climate change, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, etc. We must make sure that the banality of evil that has led to many heinous crimes in the past will not surface again. We like to think that the atrocities of the past cannot be repeated; yet with inaction we risk allowing a dangerous climate to intensify. In the past two years, and prior to last Tuesday’s elections, no one took the President-elect seriously, only literally. Now is the time to reverse this. If we fail, we may regret it for decades to come.

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The next four years are going to be hard. As humans, we have a responsibility to protect what has been achieved in the areas of climate change, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, etc. We must make sure that the banality of evil that has led to many heinous crimes in the past will not surface again

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FAKTARUTA

Ebby Abramson

Abramson is a research associate at The Oasis Projects at The New School in New York City. He is specialized in the impacts of counterterrorism policies on society at large.

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