Waking Up to a Neo-Nazi Government

Like most, this month’s presidential election results took me by complete surprise. Coming to grips with it has been a textbook grieving process, with distinct phases for shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and more.

I’m starting to settle down into a place where I can think about the big picture of what’s going on. I’m still working on my personal plan for action, and will post more about it in the future (hold me to that, friends!)

Here is my outline of where we are now. This is a big picture, so I’m skipping over a lot of fine details, “gotchas,” and exceptions. It’s also completely possible I’ve missed some major parts. Forgive me if I have.

Neo-Nazis just won. Period.

  • 24% of voting-age Americans put them there and 45% took no action against them.

Neo-Nazi success depends on the passive inaction of privileged moderates.

  • It’s crucial to resist pressure to treat what is happening as normal.
    • Refuse pressure to use doublespeak language which masks the historical origins of what’s going on now
      • “Neo-nazi,” not “alt-right”
      • “Propaganda,” not “fake news”
      • “Lying,” not “post-truth”
      • “Theocracy,” not “religious freedom” (Actual religious freedom is an American value, but in its current use it is a euphemism for sanctioned discrimination in public life.)
    • Watch out for businesses rushing to normalize bigotry in an effort to avoid controversy or protect themselves from fascist reprisal.
    • Reject efforts to silence dissent because it’s “negativity” or “too political”
    • If you are not living in poverty, spend money to support quality journalism, which the Trump regime working to destro (with some success already).
      • This is the main thing they need to win future elections without an informed electorate.
      • This is not a luxury. Accurate information requires real investment. It’s worth a section of your budget.
  • White people have an obligation to use their privileged position to defend people of color and those whose status (sexuality, immigration, religion, gender, disability) makes them a Neo-Nazi target.
    • It’s never acceptable to be a bystander to hate, legal or not.
    • Progressive whites may be the most shocked group out there – or the least-equipped to deal with fascist rule.
      • Every group historically oppressed by White America has built systems to resist annihilation and support each other in a society that did not support their own existence.
      • Be respectfully deferential – these people are experienced leaders in fighting white oppression, and white allies are novices hoping to benefit from their experience.
      • Don’t bring the white power structure into the movement for equality.
    • Learn about intersectionality. Don’t treat one group’s struggle for equal treatment as more important than another, and don’t treat an individual as if one aspect of their identity defines them.
      • This outline focuses on white supremacy because that’s the central bloc which put Trump in power – Trump swept the white vote. But many groups are vulnerable under a Neo-Nazi regime.
    • You may be scared to put yourself in danger while defending the vulnerable. Remember that a country is only as free as its most oppressed residents. If you don’t take risks in protecting them, you are participating in a system that feeds off of them.

Neo-Nazis now control the most advanced spying apparatus ever.

  • Making people afraid to speak in public and in private is a key weapon of autocracy.
  • Security is not an app you install or a state you reach. It must be an ongoing conscious effort to evaluate your own threat profile and the measures you take to protect yourself and those you communicate with. It can’t wait. You must always take the time for proper security. Read up on the EFF’s guides to surveillance self-defense.
  • Stay updated with the EFF’s coverage of which tech companies are protecting their users. Any company that hasn’t made user security a top priority will become a key fascist weapon.

When they go low, we go high.

  • America’s Neo-Nazi movement is cribbing from an autocratic playbook already seen across the globe.
    • It depends on accusing adversaries of the very same corrupt tactics being employed by the accuser.
    • It’s also extremely good at turning the opposition’s anger into an advantage. The more they can make us hate them, the better.
  • Now, more than ever, we must hold true to (and loudly stand up for) American ideals. We can’t simply defend the country from fascism — it’s on us to create a more equitable, inclusive, and free nation. There is nobody else who can build it for us.
  • How will you act to create a better country today? This is only a picture of where we are now. Carrying on with daily life is not an option. Don’t be a bystander in annex-Nazi regime.
  • We must remain above reproach.
    • Be peaceful. Fascist states want nothing more than to turn their opposition into terrorists. It keeps them in power.
    • Love, forgive, and de-escalate tensions. Never give in to hate, both from others and from within.
      • This doesn’t mean you have to tolerate intolerant rhetoric. Bigots manipulate that indulgence to further their agenda. It means we can’t counter hate with hate.
      • If we fail at this, we have not created a better country.



Why I’m #ReadyForHillary

This isn’t going to be a full-throated piece about how one politician will be the solution to all of America’s problems. It won’t convince you that any candidate is best on the issues, and it certainly won’t get you excited about another election year. But I’m to the point where I’ve weighed my thoughts on this and want to share them, because it’s a little different from the perspectives I’ve been hearing.

Here’s the short version: I really want Hillary Clinton to be the next President. Not because of her stances on the issues. Not because of how her campaign is going. It’s because Hillary Clinton is fucking presidential. I think she will be the best president in decades in terms of accomplishments that move the country forward.

“Hold up, Zeke. Didn’t you vocally oppose Hillary Clinton in 2008?”

Yep, and this was part of my path towards wanting her to win in 2016. I got excited about Barack Obama in 2006, before he formed the exploratory committee for his campaign. In short, he seemed like the most promising candidate for the presidency since John F. Kennedy. His campaign centered around a politics of common ground and bringing a fresh start to Washington. You don’t need to look farther than this blog to find plenty of fierce criticism of then-Senator Clinton’s campaign. I felt like Senator Clinton represented the status quo, and that she ran a campaign with all the usual ugly tactics while Senator Obama offered an inspiring campaign and a preferable platform.

“So what happened?”

Barack Obama won. The Republican party started its mission to obstruct President Obama above all else. But along with the presidency, Democrats held both houses of Congress for Obama’s first term. They made some major achievements they campaigned on; most significantly, the biggest improvement to healthcare in 50 years (albeit on the model that Hillary Clinton advocated in the 2008 primary – Obama originally preferred single-payer healthcare). But ultimately, Barack Obama’s campaign for hope fell far short of what many hoped for. I could write a whole piece about this, but for now I’ll just link to PolitiFact’s “Obameter” which tracks his campaign promises.

Throughout his presidency, I’ve had mixed feelings about Barack Obama’s legacy. In the last seven-plus years, America has in some ways become a better example of the ideals it strives to stand for, and in others, we’ve gotten worse. President Obama’s administration owns partial credit or blame for this, as does an obstructionist Republican Congress built on overtly racist gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics.

Since 2008, I’ve thought a lot about what makes an effective president. Only the hardest problems make it all the way to the president’s desk, and usually none of the options will match perfectly with the president’s ideals. I’ve studied each president since the Johnson administration with an eye for both their expressed ideals and their actual effectiveness during the presidency. We’ve had strong idealists from both parties, as well as plenty of pragmatic administrators. Ultimately I don’t think idealism or pragmatism determines a president’s effectiveness, but it has led me to believe that what’s said during a presidential campaign is an utterly poor predictor of how good a president will be. In shorter terms: I loved Barack Obama the campaigner, but it wasn’t enough to deliver on much of his vision.

“Enough about President Obama. Why Hillary Clinton?”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton turned me around. My bitterness about her primary rivalry with my preferred candidate was turned into a high opinion of how she represented the United States and addressed complex policy issues during a time of significant international upheaval.

As I studied other aspects of American history, especially Bill Clinton’s political history (which I did from a fairly neutral academic perspective), I learned more about Hillary Rodham, and her long history of work to improve conditions for all kinds of American families. She has always been a policy wonk and has a keen interest in finding a path to progress, especially through political obstacles. And since 1991, she’s been doing this on the national stage. In terms of knowing how to get things done in Washington, I can’t think of any person better than Hillary Clinton.

“Laaaaame, don’t you #FeelTheBern?”

I’m so glad Bernie Sanders is in this campaign. And he’s got a great platform. I just think Hillary Clinton will accomplish more for his cause than Bernie Sanders could if he won the presidency. I will vote for Sanders if he wins the nomination, and would love to look back at this post in eight years in embarrassment if it means his platform became reality. I just am more fired up about what Hillary Clinton has been accomplishing in positions of leadership for her whole life.

“You’ve got to be kidding. What about Clinton’s record on ______?”

I’ve disagreed with Hillary Clinton about plenty of things, big and small. But I agreed with campaign-Obama on almost everything, and now I find myself looking for qualities beyond just politicians’ positions on the issues or how well they’ve avoided controversy in the past. If Clinton wins, I’ll continue to participate in activism that challenges her on many fronts. Ultimately, I am more interested in effective governance than I am in politicians who I like most on paper.

In conclusion

This has been a frustrating election so far. I find myself disillusioned with the disconnect between what seems to matter in a campaign, and what actually brings progress in Washington. It means that I’ve been trying to tune most campaign coverage out. But since I started watching Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, and learning more about her history, I’ve been silently wondering just how much she could get done from the Oval Office. I’m excited by the prospect and really would love to see her there in 2017.

(Photo via US Embassy in New Zealand – cc-by-nd)

About That Greener Grass on the Other Side…

“The grass is always greener on the other side.”

We use this phrase like a knee-jerk reaction.  I think this casual overuse says something about how we approach our challenges – or rather, how we don’t approach them.

We start by finding ourselves looking over the fence, and noticing how much nicer things seem to be over there. There’s no shame in that itself; but once we find our own situation to be more lacking, what do we think next? We long to be in the yard on the other side of that fence – even though that grass would soon die if left under our own care.

But that lawn isn’t lush and green because it’s made of better stuff; It’s greener because of the way it’s being grown and cared for. So why do we resign ourselves to this fatalistic world where we’re always wanting what we don’t have, and therefore unhappy with the relative inferiority of what we have now?

The proper answer to “the grass is greener on the other side” isn’t always to cut your losses and buy the house with the greener grass. Most of the time, it should be to step your game up and start giving a damn about the lawn you’ve got. It might not become superior overnight, but that effort and pride of ownership is how truly bright things grow and stay beautiful for a long time.

It’s true that this isn’t always the case – sometimes, you have a house in the Arizona desert, and no matter what, the sun’s gonna burn your sod to a sodding crisp. The environment you’re growing in has a role to play, but it is not the decisive factor. Your resolve is.

This issue seems obvious today, as we find ourselves at the climax of an election cycle. Once again, the mainstream dialogue is dominated by fleeting appeals of, “are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Both major campaigns are basically running on their different answers to that question. This tendency was even more obvious for me to watch in 2009-10, when I lived in both Europe and the United States, and saw both throw out their incumbent majorities – one of them liberal, the other conservative – because they happened to be in charge during the onset of the financial crisis. Our whole decision making process is driven by reactions to events of immediate concern, and we care little about stepping outside the here-and-now to evaluate our own success or failure in how we’ve dealt with challenges in the past.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
– George Santayana

I wish that uncomfortable “this status quo sucks” feeling had a big, obvious indicator about the right course of action. Do I dislike the yard itself, or just its current state? To shed the yard analogy: am I feeling the desire to be better at what I’m doing, or will I be happier just doing something else? Maybe we’re doomed to deal with that conundrum at an instinctual level, like some kind of existential manifestation of a fight-or-flight response. But once we’re in that situation, we sure do tend to opt for flight – and beautiful lawns aren’t grown by jumping fences, but by fertilizing seeds.