The scars of the 2016 presidential election will take a while to feel less tender and fade; right now they still hurt. During the summer, there was a lot of animosity on both sides leading up to the general, as well as a lot of backlash to anyone who wanted to vote third party. Or at least for anyone not one of the major two party candidates. Social media of all types was not a friendly place for a good 6 months. You post one meme or a photo and suddenly the comments become the Delta House food fight via the Algonquin Round Table. One meme I posted I actually didn’t get a lot of flack for, but it helped me talk to my now 14 year old daughter about the election.

This was one of those Harry Potter based memes saying “this is what our election is like” and displaying two of the Potter world characters. Usually it was Dolores Umbridge as a stand in for Clinton, and Voldemort for Trump; however this time it was Umbridge and Gilderoy Lockhart. I thought it was cute, but I knew my daughter would love it. She’s read all the Potter books and she can explain all the differences between the books and the movies to me (I never got into the books, but I like the movies). I showed the meme to here and broke out laughing, even more so than me.

“That’s so perfect,” she said. “Lockhart is kind of a blowhard who only thinks of himself, so that’s perfect for Trump.” Then she looked at me a bit quizically, and asked “How Clinton is like Umbridge again?”

I had to think about this for a minute. I know that Umbridge is hated in the Potterverse for good reason, and there are enough parallels to Clinton to make it awkward for me to watch “Order of the Phoenix” any time it came on. Translating what I knew about Clinton to the Potterverse is ticky, but I knew enough to try and explain it via the films.

“Remember how Umbridge was completely unwavering in her belief in what she was doing was right, even though the students and us viewers knew she was completely wrong? Well that’s how she’s like Clinton. They are very forceful advocates of what they think is right, even when it is wrong, and even to the point of being unable to admit it’s wrong.” She totally understood that when I explained it.

The main attack by Hillary supporters about why us progressives don’t support Hillary was sexism. Unfortunately this ignores the fact that many of us were hoping for a Elizabeth Warren run and after Bernie bowed out, many switched to Jill Stein. My issues wit Hillary Clinton, while often about political leanings (third-way democrats have always been far too conservative for my sensibilities), have always been policy based. Using Umbridge to explain Clinton makes it easier to explain. Hillary has always been a smart and fierce advocate for what she believes and champions, which is good if she’s on the right side of an issue; but when she is on the wrong side of an issue—like the Iraq war, the toppling of Libya’s government, the various trade agreements including the TPP, and not speaking out on behalf of activists like Black Lives Matter or the DAPL water protectors—she is a tough opponent, a great asset to the opposition, and makes the activist’s job twice as hard. And much like how Umbridge can do it with a smile makes that all the more frustrating.

Earlier in the year, a friend of mine wrote two very heartfelt essays about her daughter and Hillary Clinton. One was how she wanted her daughter to hear the words “Madam President” and now was the time; the other was a plead asking how can she explain to her daughter what would it mean for her if Trump won the presidency. I don’t have an answer for her daughter except offering up what I told my daughter at different times in the year. I told my daughter I wouldn’t be voting for Hillary, even after Bernie Sanders lost the primaries, because as much as it is important to have a woman in the office of President, it is equally important to have a woman who has the history to back up her own convictions, and is on the right side of an issue more often than not. Yes I voted for Jill Stein in 2016. I am not ashamed of that vote, but I am sorry more people didn’t follow that example. And no, I’m not the reason Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump: I’m not one of the 46% or voters who left the presidential candidate blank; they cost the election for her. I am almost 48, work part-time, am still using food stamps to survive with my daughter, and the only thing I have to leave her if ever I should go are my values. That’s the only thing I currency I have in my life to fall back on and I’ll be damned if I can’t give that to my only child. If I give up my values I have nothing else. I’m sure I will feel the wrath of friends and trolls alike for this, but I will vote my values whenever given that choice.

When Trump won in the late morning hours of the day after the election, I told my daughter that no we won’t need to move to Canada, we’ll be fine and we’ll do our best to fight. Oddly, I still take comfort in words Dumbledore said at the end of another movie—“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”: “There will be a time when we must choose between what is right and what is easy.” I know I chose right for both me and my daughter.

A New Bernie Sanders Pledge

December 30, 2015

Okay Bernie Sanders supporters, we’re coming to a crossroad in the campaign. We’re about 40-plus days away from the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, both of which seem to be key to his White House campaign. We know that Sanders’ support is growing in size and breadth, and his momentum is steadily forward; however the media blackout against him continues and only further misleads the public. After every Democratic debate so far, each internet snap poll of viewers (which aren’t scientifically accurate) showed that they thought Sanders won each debate in overwhelming numbers (80% and over). Yet when TV news analysts were asked who won, each time they said Hillary Clinton won overall. Despite having NO SuperPAC support, Sanders has nearly matched Clinton in fundraising efforts thanks to having a history making two million individual donors in the fastest time period. Still Sanders is getting pushed out of the spotlight by Clinton and Donald Trump, and any other news event that doesn’t deal with politics. But Sanders hangs on in national polls, diminishing Clinton’s lead and polling better than any GOP candidate. He holds on, but soon holding on will not be good enough, Soon we will be tallying votes in caucuses and primaries, and if Sanders can’t come out on top in the early primaries, the campaign will be over. I know there is the growing pledge of Sanders’ supporters to write-in Sanders’ name in the general election if he doesn’t become the Democratic nominee. I’d rather talk about a different pledge: to make sure Sanders IS the nominee period.

If we really want to take back our democracy (née transform our American oligarchy back into a representative democracy), we NEED to vote for Sanders in every primary and caucus leading up to the national convention. If every person who donated to the Sanders campaign or clicked his name in the post debate polls voted in the upcoming primaries, he will win the primaries and get the nomination for president. No need to split the parties in November or write his name in; we can vote him into office proudly and faithfully. I understand the principle behind wanting to vote Sanders and only Sanders for president; what I’m saying is wee need to concentrate on February before November. Sanders can be the nominee if we first put our votes where our hearts are.

We need to have a new pledge: if you’ve donated to Sanders’ campaign, posted memes on Facebook, retweeted his comments, if you really think his voice in office would best serve the American people, pledge to vote for Sanders in your state primary or caucus. Find out what date your state primary is here and plan to vote. We can always revolt if things are rigged afterwards, but right now Sanders will be the nominee if everyone who says they support him vote for him in the primaries. He not only needs our pledge to vote for him, he needs our vote. Give it to him when the primaries come up.

Standing Up to Fascism

November 28, 2015

In January 1992, I had the honor of hearing Elie Wiesel speak at my undergraduate commencement ceremony at Hunter College. It was thrilling to hear him speak and I know most of what he said got lost in the moment of seeing Wiesel 20 feet away, but one thing he said rang so true it stuck with me all these years: ignorance is a form of fascism and it must be countered at every turn. I think he later changed it to “indifference” especially in a speech in front of then President Bill Clinton. In front of Clinton, Wiesel spoke of indifference as a state—“a strange and unnatural state in which the lines blur between light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil… Yet, for the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbor are of no consequence. And, therefore, their lives are meaningless. Their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the other to an abstraction.” (Wiesel “The Perrils of Indifference” 4/12/99) To me if indifference is a state, ignorance is a willful act; consideration of people as of no consequence and meaningless is now a conscious act. When you look at the tenets of fascism itself, the verb “disdain” appears often which means there is a conscious decision about intellectuals or human rights. Because of this, and after holding back for the last week, I cannot stay silent anymore about the Trump Presidential campaign, the GOP non-reaction to it, and the pitch of rage taking over our country.

We see and know how Trump acts on the campaign trail: he’s a malignant narcissist bragging he can “make America great again” if elected. He started his campaign saying the Mexican immigrants are rapists and killers, and has now called for a database of all Muslims in America. He demeans all of his opponents and anyone who criticizes him publicly. He’s seems to be going through the 14 characteristics of fascism pretty quickly and for him there seems to be little going back—at least no apologies for his statements or actions, another way to maintain strength and power. And even with all of that, he’s only down 14 points but still leading the pack, and that is the scariest part of all of this.

It seems no matter what Trump says, his supporters eat it up and he stays on top of the GOP polls. His fans and base keep coming back for more and worse. In Boston, two Trump supporters assaulted a man they thought was a Mexican immigrant. Earlier in the summer when Univision journalist Jorge Ramos tried to confront Trump on his immigration stance—force all 11 milliion Latino immigrants out and build a wall bodering Mexico—he was thrown out of the room by Trump’s bodyguards who told him to “get out of my country.” And last week, a Black Lives Matters protestor was beaten up at a Trump rally before being removed. In each instance, Trump stood up for his supporters/assailants and later further escallated his rhetoric about making America great. This is what can no longer be tolerated.

What made America great is that we are a place where we can have civil discourse that doesn’t lead to violence. We have serious issues with supremacy and racism/sexism/etc., but not every political discussion must lead to demonizing others and violently disagreeing. Now it is more commonplace and worse it is spurred on ,or at least sanctioned, by those who are vying for the top leader position in the country. Some conservative critics have finally started to call Trump’s actions fascist and only presidential candidate John Kasich has been hounding his actions and positions as eventually leading to fascism. One would hope that can solve things but I doubt it. Over he last 8 years, the GOP has made it acceptable to openly spurn a top leader for doing his job, resort to name calling and denigrating them as an “other” unworthy of such a position. We in the public have not pushed back enough maybe out of our own belief that we would never go down the route of totalitarianism or uprising. But now we are partway down that slope and facing people who are unapologetic in their rancor towards anyone who disagrees with them. This is where we have o stand up and say no more. Our indifference is on the verge of becoming willful ignorance and there is no going back from there.

If you are a supporter of Trump, please reconsider. He has promised nothing except a vision with his own ego in charge and no other way but violent means to get there. If he is spurring violence towards reporters and people who have the constitutional right to speak up for matters thay believe in, he is not fit to be a leader and you need not follow him. The “throw the bums out” mentality has taken a dark turn and the actions of others has shown this. Making America great again only happens if we have great Americans upholding our values; right now Trump and his followers are displaying the worst of us. We need to be better than Mr. Trump (which isn’t hard) and we need to not fall for pie in the sky promises that have no hope of fruition and all the markings of ruining who we are as a nation.

We know Trump will never apologize for his actions or who he is, but we can make sure that he never gets to office he seeks. We can also make sure that whenever the brand of Trump is uttered, it brings to mind fascism in bad hair. The best punnishment for Trump is not only losing the nomination, but to lose his businesses and fall into obscurity like some discarded misguided philosophy we never needed. It would be the best thing to happen to him and America.