International Policy Digest

White House
Politics /20 Jan 2017
01.20.17

Return of the Jedi as the Result of the Empire Striking Back

Our elected officials should represent, not only the citizens, but the spirit that the country presents to the world. That is why I was so disappointed by the results of the recent election, not because it didn’t represent who we are, but because it did. There is clearly a faction in America who are xenophobic, unsophisticated militaristic bullies and because this is embarrassing we want to pretend they don’t exist. The problem with that is that you never solve a problem by ignoring it.

My initial reaction to the election result was to curl up on the couch and suck my thumb. I put on a VR headset, perfected my golf game and forgot that I am a part of this culture, this country and the human race for that matter. But having recently learned how to better deal with depression, I pivoted my focus to the tremendous amount of counterforce that Trump has already created.

What I began to understand as I became retrospective is that, although we want responsible, evolved and representative governments, the greatest strides in civil rights and social evolution have come as movements by the people and not by governments. And those advancements tend to happen during times when the government tries to restrict rights and when economies don’t benefit the larger population. It’s unfortunate that it must come to that, but so far, humans have shown little ability to maturely organize a civilization that reflects respect and values without force.

And the beauty of Trump is that his violations are continuous, vocal, clumsy and easy to identify. Previous leaders have cloaked their actions and obfuscated their intentions, making the need for counterforce less obvious. But Trump’s Twitter rants and lack of a filter allow people to clearly see the threat he poses and has motivated the public to organize into large groups to circumvent his efforts. In fact, before Trump has even taken the oath of office organizations like Indivisible, which is a practical guide to resisting Trump, has rapidly gained popularity as people worry that their rights, healthcare and environment are under siege.

Lawyers are salivating knowing that threats to the commons create opportunities to litigate. Although lawyers are often portrayed as predators, they can serve an important role in keeping business from encroaching on the collective commons. Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA leaves the organization feckless but, at the same time it illuminates the need for the general public and lawyers to defend our environment. But we’ve seen this work before with the BP oil spill in the gulf as well as spotted owl lawsuits in the Northwest timberlands, Erin Brockovich’s case against PG&E and the current water catastrophe in Flint Michigan. It took activism and lawyers to curb the misdeeds of polluting corporations, not the EPA.

Again, I’m not saying that we should choose irresponsible government. Hopefully humans will evolve and opt for responsible governance someday. But in the wake of greed and democratic havoc, there is a silver lining. And that silver lining is a more engaged citizenry. This is actually more important, because when we the citizens collectively speak up, we wield the power. It is only when we are seduced into complacency and silence that our liberties become truly threatened.

After 9/11 then President George W. Bush told Americans to go shopping and basically, we did. During that time we were stripped of important privacy rights and we easily rationalized domestic spying. But with Trump, he activates us because he is such a divisive person. For that, we should be thankful.