Last week, we talked about narratives and resistance after Trump’s election. This week, we look at the cultural shift in America and the world that Americans want to build for themselves. Setting aside disputes over who lost and how, what does this victory mean?
‘This is How the World Ends‘ (Valeria Luiselli for Literary Hub)
Is America facing down the end of the world? What does it look like? Which stories will we tell, and how?
This ending begins probably with treaties that will not be signed, agreements that will not be respected, decrees that will be revoked. It begins, for example, with the annulment of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that President Obama announced in June 2012 through an Executive Action. The DACA protects youth from deportation, grants them temporary work permission, and guarantees some rights and benefits such as receiving state or private funding for university education. To be eligible, young migrants have to meet several requirements, such as being enrolled in school or having earned a high school degree, or being an honorably discharged veteran of the Armed Force, not having committed any crimes or misdemeanors, and having entered the US before the age of 16. This last criterion is of course the fundamental ethical argument in favor of granting DACA to undocumented migrants: if someone was under 16 years old when they migrated to the USA, they cannot be held accountable. In fact, testimonies of many current DACA-holders recount the same sad and frustrating story over and over again: the first time some learned they were “undocumented” was during their last year of high school, when they began their college applications and were asked for a Social Security Number—which of course they could not provide.
‘Theatre Professionals React to Hamilton, Pence, and Safe Spaces‘ (Alison Kinney for the Paris Review )
Last weekend, a bizarre spectacle unfolded on Twitter as the president-elect of the United States attempted to scold the cast of a wildly popular Broadway production for exercising their free speech rights in a direct commentary aimed at his running mate. Theatre, he said, should be a ‘safe space.’
We witnessed the absurd spectacle of an incoming administration that threatens every kind of safety for marginalized people, yet demands an antiharassment safe space. Of one elected leader’s turning his back on a diverse group of Americans politely requesting protection and dialogue, and another’s attacking them. Although these Hamilton tweets are possibly a ploy by Trump to distract attention from the Trump University settlement, his reaction to the Hamilton incident is important: it’s about weaponizing the discourse of civility and respectability against the people who stand to lose the most in the next four years.
‘Will Hillary Clinton’s Defeat Set Back Women in Politics?‘ (Clare Foran for The Atlantic)
Throughout her campaign, Secretary Clinton stressed that she was running in part for little girls across America who deserved to see a woman president, a prominent woman demonstrating that you can do whatever you set your mind to. What does the failure of her campaign mean for the future of American women?
Research from Christina Wolbrecht and David Campbell of the University of Notre Dame suggests that young women are more likely to express interest in political activism when they see other women running for office. In particular, that seems to be true if female candidates are characterized as trailblazers and if their races prompt political conversations at home. Clinton’s candidacy was both historic and high-profile. As a result, it might set off a series of events that could lead young women to deepen their engagement in politics.
‘Journalism and jiujitsu‘ (Joanne Leow for Catapult)
The realities of life under authoritarianism descend more quickly than you might think, becoming ubiquitous before you’re even aware that they’ve snuck up on you.
When you live in a police state it is not only that the actual police wield immense amounts of power. It is that everyone is a part of this state. Everyone polices.
‘The real concerns of the Trump administration‘ (Amy Davidson for the New Yorker)
In recent weeks, Americans have been forced to do a lot of soul-searching about a seemingly simple subject: What does it mean to be American? What kind of America do people want to build?
In terms of Trump’s own transition to office, there are indications that the arc of his character is more like a loop. His attacks on everyone from the NBC News reporter assigned to cover him to the cast of Hamilton are a repeat of his campaign behavior. He seems unwilling to view the Presidency as an office, which has defined limits, instead of as a new way to express his personal desires, which have none. This is reflected, too, in his supposed gestures of moderation. His waning interest in locking up Hillary Clinton, which he expressed in an interview with the Times last week (‘I don’t want to hurt the Clintons. I really don’t’), reveals a view of prosecution as something that a President can decide to unleash or withhold arbitrarily. In the same interview, Trump spoke in vague terms about keeping an ‘open mind’ on international climate-change accords, but he also expressed a distrust of climate scientists, echoing the conspiracy-minded attitude of his campaign.
If you enjoy our work, please consider supporting us with a one time or recurring donation. We believe in paying writers, and we rely on our readers to help us continue serving up interesting, dynamic, and engaging commentary every weekday. To make sure you don’t miss any of that commentary, you can subscribe to our newsletter below — and if you’re interested in writing for us, check out our contributor guidelines.
Photo: ThomasLife/Creative Commons