|Amtrak Coast Starlight observation car (December 2016)|
Along with millions of people in cities around the world, I protested George W. Bush's Iraq invasion in San Francisco in 2003, media helicopters hanging overhead. On the Portland waterfront in 2011, I protested with Occupy against the 1%, a friend's baby strapped to my back. We legally and peacefully expressed our discontent. The media dutifully covered the protests as news. But nothing has changed: the rich are exponentially richer, the poor and middle-class even poorer, and soldiers and civilians (aka collateral damage) are still dying overseas. Like former-Occupy-co-founder-turned-Nehalem-resident Micah White, I feel disillusioned with protest marches.
So instead of protesting Trump's inauguration on Friday or marching in the rain with the pink pussies on Saturday, I went swimming. Protests seem mainly an outlet to blow off steam—a collective temper tantrum before we all go back to work (if we have jobs). And swimming, for me, worked just as well.
What we should have done on Friday and many more Fridays (and Mondays and Wednesdays)—those of us, at least, not in severe poverty—was go on strike from work (a hard thing to ask of poor people, admittedly, when there is no union backing you up) and do something other than consuming products—like joining a local group, reading a history book, playing an instrument, doing hobbies, or visiting friends and family. What history has shown is that the elites never grow scared until either their bank accounts are affected or their lives theoretically endangered by mobs with pitchforks and torches. Or as Aziz Ansari said on SNL the day after the inauguration, "Change doesn't come from presidents [but] large groups of angry people."
We, the people, are both the producers and the consumers. We are the economy. Without us, finance will fall. Financial elites like Trump desire to keep us distracted and divided amongst ourselves because that way they can keep acquiring and hoarding all the money. But if we continue divided beyond all fair proportion between the 99% and the 1%, the republic may fall. It is an ominous sign that the U.S. has been downgraded to a "flawed democracy" for the first time.
Trump, an effective salesman (of his own mythic self), has merely underscored the existing fault lines in American society between conservatives and progressives, between authoritarians and humanitarians, between the patriarchy and feminists. Yet if we look at the global picture, the clearest fault line is between those who believe white men should forever remain in charge (by way of a presumed natural order) versus those who believe in equal human rights. It's nearly impossible to view what's happening in European and American politics with the rise of far-right movements as anything but white patriarchy's last gasp: a brittle, angry refusal to relinquish global cultural power. As if at once, even more moderate conservative whites have realized the brown hordes are flooding North. Rural whites look around and fail to see the homogeneous towns and villages of their youth. This then, the white backlash, is the climax of post-colonial identity politics and increasing wealth disparity: a perfect political storm.
And yet this rise of the far-right may also give us hope—a candle to be lit during terrors ahead—because it is the beginning of the end of white power. The population numbers are against them (or us, rather). The white patriarchy will, of course, go down fighting, burning the planet down with them. Yet the future, if we survive as a species, is on the side of racial and gender equality. As science fiction has shown, the robots are the future, human consciousness evolved into AI. If we do not learn how to band together, white with brown and black, how will we ever fight our future electronic overlords?