We returned home from an extended trip a couple weeks ago to find mouse turds scattered across our counters and a big sickly-looking turd headed for the White House. We were gone for 20 days, having buttoned up the yurt and flown to Italy just four days after Trump’s election. After that storm of an election, the trip to Italy felt like a good retreat — healthy or not, maybe escape is more accurate — from the impending reality of Trump Country. The time abroad, away from U.S. news and immersed in a foreign country and culture and global perspective, allowed us time to reflect on what Trump’s election might mean for us — relatively privileged white folks living intentionally, or trying to, off grid in a Bernie-all-the-way, out-of-the-way state.
There’s already been a lot of good writing that articulates what we might expect, what’s at stake, and possible responses to this new abnormal. Though it feels a bit late, it’s good to see the NYT and Slate and other outlets stepping up to the plate. It feels like we’re off the map now in uncharted, There Be Dragons territory, but we do know there are some fundamental facts to face.
Facts We Can’t Avoid About a Trump Presidency
While trying to avoid hyperbolic, overly dramatic language here, there are some truths that must be reckoned with.
- Trump won this election fair and square in the weird, outdated, rurally skewed system we’ve all passively accepted to this point. The Electoral College and our system of representation favors rural, conservative communities of voters.
- The economy is at risk. Economists agree that Trump’s anti-trade, protectionist positions and proposed tax plans threaten the U.S. economy and especially the middle class. Not to mention the number of Wall Street and Goldman Sachs executives being presented for positions of power.
- The environment is more vulnerable than ever. Trump maintains climate change is a “hoax” and has appointed as head of the EPA a man who denies climate change and is very friendly with the coal and fossil fuel industries.
- Racism, discrimination, and violence against fellow citizens loom large. Harassment and violent acts were well documented in the days following the election, and will likely continue. A white nationalist convention was held with fanfare in D.C., and many voters expect race relations to worsen under Trump.
- Healthcare access is likely to be rolled back. Trump’s position, and of course a high-priority item for the Republican legislature, is repealing the ACA; and the appointment of Tom Price as HHS secretary underscores the prioritization of this. This, of course, would punish the working class.
These umbrellas include many of the major issues at stake, but of course there are many more issues that overlap and extend beyond these notes, including foreign relations, immigration, gender issues, reproductive rights, wage issues, and on and on. Fundamentally, a Trump presidency is likely to impact (negatively, from our perspective) many gains that have been made in the last several decades.
How to Respond to a Trump Presidency
Everyone will have different priorities and issues that matter most to them. That’s fine and we should direct our energies accordingly. But, to state the obvious, we also need to remember, as we prioritize, that we don’t live in this world alone and our interests shouldn’t be all we care about.
In his recent book on utopian movements in America, Erik Reece suggests that utopian communities can be mapped along two spectrums, which together form two perpendicular axes: first, from Solitude to Solidarity; and second, from Escape to Reconstruction. The first axis describes solitude at one end (think Thoreau at Walden Pond) and solidarity at the other (i.e., an emphasis on building healthy, productive community). The second axis places escape at one end (dropping out of the mainstream and not looking back) and reconstruction at the other (i.e., forming a community that through its actions seeks to remake the larger society).
I think these two axes are useful in thinking about how to respond to Trump and his administration. I think now, more than ever, we need to live intentionally with an emphasis on Reconstruction and Solidarity. My natural impulse is to retreat — to escape into solitude (with Annie and the dogs, of course). But we need to maintain a larger vision now with so much at stake. Fundamentally, other people’s lives (physically and economically) and our environment are under threat.
Ways Forward and Actions to Take
- Push for revision of the Electoral College. It’s basically impossible to abolish it, but we can make it align with the popular vote. Already many states have put forward legislation on this.
- Support local economies. Buy products and food from our own communities. By bolstering local economies, we protect ourselves from the swings and busts of the global economy; we support our neighbors; and we reduce impact on the environment.
- Support companies that step up on environmental issues. Vote with dollars, as they say.
- Build community. Know your neighbors. Have your neighbors’ backs. And, you know, love your neighbors and all that jazz.
- Contribute to organizations that do good, necessary work. Donate to national organizations like Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU, and also locally based organizations in our own communities. (Shoutout to Taylor for directing us in VT to Food Connects.)
- Remember this is our country. Not Trump’s. Take action where we can. The citizens at Standing Rock have and continue to set a great example as we enter this presidency.
In addition to the turds, when we came home to the yurt we also found that the mouse had stashed peanuts under our pillows in the bed. No poo there, just a stockpile of salted and roasted goodies. (Don’t poop where you eat, etc.) We don’t know what America will look like with a Trump administration. But stashing food is probably not a bad idea.
– Kevin & Annie & Henry & Holly