In the aftermath of what I consider to be the most disastrous election of my life-time and one that poses the greatest threat to planet Earth (and I lived through Ronald Reagan and George Bush, from whom we have yet to recover), I am pondering contradictions.
Frankly, I, a long-time feminist, didn’t care if a woman was elected president or not, or, perhaps, is it fairer to say that Hillary Clinton failed to inspire me as woman or as a potential president. I voted for Clinton, in the end, because although she and her husband targeted wellfare mothers and greatly increased the prison population during his presidency and forever after, plus moved the Democratic Party to the Center-Right, where it remains, I felt I could count on Hillary Clinton not to be overtly racist now and certainly not sexist. I was moved by the prospect that a significant female presence in her administration would affect at least domestic policy in ways that would be increasingly humane.
Whether I could also count on Hillary Clinton not to start more foreign wars and not intensify those already in progress, whether I could count on her to become a staunch and effective advocate for clean energy and the speedy reduction of green gas emissions in order to keep our temperature rise below 1.5% Celsius, as agreed in Paris, were different questions. But, I believed that Hillary Clinton would be open to pressure from the grass roots and that ultimately, at least on climate, if not on US military aggression, she was the only sane choice.
I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary and there is evidence that had Sanders been the Democratic candidate, he might well have won the election by holding the Middle American states where white voters in droves selected Donald Trump over Clinton. There might then have been what I was hoping for: a down ballot sweep of the Senate and maybe even the House by Democrats, producing a Congress that could have enacted at least some of Bernie’s ideas to reduce income inequality around the nation, in my city, too, not only in the once-industrial middle states, and that would have worked hard with activists to expose and eliminate the systematic racism that plagues us.
Moreover, Bernie believes in Climate Change and he does not believe, as does Hillary, that fracked so-called natural gas is a effective “bridge fuel” to a green future.—and green is the only future we can have if we wish for a habitable planet. Bernie knows the best way to create meaningful, good jobs and to survive on an increasingly heating planet is to stimulate local green energy endeavors, worker controlled cooperative green businesses, infrastructure investments in clean-energy and green mass transit systems.
But once Bernie lost, I was still looking forward to a Clinton presidency, for an ex-President Obama to become a prestigious advocate for the environment and to effectively combat Climate Change because I believed he would use his strong public national and international influence on the most important issue facing humanity—our heating planet, our melting ice, our mass extinctions of creatures, and our growing climate refugee population.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”When Donald J. Trump was elected president, I walked my dogs through [Clinton Hill’s] streets quiet as the grave. I saw no one, heard nothing. Shock and grief were palpable. They still are.”[/perfectpullquote]
I was looking forward to mobilizing with our former President and with the Climate Change movement in a last ditch effort, because time is running out, to protect planet Earth as best we might. Hillary would have had to listen to us.Donald J. Trump is a climate change denier—whether he actually believes the factually unsupportable rhetoric he spouts (climate change is a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese, “the weather is always changing,” there is such a thing clean coal, and more fracking, drilling and building of pipelines is sound business) is not at issue.
He might know better, privately, but he is stacking his administration with climate deniers, oil men and others whose financial futures depend upon driving Earth to an unsustainable level of temperature rise that will cause the displacement and death of many millions, a sea level rise perhaps of 20 feet, and not in the distant future, but in the lifetime of our children.
Donald J. Trump’s election spells disaster for the planet just at the very moment all our energies have got to be spent lowering green house gas emissions and constructing energy alternatives.
Bernie Sanders lost his primary campaign bid for President in New York. He went down to defeat here, in my neighborhood of Clinton Hill. I am pondering the irony that politicians I admire and for whom I regularly vote (Tish James, Velmanette Montgomery, Hakeem Jeffries, Laurie Combo) backed Hillary Clinton, as the Democratic machine was doing, and encouraged their constituents to do so as well. Bernie Sanders, a non-practicing Jew, did not go into the black churches, as did Hillary Clinton, a Christian, to sing and preach on Sunday mornings. Bernie’s campaign did not find an effect way to reach out to the black community—though Bernie, himself, as a young man was an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement.
This weakness in Bernie’s campaign also helped propel us to a moment when a self-proclaimed racist (leader of the so-called “birther” movement, who called for the executions of the Central Park Five and has never apologized, who is likely to appoint Rudolf Guiliani as Attorney General) became the 45th President of a republic whose great wealth as a nation has been build on a foundation of slave labor and continuing racial inequality.
As my Clinton Hill neighbor said, “How could people vote for a man who said those things?”
But another Clinton Hill neighbor, a white woman, told me she was proud she voted for Trump. Hillary, she said, is “corrupt” and climate change, about which she assured me she knows a lot, just means “the weather is always changing.”
Clinton Hill is a speck on the map but the contradictions that manifested here are troubling, nevertheless.
So are the national numbers disconcerting. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, as did Al Gore in 2000. But 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump; what were they thinking? Was it racism, sexism, xenophobia or magical thinking that turned such a swath of this huge country blazing red. Probably, an unhealthy dose of each.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”But 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump; what were they thinking?”[/perfectpullquote]
The longed for return of a lost prosperity is a national fantasy. In truth the working and middle classes enjoyed growing incomes for a short period of time, between 1945 and 1979, when wages rose because of a robust union movement, a post-war military-industrial complex, and a country united in providing the G.I. Bill, with free tuition and mortgage aid to returning veterans and New Deal earned benefits like social security and Medicare. Before WWII was the Great Depression and before that battles for better working conditions were waged by nascent unions and leftists and left people dead and bruised in the streets, but ultimately gave us the weekend and the eight hour work day—now eroded, as those who can hold two or three low-paying jobs.
When President Obama was elected in 2008, Clinton Hill exploded with joy. Spontaneously we poured into the streets, gathering at Madiba on Dekalb in Fort Greene to dance, hug and sing. “I’ve never before seen Americans happy,” said the Dominican man who owned the bodega around the corner.
When Donald J. Trump was elected president, I walked my dogs through streets quiet as the grave. I saw no one, heard nothing. The feeling, as others have also have remarked, was akin to the shared silence on the morning of September 11, 2001. Shock and grief were palpable. They still are.
I will wear a safety pin on my clothes—a signal of my willingness to protect and offer refuge to anyone persecuted under the new regime. I will try to be constructive as I counsel and teach my students at John Jay College. I will attempt to continue my work, somehow, as a writer of ecofeminist, social justice, antiwar poetic plays but I see scant opportunity for a socially-minded culture except underground.
As an aided irony, friends of mine from Iraq, Syria and Egypt have recently sent condolence notes, urging me to keep my head up high and not to succumb to despair. They are living under fire and various totalitarian regimes; they understand the battle against immobilizing despair.
In truth, I see no way out of this mess because the climate is not going to “work with a President Trump” or “respect a President Trump”; the climate does not “owe him a chance.” Earth’s climate is in rebellion against the wantonly destructive, greedy actions of people just like the President-elect and his administration of big oil and law and order men.