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Dangerous Times

February 23, 2017

If I could create a New Yorker cover, I would start with a thousand humongous question marks floating in the cosmos. Four weeks into this administration we find ourselves in dangerous space. Trump invades our hopes and homes as he throws us off balance—day by day—delivering the unexpected and unimaginable in the political realm. By a bizarre combination of intent and ignorance, he threatens to undermine the norms and promises of a liberal democracy and the capacity to contain international conflicts.    

Some things about the Trump Presidency are clear. He is committed to satisfying his electoral base on blocking immigrants and refugees, deregulating business, environmental, educational and public health systems and promoting abortion laws. He has kept his promises to try to degrade elites, defy the political status quo, make the country more consciously Christian and confidently white. The patterns on foreign policy are less easy to read given contradictory and simplistic statements or tweets about Russia, China and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. (To paraphrase from the news conference with the Israeli Prime Minister: One state, two states, it doesn’t matter, whatever they want.)  

He got to the White House on a conservative and populist agenda marked by the panache of a real estate and tv huckster. He had done remarkably well with loyal dependents who navigated his confusion, trusty lawyers who played interference with the law, (near bankruptcies) and competitors. That was then.  

Now he governs the ship of state, dominating the vast reaches of domestic and international realms. Day by day we learn more about the forces that drive his decisions and objectives. We see Trump revealed: a deeply unstable mind and personality that contorts and twists our traditional expectations for rationality and institutional stability in the governing process.  

He employs some of the same tools from the past: confusion, anger, aggression, ranting, duplicity, outright lies and contradictions. He is in the custody of his limited capacity to handle information required to lead a country with millions of parts and people. His mind cannot focus on anything that doesn’t satiate his ego. His language — vocabulary and sentences — is confined to the playground of teenage boys. He can only focus on himself and his fights against those who resist him. And we have learned that his anger continues to energize and excite his supporters who have soured on the complexities of a pluralistic democracy and unforgiving economic world that creates big winner and big losers. He dangles violent change before them to rectify the injustices that they perceive.  

But we also live in a time of burgeoning resistance and opportunities to act. A time of rededication to knowledge, the law, constitutional principles. A time to reinforce the richness of a diverse society. A time to support the gutsy guardians of democratic values and collective action. As E. J. Dionne wrote in the Washington Post on February 17th: “In this dark moment, we can celebrate the vitality of the institutions of a free society that are pushing back against a president offering the country a remarkable combination of authoritarian inclinations and ineptitude. The courts, civil servants, citizens — collectively and individually — and, yes, an unfettered media have all checked Trump and forced inconvenient facts into the sunlight.”  

We — Humanity in Action Senior Fellows, staffs and boards — are part of that effort and critical spirit. Pushing back and pushing ahead. We are sharing initiatives and ideas, holding calls, exchanging reading lists, developing a broad range of internships, donating money to worthy causes and organizing in subgroups of various interests and locations to inform ourselves and engage others. Onward!!!!

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