Withholding Consent

I sent the following letter to my Senators and the Senate minority leader.

Please withhold consent from the Trump administration! As Adam Jentleson, former deputy chief of staff to Sen. Harry Reid, pointed out in an article in the Washington Post on Friday, withholding consent is a tactic that the Democratic Senators and their Republican allies (the few that there are) can use to stop Trump’s unqualified nominees and his immoral policy agenda.

The Republicans who are not our allies have used this tactic successfully against Obama. Using it now is not revenge but rather using their effective strategy for morally superior ends, including stopping the systematic undermining of our Constitution that Trump has begun by refusing to deal with his conflicts of interest and he is continuing in a deeply disturbing way with the Muslim Ban.

Senator Schumer, I was born and raised in Germany. I came to the US to work toward the reconciliation of the crimes of the Third Reich. I stayed in the US and became a US citizen. Until recently, I thought that comparisons of our times to Hitler and the Nazis were far-fetched. Not any more. The Muslim Ban removed any remaining doubts – and not only because it was released on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This is not the time to stand back and hope that this will pass. It did not in Germany. Let us learn from that gruesome history and fight the rise of similar forces with every tool we have! Please create a coalition of resisters in the Senate, led by all Democrats, that withholds consent from this march toward unAmerican places!

Remembering the Holocaust

Seventy-two years today, Auschwitz was liberated. Two years ago, I visited the memorial sites in Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. The images from that visit are haunting me during this time of a resurgence of the fascist populism that ended up with the murder of 9 million people.

It was quite an emotional visit back in 2015 – and little did I know then that something like we’re facing now was brewing. It is mind-boggling to me that we have forgotten history so quickly that we’re in the midst of repeating it. And I am even more determined to fight this repetition to honor those people who lost their lives in the Holocaust and fighting it back then.

The Ugly Face of Patriarchy

A picture speaks a thousand words, they say, though I will still write my words. First, the picture, though:

It is a photo of white men smirking while they are signing away the lives of women, most of them women of color.

As too often before, these men have gotten into power through lies and deception – and a big dose of religious peddling. Maybe that is the only way they can get into power. Maybe if they didn’t bully their way in, nobody would vote for them. The only way an unfair and brutal status quo can be maintained is through more brutality and injustice.

Gerrymandering & Voter Suppression

As others have pointed out, there are many causes that led us to the disaster we’re in now. The two most influential factors might be gerrymandering and voter suppression.

According to David Daley, the Republicans realized after Obama won that their party was losing ground and that the only way they could regain that ground fast was through purposeful gerrymandering. So, instead of campaigning and convincing voters of their party’s platform, they took advantage of the post-2010 census redistricting to rig the map to their advantage. It worked. The Republicans are now dominating legislatures and have governors in most states and, of course, Congress. This is not because of their popularity – DJT was only elected by less than 30% the electorate, hardly a majority.

In addition to rigging the map, the Republicans took full advantage of the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 by suppressing votes wherever they could. This might’ve led to the “surprising wins” in Wisconsin and other states: People of color who wanted to vote weren’t able to. That’s highly undemocratic.

While several state courts have already struck down some of the gerrymandering attempts as racist, I suspect all of this will get worse. Jeff Sessions has already used the voter fraud ruse to suppress votes, thus as an Attorney General, he is very unlikely to ensure that everybody has access to the voting booth. (It’s a ruse because voter fraud hardly exists.)

I find all this deeply disturbing because it suggests to me that at least those in charge in the Republican party seem to be more interested in obtaining power no matter what than maintaining, let alone improving, our democracy. It is highly immoral.

Inauguration Day Commitment

Sophie Scholl
Janusz Korczak
Rosa Luxemburg
and all the others who resisted quietly and not so quietly, you were my childhood heroes. I will now try to honor your example by continuing your resistance against fascism. I will not go to sleep (again). I will resist. So far, I’ve only been willing to quit my corporate job for my values, giving up money and prestige for a clearer conscience. Now more might be called for. I am ready.

Janusz Korczak decided not to abandon his children not because he thought this would bring down Hitler. He chose death because he knew that his presence would give his children comfort in the last minutes of their lives.

Sophie Scholl simply passed out flyers because she knew that was the right thing to do, that people needed to know what was going on. She also knew that this wouldn’t bring down Hitler. She simply chose to do this because maybe one person would also start resisting or one person would be slightly less afraid.

Totalitarian regimes require our collaboration. They use fear to get us to collaborate because morality and common humanity are not on their side. The more of us refuse to collaborate – big and small – the less total the regime will be.

Uncertain Times

Maybe the most stressful part of this transition period is all the uncertainty. Since this isn’t a normal transition of power, given the president-elects authoritarianism, we don’t know if the 2016 election was our last real election (although it was already very undemocratic, mostly because the leadership in the Republican party seems more interested in power than democracy). We don’t know what the connections to Russia really are, nor what this will mean for us. Was the election a blood-less coup or is all this overblown? At minimum, we know that Trump admires Putin, which in itself is cause for concern.

We also don’t know – and maybe this is the scariest part – how all this will impact us, personally. I am guessing for most people in the United States, the impact will be small. They are the privileged ones who have the skin-color and economic position to simply ignore what is happening around them. They might get upset if their favorite store closes but are oblivious about people disappearing. If people disappear that is. Those of us who are either outspoken or don’t have the right skin-color, that is, aren’t white, or correct economic position (not wealthy) or in some other way don’t fit what is considered “good American,” face at minimum attacks via the internet. These attacks can range from trolls making online life rather uncomfortable to actual physical attacks, endangering people’s lives. We don’t know how much police and the legal system will cooperate with crack-downs (given how much they already are, it’s likely they will continue). We will not know where it is safe and where it isn’t, which reminds me of a point someone made in a documentary about the Prague uprising: You get used to living with fear.

Maybe at bottom is the question of truth: What is true and what is false? We have already seen the dangerous impact of “fake news,” although, as I’ve pointed out, this is just the tip of the iceberg of a misinformation campaign designed to confuse right from wrong. This is one reason scholars of authoritarianism implore us to write down our values. This is also why it is important to deepen connections to people we know, especially locally. We can help each other to stay true to ourselves.

And then, who knows, maybe we’ll be lucky and things won’t get as bad as many of us fear. Authoritarian regimes are notorious for using slipper slopes, slowly, and often unnoticed, expanding their powers and the crimes they commit. The most important thing for us, then, is to remain vigilant, to observe, to question – despite fear and uncertainty or maybe because of it.