When and How to Panic?

My family was raised to under-react. When all around us are losing their heads, we might be the ones assessing the threats and triaging the initial casualties before deciding how to react. Some of that comes from our dad, who was trained as a Red Cross disaster aid volunteer and a National Ski Patrolman volunteer as well. Part of that comes from having both parents having hyper-rational educations and mindsets. There probably are downsides to this, such as when people wonder if I care about something because I’m still trying to figure out how to respond rather than validating their panic and fear.

This has been a great week to under-react. Tuesday’s election results in the USA were shocking for many of us in the USA, partly because the pollsters had been so encouraging about the likely outcome, and partly because of the horror at what’s been promised by the victor and what he represents. Freedom of the press? Overrated and such an inconvenience! Prosecution of the winner for alleged crimes that have already been investigated and deemed minor or innocuous? Hey, what’s the use of winning an election if you can’t rub it in the loser’s face? Persecution based on religion? Oh, maybe it’s not a real religion, so maybe it’s fine to assume guilt and just prosecute them and exclude them! A blind trust for the alleged billionaire’s businesses? Sure (wink, wink, nod, nod)! It’s be as blind as the victor’s tax returns are transparent!

It’s eight or nine weeks until we remove “-elect” from Voldemort’s new title. Some things are being announced now, such as who’s leading certain areas of the transition team, but many things remain unknown. Sadly, he hasn’t renounced most of his stated positions, and it’s not clear what his few attitude adjustments actually mean. Worse, many of his appointments to his transition team are consistent with our worse fears. A global warming denier is heading the transition team for the EPA. Dr. Ben Carson has a role in the education area. His kids are going to be heavily involved. And a notorious science denier, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, now has oversight over the whole transition team, replacing unindicted felon and co-conspirator Chris Christie.

The Republican establishment kept control of the Senate and the House. Are they going to be a check on Voldemort after he spent so much time being disdainful of the Republican establishment, or will they try to get their patrons’ interests passed since they might align with Voldemort’s patrons’ interests as well? That, frankly, is an unknown. It’s hard to imagine veterans like John McCain rubber-stamping blatant war crimes as new American policies, but then again, it was hard to expect some of the things McCain has said in the past twelve months.

Will the Civil Service acquiesce to Voldemort’s desires, or will they slow-walk all changes in an effort to simply outlast what may be a short attention span? The political appointees will try to do their master’s bidding, but the career government workers may know why things haven’t happened that way before and why they shouldn’t, such as international laws or federal laws and regulations that can’t just be waved away. Admittedly, Pence as the replacement in case of impeachment gives us no reason to believe he’d roll back most of Voldemort’s notions, perhaps with the exception of some of the most radical ideas, such as leaving existing multi-lateral trade agreements or embracing war crimes as a way to secure der Fatherland.

So, the inner core of the new administration looks as corrupt and wrong-headed as we feared. The Congress being Republican means it won’t be as strong a check on the Executive Branch as a Democratic Senate would be. What about the courts, especially the Supreme Court?

Everyone’s waiting to see who will replace Scalia eventually on the bench. I’ll remind you, though, that Scalia never opposed any of the Right’s favorite goals. It wasn’t Scalia who found a way to upload the Affordable Care Act, and he never embraced reproductive rights over “right to life.” Yes, some decisions will be 5-4 instead of 4-4 as they’ve been since Scalia’s death, so that may resume some of the national slippage to the right, but it won’t accelerate it. That will wait until one of the reliably progressive voices on the Court dies or steps down. I can’t imagine Stephen Breyer or the Notorious RBG voluntarily stepping down, knowing that they’re replacement would change the Court’s philosophical make-up, but Scalia didn’t step down by choice, either. Death comes to us all.

Worse, the Republican Senate of the past two or three Congresses has left many Federal court benches partly empty. Those may now all take a sharp turn toward reactionary positions. Interim decisions on issues doing eventually to the Supreme Court will sooner take positions repressing diversity and civil rights in favor of business interests and theocracy. I don’t see the Senate being too nuanced in which conservatives they consent to to fill those positions. Whoever has talked to Voldemort last will get a lot of judges the like in lasting positions of power.

Finally, there are The People. A narrow minority of them, located in precisely where Voldemort needed them to be, supported his bid for the Presidency, so Voldemort can’t say he was supported by a majority of voters or even a plurality, let alone a landslide. Still, there are already reports that some Death Eaters, especially younger Death Eaters, are being emboldened by his ascension and are already threatening and trying to intimidate the mudbloods’ counterparts in our world: Muslims, Latinos, and members of the LBGT community. There certainly have been several well-publicized cases so far, but in many cases less extreme Death Eaters are rebuking these acts of intimidation and hatred, perhaps waiting for when laws and policies will inflict similar indignities under the cover of authority. It’s also clear that many progressive groups and traditional civil rights advocacy groups are preparing for a long series of struggles to protect the gains of the past sixty years in the face of the revival of opposition to those gains.

I don’t follow British domestic news closely enough to know if their surge of Death Eater activity after the Brexit vote has continued. That’s where the safety pin was first taken as a symbol of tolerance and acceptance directed as those who might otherwise worry about tolerance and acceptance. Is it needed now in Britain all those months later? Is it needed here, or is it just a quick way for some people to feel like they’re doing something in response to this horribly upsetting election?

I’m still in under-react mode. The composition of Voldemort’s transition team tells me that concern is warranted, that the initial calls for national unity were errant or at least simplistic. I would never united behind a science denier running the EPA, even on a transition team, and it has nothing to do with things we fear but haven’t seen yet. Seeing the charlatans who will be choosing those who will set and enforce policy is enough to say, some reaction will be required. What I’m not sure about, yet, is where I’ll need to focus my support, financial and otherwise, to do the most good. I can see why Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and anti-poverty organizations like Oxfam America are ramping up fund-raising activities. I just don’t know to direct my support among them, yet. I will; it’s clear that private efforts will have to replace existing programs or counter Federal and state efforts to roll back protections.

I fear that in a year, all of those asking for my support will in fact be in positions in which my support would have been well deserved; it may be a multi-front, multi-cause debacle in our near future. However, I need more certainty than “may,” so I’m trying to wait. I live in a “red” state, one that has elected and re-elected a Koch Brothers disciple and twice now sent a tea party moron to the Senate. Will Death Eaters from the surrounding rural areas come to Madison and try to purify it of its multi-cultural, progressive nature? I hope not, but if they do, resistance begins at home. If we’re spared that particular battle, when I’ll look beyond for which causes that I support most need my support.

Keep the powder dry, but make sure “they” know we haven’t put the powder away.

No metaphors were hurt in the writing of this essay, but several were mixed poorly.  

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