First we had a woman standing at the doorstep of the Oval Office.
Now we have Russia and kleptocracy moving toward our shores.
With history as a guide I might have predicted this, but when people experience something unprecedented they tend to fall back on old ways of coping.
For instance, we try and accept the results of this election as a fair win even though we feel sick inside. We try to normalize new information by rationalizing discomfort: “I feel uncomfortable that Russia may have interfered with our election, but if it's true than it must be something our country can handle.”
Without a historical antecedent we move in the darkness and try to make sense of something new that enters our lives, such as a female nominee of a major party. That was new.
Consider that the FBI helped bring down this female nominee days before the election. It seems to me that she was so threatening to the director of our FBI, whose salary we pay, that he took the unusual step of interfering in this our election in order to tilt the scales his way. Did he do so knowingly? Well, yes and no. I believe he had just enough fear of her as President that he lost his moral compass and let his fear overtake his good common sense.
He was not alone. The thought of a female President was so discombobulating that many of the supporters of the male nominee turned a blind eye to the vulgar things he said to the American people. Things that were once anathema to the republican party; disrespect for women, vulgar language, mocking the disabled, threats to sue the press, praise for Vladimir Putin.
This fear didn't stop at conservatives. It also had progressives believing something very untrue: She is just as bad as he.
When we reach desperately for security in unsettling circumstances we lose our powers of analysis.
If we had a historical antecedent to this election all voters, myself included, would have experienced the speeches and debates differently than we did, for the most part. We would have stopped the laughter and listened carefully to the man who threatened to hit a politician who criticized him.
Perhaps we would have said, “He's threatening violence from the power seat of a major party nominee. Consider this a warning. More will come.”
We didn't say that however, many of us marveled at the craziness of it all while the female nominee put forth policy issues.
That was the past.
Now we have a historic antecedent. History can guide us into the future.
Have you noticed how many of the cabinet picks are connected to Russia? I find myself trying to place these men in the context of a normal presidency and rationalize their Putin ties, if only for a few seconds. This is when I stop and try to think. I play a game where I place these new events and utterances in a historical context, such as asking myself these things:
Would Condoleezza Rice have praised Putin?
Would Jack Kemp have bragged about walking into women's dressing rooms?
Would Ronald Reagan ever have made fun of a disabled person?
What is happening to us now is not normal, not by a long shot. Let's take a good look at Russia, for example.
If you are normalizing this new alliance of certain U.S. politicians and businessmen with Putin you are accepting kleptocracy which is what we are in danger of becoming.*
In Russia the politicians line their personal pockets at the expense of the people and the resources of their own country. Now hear these facts:
First fact: The republican party is having a Christmas party at a Trump hotel in Washington, D.C.
Second fact: The president-elect wants a Putin friend and Exxon-Mobil oil executive as our Secretary of State.
Third fact: Exxon-Mobil can move ahead with contracts for drilling in the Arctic sea only if Russian sanctions are lifted.
The United States is the standard-bearer of freedom and democracy in the world because we are not corrupt, nor are we a kleptocracy.
To maintain our free society we have to uphold our civil liberties. Even in those moments when the blowback from the opposition includes death threats.
Telling the truth is common sense and it's easy to do in a free society. We live, breathe and think free speech without fear of retaliation.
Fact: Chuck Jones told the truth.
Our president-elect didn't like it that a union boss, Chuck Jones, challenged his words on television. In retaliation the president-elect targeted Jones on twitter where he called him a bad worker. Jones, a private citizen, received a deluge of negative blowback, including threats, from the supporters of the president-elect. This is intimidation.
We have an historical antecedent to that particular abuse of presidential power.
In October, during the primary, there was a forum and a question was asked of the president-elect, who was then one of the candidates, by a female teenager. Yes, a teenager. The president-elect didn't like the question.
After the event the president-elect singled her out on twitter as an “arrogant young woman” who dared question him in a “nasty fashion.”
She received death and rape threats from his supporters.
Can we normalize the harassment of a teenager by a president? Would we want to? This is a portent of our future. Every citizen, no matter how old, is up for ridicule by the president.
That is not a hallmark of a free country.
It is up to us to stand by and protect the ordinary people who are victimized by the president-elect. Because as citizens we have rights that are inalienable such as the right to speak freely without fear. That right can never be taken away.
We are not powerless, not by a long shot.
- Jennifer Hall Lee
* See Sarah Kendzior on twitter for information on kleptocracy and what we are in for.