Friday, February 3, 2017

On Resistance and the "Normalizing" of a Trump Administraton

Once upon a time, long ago in an era known as the mid to late 2000's, I blogged incessantly about the idiocies, injustices and wickedness of a Presidential Administration that I, along with many others, thought was the most pernicious administration to ever set foot in the White House.  The irony is not lost on me that at this moment, I would find George W. Bush a welcome relief in comparison to the current inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Donald Trump is the scourge that launched a thousand think pieces.  Pieces depicting him as everything from the salvation of America from the palsied claws of multicultural confusion and politically correct paralysis, to the shockingly orange second coming of a certain hysterical Austrian Corporal have been penned by wiser, wittier and more eloquent voices than mine, and all of them have come equally to naught.  All the condemnation in the world has not prevented Trump's ascent, nor has all the praise made him into anything remotely resembling the leader of the free world.  The man remains stubbornly as he always has been, a strutting, wannabe thug whose incompetence is exceeded only by his arrogance. 

Unfortunately, as many past Presidencies have illustrated, as much damage can be wrought to the republic by incompetence as can be done by malice, and Mr. Trump and his cronies seem to have more than enough of both qualities to share.  So, faced with a President who praises our enemies, alienates our allies, boasts openly of both his corruption and his moral depravity and whose administration seems to lurch from outrage to greater outrage in an endless quest to destroy all that was once hallowed and cherished about our nation and its institutions, what's a shell-shocked liberal to do?

The answer, shouted from every Twitter feed and Facebook post across blue America seems to be RESIST!  THIS IS NOT NORMAL! DON'T YOU DARE MAKE THIS NORMAL! #NOTMYPRESIDENT, etc., etc.  And while I sympathize with these statements, I have some issues with the whole question of "normalization."

Allow me to be blunt:  Unless you are willing to engage in armed insurrection in the interests of overthrowing the Federal Government, you are normalizing the Trump Administration.  I will admit that there is a continuum of resistance to Trump and his goons and that protesting, letter writing, organizing, boycotting etc. all lie closer to the side of resistance than apathy in the overall scale of things, but all of these things assume that, overall, you are continuing to participate within the institutional limits of American society.  You are treating President Trump as you treated his predecessors and expecting a some form of response from the Trump Administration similar to those provided by previous administrations, (if albeit, somewhat more crass and bombastic and likely to be issued over Twitter at 3am).  This may be resistance, but by working within the legal and normative framework of American society it is also inherently normalizing.  You may say that Trump's Administration is different from any that has ever governed the country, and you may be right in saying so, but ultimately you are treating it no differently than your forebears treated Reagan, Nixon or LBJ.

To truly deny the Trump Administration "normalcy" requires one to go a bit further than marches or memes or hashtags.  We're talking about violent insurrection here, resistance that not only states its moral opposition to the policies and actions of the current government, but actively seeks to halt and reverse them through brute force.  These actions enter the territory once staked out by the Weather Underground, the Irish Republican Army or the Red Brigades.  It involves the suspension of normalcy not only for the government, but for the resisters and the governed as well, as resisters must take on the Manichean viewpoint that "those who are not with us are against us" and that there are no innocent bystanders, only those loyal to the cause, and those who are collaborators with the enemy.  In practice, this would mean that instead of tweeting #Calexit, you actively tried to destroy federal property in California, seize Federal installations and attack personnel working for the Federal Government.  In essence, "resistance" that denies the Trump Administration "normalcy" involves serious crimes and an appetite for atrocity that I would imagine your average American protester (at least when they're in person and not sounding off anonymously on an online message board) doesn't really have.

Lest I be mistaken I am not advocating armed insurrection against the Trump Administration or violent resistance of any sort.  While I feel that President Trump's policies are disastrous and give shelter to those who abuse and viciously threaten the innocent, I do not see the way of the gun ending well in an America where the "deep state" of coercive security institutions remains as strong as it currently is.  Violent resistance in the United States will merely result in the spectacular and futile deaths of those who engage in it, and provide the powers that be with a fig leaf to excuse further abuses of power and armed oppression.

That said, we need to stop looking at this from a position of normal/not-normal.  Like it or not Mr. Trump is President, and his despicable views and vile policies have the force of law in as much as they are not checked by the other branches of the Federal Government.  This is the "new normal" in all its horror being played out before us.  So instead of framing this as a question of normalcy, we should take a page from our opponents on the right and frame these issues as a question of right and wrong.  As the actions of men and women across history such as Sophie Scholl, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks all remind us, just because a thing is "normal" does not make it right.  President Trump's policies and rhetoric may indeed be normal for America in 2017, but that doesn't make them right, and if we are to truly resist them, we must deny them that status above all.

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