Editor’s Note: Kevin Patrick Kelly’s “Towards A Millennial Revolution” is published every Monday OR Wednesday.
Let me start this latest column by stating the obvious: I was wrong.
Two weeks ago, in a separate column, I confidently declared that Hillary Clinton would be sworn in as the first female occupant of the White House. I, like millions of Americans, am in shock. Similar to numerous others across the nation, we expected to wake up to a media that uttered the following words: “President-elect Hillary Clinton.”
Instead, one of the most divisive and demagogic presidential candidates has been swept into the White House. Riding on a wave of angry rural and white working-class voters, Donald Trump will be seen by millions of Americans placing his hand upon the Bible and raising the other to the sky as he takes the oath of office on January 20, 2017.
Understandably, people are upset. Arguably, the most emotional and powerful moment I witnessed on television was Van Jones commenting on Trump’s victory. With tears in his eyes, Jones said, “People have talked about a miracle. I’m hearing about a nightmare. It’s hard to be a parent tonight for a lot of us,” he explained.
“You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bully.’ You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bigot.’ You tell your kids, ‘Do your homework and be prepared.’ Then you have this outcome, and you have people putting children to bed tonight and they’re afraid of breakfast. I have Muslim friends who are texting me tonight saying, ‘Should I leave the country?’ I have families of immigrants that are terrified tonight.”
What does it say about this country that in one election cycle it can elect the first African American president, and then yesterday elect a candidate that was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan? In many ways, Trump’s candidacy was not just a rebuke to “political correctness,” the media, and corporate elites. It held up a mirror to the United States and exposed the ugly racist tendencies that have been lying dormant in the country for years. They have now found an avenue to channel these ugly sentiments through Trump and his candidacy.
Beyond his racist and divisive rhetoric, many have stressed over Trump’s careless disregard for the long established legal norms in America’s overseas operations. Trump has said abroad that he wants the United States to murder the families of suspected terrorists, which is a violation of international law and a war crime. Suspected insurgents who are captured under a Trump administration would be subjected to worse tactics than waterboarding. When Trump was reminded that waterboarding was an ineffective mode of interrogation, he claimed it did not matter because they “deserve it.” Muslims and Arabs in the region will be further enraged when Trump orders the American military to confiscate the Iraqi oil reserves.
This does not need to happen. It does not mean that our agenda is stalled with the election of Trump. However, it will remain in limbo if we do not begin immediately mobilizing the citizenry to see our millennial agenda fulfilled.
Many ardent activists forget that some of the greatest reforms came about during the decade of the 1970s. It was through various social movements that a Republican president, Richard Nixon, enacted policies that protected American consumers and workers. New regulations and protections were erected to safeguard the environment and American laborers. The principled antiwar movement engaged in sit-ins and committed acts of civil disobedience in the name of ending the American intervention across South East Asia.
Henry Kissinger describes the fear that he and Nixon felt watching the demonstrators outside of the White House in his memoir. Empty buses were placed in front of the White House in order to block the activists. Nixon feared that they would break the vehicular barricades and barrage into the Oval Office. “Tricky Dick” had no choice but to set a timetable for withdrawal. This has led many to joke that Nixon could be considered America’s last liberal president.
Even in the 1980s, President Reagan was forced to acknowledge the anti-nuclear weapons movement, especially when he noticed that there were suit-wearing Republicans standing shoulder to shoulder with liberals. Their chorus of voices led Reagan to reexamine America’s nuclear weapons policy. He even suggested at one of his meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev that he wanted to strive for the total elimination of all nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, it never materialized, and the United States continues to sit on a massive pile of nuclear armaments.
BERKELEY HIGH SCHOOL WALKOUT pic.twitter.com/0hyQRyOkqc
— Black Student Union (@BerkeleyBSU) November 9, 2016
I am already greatly heartened that millennials and other intellectuals are staging peaceful walkouts and speaking up for those who will be the target of Trump and his supporters. Namely, African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and those within the LGBT community. They will need to be given a voice if they are to be targeted by Trump’s deportation force or his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Any movement that forms in opposition to a Trump administration cannot be partisan in nature. Liberals and progressives watched as the so called “antiwar movement” under Bush became apologists for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.
This movement must call for corporations and special interests to stop influencing our local and state elections, it must call for police officers to be brought to justice if they unnecessarily murder suspects or pedestrians, it must call for a jobs program tailored to millennials, it must call for an end to the cycle of perpetual war that America has found itself embroiled in since 9/11, it must call for an end to mass incarceration, push policies to end institutionalized racism, and it must serve as a bulwark if Trump decides to transform America into a fascist nation.
As I stated two weeks ago, there is the possibility that we may fail in our millennial social movements. Still, as Jean-Paul Sartre reminded us, “You don’t fight fascism because you’re going to win. You fight fascism because it is fascist.”
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