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This is not Normal – Important – Read This

The following is from Joshua Foust, a National Security Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

…But Donald Trump is not normal. In fact, the things he represents, the decisions he has made and is continuing to make, and the entourage he has surrounded himself with, are not normal. They are so abnormal that they look like the opening stages of authoritarianism — something those of us steeped in the study of authoritarian countries recognize like a flashing light at a railroad crossing.

The one thing authoritarians want you to do is to accept that their conduct is normal, even when it is not. They do not want you to yearn for a freer, less oppressive and less corrupt time, and they do not want you to think it odd when, say, a government agency is purged or a bunch of protesters are arrested and vanish into the prisons without ever seeing trial. They want you to think it is normal when the President is openly selling your interests out to a foreign power, or when he is using the levers of government to materially enrich and empower his family. The presumption of normality during abnormal times is one of the most powerful weapons the authoritarian has, and that is why it is so important to recognize how profoundly abnormal Donald J. Trump will be as president. So I assembled a list.

Using your Presidential transition website to promote your own business properties is not normal.

Calling for millions of federal employees to sign nondisclosure agreements apart from standard government forms is not normal.

Blasting journalists with product placements for the labels your child, who is on your transition team, is wearing is not normal.

Having a wide range of senior figures in your own political party distance themselves from your transition team, citing the profound irregularity of it and worrying about future ugliness, is not normal.

Placing your children in charge of your business empire, then placing them on your transition team, then seeking top secret security clearances for them, is not normal. The conflicts of interest that this represents are almost too many to count, but at a basic level: you do not give someone with a financial interest to work against U.S. policy access to sensitive information — at all, ever.

Putting one’s children into senior positions of a government is the behavior of a banana republic, not a constitutional democracy with strong institutions. This is not normal.

For a president who ran on his business acumen to refuse to disclose his taxes to the public, which in turn denies anyone the ability to see if financial conflicts of interest are driving his policy decisions, is not normal.

Asking if he can decline the President’s salary, so as to avoid paying taxes, is not normal.

Owing hundreds of millions of dollars in business debt to a foreign bank and refusing to fully divest yourself from those finances is not normal.

Ascending to the White House while your eldest son, who is also on your transition team, and for whom you also seek a top-secret clearance, seeks out seven-digit business deals in Russia, is not normal. When Russia then names the President elect an “honorary Cossack,” it is not normal.

Asking a hostile foreign intelligence agency to hack into the emails of your opponent in the campaign is not normal. Refusing to comment while they expand those hacks into other institutions is not normal. Watching that same government’s propaganda network dramatically change its tone in order to benefit the incoming president is not normal. That this foreign government is also the subject of numerous investigations into the President elect’s improper business conduct is not normal.

Threatening to cut off Europe from NATO if payment is not received, like a gangster demanding protection money, in a way that benefits said foreign government, is not normal.

Chanting for the summary imprisonment of your political opponent despite repeated conclusions that she has committed no crime is not normal. Refusing to back down from that call to summarily imprison her is not normal. Essentially suggesting a show trial before you’ve even assumed office is not normal.

Hiring an avowed white supremacist and proud antisemite to be the chief of strategy at the White House is not normal. That the new White House chief strategist has bragged, openly, of his desire to destroy the United States is not normal. That the cofounder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center raised money for this is not normal.

Staff participating in authoritarian victim-blaming and antisemitic conspiracism is not normal. Collaborating with cable news channels in that antisemitic conspiracy about protests is not normal.

When one of the new administration’s most senior proxies and spokesmen calmly discusses committing war crimes in the Middle East, it is not normal. When he is shortlisted for the Department of State — despite lobbying for terrorists who killed Americans, despotic regimes in the Middle East, and the tyrannical government of Venezuela — it is not normal.

When that proxy is simply following in the footsteps of the new President-elect, who has called for reinstating torture and summarily executing the families of alleged terrorists, it is not normal.

The leading candidate for the department of education (who himself has no background as an educator or in education policy) openly suggesting to censor speech on universities is not normal. 

Nominating an oil executive as the Secretary of the Interior is not normal. Nominating a climate change denialist funded by the oil industry to run the EPA is not normal. When the leading candidate for Defense Secretary having a long history of openly racist comments toward his own staff it is not normal.

The FBI intervening decisively in the last week of the election to alter its outcome for one candidate is not normal. But the FBI refusing to address the president elect’s violation of sanctions against a communist country is also not normal.

When a woman accuses a presidential candidate of having raped her as a child, but then refuses to go forward with her allegations because of a barrage of death threats yet still receives almost no media coverage, it is not normal.

It is not normal for a president-elect to have 75 pending lawsuits against him, ranging from business fraud to illegal hiring practices. It is not normal for his lawyers to demand those lawsuits be delayed until after his inauguration for not discernible reason other than to retreat behind the immunity of the office.

Relentlessly attacking the legitimacy of the media (to be distinguished from criticizing media conduct) is not normal. Threatening to sue the media because you don’t like being criticized is not normal.

Being so steeped in the language of fascism that you and and your staff mirror Hitler (“make the trains run on time“), appeasing Hitler (“America First“), or Mussolini (“drain the swamp“) is not normal.

Look, I gave up at this point. I’m sure all of you can find more disturbing, deeply abnormal things he has said and plans to do.  The point is that this is not normal: it is abnormal. It is a series of giant warning sirens about something fundamentally going wrong with our country. It has nothing to do with right or left, with Republican or Democrat — huge numbers of Republican voters are appalled by what Trump represents.

The only response I can think of for this: refuse. Refuse to accept this. Refuse to make it normal. Refuse to let him and his cronies redefine how the country works. Refuse to let our country be stolen from us. Only by refusing to let this feel normal can we hope to reverse it.

So: I refuse. Will you join me?

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The Rise of a Fascist State

First of all, let me once again thank you Trump voters for unleashing upon this country the worst threat to our democratic institutions since the Civil War.

Let’s start with Stephen Bannon  – the new chief policy strategist – a white supremacist neo-nazi – he’s in the White House. The KKK and the American Nazi Party has praised his hiring.

You know that “drain the swamp” cry? That was a fascist battle cry under Mussolini.

“Trains running on time”? Another one from Mussolini.

School bullying is up. Women wearing hajibs are terrorized. Journalists are threatened. Harassment has spiked since the election. Haters have been given permission to violate our basic rights.

The Massachusetts Attorney General has opened a harassment hotline because of harassment and intimidation of minority groups.

Paul Ryan has just declared, “Welcome to the dawn of a new unified Republican government”. This is unprecedented language. Paul Ryan has apparently been castrated and offered his allegiance to Herr Trump.

Trump is asking for security clearances for his kids who are supposed to be managing his business like a blind trust. Anyone see a conflict of interest here?

We’ve yet to see Trump’s tax returns – and we know why – he’s hiding something(s).

So, instead of enjoying life and working towards a rewarding retirement, I now have to organize and protest to preserve our democracy. And yes, still looking at real estate outside of this country. Preparation is key.

If you don’t get it yet, you’re not paying attention. We’re headed towards becoming an authoritarian state. History tells us these things happen very quickly.

Get on board or get out of my way.

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The Search Begins

In the aftermath of the election, we have decided to be pro-active about our future and ready for any surprises. We are acquiring passports and have contacted an immigration law firm to assist us should we feel the necessity to move out of this country. Given the election, we fully expect the Supreme Court to shift rightward and if that should happen there is every possibility that our marriage will be declared invalid. Our guess would be the Court would send the matter back to the states and we all know how progressive Florida is. We also expect other protections to be removed. Take a look at what Pence did in Indiana. This is all for real folks. If our marriage is invalidated, we will no longer stay in a country where we are marginalized. We are tired and weary of fighting for our rights.

To you who cast your vote for Trump (and Pence) – shame on you. You’ve shown us who you are. You shown how little you regard others who are different from you. We know that you support racism and misogyny because that is what Trump represents. The names tossed out for certain positions in the new administration are scary – my chest tightens at some of these names. The transition team tells us what we need to know. And, as Trump was never going to govern he is leaving that up to an anti-gay, anti-science, right wing religious nut. Thanks for voting for the destruction of our country.

There is nothing more to say to you. Just leave us alone, please.

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Why We Grieve, Why I Grieve

I’ve copied the words of John Pavlovitz here today because he says so eloquently what I feel today.

“I don’t think you understand us right now.

I think you think this is about politics.

I think you believe this is all just sour grapes; the crocodile tears of the losing locker room with the scoreboard going against us at the buzzer.

I can only tell you that you’re wrong. This is not about losing an election. This isn’t about not winning a contest. This is about two very different ways of seeing the world.

Hillary supporters believe in a diverse America; one where religion or skin color or sexual orientation or place of birth aren’t liabilities or deficiencies or moral defects. Her campaign was one of inclusion and connection and interdependency. It was about building bridges and breaking ceilings. It was about going high.

Trump supporters believe in a very selective America; one that is largely white and straight and Christian, and the voting verified this. Donald Trump has never made any assertions otherwise. He ran a campaign of fear and exclusion and isolation—and that’s the vision of the world those who voted for him have endorsed.

They have aligned with the wall-builder and the professed p*ssy-grabber, and they have co-signed his body of work, regardless of the reasons they give for their vote.

Every horrible thing Donald Trump ever said about women or Muslims or people of color has now been validated. Every profanity-laced press conference and every call to bully protestors and every ignorant diatribe has been endorsed. Every piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation Mike Pence has championed has been signed-off on.

Half of our country has declared these things acceptable, noble, American.

This is the disconnect and the source of our grief today. It isn’t a political defeat that we’re lamenting, it’s a defeat for Humanity.

We’re not angry that our candidate lost. We’re angry because our candidate’s losing means this country will be less safe, less kind, and less available to a huge segment of its population, and that’s just the truth.

Those who have always felt vulnerable are now left more so. Those whose voices have been silenced will be further quieted. Those who always felt marginalized will be pushed further to the periphery. Those who feared they were seen as inferior now have confirmation in actual percentages.

Those things have essentially been campaign promises of Donald Trump, and so many of our fellow citizens have said this is what they want too.

This has never been about politics.
This is not about one candidate over the other.
It’s not about one’s ideas over another’s.
It is not blue vs. red.
It’s not her emails vs. his bad language.
It’s not her dishonesty vs. his indecency.

It’s about overt racism and hostility toward minorities.
It’s about religion being weaponized.
It’s about crassness and vulgarity and disregard for women.
It’s about a barricaded, militarized, bully nation.
It’s about an unapologetic, open-faced ugliness.

And it is not only that these things have been ratified by our nation that grieve us; all this hatred, fear, racism, bigotry, and intolerance—it’s knowing that these things have been amen-ed by our neighbors, our families, our friends, those we work with and worship alongside. That is the most horrific thing of all. We now know how close this is.

It feels like living in enemy territory being here now, and there’s no way around that. We wake up today in a home we no longer recognize. We are grieving the loss of a place we used to love but no longer do. This may be America today but it is not the America we believe in or recognize or want.

This is not about a difference of political opinion, as that’s far too small to mourn over. It’s about a fundamental difference in how we view the worth of all people—not just those who look or talk or think or vote the way we do.

Grief always laments what might have been, the future we were robbed of, the tomorrow that we won’t get to see, and that is what we walk through today. As a nation we had an opportunity to affirm the beauty of our diversity this day, to choose ideas over sound bytes, to let everyone know they had a place at the table, to be the beacon of goodness and decency we imagine that we are—and we said no.

The Scriptures say that weeping endures for a night but joy comes in the morning. We can’t see that dawn coming any time soon.

And this is why we grieve.”