Terminal Disease and President Trump
The election of Donald J. Trump was terrible for me, but I am no stranger to bad news. My experience with a progressive, incurable, terminal disease–ALS–for over four years has given me a unique perspective on how to survive and make the best of the time we face under President Trump. This is not incurable: there are therapies we can do for our country. It is not terminal: we will survive, absent nuclear war. And though it may be progressive in the medical sense of the word, certainly not in the political sense, our efforts can surely mitigate the damage.
I joked for months that if Trump won, I could pull the plug on the vent. A harsher remedy than moving to Canada, my bit of gallows humor. Concerned friends were afraid to call me after the election, in case I meant it. But I awoke the next day, realizing I was still glad to be alive and that I still have plenty of fight left, even though I am quadriplegic and can’t talk due to the tracheostomy and ventilator. I have to write with my eyes using eye gaze technology, which is slow but magical.
I admit that on inauguration day, my pulse started to race and my blood pressure shot up, and I had shortness of breath. If Trump was trying to kill me, he failed. I started listening to relaxing classical music and turned off the news. I soon felt better.
I have woven these thoughts about persevering into my manifesto. Helpful links are below.
Maintain hope is rule one. With hope, any effort seems worthwhile. Without hope, it hardly seems worthwhile to make any effort. Do activities that refresh your hope, like exercise, spending time with loved ones, art, and charity. On election day, I sent an email to friends and family, saying the sun rose today and would continue to do so every day in the future, and that the election did not change my feelings of gratitude for being American, and to my ancestors for coming here. Many replied that my note gave them hope. Do activities that give hope. March in protests, if that works for you.
Stand up for others. There is a lot of new ugliness across this country, and more to come. When you hear other people saying hateful words, speak up if it is safe to do so. Ask “Why do you feel that way?”, then listen. If you witness someone in aggressive hateful acts, intervene and get someone to videotape it, and comfort the victim, and report to the police. If you read about some hateful act in your community, write a letter to the local newspaper. Attend interdenominational events in your community, and interracial activities, so you can become the solution to these problems. The Muslim ban airport protests and the volunteer lawyers that came out were an example of this kind of altruism.
Dedicate more money to charity. After the election, Planned Parenthood received an unprecedented infusion of donations, most “in honor of Mike Pence”, like ours. We have increased our giving and focused on the losers in Trumpian USA. Lawsuits will be an instrument of leverage, the courts remaining independent, so the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center are good bets.
Frame your terms to get your message across. Lakoff has a book, Don’t Think of an Elephant. It’s impossible not to when you hear that phrase. Republicans are better at this than Democrats. Here are some suggestions. When talking about Russia, call it TREASON. Say Flynn is a Benedict ARNOLD, and Trump may be, and we must find out. Label them. Don’t say conflict of interest, say corruption and bribery. Don’t say nepotism, talk about dictators who appoint family members. Say lies, not untrue or false. Say Trump is mentally ill, not bizarre or hateful. Narcissistic pathology, pathological liar. He needs to be framed this way to stand a chance of impeachment.
Follow the Indivisible manual for persuading members of Congress to act with conscience. Look it up. Here is the gist. Concentrate on your own representatives. Call regularly to both their D.C. and home offices. Go in force to forums and town hall meetings and ask provocative questions, framed as above. And make them feel that they will pay dearly for supporting Trump.
Support challengers. Democrats against Republicans, and feisty Democrats in primaries, just like the Tea Party did but for good. Run yourself, if you can, for local office. Join your local democratic club.
Be selective. Focus on a single issue or cabinet department. You don’t have the time to resist the entire U.S. government. Share the burden.
Vote with your money. Boycott Trump and his supporters. Buy from resistors.
So much for tactics, here’s the strategy.
Take as many seats as possible at every level, starting this year. Take back states, one by one. It almost doesn’t matter what position. Run for town council, school board, state legislature, or support those who do. Whatever is available in 2017. And follow up next year.
Guard the right to vote with all your might. Voter ID laws very well may have cost us the election. I fear that worse is coming if Republicans have their way. This is strategic because voting is necessary to change our political reality.
Impeach after midterm for corruption and treason. History tells us the Democrats will win seats, and they might win big. And Republicans may be forced to take anti-Trump positions in order to win. The bottom line is that impeachment looks more likely after 2018. Depending on the Russian investigation, it may come earlier. Pence is terrible, but he won’t start a nuclear war in response to an insult. And he understands the constitution, unlike the current president. Pence we can handle.
Plan B is the 25th Amendment, which provides a process for replacing the President when they are unable to discharge the powers and duties of the President. The president can do so voluntarily, like going into surgery. This is only going to happen if Trump gets bored or angry at his position. Next, Vice President Pence can depose Trump with a majority of the cabinet. This is possible, because Trump has no prior relationship with most of his cabinet. If the President disagrees, the congress decides. This option is most likely after the midterm, assuming the Democrats pick up seats.
I have learned to overcome many difficulties with my disease which causes progressive paralysis, so now I have almost no muscles that work. My hard-earned lesson is to adapt with the help of loved ones, recognizing that life is getting more difficult. I try not to fear the changes, and recognize the love and beauty that surround me. I have adopted a Buddhist practice, showing compassion for everyone and everything. And that includes Trump supporters. Proceed in love, and you can’t go wrong. You should love humanity, love nature and the environment, love justice, love civil rights, love our country, and love yourself. John Lewis talks about good trouble, nonviolent and based in love. As the saying goes, love trumps hate.
So there are my thoughts. Be brave, be persistent, be optimistic that our efforts will make America better.
P.S. Here are several links on practical ways to defend democracy under a Trump Presidency: