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30 January 2017

Fighting Fire with Fire

Written by
Wendy Bittner

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been eight days since the phrase, “President Trump” has become a reality.  How could so much have changed so quickly?  Those in danger and in need (to say nothing of the legal residents, green-card, and visa-holders who already live here) are being turned away from our borders.1,2  The press (to say nothing about the scientists, park rangers, and others who happen work inside government agencies) are being threatened publicly, silenced, and—in some cases—even arrested and charged with felonies.3  The Affordable Care Act seems likely to be on its way out4, we’re headed back toward Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipeline construction, we’re out of the TPP for sure, and there’s been an order to “build the wall.”5  And all of this while he quietly removes the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the Security Council and replaces him with someone frequently described as an alt-Nazi.6  Holy shit.  One week and one day.  Our truly fearful leader seems to be employing the “flame-thrower” approach to governance, spewing jets of poisonous, oily black flame in every direction.

If ever there was a time for the phrase, “fighting fire with fire,” now might be it.  And for me, the heartening news is that not everything is burning in the direction His Trumpness might have hoped for.  All around, I’m also seeing matches and sparks and bright, little, crackling fires for good.  Some of the highlights from this week:

  • Photos from women’s marches around the world. Seeing millions in protest, inside our borders and out was so inspiring.7
  • Justin Trudeau boldly and explicitly welcoming to Canada those refugees whom we turn away. I know it will not be as easy as his simply saying it, and yet, reading his words made me cry with hope and joy.8
  • Swift ACLU action followed by a brave federal judge issuing a temporary stay on the sweeping immigration ban in under a day (it helped many and just missed others).2
  • Immigration lawyers who have dropped everything to go to airports and donate their time.9
  • Nearly spontaneous protests that have broken out at airports around the US (including my own, which I was sorry to miss).10 Protests are not new…but they’re still going strong.  They will poke him.  It will take energy from his staff to rein in his anger and tantrum-throwing tendencies.  Energy that won’t be doing as much damage elsewhere.    Poke.  Poke.
  • Many, many more people supporting the ACLU. Some of these include my friends and my relatives, one of whom was reminded to do so because of a Facebook post I made.  I am proud of this very teeny spark I may have lit.  The ACLU donation site crashed from overuse just after the election11…maybe we can do it again.
  • Some powerful (and surprising?) conservative voices have spoken out against our demagogue’s actions and policies:
    • Eliot Cohen—not known for his progressive stance!—has written (not for the first time) an eloquent denunciation of Trump’s “antics” while simultaneously reminding everyone that we are stronger than one man: With every act he makes new enemies for himself and strengthens their commitment; he has his followers, but he gains no new friends. He will fail because he cannot corrupt the courts, and because even the most timid senator sooner or later will say ‘enough.’ He will fail most of all because at the end of the day most Americans, including most of those who voted for him, are decent people who have no desire to live in an American version of Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, or Viktor Orban’s Hungary, or Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”12
    • John McCain—early among the powerful, conservative politicians to do so, along with Lindsey Graham—has spoken out against the disastrous immigration and Security Council steps (and in so doing, at least a little against this already disastrous president).13 There is so much that’s good about this.  Perhaps the most exciting thing for me, personally, was to feel the opening of a way toward working with the conservative, Republican side of our political system.  For so long, my head has been telling me to listen and work together, but my heart hasn’t been in it.  Now, in some small but important way, it is.  I once again believe that it’s possible that the face of partisanship could change back to a more productive form of disagreement (a blog of its own for another day…)

In addition to the darkness and sadness, there is also light.  I see fast changes, small moves, and weak signals emerging everywhere.  Which of Trump’s black bonfires will spread and which will burn themselves out quickly?  Which of the many bright sparks will catch and overwhelm the dark with light?  Who knows?  But let’s keep nurturing the bright lights, blowing on the small sparks, kindling hope, and fighting fire with fire.


  1. Deportations: https://www.propublica.org/article/cleveland-clinic-doctor-forced-to-leave-country-after-trump-order; https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/29/iranians-stranded-by-us-ban-tells-of-jobs-at-risk-and-families-in-disarray?CMP=fb_gu
  2. Deportations and temporary stay: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/01/29/meet-the-rookie-federal-judge-who-halted-trumps-refugee-deportations-to-save-a-syrian/?tid=sm_tw&utm_term=.21ec3eefc97a
  3. Silencing: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/26/business/media/stephen-bannon-trump-news-media.html; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/business/media/journalists-arrested-trump-inauguration.html?_r=0; http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/21/politics/trump-national-park-service-tweets/
  4. ACA: http://money.cnn.com/2017/01/22/news/economy/obamacare-trump-executive-order/; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/21/upshot/what-does-the-order-against-the-health-law-actually-do.html; (As a side note, when I searched for the actual language for the executive order aimed at dismantling the ACA, Google found it, but when I clicked on the link, what I got was a smiling picture of Trump asking me to “sign up for updates.”  When I skipped that, I got a home page—with a big, smiling, picture of Trump—asking me to “help make America great again.”  I had to go back and try clicking through again to get to the real thing, which is titled, “Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal”)
  5. Other exec orders in a nutshell: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/everything-you-need-to-know-about-trumps-executive-actions-so-far/
  6. Bannon: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/29/512295108/with-national-security-council-shakeup-steve-bannon-gets-a-seat-at-the-table
  7. Women’s marches: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/21/world/womens-march-pictures.html
  8. Trudeau: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/trudeau-canada-refugees-banned-u-s/
  9. Lawyers: http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-trailguide-updates-immigration-attorneys-seeking-to-help-1485644960-htmlstory.html
  10. Airport protests: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/29/512250469/photos-thousands-protest-at-airports-nationwide-against-trumps-immigration-order
  11. ACLU donations: http://time.com/4570796/aclu-planned-parenthood-donation-increase-donald-trump/
  12. Eliot Cohen: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/a-clarifying-moment-in-american-history/514868/

13.  McCain:  https://www.facebook.com/johnmccain/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED&fref=nf (post from 1/29/17)

14.  Photo through Creative Commons:  http://www.freeimageslive.co.uk/files/images009/fire_sparks.jpg

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