Tag Archives: donald trump

I am anti-fascist. Trump thinks that makes me a terrorist

When Donald Trump was first elected, I joked to my family that should I disappear, they ought to look for me in a gulag in the Utah desert. I was convinced a man with authoritarian leanings would attempt to crack down on free speech, especially from those of us opposed to his racist regime. It took a little longer than I expected, but with his latest tweeted edict, the mango Mussolini has finally ripened.

“The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a terrorist organization,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. Antifa is short for “anti-fascist,” something you would think an American president would naturally be. Not so. Eager to jump on the “anti-anti-fascist” bandwagon, Trump’s tweet was quickly followed by a Senate resolution introduced by Republicans Ted Cruz and Bill Cassidy “[c]alling for the designation of Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization.”

This is bonkers, not least because Antifa is not an actual organization. Rather, it is a nebulous collection of autonomous activists, a loose web of folks who share similar tactics and an opposition to fascism. Antifa is not a club you can join. There is no structure, no leadership, no membership roster.

It is not the Junior League for anarchists, nor is it the second coming of the Weather Underground, though that is what Donald Trump would have us think. They have blown up no buildings and they have killed no Americans. Yet, according to Republicans, they are domestic terrorists.

What makes them terrorists? They disagree with the president, and anyone who dares question Dear Leader, like the press, is an “enemy of the people. This is about cracking down on opposition to the Trump regime, as historian Mark Bray points out in a recent column for the Washington Post. “If antifa groups are composed of a wide range of socialists, anarchists, communists, and other radicals, then declaring antifa to be a ‘terrorist’ organization would pave the way to criminalizing and delegitimizing all politics to the left of Joe Biden,” he writes.

Donald Trump is a man who pathologically loathes dissent. Charlottesville Nazis are “very fine people” because they support him. Black Lives Matter protestors are “thugs” because they do not. This is not about terrorism. If it were, Republicans would be going after white nationalists, who since 9/11, have killed 110 Americans according to the research institution New America. Antifa, remember, has killed exactly zero people. This is about criminalizing leftwing activism and speech.

Historically, the United States has not labelled domestic political groups as terrorist organizations, and for good reason. Belonging to such groups is protected under the First Amendment. You cannot be arrested for simply believing in or espousing radical, even odious views. We don’t criminalize thought in this country, only actions. It is why belonging to the Ku Klux Klan is not a criminal offense but burning a cross in someone’s yard is.

And while setting fire to a police station is not the wonton act of racist terror that burning a cross is, it is still a crime. Last night, Washington burned brighter than it has since the British torched the White House. Whether vandalism, looting, or arson are committed by white nationalists or Antifa or some other group (and right now there’s a lot of confusion as to who is doing what), they are prosecutable. It is the act that is the crime, though, not the belief, not the speech, not the peaceful protest that came before it.

Trump, Cruz, Cassidy, and the braying mob of rightwing pundits all know this. It is why the Senate Resolution uses “Antifa” and “leftwing activists” interchangeably. The goal of Donald Trump is not to combat domestic terrorism. It is to silence leftwing opposition. If Trump and the Republicans get their way, simply belonging to Antifa will be a criminal offense. Yet because there is no concrete way of defining Antifa, this regime can label anyone who disagrees with it a member, and therefore a terrorist. Dissent will become punishable by law.

Pack some sunscreen. I’ll see you in the desert.

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

Killing All The Right People

In a 1987 episode of Designing Women, a show about four interior decorators in Atlanta, the titular characters discover a good friend is gay and dying of AIDS. They are naturally distraught, but one of their customers is smug and satisfied. In a diatribe about how AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality, the bigoted belle screeches “as far as I’m concerned this disease has one thing going for it: it’s killing all the right people.” The indomitable Julia Sugarbaker, played by Dixie Carter (who herself was a lifelong conservative), reads the woman the Riot Act, throwing her out of her business to applause from the studio audience. It’s one of the most powerful television moments of the 1980s.

I’ve been thinking about that scene a lot since yesterday, when three things occurred which might not seem entirely connected, but are. Larry Kramer, the legendary gay rights and AIDS activist, passed away, aged 84. Then, the nation reached a grizzly milestone: 100,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. As this was happening, President Trump retweeted a video of a supporter mirthfully telling a crowd of likeminded Red Hats that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” No, really. See for yourself.

What do these things have in common? Two of them tell us a lot about the dangerous times in which we find ourselves. One of them shows us the way forward.

None of us exist in a vacuum, least of all the President of the United States. His acolytes will insist that the president did not watch the video, or that the “Cowboys for Trump” leader who said Democrats are only good when dead was being hyperbolic, or that he clarified that he didn’t “mean it in the physical sense” but rather in the “political sense.” It doesn’t matter. The gun-toting militiamen heard what they heard, what we all heard.

It is a nifty little trick of theirs, to walk back statements or send coded messages which provide plausible deniability. As the author and academic Reece Jones pointed out this week, these far-right terrorist groups have developed their own vernacular and symbols, such as wearing aloha shirts as a way of signaling their desire for a second Civil War. The cowboy Red Hat said what he meant, the President amplified it and thanked him for it, and his supporters heard what they were meant to hear: “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat. I don’t mean that literally… wink, wink.”

Of course, sometimes they escalate beyond coded language. Earlier this week, an effigy of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, was hung from a tree by a far-right militia group. In 2018, a Trump supporter was arrested for planning a bombing campaign against Democratic officials. Back 2011, Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot when a gunman opened fire on an event she was holding in her district. Six were killed that day, including a federal judge, a congressional staffer, and a nine-year-old girl. I guess they’re good Democrats, now.

This callous indifference of Trump and some of his supporters to the lives of those who do not look and think like them should not surprise anyone. We probably crossed the threshold into a six-digit coronavirus body count weeks ago, but it officially happened yesterday. The president, who had time to tweet his thanks to a man who believes the opposition party is better dead than alive, did not acknowledge the somber and gut-wrenching news until this morning.

Why did it take the President so long to comment?  Well, it’s a remarkably cogent tweet, striking the right tone and without any grammatical errors or random capitalization, indicating that Trump probably had some help composing it. Perhaps the staffer charged with making him sound human was out yesterday. More likely, though, it is simply that he did not care.

The President did, however, care enough to endorse the notion that the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat, and this pandemic has killed a lot of Democrats. The New York Times recently ran an article comparing how the coronavirus has disproportionately affected blue states, as well as Black people and Latino people, who are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. The President and Congressional Republicans have refused federal aid to states like New York and Illinois, callously labeling much-needed help for ailing Americans as a “blue state bailout.” These Americans are largely Democrats, though, and the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat. So blue states get nothing, and the death toll rises. After all, like AIDS in the 80s, it’s killing all the right people.

Which brings me to Larry Kramer. Best known as the confrontational, unapologetic founder of ACT UP, Kramer never minced his words. “Some reporter called me ‘the angriest gay man in the world’ or some such,” he once said. “Well, it stuck, but I realized it was very useful.” He used that anger to draw attention to a plague which ravished the gay community, but also to the innate bigotry of many Americans, especially those in power. “Too many people hate the people that AIDS most affects, gay people and people of colour,” he wrote, listing ten hard-learned lessons from the AIDS epidemic.

These lessons are still relevant today as Americans face the bleak truth that the president hates half the country and is literally willing to let them die. We must harness our righteous anger at a man and a movement which threatens our lives and sneers at our deaths. We must defeat not only Trump, and not only Trumpism, but a literal plague they are weaponizing against us. We must stand up and say, quite simply, “enough. Our lives matter.”

A sublot of “Killing All The Right People” is Mary Jo (played brilliantly by Annie Potts) reluctantly being forced to publicly advocate for birth control to be offered at her daughter’s school. In a moving speech towards the end of the episode, she chokes back tears as she speaks to a crowd of parents, and to her dying friend. “I think that it really shouldn’t matter what your personal views are about birth control, because you see, we’re not just talking about preventing births anymore,” she says. “We’re talking about preventing deaths. 85,00 Americans have died, and we’re still debating. Well, for me, this debate is over.”

For me, too, this debate is over. Donald Trump does not care about coronavirus deaths because he thinks the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat, and right now COVID-19 is disproportionately killing Democrats, or at least people who fit his perception of Democrats. We cannot allow this callousness, this hate, to continue to permeate our politics and our nation. We can’t argue over our right to life. Instead, we must do as Larry Kramer did and fight like hell for it, because the only good Democrat isn’t a dead one. The only good Democrat is an angry one.

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

Like Romney and Jones

 

I hope, in times of great challenge, I have as much conviction, integrity, and courage as Mitt Romney and Doug Jones.

I hope I have the conviction to know what is right, even if others do not.

I hope I have the integrity to say what is right, even if it is hard.

I hope I have the courage to do what is right, even if it hurts.

I hope I can be like Romney and Jones.

Skylar Baker-Jordan has been writing about UK and US politics for more than a decade. His work as appeared at The Independent, Salon, Huff Post UK, and elsewhere. He lives in Tennessee. Follow him on Twitter or become a supporter by contributing to his Patreon account.

So you’ve elected a national joke. Now what?

boris johnson election

Boris Johnson is the new leader of the Conservatives. Photo: LBC/PA

Well, it was as expected. Boris Johnson handily defeated Jeremy Hunt to be the next leader of the Conservatives and, by the time you’re reading this—he still has to ask Her Majesty—will be Prime Minister. A lot of people to the left of Enoch Powell are understandably forlorn right now. Luckily for you, dear British readers, your American cousins have some experience with electing a national joke as our leader. After two-and-a-half years of Donald Trump, allow me to impart some hard-won wisdom:

  • Go get drunk. The day following Trump’s election, I was in Sheffield. I began drinking at 9:00 AM and didn’t stop until the pub closed. The landlord and his girlfriend actually let me in a little early because they knew how I upset I was. Drinking numbs the many emotions you’re likely to feel—despair, anger, fear, annoyance, a dark sort of amusement at the shitstorm that’s to come—and allows you to, at least for a day, forget that you feel completely fucked
  • Keep some perspective. I didn’t do this after Trump’s election, and I regret it. It made my response to his election less effective and equated more to a temper tantrum than anything else. Don’t make that mistake. Keep calm. Trump is repugnant and Johnson is bad, but neither are Hitler. For now, they can both be defeated through democratic means. Despite how it may feel, this isn’t Years and Years. We’re still about four or five years away from that. Things may seem hopeless, but for now our institutions on both sides of the Atlantic remain intact and are functioning at some level, anyway
  • Avoid the “well I didn’t vote for him”/”not MY prime minister” nonsense. It’s tempting to distance yourself from Boris Johnson, especially since only Tory Party members got to vote for him. Talk about how that’s unfair, if you think it is, but don’t throw your toys out of the pram. It won’t win anyone on the right over and, while it will make you feel better, it doesn’t accomplish much, and this isn’t about you as an individual. It’s about the country as a whole. Keep your eye on the prize
  • Keep a journal. It’s hard to remember every outrage and every terrifying action. Keeping a journal where you mention “today Johnson compared Muslim women to letterboxes” or “he used a racial slur today” is helpful to look back on when you need to remember specific details about why your leader is so awful
  • Watch for entryism. You’ve seen it in Labour with the hard left, and it happened with the Republicans over a few years too, where an emboldened far right joined and changed the trajectory of the party. Keep a careful eye to make sure the Tories don’t tick so far right they end up as UKIP mark two
  • Organise. The Democrats were only able to take the House of Representatives back in 2018 because we pounded the pavement and made the case against Trumpism. Grassroots organising has been vital to helping curtail the worst of Donald Trump, whether it’s against ICE—I see regular social media updates from friends in Chicago about where ICE agents are spotted to help immigrant families avoid them—or against his latest dalliance with neo-Nazis. We don’t always win (Kavanaugh), but we always fight
  • Watch how other Tories respond. Tribalism is arguably worse in UK politics than it is in US politics (or, at least it was four years ago). Will Conservative backbenchers fall in line with every destructive policy Johnson introduces, or will the stand on principle when they really do oppose him? Our Republicans have largely rolled over for Trump, so watch to see how Nicky Morgan, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab, etc behave over the course of Johnson’s premiership
  • Build coalitions. Keep your eyes on the prize – defeating Boris Johnson. The internecine warfare in Labour needs to end and the party needs to coalesce. Given the real concerns with anti-Semitism, that seems unlikely (and look, hard to blame those against anti-Semitism for not backing down). So look elsewhere. Build electoral coalitions with the Greens and, yes, with the Liberal Democrats if you must. When you’re dealing with a Bannon-backed populist, as Johnson is, nothing matters as much as defeating him. Getting Johnson out of Number 10 and electing a centrist or left-of-centre government is most crucial right now, not ideological purity
  • Chin up. Despite what you might thing, the world keeps spinning. The sun rises in the morning. Ben Mitchell still picks fights on EastEnders. Life goes on, and your day-to-day life won’t change very much. If that sounds like I’m minimising what you’re feeling or the latest groundswell of populism in the Western world, I’m not. But it’s important to keep your wits about you and have some perspective

Don’t be too downtrodden after today. Go ahead and lick your wounds, but tomorrow the fight continues. 31 October is just over three months away, so there’s plenty of work to do in not a long amount of time. Get drunk, and then get to work.

Boris Johnson just proved he is Donald Trump’s stooge

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Boris Johnson literally gets a pat on the back from Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters/The Mirror

There was a moment in last night’s ITV debate between Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson where the yellow-haired muppet told us exactly what kind of prime minister he will be. Poundshop Donald Trump refused to back Britain’s embattled ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch, by saying he would “not be so presumptuous” on when Darroch—scheduled to retire in six or so months—would leave his job and that “I alone will decide who takes important and politically sensitive jobs” – a terrifying thought in the best of times.

These are not the best of times, though. They are quite possibly the end times, with Boris’ all-but-inevitable move into Number 10 the opening of the seventh seal, behind the election of Donald Trump, Brexit, the fire at Notre Dame, California earthquakes, and, of course, Joe’s departure from Love Island. The world is already despairing. Yet somehow, the once and future clown of the Conservative Party has somehow made it all worse.

Sir Kim came under fire over the weekend when confidential diplomatic cables he sent back to London, in which he called Donald Trump “inept” and “insecure” and his administration “uniquely dysfunctional,” were leaked in that most reputable and esteemed of publications, the Mail on Sunday. Sir Kim managed to hang on throughout Monday and Tuesday, despite repeated personal attacks by Donald Trump. His position became untenable, at least in his eyes, though when his all-but-guaranteed future boss refused to publicly support him. Boris Johnson’s refusal to stand by Britain’s ambassador to the United States is said to be the driving force behind his decision to resign.

The relationship between Donald Trump and Boris Johnson has long been one of rabid speculation, with many feeling that the erstwhile mayor of London and the current charlatan-in-chief were too cozy. “Boris Johnson is a friend of mine,” Donald Trump said last year after Johnson resigned as foreign secretary. “He has been very, very nice to me, very supportive.” To Trump, being nice to him, being very supportive of him, is what counts. Not right or wrong, or good or bad, or smart or stupid. All that matters is that you kiss the ring.

Boris Johnson knows this, and so last night he gave Trump something he desperately wanted and rid him of that troublesome ambassador. By refusing to support Sir Kim, Johnson basically handed him a P45. Donald Trump could be laughing all the way from the White House toilet.

That Johnson would throw a career diplomat and one of the most senior members of the British Civil Service under the bus to appease the tangerine tyrant is enough to disqualify him from ever even stepping foot on Downing Street. But what’s truly terrifying is what it means further down the road. Last night, Boris Johnson demonstrated two deeply concerning qualities that make the notion of his premiership utterly terrifying.

To begin with is the obvious: when it comes to defending British values and people—whether they’re senior civil servants or run-of-the-mill citizens, as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe would tell you if she wasn’t starving in an Iranian prison—Johnson will always choose self-interest. As of last night, part of that self-interest is in sucking up to the nectarine Neanderthal currently pretending to govern America.

That is deeply concerning for civil servants and the diplomatic corp. Nothing Sir Kim said was wrong, or malicious, or a lie. It was the stone-cold truth. If our diplomats cannot relay their frank and honest assessments without fear of reprisal, then the Foreign Office cannot function as it should. They perform a vital service, and part of their ability to perform that service is the knowledge that there will be no reprisals for their honesty. This is true not just of diplomats but across the civil service. When the women and men trusted with giving expert advice to the government of the day no longer feel confident doing so, something has gone very awry.

Beyond this, though, is the fact that Boris refused to defend his countryman. If Boris Johnson can’t, or won’t, stand up to Trump in defence of his ambassador’s frank assessment of the situation in Washington, it is unfathomable that he will stand up to Trump on foreign affairs or trade.

Trump is a man who has publicly said that he wants the NHS on the table during any US-UK trade negotiations. We already know that Trump wants to push up drug prices in the UK. Trump wants US companies to have more access to the NHS than they already do, which many fear would accelerate a privistation crisis which has been ongoing under the Tory-led government of the last 9 years.

Given what we’ve seen so far, there is no indication that Boris wouldn’t gladly carve up the NHS on a sacrificial alter of Trumpism just to secure a trade deal for his wealthy friends. His first policy announced during this leadership race was a tax cut for the most wealthy, which tells you where his priorities lie. It is entirely likely that Prime Minister Boris, eager to strike a trade deal with the United States after leading a no-deal Brexit, would do whatever it took to get Trump to the signing table.

Once there, I cringe to think what Boris will do to appease his new boss. What we know he won’t do is stand up for Britain’s best interests. He showed us that last night, and because of it, a career civil servant and one of Britain’s most prominent diplomats was forced to resign. Who will Boris throw under the bus next? Probably all of us.

Well, all of you. I live in America. I’ve had two and a half years to get used to being governed by a bumbling blonde baboon. You become somewhat numb to it after a while, probably because you start drinking all the time. Stock up on wine before you can’t get it through the Port of Dover.

The thing is, though, the British people will have it worse than the American people. Donald Trump is clearly the one calling the shots (though I still think he takes orders from Vladimir Putin – every boss has a boss, they say). Boris Johnson has made clear he’ll do as he’s told. You, in return, get Brexit and higher prescription drug costs. And Donald Trump gets a stooge in Number 10.

 

Donald Trump is wrong to cut foreign aid

trump sotu

Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address last night on Capitol Hill. Photo: CBS News

Hell hath no fury like Donald Trump scorned. He is still smarting over nearly every nation in the world voting to condemn his decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and it has now translated into policy. Last night, the President pledged last night to cut foreign aid to countries which oppose American foreign policy.

Immediately #MAGA Twitter applauded the news. Retired Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin – who currently serves as Vice President for the far-right Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group – called the news “phenomenal” in a tweet. “American dollars must support American interests,” he said.

Anyone with even the faintest idea of international politics ought to know that’s exactly what foreign aid does, though. This isn’t free money for ungrateful poor countries, which is how Trump and his acolytes frame it. Foreign aid is vital to American interests.

The Chinese know this. Beijing is investing in Africa at a record pace, building infrastructure and providing economic aid while Trump calls its nation’s “shitholes.” Instead of insulting them, he ought to be looking to see how he can help them and make allies out of them. Considering the West’s history of carving up the continent, direct investment in their security and stability and humanitarian aid is a great place to start.

If not for the altruistic goal of improving the lives of some of the world’s most impoverished people, we ought to do it for our own national security. Throughout West Africa, US aid helped to contain and eradicate Ebola before it had a chance to spread outside the region, including to the United States.

Providing money to fight disease, combat terrorism, and feed those in need is a great way to win the hearts of populations we desperately need on our side and to prevent the spread of terrorism. In Nigeria, US aid has “provide[s] life-saving humanitarian assistance and transitional programs for stabilisation” against Boko Haram, an offshoot of ISIS which last year killed four American soldiers. But don’t take my word for it – that’s a direct quote from the US State Department.

The State Department has an entire website dedicated to showing the American people just how their tax dollars our being spent abroad, and its both enlightening and sobering reading. It specifically mentions the “deteriorating situation in Syria and instability in Iraq” – where ISIS operates – in explaining the need for $3.8 million in foreign aid it plans to give Turkey this fiscal year for “training in the detection of illicit weapons, improved licensing procedures, and enhanced border controls.” This is chump change compared to the $87 million the US is giving to Mexico, which the State Department says “continues to be a strong partner of the initiatives that complement the United States’ programs to address the root causes of unlawful migration from Central America.”

Even the Red Hats can surely applaud that goal. It is an irrefutable fact that part of the reason people from Central America migrate to the US is the instability in their own countries, whether due to cartel violence or economic insecurity. These are countries in America’s own backyard, and whether the isolationists – or even the President – want to admit it or not, their stability is tied to our own stability.

We have a vested interest in the success of other nations, even if they don’t always kotow to Trump. Regardless of how much the President and his cronies want to deny it, we live in a globalised world where American interests are directly tied to the interests of other countries. This fact doesn’t stop just because Trump doesn’t like the way our allies vote at the UN.

Friends sometimes disagree, but that doesn’t mean that we should turn our backs on them. When Margaret Thatcher went to war against Argentina to protect the Falklands, the Reagan administration vehemently disagreed – but American didn’t turn its back on Britain. When America invaded Grenada, Thatcher was furious, but Britain still stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us.

Invasions and war makes a UN resolution seem like small potatoes. It really illustrates just how petty Trump is and how utterly clueless the isolationists lauding his decision to cut foreign aid to those who disagree with his policies are. They are throwing a temper tantrum that puts America’s own national security and interests at risk. We can afford foreign aid. We can’t afford that.

Skylar Baker-Jordan runs “The Curious American.” His writing has appeared at The Independent, HuffPostUK, The Daily Dot, The Advocate, and elsewhere. He is a contributing editor at THEGAYUK Magazine. He lives in Chicago.

“Roseanne” could be just the show we need – if ABC does it right

AMES MCNAMARA, SARA GILBERT, LAURIE METCALF, EMMA KENNEY, JAYDEN REY, ROSEANNE BARR, MICHAEL FISHMAN, JOHN GOODMAN, LECY GORANSON, SARAH CHALKE

The cast of ABC’s Roseanne, which returns on 27 March

I love Roseanne. A show about a working class white family in downstate Illinois, it has long been one of my favourites. I remember watching it with my family as a child and have seen every episode at least twice as an adult. I can quote many episodes by heart. It spoke to me and my upbringing as a working-class kid in Ohio and Kentucky. In the Conner’s, I saw a reflection of my own family. It’s no surprise then that I was thrilled to hear the show was returning, 20 years after it went off the air.

But Roseanne Barr is a Trump supporter, and as revealed at the Television Critics’ Association up-fronts this week, so now is her character.  “I’ve always tried to have it be a true reflection of the society we live in. Half the people voted for Trump and half didn’t. It’s just realistic,” she said about the decision to have the Conner family split between Hillary and Trump voters, adding (incorrectly) that it was working class white people who elected Trump.

Predictably, this has led many fans of the original series to boycott the reboot. I understand the sentiment. Roseanne’s politics repulse me. If I want to see a Trump apologist I’d turn on Fox News. To say that both Roseanne Barr’s and Roseanne Conner’s support for that sunburnt sasquatch hasn’t diminished my joy and tainted my love for the show would be a lie.

During the show’s first iteration Roseanne Conner was a strident, if unintentional, feminist who broke the mould of what a woman could and should be on TV. She led a union walkout at her factory. She started her own business with her sister, mother, and best friend. She insisted her children not be hampered by gender norms, in one memorable scene telling daughter Darlene that a baseball glove was a girl’s thing if a girl used it.  She dealt with racism, sexism, and domestic violence – both addressing her own physical abuse as a child and her sister Jackie’s abuse by her boyfriend. She had gay and lesbian friends and even threw a same-sex wedding years before the idea gained mainstream acceptance, even amongst gay rights activists.

The Roseanne Conner of yesteryear would never tolerate someone who bragged about grabbing women by the pussy. In fact, some of that old progressive spark seems to be alive in the reboot. Sara Gilbert, the openly lesbian actress who plays Darlene, is a producer. Her character’s son, Mark, will be a gender non-conforming boy who wears dresses. And Michael Fishman’s character DJ’s daughter is a Black girl named Mary, after her great-great grandmother. (No word on whether Mary’s mom will appear.)

So it’s hard to see how the character could come to such a wildly different worldview today than she had in 1997. Barr didn’t offer much in the way of explanation at the up-fronts, which leaves a lot of old fans like me very sceptical that this show is going to be anything other than a platform for Barr to espouse her weird conspiracy theories and unabashed support for the orange oppressor.

That the show would tackle Trump is hardly surprising, though. Roseanne takes place in the fictional small town of Lanford, Illinois – an exurb of Chicago smack dab in the middle of the Rust Belt. It’s this region of the country which seems to be the strongest bastion of Trump support (it was certainly the region that handed him the White House), and a lot of the issues the series dealt with in the 1980s and 1990s – low and stagnant wages, factory closings, un- and underemployment, community blight – are issues which many more communities in the Great Lakes states are experiencing today.

It’s easy to believe most people in Lanford would be Trump voters. Indeed, when announcing the return of the series last year, ABC President Channing Dungey said she wanted to “bring back a point of view that has really been missing on the air,” citing Trump voters as the show’s target demographic. What better family to speak to the white working class than the iconic Conner clan? I doubt they’re watching shows like Fresh of the Boat or blackish. And the Conners are the antithesis of the Pritchetts and Dunphys on Modern Family.

So ABC has brought back the Conners, which by all reports is a family divided. Word out of the TCA up-front is that Jackie (played by the remarkable Laurie Metcalfe) hasn’t spoken to her sister Roseanne in a year because of the latter’s support for Trump. (Stills released by the network show Jackie dressed in a “nasty woman” shirt and pink pussy hat.) Far be it from me to argue this isn’t realistic or relevant. I’ve written about my own feuding family a couple times, including how I haven’t spoken to my sister since the 2016 election. There’s artistic merit in exploring this critical moment in our history with a sitcom, much like Norman Lear did with the Vietnam War in All in the Family.

Of course, loveable bigot Archie Bunker always got his comeuppance and frequently realised he was on the wrong side of history. My fear, though, is that the Conners are going to be used by Barr to excuse the bigotry latent in support for Trump. You must tolerate and to a degree embrace the misogyny, racism, and xenophobia of Donald Trump to vote for and continue to support him. That’s going to have to be addressed if this show is going to retain any credibility and not turn into straight-up Trumpist propaganda.

Donald Trump’s tweets matter

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Donald Trump likes to tweet. As a candidate, many of us looked on bemused as he ranted about non-existent sex tapes at 3:00 AM. Since winning the Electoral College (but not the popular vote), that bemusement has turned to abject horror as the President-Elect of the United States has continued to tweet like a 20-year-old loner in his parents’ basement. Some, such as Kate Maltby at CNN, have suggested that Trump’s tweets are a “dead cat” meant to distract us from the true issues at play, like his fraud settlement in the Trump University case or his overseas business interests.

I disagree, and wholeheartedly cosign what ProPublica’s Jessica Huseman said to the Washington Post on Monday:

If he had said something similar in a press conference, no one would be concerned that journalists are getting distracted by his absurd language. But because it was a tweet, that’s somehow different? Unfortunately, this president-elect has decided to make Twitter his main means of communicating with the American public, and the American public listens deeply to things that he says on Twitter.

Given Trump’s distaste for the mainstream media and reluctance to sit down for rigorous, adversarial interviews, Twitter is likely to become the primary mode of communication between the President-Elect and the American people. As such, we should listen deeply to what Trump is saying on Twitter, because it tells us a lot about his character – and how he will govern.

For example, let’s look at four tweets he’s sent since 8 November:

These sample tweets all demonstrate Trump’s contempt for the First Amendment. The first Tweet, sent just this morning, calls for criminalising flag burning. We can debate the ethics or morality of burning the American flag, but the act—the speech—of burning a flag is protected under the First Amendment. Flag burning has long been a jarring act of protest used to demonstrate profound disagreement with the government of the day. None of us should want to criminalise an act of demonstrating opposition, no matter how repugnant we may ourselves find it. And certainly no reasonable person believes Americans should be stripped of their citizenship for burning a flag. Stripping people of citizenship isn’t what America does; it’s what the Third Reich did.

The second and third Tweets illustrate Trump’s complete disdain for peaceful dissent. The protests that organised in cities across the country were largely peaceful and a normal, rational reaction to the campaign promises Trump made on the trail. They were representative of the majority of Americans who didn’t want Trump to be president. But beyond that, they were a perfectly lawful and constitutional assembly. Similarly, Trump’s tweet about the cast of “Hamilton” shows, in his own words, that he thinks dissent is harassment. This is a dangerous characteristic for a president, who has the vast resources of the Executive Branch to survey and punish opponents and dissidents. If you think this can’t happen, I need only remind you that President Obama is leaving a massive surveillance apparatus to Trump, and that in our history, we’ve seen J Edgar Hoover gleefully violate civil liberties for Presidents Johnson and Nixon.

The fourth tweet is about the fourth estate, and it shows a deeply troubling penchant more reminiscent of autocracy than democracy. Trump thinks that any coverage that is less than fawning is biased, corrupt, or unfair. There is no law that says the White House must brief journalists, and autocrats routinely refuse access to reporters and news outlets who they deem opponents. It is incredibly difficult to do your job as a journalist if you don’t have access, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that Trump could deny access to the Times, the Washington Post, or any other outlet critical of him. Hell, it’s already happened on the campaign trail. Even when he doesn’t outright deny access, he sends his hordes of followers after journalists he doesn’t like; MSNBC’s Katy Tur had to be escorted out of a Trump rally by the Secret Service after he lambasted her at a rally.

Given the fact Trump is likely to continue communicating primarily in 140 characters or less, at least for the foreseeable future, covering his tweets – and taking them at face value – is deeply important. This isn’t a distraction from other important stories, but rather an important story in-and-of itself that should be covered along with policy and personnel decisions. For the time being, at least, we will have to walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.

We should also pay close attention to how Trump’s Twitter habits change (or don’t) over the coming weeks. Following his election in 2008, President Obama was made to give up his Twitter and Blackberry for national security and legal reasons.  Obama does now have his own Twitter, which I assume will be turned over to Trump come 20 January. How he uses the official presidential Twitter, though, remains to be seen. So far, there’s no reason to believe that Trump will temper his tweets and rise to the occasion of the office he holds.  Which means soon, the President of the United States could be a man who officially endorses curtailing the freedoms that have made this country great.

Five things the American resistance can be thankful for this Thanksgiving

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Protesters outside Trump Tower, Chicago. Photo: John Gress/Getty Images via CBS.com

I don’t feel there’s a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. My country has elected a fascist and Native American water protectors are being attacked by the occupying American police. Colonialism and authoritarianism are alive and well on the shores of the United States, and if you’re a decent person, it’s hard to find anything to celebrate this November.

But in the spirit of what this holiday is meant to mean, I’ve decided to try to find five things I am grateful for. There’s the obvious – the Chicago family that adopted me in as their own; my friends who are basically my siblings; my beloved cats; a steady income; Britain – but I don’t want to focus on the apparent and instead dig beneath the surface.

What can we, the American resistance, be thankful for? This is my attempt to inspire us all to resist and battle in that vile man’s America.

 

  1. The legends who came before us

    Pontiac. Abigail Adams. Tecumseh. Sojourner Truth. Nat Turner. John Brown. Frederick Douglas. Chae Chan Ping. August Spies. Lucy Parsons. Emma Goldman. Sitting Bull. Ida Wells Barnett. Chief Joseph. Alice Paul. Inez Mullholland. Henry Gerber. Bayard Rustin. Dr Martin Luther King, Junior. Ella Baker. Malcolm X. Harvey Milk. Grace Lee Boggs. Gus Garcia. Cesar Chavez. Sylvia Rivera. Brandon Teena.

    We stand on the shoulders of giants. These people have fought for liberation – from American colonialism, American sexism, American racism, American homophobia, American transphobia, American capitalism – throughout our history. If you don’t know their stories, I suggest you Google them. I specifically chose those who are dead because those who still live will play a vital part in the resistance to come, though I’m grateful for all they’ve contributed and will contribute, of course. But we must look to our ancestors for inspiration, guidance, and power. Their spirits and their struggles live and are fought through us. I’m grateful for the courage they provide me.

  1. The art of marginalised Americans

    From Phyllis Wheatley to Zora Neale Hurston to Walt Whitman and Gertrude Stein, our ancestors have given us some truly remarkable art that tells our stories and sparks our imaginations. Maya Angelou. Gore Vidal. Truman Capote. Hattie McDaniel. Lena Horne. Ma Rainey. Janis Joplin. Marian Anderson. John Okada. And the contemporaries who inspire me: Ellen Degeneres, Neil Patrick Harris, Adam Lambert, Saeed Jones, Madeline Miller, Lady Gaga, Wanda Sykes, Ava DuVarney, John Legend, Wilfred Chan, Kellee Terrell, Kendrick Lamar, Laverne Cox, Scott Turner Schofield, and so many others.

 

  1. Community and fellowship

    We cannot take this for granted in the age of that vile man. Now, more than ever, we must pull together at the grassroots level and support, uplift, and love one another. We must find community with likeminded folks who share our values of equality, love, and liberation. Now is not a time to go it alone. It is time to join hands with others who share our values, and get on with the work ahead. I am so grateful for the community of wonderful, progressive and radical friends I have who make me feel less alone in a world where my own family votes for fascism. It cannot be understated how important it is to find a family of choice, a community that accepts, embraces, and emboldens you.

  2. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton

    Sounds a bit odd, right? One is going leaving office in two months and the other lost the election. But regardless of what you feel about either, they’re the highest profile members of the resistance. They will be the figures to which many – maybe most – of us rally. President Obama has led us from the Great Recession to a time of economic prosperity, and Secretary Clinton won two million more votes than that vile man. The country was with her. It was not her failing, but a failing of our democratic institutions. We will need them more than ever in the next four years. They both must rise to the challenge of leading the resistance and standing up to white supremacy, bigotry, and fascism. I can think of no two leaders better positioned to do it. I’m still with her, and I still believe that yes, we can.

  3. Solidarity

    There is no finer thing. Right wing populism is on the rise in much of the Western world. It’s going to take quite a bit to defeat it. But I am so grateful for my allies around the globe, including Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, the Labour Party, SNP, and Green Party in Britain, and countless socialist parties throughout Europe. This is a scary time in Western history, but America, know we are not alone. There is a global resistance to the rise of reactionary populism and neo-fascism. We can take comfort that our allies across the sea have our back. The American resistance is not alone.

Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow progressives and radicals. The rest of you may think this maudlin, but I couldn’t care less. You’re either with us or you’re against us. Welcome to the American resistance. And even though things look bleak, the resistance has so much to be grateful for.

 

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free
While God is marching on.

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Chicago. His work has appeared at the Independent, the Advocate, Salon, the Daily Dot, the Gay UK Magazine, Pink News, and elsewhere. He is currently pursuing a visa to emigrate to the UK.

*Editorial note: This blog refers to President-Elect Trump as “that vile man” as we cannot bring ourselves to call him anything else.

Stop calling me the liberal elite

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The author and friends leading a gay rights march through Chicago in 2013. Photo: Brittany Sowacke/Red Eye

In the days after the general election, I said that I am no longer American. This was prompted by the seeming consensus that to be American one must live in an exurb or rural area somewhere not on a coast. But I have changed my mind. While the media narrative surrounding the rise of fascism in America is, largely, that we on the left have ignored white working class people in favour of the metropolitan liberal elite. The Telegraph even has a fun little quiz where you can figure out if you’re part of the liberal elite.

Let me tell you why this is bullshit.

I am the white working class. I was raised in the Rust Belt by the descendants of Appalachian peasants (and make no mistake, that’s what they were) who migrated out of Kentucky and Tennessee to the factories of the Midwest. Aged 15, I moved back to the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky and then later went on to spend seven wonderful years in Bowling Green, a small city best known for manufacturing Corvettes and once appearing in a Martina McBride music video. Then I moved to Chicago.

Since then, I’ve been told I’m part of the metropolitan elite by people as disparate as the ballet dancer Jack Thorpe-Baker and my own sister. I’m out of touch, they say. I don’t know what “real” America or “real Britain” is feeling, what they need. I’m a gay urban journalist who exists on two continents, or more specifically in two global cities, who enjoys opera and musicals and has a diverse group of friends. I don’t get “real” America, like in Dayton, Ohio (where I was raised) or Sheffield, England (where I just came from). I don’t understand their anxieties, their concerns, or their way of life.

Except, you know, I do. Because I am them. I come from them. And despite having gotten a university education, I am still a part of them.

Your ignorance ignores this. I’ve been told by so many Americans this week to “mind my own business” because the geotag on my tweets says “Walthamstow, London.” Newsflash: Americans travel. They even move abroad. Just because I’m across the ocean doesn’t mean it isn’t my country too. But this illustrates the ignorance and narrow worldview of so many people who voted for that vile man. They can’t fathom an American would ever travel, let alone move, abroad.

I get it. Globalisation and free trade have left behind many, many people in Middle America and Middle England. They’re understandably angry. But this vote wasn’t about economic anxiety, as the media would have us believe. The voter demographics coming out show us that white working class Americans largely broke for Clinton. Rather, college educated white people put Trump just over the threshold in states like Wisconsin and Michigan to get him more electoral votes than Clinton. So stop saying poor white people did this. They didn’t.

Racist white people did this.

This election was about one thing: who gets to be American. Everyone who says this election was “a backlash against the establishment” really means it was a backlash against diverse, cosmopolitan values which are radiating from cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It’s a reaction against the browning and queering of the country.

Every single person who says I am not a “real” American, that I am not capable of understanding what “real” Americans think or feel or need can kindly fuck off. I’m as real an American as any one of you. Even by the nativist sentiments of the alt-right, I’m as American as Toby Keith eating apple pie in the back of a Dodge pickup while wrapped in the stars and stripes. My ancestors have been in America since before the Revolution. One of them, at least, fought for the Union in the Civil War. We have been farmers, coal miners, factory workers and, yes, now a journalist. My grandparents grew up without running water or indoor plumbing, raised my father up enough to where he got a technical degree, and then I went to a four-year university. I am the definition of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and embracing the American dream. You don’t get to take that away from me just because I have a more open mind and bigger heart than you.

When people say that this election was about everyday Americans taking their country back, about draining the swamp, they don’t mean that it was about taking it back from Wall Street lobbyists and career politicians. If so, Trump’s rhetoric and transition team would look very, very different. No, this was about taking it back from queer people like me and my Black and undocumented friends. This wasn’t about taking the country back from special interests but from marginalised people making marginal gains in equality.

It also ignores who “everyday Americans” are. “Everyday Americans” include my friend Lily, a Latina single mom who risks losing head-of-household status because of that vile man. “Everyday Americans” include my friend Ajala, a Black woman in St Louis who could lose reproductive healthcare if Planned Parenthood funding is cut. “Everyday Americans” includes my friends Theresa and Sara, a married lesbian couple who just had twins but must now fear that marriage equality will be repealed. “Everyday Americans” include my Dominican nieces whom my sister insists on calling “Spanish” and ignoring their ethnicity and reality as Black-appearing Americans. “Everyday Americans” includes me, a university educated, internationally travelled gay man who does not have time for your bullshit definition of “everyday Americans.”

I’m sick of being told that because I live in a city I am somehow less American than others. I’m tired of hearing that because I like opera and read books and write for the internet and don’t think that people speaking Spanish is that big a deal I’m somehow less American than someone who never left my hometown. I am American and nothing you say will take that away from me. Chicagoans and New Yorkers are as American as Alabamans and Nebraskans.

The problem with the focus on the white working class is twofold. Firstly, it ignores people like me, who grew up solidly working class (or in many cases who are still working class) but aren’t raging bigots who think voting for a proto-fascist is a good idea. Secondly, it pretends we’re the only group in the country.

We. Are. Not.

Black Americans, Latino Americans, Queer Americans, Muslim Americans are just as American as we are. White working class – or to broaden that out, white straight people in general – don’t get to decide who is American or what constitutes an “authentic” American experience. Because there has never been only one American experience. Since our founding we have had a myriad of beliefs, experiences, and cultures. Ask the immigrant Alexander Hamilton, or the slaveholding Thomas Jefferson, or our eighth president, Martin Van Buren, whose first language was Dutch – NOT English.

America has never been homogenous. It’s long been white supremacist and heterosexist, but it has never been defined by just one experience.

So stop calling me the metropolitan liberal elite. I go to work every day. I pay my taxes (unlike our president-elect). I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. And just because I don’t think like a racist doesn’t mean I am not a real American.

I am not the liberal elite. I am an American. And it is my goddamn country too.

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Chicago. His work has appeared at the Advocate, Salon, the Daily Dot, the Gay UK Magazine, Pink News, and elsewhere. He is currently pursuing a visa to emigrate to the UK.

*Editorial note: This blog refers to President-Elect Trump as “that vile man” as we cannot bring ourselves to call him anything else.