US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters aboard Air Force One.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The 45th president of the United States has launched a series of aggressive assaults on some of the basic hallmarks of democracy: freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, and public education, to name a few. He has closed down media outlets he disagreed with, arrested journalists, fired the head of the FBI who was investigating his alleged illegal ties to Russia, surrounded himself with people who want to defund public schools, spent exorbitant public funds on his own leisure, lied about too many things to count, violated terms of White House transparency and worked toward removing healthcare for millions of Americans. This is on top of advancing backward policies based on fear, hate, racism and sexism – desperately trying to enact a Muslim ban, defunding Planned Parenthood and key programs that benefit women in America and around the world, and instilling terror in immigrants, LGBTs, people with disabilities, the poor, non-whites and anyone who can see the writing on the wall.
These actions leave many people wondering what his end-game is. Perhaps the writing is on the wall. I mean, he seems to be preparing for a fascist takeover, perhaps backed by the Russian president. The signs are there, even if it sounds too extreme to be realistic. Fascism in America? A coup? In America? No way. Right? Well, the conviction that America is somehow going to be okay is getting shakier. Faith that the system can rectify itself is wavering. It’s getting increasingly difficult to keep bizarre conspiracy theories out of mind, some of which involve a secret Russian plan to control America. These are terrifying times, and it is possible that the worst is still to come.
As an American living in Israel, it is tempting to maintain emotional distance from all this, to hold on to my place in the galleys, as if this doesn’t really affect me. There may be a certain truth to some of this. Certainly, the discussion of healthcare makes me grateful to be living in a country where socialized medicine keeps everyone covered. But the healthcare debate is just one battle within a much broader and comprehensive attack on the fundamentals of democracy. What is happening in America has the potential to wreak havoc not only on the lives of Americans in the mainland, but also on the lives of potentially everyone in the world.
Democracy is under global attack. Countries around the world face their own threats from local versions of Trump. Brexit, an ominous foreboding of Trump, may be the tip of the iceberg. Right-wing groups loom in so many other nations. Even though the moderates won this year in countries such as France and The Netherlands, in both of these cases the radicals gained significantly. Put it this way: a full third of the French populace is ready for Marine Le Pen. So this isn’t just about Trump. This is about a terrifying worldwide trend in which forces that abhor democracy are gaining significant traction.
Heads of state around the world are watching and studying. Two weeks before the election, the weekend magazine of Yediot Aharonot
ran a cover story imagining a Trump win – something that was incomprehensible to so many of us at the time – with the headline, “Leaders around the world are taking lessons from Trump.” I was horrified when I read that article, but at the time thought it was just a phase. Well, was I wrong, as were so many other hopeful Americans. The headline is even truer now than it was then. We have been witnessing some of the scariest bullies in the world test the limits of their power. Putin, Assad, Erdogan and Kim are all flexing their political and military muscles and finding new and violent ways to crush their enemies – whether that entails arresting journalists, enacting self-empowering laws, or bombing their own people. The megalomaniacs of the world are clearly emboldened by Trump.
Against this backdrop, violence seems practically inevitable. Trump seems almost eager to start a war –North Korea, Syria, Australia, whatever. It is not clear whether Trump is incompetent or actually likes the prospect of bloodshed. But the implications are very real, and unfathomable.
The ones who have the most to fear in the Trump world are those who need democracy the most. Ethnic and religious minorities, the elderly, mothers, people with disabilities and anyone who is not a rich, hetero white male can have their lives ruined in a myriad of ways if the Trumps of the world have their way. And that is true whether they live in America or not.
When Trump arrives in Israel next week, it is imperative that we speak out against this wave of authoritarian leadership. We need to send a clear and powerful message that we do not support Trump’s hateful rhetoric and dangerous policies. For that reason, I will be joining Democrats Abroad-Israel and Pantsuit Nation Israel as we mark our resistance. While Trump tries to gain support around the world during his first international trip, we will be there protesting, letting the world know that this is not okay. The Trump agenda must be stopped, for the sake of all of humanity.
This is a vital moment in the history of the world. Years from now, our descendants will ask us what we did in order to stem the tide of fascism. We all need to make sure we will be proud of our answer.The writer, an award-winning author, educator and activist, is the vice chair for media and policy of Democrats Abroad-Israel, and a member of Pantsuit Nation Israel. The opinions here are solely her own.