Last Tuesday’s election results make Donald J. Trump the President-elect of the United States of America. This is an unwelcome surprise. During his campaign and in the week following his election, Trump has been transparent about his unwillingness to abide by the norms that have allowed our nation to survive and thrive for more than two hundred years. He ran on a platform of white nationalism and resentment of the cosmopolitan, inclusive, and truth-seeking outlook that the Waltham Review considers to be at the heart of our nation’s success.
In using the potentially loaded term “cosmopolitian” in this post, what I mean is a worldview founded on universal, equal, and non-negotiable human dignity. Although cosmopolitanism and patriotism have at times been used as antonyms, it is the Waltham Review’s position that defending human dignity is patriotic.
Other nations have traveled down paths similar to the path that America now seems to be traveling. Sometimes – though not inevitably – these paths end in epoch-shaping tragedy. In other cases the more extreme varieties of tragedy can be avoided. We can avoid tragedy, but it will require good and thoughtful people to come together, organize, and resist.
Here is my take on our current situation:
- I believe that the wise and patriotic path now is legal resistance – including disruptive resistance – against the incoming Trump regime. Trump and his regime may try to capture our nation’s symbols of patriotism, but support for this regime beyond the bare minimum standard of compliance with the law is the opposite of true patriotism.
- My own resistance will be targeted and thoughtful. For example, when it comes to protest, I have no intention of ever burning our flag, which is a symbol that is important to me as a patriotic American and also to others. I do, however, plan to burn the Confederate battle flag, and perhaps the Russian flag also. In our present situation burning those flags is a more precise way to register my disgust and intention to resist. I also support Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand for our National Anthem. But my own plan is to sing the National Anthem with all of the enthusiasm of the patriot that I am, but then at the conclusion of the anthem to shout “Donald Trump is Vladimir Putin’s servant!” at the top of my lungs.
- The Electoral College has not voted yet. Trump has advertised in a variety of ways that he intends to be the type of despot whose rule our nation’s founders designed the Electoral College to prevent. I believe that it is important to push the Electoral College and its individual electors not to cast their votes for Trump or for Michael Pence. One criticism of the idea of Electoral College nullification has been that a nullification of Trump’s apparent electoral victory would lead to an insurrection by Trump’s supporters. But we cannot allow the threat of violence, however real that threat may be, to deter us from our duty to encourage electors to steer away from a course that appears set to inaugurate an ignorant white supremacist madman as our President and Commander-in-Chief.
- Trump’s proposed appointment of Stephen Bannon as chief strategist is an unacceptable threat to the rule of law in this country. Bannon, as executive chairman of Breitbart News, practiced a form of journalism that might be described as “stochastic terrorism.” What I mean, in using this term, is that Breitbart sells a form of misleading and inflammatory journalism, and it has cultivated a readership base that includes extremely aggrieved readers. So if you find yourself in Breitbart’s crosshairs, then you are very likely to experience what appear to be sincere threats from its readers. With more than 300 million Americans, some of whom are both armed and outraged, I believe that Breitbart’s form of journalism, which has been Bannon’s hallmark, will eventually lead to violence more serious than what we have already observed during and immediately following Trump’s presidential campaign. Bringing Bannon into the White House suggests to me that the incoming Trump regime may intend to persecute its opponents in ways that are outside of formal channels, and may therefore be difficult to combat.
- Here is a very incomplete but hopefully useful list of resources that are important for cosmopolitan America: the ACLU, the SPLC, the Marshall Project, ProPublica, NPR, the Washington Post, and competent administration of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Finally, cosmopolitanism is the opposite of the white nationalism that appears to be at the heart of Trump’s candidacy and prospective presidency. A core component of the cosmopolitan worldview is that intellect and effort, rather than violence, should be the essential tools of human endeavor. Cosmopolitanism and related outlooks have come under attack many times before. One recent historical episode which may be useful to consider in light of our present situation is the violence that followed the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. We should remember in particular the massacres of civilians in that region’s relatively cosmopolitan urban hubs – places like Sarajevo and Srebrenica. Residents of those cities were unprepared for the viciousness of that civil war, and in particular for the viciousness of the anti-cosmopolitan sentiment that was kindled against them. They were also unprepared for the complete failure – whether through inability or disinclination – of the country’s formal security forces to protect civilians. But as our nation’s cosmopolitan class soberly assesses the reality and implications of our present situation, we must absolutely avoid giving in, in any way, to might-worship ourselves. We cannot ignore or fail to prepare for our nation’s class of aspiring Radovan Karadzics, but we must not become so afraid of them that we lose the self-control, thoughtfulness, and productive engagement that are at the core of patriotic cosmopolitanism.
This post is meant to serve as a complement to, rather than a substitute for, other useful notes that are now circulating on the internet. Please see also: