By Michelle Oberman: We visited Christina at her grandmother’s home in El Transito, a village two hours outside San Salvador. She began her story at the point when she was seventeen and expecting her second child. Several months into her pregnancy, she and her three-year-old son left El Transito and moved to San Salvador, living in the second bedroom of her mother and stepfather’s apartment so that Christina would be close to the public hospital when her baby came.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker: By now it’s obvious that Donald Trump is acting out a twisted vendetta to erase every trace of Barack Obama’s eight-year legacy. The creation of the Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monuments are part of that legacy, which were efforts to protect vast swaths of relatively pristine and undeveloped land in southern Utah in one of his last acts as president. That’s one frame for understanding Trump’s recent reversal of the monument designation for most of that land—approximately fifty percent for Staircase Escalante, and eighty-five percent in the case of Bear’s Ears. Altogether, the national monument designation protected roughly 3.5 million acres of public lands.
The combined House and Senate GOP tax bill is going to hurt more than just our economy. In our fraught political climate, anxieties and concerns are running high with regard to the impacts we should brace ourselves for in various sectors of American society. We reached out to a few of our authors to ask what’s at stake now that the House and Senate have struck a deal on the bill and are preparing a final version to deliver to Trump before Christmas.
By Jeanne Theoharis: The air was hot and sticky. Surrounded by clergy, Rev. William Barber lambasted the voter suppression that had compromised the 2016 presidential election. “Long before Russia hacked our election, our government was hacked by racism.” Since Barack Obama’s election in 2008 and the Supreme Court’s 2013 stripping of the Voting Rights Act, Barber explained, twenty-two states had passed new laws making it harder for people, particularly people of color, to vote.
By Linda Quaig and Neil Brooks: Barely a month after Barack Obama had been sworn in as the forty-fourth US president, riding a wave of immense popular support with his “Yes, we can” rallying cry echoing around the country and the world, a voice seemed to appear from nowhere saying, “No, actually you can’t.” Ostensibly, it came first from Rick Santelli, a relatively obscure investment manager-turned-commentator on CNBC, who denounced Obama’s plans to help struggling American homeowners as “promoting bad behavior.” In a wide-ranging rant from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on February 19, 2009, Santelli said, “We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I’m gonna start organizing.” Within hours, a protest movement had swung into action on the Internet, talk radio, and cable TV, and rallies were scheduled across the country for the following week.
By Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen: “The system is rigged!” is now an angry, bipartisan cry, intensifying as Trump bows to big-donor interests and deepens distrust of government. But here’s the worst part. Not only has big-donor influence blocked life-saving public actions, from worker safety to climate change, but in recent decades political donors have gotten savvier. They’ve been able not only to bend policy for their own benefit, but, increasingly, to remake the rules of democracy itself to serve their interests. Here’s a taste of what we mean.
By Colum McCann: “If you speak, you die. If you keep quiet, you die. So, speak and die.” Shortly after the Algerian poet and journalist Tahar Djaout wrote these words in the summer of 1993 he was gunned down in the streets of Algiers. Djaout spoke in favor of progress, secularism, decency, a broader world where intellectual and moral narrowness would be defeated. But the bullets did their work: after a week in a coma, Djaout died. His killers, a fundamentalist group, later admitted that they feared him because he wielded the mighty weapon of language.
By Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen: In today’s fraught and frightened America, the word “democracy” could well evoke the rolling of eyes, a blank stare, or wide-eyed incredulity. Certainly not the pitter-patter of hearts. But what if Americans were convinced that all we care most about—from our kids’ future to the immediate need for a decent job or safe drinking water—depended on falling in love with democracy? Might more of us at least be open to the possibility of taking the leap? Something like that happened for us.
By J. A. Mills: “Trump administration to reverse ban on elephant trophies from Africa,” read an ABC News headline on November 15. The first thing I thought—and tweeted—was, “Of course, President Trump lifted the US ban on import of elephant ‘trophies’ from Zimbabwe and Zambia! Don Jr. is a big game hunter!” Apparently, Eric Trump is, too. The next thing I thought was, “Zimbabwe? Are you kidding me? Where President Robert Mugabe dismisses wildlife conservation as “neocolonialism” and once celebrated his birthday with an elephant barbecue in a display of his disdain? Does the Trump administration really think the Mugabe government puts hunting fees back into conserving wild elephants?”
A Q&A with Bill Fletcher, Jr.: Joe Ricketts views unionizing as unreasonable because it stands in the way of his absolute, totalitarian domination of the workplace. The union is the only voice that workers can possess. The union makes demands based on the needs and desires of their members. The employer is expected to negotiate in good faith. There is no assumption that the negotiations will necessarily result in an agreement but that they will be taken seriously. Most of the employer class wants nothing that results in the diminishing of their absolute power over the workplace, regardless of the consequences.
By Lynn Hall: Last month, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) released the results of their annual member survey, and the statistics regarding military sexual assault were, as always, alarming. Of the women who responded, thirty-five percent said they had been the victim of sexual assault while serving. Of those survivors, sixty percent did not report the crime. It’s easy to understand their reluctance when, of those who did report, seventy-one percent of the survivors said they experienced retaliation because of their accusations. I’m going to repeat that last figure: more than two thirds of the survivors who reported to their chain of command that they had been raped by a fellow soldier experienced retaliation.
By Abbey Clements and Brian Clements: It’s now November, and we’re approaching the five-year mark of the tragedy that befell Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut. We know what it’s like to walk through the residual effects of a horrific shooting, wandering through the days at the grocery store, at school, head down, not knowing what to say, trying to move forward, trying to make sense of it, trying to reclaim normalcy for your children, for all the town’s children.
By Ben Mattlin: In mid-October, disability-rights activists were justifiably outraged and dismayed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ latest action. According to the Washington Post, the Trump appointee had rescinded seventy-two policy documents related to the rights of students with disabilities. So heated were the reactions on social media and elsewhere that, a few days later, the Education Department tried to allay fears by explaining that the intent was merely to eliminate redundancies and outdated language. The changes, a department spokesperson said, would have zero effect on students with disabilities. But if they had zero effect, why bother?
In light of the latest issues concerning gun control, sexual assault, and healthcare in America, we’re offering a list of resources for you to look through. The Las Vegas shooting that killed fifty-nine people and injured more than five hundred has us talking about gun control again. Even though, just a couple of weeks later, the media seem to have moved on to other topics, we need to keep the conversation going.
A Q&A with Jonathan Rosenblum: I was tremendously heartened in the first days of the Trump administration in January to see thousands of people come out to airports around the US to protest the president’s travel ban. People mobilized because of what was at stake. It was not just the status of foreign travellers, but our core values as a society. In the echoing halls of airport terminals from coast to coast, a spirit of resistance and humanity came alive.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Since the days of the #NoDapl encampment, now nine months in the past, dozens of films have been released documenting the event. One of the latest is an offering from award-winning documentarian Brian Malone, titled Beyond Standing Rock. Malone has been touring the film and I recently had the chance to view it in Los Angeles, at the Autry Museum of the American West. What follows is my review of the film.
A Q&A with Jonathan Rosenblum: In my experience bargaining union contracts and negotiating with politicians, I’ve found that it’s easy to overestimate the importance of what happens at the bargaining table. When I’ve led union negotiations, I’ve emphasized to bargaining team members that what we win in the end depends ninety percent on what we do outside of bargaining, and only ten percent on what takes place inside the room.
By Andrea Ritchie: According to a 2015 investigation by the Buffalo News, based on over 700 cases documented over a ten year period, on average a police officer is caught in an act of sexual misconduct every five days. And those are just the ones who are caught, representing, by all accounts, just the tip of the iceberg of this pervasive yet invisible form of police violence.
By Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen: Celebrate democracy. Invite local musicians to a public park or library event room to share and teach songs related to freedom and democracy. And if you have the clout of an organization behind you, goad them to go for the spectacular. Imagine tens of thousands in a big-city stadium celebrating democracy. Wouldn’t Bruce Springsteen be up for that? We love the idea of audiences honoring Leonard Cohen by chanting and swaying to his powerful “Democracy,” with its refrain “Democracy is coming to the USA.” Concerts with a message have an impressive history.
A Q&A with Deborah Meier and Emily Gasoi: One reason why early advocates pushed to establish a universal, compulsory education system was because, in a democracy, the presumption is that we are all part of the “deciding class,” and therefore need to be educated in order to make informed decisions. And public institutions and spaces, including public schools, are essential in a democracy, because their very existence conveys that we are a society in which we meet together and share common resources. So it’s not just public schools that we argue are essential, but public institutions writ large. Throughout the book, we deliberately use the word commonweal, which means the “welfare of the public.” It’s a word that few people use in conversation, but we make a modest effort to bring it into our communal conscious.