Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Voting vs. the Climate

Isaac Cordal, from Follow the Leaders series, 2011
Went viral on the Internet with the new name Politicians Discussing Global Warming
[source: cementeclipses.com]

A few nights ago, I was having a discussion on the phone with my friend Josh about the election, as I've been doing a lot lately with my friends. Over the course of the conversation our tone went from dire to humorous as we started to laugh about all the people that evidently voted against themselves in this most recent American debacle. The joke: Americans clearly need to improve their critical-thinking skills. "Making America Think Again," Josh laughed. I laughed, too.

However, I know that this apparent lack of thinking on the part of my fellow Americans is not a laughing matter. Elections have direct and, whether people foresee it or not, indirect consequences on our lives. A direct consequence of Trump getting elected would be that he repeals Obamacare. Okay, we can deal with that. It's not like Americans have never lived without health insurance before. Another direct consequence is that we will have to look at his unfortunate physiognomy for the next four years; at least Obama was attractive. Oops, did I say that out loud?

But many Americans, whether they realized it or not, made a huge mistake that will lead to an unintended consequence. If you voted for Trump and you are poor, I am sorry, but the reality is you voted against yourself in many ways. If you did not vote, regardless of your socioeconomic status, you also cast a vote against your own best interests in a very roundabout way. Donald Trump even voted against himself by voting for himself, but he doesn't know this, yet. 

Although it wasn't touched on much in the debates, there were very clear signs that Mr. Trump wasn't conscious of the environmental issues that define our era. His promises to bring back the coal industry, threats to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency, oh, and the fact that he once Tweeted that climate change is a hoax invented by China were all pretty good indicators. 

Hillary Clinton wasn't an ideal environmental candidate, nor was she an aggressive environmentalist. But she listened to people, and she proposed some plans to expand on wind and solar energy, and she certainly wasn't about to attack our basic environmental rights in the way that Trump is planning. If you realized what was at stake, you would have voted for her (instead of voting for Trump) or you would have voted, period (instead of sitting at home and complaining about how effed up this election cycle was). 

When I cast my vote for Hillary on November 8th, I thought long and hard about it. Knowing that the Green Party candidate Jill Stein is more in line with my beliefs as a person and as an environmentalist, I could have voted for her. But she wasn't going to win. And so I voted for Hillary because she was our chance to uphold the environmental policies of the Obama adminstration, to keep us in important contracts like the Paris Climate Agreement, and to stop upcoming climate threats like pipelines and fracking projects.

Twenty-one days after I cast my ballot for the candidate that didn't win, the election is still on my mind whether I am at work, home, out with friends, or even sleeping, as some recent nightmares have revealed to me. I dreamt that I went to get a drink of water from my faucet and one of the taps was labeled "Water," while the other was labeled "Trump Water." My brain is coming up with some disturbing scenarios, but the reality isn't any less terrifying. In short, I am not "getting over" this election, as some have advised me to do. "Getting over" is something you do with a boyfriend, or a death. "Getting over" is for a one-time event that will not continue to affect you, directly or indirectly, over the next four years, or the rest of your life. "Over it" doesn't even begin to describe where I am. "Mobilized," "ready," "fearful," "realistic," are better words to describe it.  

My American friends, we do not have four years. Climate change is not a hoax. It was not invented by China. And it is not something that will affect polar bears in the distant future. It is real, and it is here right now. To deny this would be to deny that the table you are sitting at is made of wood, or that the sky above you is blue. All you must do is walk outside into the November air and feel. No matter where you live, this is not the November of your childhood. This is not even the November of five years ago. This is the November of the new era, the era of climate change that has already started and is not going to stop. 

I ask you, if you did not vote, or if you voted for Trump, what are you going to do now? Will you volunteer? Will you donate to an environmental organization? Will you start a local environmental club? Or will you sit around and wait to see what happens? 

And in the midterm elections, are you going to sit on your ass or are you going to use that brain in your head to make yourself think again about the very real consequences of elections?

Maybe if Donald Trump made himself think again he would realize some of his dumb golf courses would go underwater when the Polar Ice Caps melt. Now THAT would be an unintended consequence I could live with. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

So I Own This Ivanka Trump Shirt...

So I own this Ivanka Trump shirt. I bought it back when I thought I might still interview for a "big girl" job someday. It was before all of this happened...before Donald Trump was anything but a celebrity who was running a humorous political campaign. It's one of the nicer shirts I own, one of the few things I didn't buy at a thrift shop. I admit that wearing a more expensive garment gives me a boost of confidence. It wasn't really expensive, though. I got it on sale when I worked for Boston Store, with an additional employee discount. I think I paid about $10 for it. This year I donated $30 to Bernie Sanders' campaign and donated to several environmental organizations. So in the end, I spent more money on the things I believe in than I did on vanity.

The question is what to do with this shirt now? I thought about burning it. The symbolic gesture would certainly make me feel better during this mourning period. I also thought about continuing to wear it. After all, Ivanka isn't her father. But then the staggering results of the election came in, and the horrifying verdict shocked me to my very core: women helped to elect Donald Trump. Women, who are supposed to be allies to each other, instead voted against their own best interests and voted for a man who has openly admitted to sexual assault and disrespect to women.


I can admit I've been on the more conservative side of feminism during my adult life. I lived in a bubble in college and I couldn't really see that the fight was still on. Now that I am out in the real world, though, I can't ignore the reality anymore. I worked with a misogynistic boss who belittled me and made me feel less than human on a daily basis. I have felt how much harder I have to work compared to men who never motivate themselves because they know that everything is probably going to work out for them. And then I watched this horrible election cycle and realized how the media demonized Hillary for the same things a man could easily get away with. Instead of getting better, the war against women has gotten a lot worse in the last few years. I listened to a female voter's justification for voting Trump that made me feel like things will never improve: She didn't see Trump as a misogynist because she saw that he had raised a successful daughter. She was too blind to see that her own justification is sexist, that perhaps Ivanka became successful on her own without the help of her father, and that a woman, believe it or not, can become successful without the help of a man.

I decided to research Ivanka as a person and not think about her in relation to her father. She is indeed successful. She graduated from a good college and started her own fashion line. She is confident and carries herself well. Her fashion line has come under scrutiny for using rabbit fur, and is largely made outside the U.S. She seems intelligent and well-spoken, and appears to be a good mother of three children. As far as I know she does not engage in hate speech like her father. Based on this information, can I condemn her? As an environmentalist, I wish her fashion line was kinder to the environment. But the other information gives me no real reason to denounce her as a person.

I want to believe that the female voters who voted for Trump did this same thing with Hillary. I hope they looked deeply at her policies and truly did not agree with them. I hope they didn't listen to Trump saying she is a criminal and needs to go to prison. I hope it isn't true that there is a terrifying, ingrained sexism in women that caused them to vote against their own best interests. But I feel pretty skeptical. I really want to support women. But now I see that women have turned on each other, particularly white women who not only voted for a man that hates them, but hates their black and brown equivalent even more.

So what do I do with the shirt? If I burn it, I'm directly protesting the Trump family and everything they stand for. If I keep it, I'm supporting Ivanka, one of my fellow women, and therefore protesting the women who didn't support Hillary in this election. It's a catch 22 and I don't know where to go.

I think I will donate the shirt. Goodwill will sell it for about six bucks. I hope this small act of donation, an action which the Trump family is largely incapable of, is symbolic enough to help someone that Donald Trump promised to protect, a person who will likely end up worse off than they were before he got elected. In addition, I will do what I resolved to do the moment Trump won: I will work hard to make sure that no woman has the option to vote against herself ever again.