Monday, January 23, 2017

Women tackle Trump

Although living in Mexico we're about six hundred miles away from the nearest handful of American soil, distance didn't diminish the shock here of Donald Trump's election: A vulgar, vile and dishonest man had become president of our country, defying opinion polls and predictions. Just before the election, over dinner at the local Firenze Restaurant, a journalist friend from New York had warned me to remember how the Brexit vote in Britain had confounded experts and pollsters. Same thing could happen in the U.S., he said. I should have paid attention.

After the initial shock, most of the San Miguel expat community, a largely liberal bunch, sank into despair followed by dread. Two friends talked about applying for Mexican citizenship: The American most hated by Mexicans had become president of the country Mexicans fear most, and that could complicate expats' lives.

A few days after the election, at another restaurant, a visiting minister at the church we attend occasionally, was visibly shaken as he talked about the implications of Trump's election for immigrants and civil rights.

Off to the barricades: Our neighbor Grace Lovelace protesting in
 San Miguel's main square a few days after the election of Donald Trump. 
Indeed, despair and dread fused into one, as folks speculated about the fate of hard-won advances in environmental policies, women's rights and a myriad other liberal policies, with Trump reigning with few if any constraints by Congress.

A friend said he was teary-eyed watching Obama's farewell speech.

Stew and I had a tortoise-like reaction and retreated into a news-free carapace that we thought would protect us from more bad news, depression and a sense of powerlessness.

Only a woman neighbor, Grace Lovelace, refused to cower in silence. She kept sending irate emails and shortly after the election joined a small group of people at San Miguel's central square to protest Trump's election. Grace, a former archeologist, and her husband George, a former epidemiologist, run a permaculture ranch where they raise goats and produce cheese, along with soaps and weaving such as scarves, and organic produce. They wear identical eyeglasses, braid their long gray hair and lead a generally unconventional lifestyle.

Vickie Behm, a gifted artist who publishes
a weekly illustration in her Sunday Evening Post, created this one
after attending the Women's March in Washington.
I admit my first reaction to her flurry of emails was to roll my eyes. I warned her that her head might explode with all her anti-Trump fury. You need to settle down, I counseled, maybe try meditation. Instead she continued preaching to me against doing nothing. At the minimum I should sign online petitions and donate to environmental and women's rights groups.

Vickie, an old friend from New York, was similarly irate about the election and vowed to attend the Women's March in Washington the day after the inauguration. She even gave me a preview of a poster she was going to bring, describing in unflattering terms the size and prowess of Trump's male endowment.

These women, and over a million others who marched to protest Trump in the U.S. and abroad, were right to protest and agitate. There was even a Women's March in San Miguel's Juarez Park that attracted about a thousand demonstrators, both Mexican and expats.

While many of us men bitched and fretted, women took to the streets. Indeed twice as many protesters flooded the streets or Washington as did celebrants at Trump's inauguration the day before. Good for those courageous women.

The media seemed to find its cojones too in its coverage of Trump. Sunday's headline in the online edition of the New York Times read: "Trump Falsely Hits Media on Turnout and Intelligence Rift," while other vehicles, including some conservative organs, condemned Trump and his press secretary for a flurry of lies about the size of the crowds at Trump's versus Obama's inaugurations. Forget "misrepresentations," "misstatements" or "disputed narratives." The Washington Post used the old-fashioned term "lies" and it awarded the Trump team Four Pinocchios or the "Pants on Fire" designation for its statements. Trump's spokesperson Kellyanne Conway instead described them as "alternative facts."

Three days after inauguration I don't feel quite so glum about the future of the U.S. thanks to Saturday's Women's March.  That demonstration should inspire similar protests by other aggrieved groups. Newspapers and broadcasters might  designate truth squads, similar to the Washington Post's Pinocchio team, to call out Trumps lies and distortions. That plus a series of scandals and disclosures about our new president still brewing—where are his tax returns?—might shorten his time in office. Just two days after moving to the White House, the Trump era now seems like a bumpy but not interminable ride.

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