The Resistance Is Bigger Than Trump

love-trumps-hate-huff-po

Originally published on Huffington Post.

A view of the new Trump administration is slowing emerging from the chaos of brazenly presented “alternative facts” and restricted truths. Immediately upon assuming office, Trump released a rapid-fire stream of executive orders and appointments targeting the main ideological divides between Republicans and Democrats on issues such as Islamic terrorism, immigration policy, climate change, health care, and women’s right to choose. This ideological shock wave along traditional wedges that divide the Republican and Democratic parties was certainly no accident. For a historically unpopular president who lost the popular vote by nearly three million, it’s easy to see why the Trump administration finds it necessary to ideologically fortify the Republican base and prevent the population at large from unifying against him. Moreover, his narcissism surely craves the validation his sweeping executive actions express, as his new presidential responsibilities, combined with the pressure of protests, have grounded his plans of holding rallies and feeding the cult of personality he cultivated on the campaign trail, leaving Twitter as his only means of riling the masses (albeit often spoiled by snappy liberal clapbacks). To some extent Trump’s tactics are working, though not entirely, and for one important reason.

The Resistance is bigger than Trump.

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1864 vs. 1989: Revolution and Race in America and Modern Europe

Parable with a Skull by Jaroslav Rona (Prague, 1993)

Parable with a Skull by Jaroslav Rona (Prague, 1993)

On January 17, 1989, during demonstrations in Prague marking the 20th anniversary of Jan Palach’s self-immolation over the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Czech novelist Bohumil Hrabal wrote: “Maybe the old gods have died, but new gods are born, who have to pay the price.” Revolution is a Promethean burden, a tax levied in blood and land. If paid in full, a revolution can be successful, even heroic. The 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe progressed relatively smoothly with the help of land redistribution programs following the collapse of communism and the genocide of the region’s largest ethnic minority population under Hitler.

The American Civil War, however, was the opposite. The Civil War was fought for a number of complex reasons, though slavery remained the banner issue, yet the slaves themselves were largely excluded. The Civil War effectively killed off the landed white lower class, replacing it with a non-land-owning emancipated slave population, in which only the men eventually received three-fifths of the vote, while women everywhere were still unable to vote, leaving the country’s government in the hands of a minority, primarily white male population.

In essence, the 1989 revolutions provided a comparatively ethnically and economically homogeneous population with land ownership and political rights through a seemingly simple, bloodless process. Conversely, in America, the North won the blood-soaked Civil War and effectively ended slavery as a legal institution, yet ultimately lost the revolution by failing to enact a policy of inclusion, instead entrenching slavery in the country’s cultural make-up. The effect of these revolutions, their successes, and their failures, can still be seen to resonate in the modern struggles of the United States and European Union today, while the region’s differing histories have proven predictive of the differing ethnic and economic tensions that have developed in the decades and centuries since.

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