I have read about it, I have seen it in documentaries and movies, but I never thought I would one day be sitting in the midst of it. I am not talking about war, and the destruction it brings. I am talking about an everyday variety of fear that creeps upon us slowly, when we realise that things might be just as bad as they look. Or even worse, but we prefer to close our eyes and will the proof away.
I am writing under a pseudonym. Not because I have something to hide, but because I don´t want to be cyberbullied by someone, who has the spare time – and the NASTY personality – to do so. For me this is a pretty simple precautionary measure, the same as taking a taxi home after midnight, instead of walking.
This is my personal bow to fear. It should not be necessary to use a pseudonym, but I prefer to live to see another peaceful blogging day, instead of stressing over cyber haters.
If you are still in your comfortable bubble, where peace reigns, right wins over wrong, and people are free to go about their business, live their life and voice their opinions as long as they don´t hurt anyone, you may think me overcautious.
If you are Lauren Batchelder, the college student, who dared to ask Trump a few uncomfortable questions about women´s rights and is still suffering from the consequences, you may say that I am not careful enough.
After Lauren had posed her questions; the ones that should have been business as usual for any potential presidential candidate, Trump freaked out on Twitter calling Batchelder a “plant.” Jeb Bush was named by some as the planter.
Trump´s online henchmen took care of the rest. Someone made sure a video of Lauren asking the “wrong” questions was available on YouTube, her phone began ringing and her media accounts and emails overflowed with scary messages.
So what, you might say; things happen during a campaign. But this is not something that has gone away. The bullying continues this very day, along with the spreading of untruths. Take the latest example, Trump´s tweet about union boss Chuck Jones, who dared to call him out on the amount of jobs really saved at Carrier Corporation´s Indiana plant.
In retaliation Trump tweeted, “Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee the country!”
Note the clear identification of the target and the implied threat to jobs. In Twitter speak, especially knowing what Trump followers are like, this is like saying: This guy is one of the reasons why jobs are lost, here is his name and the name of his employer, go get him. Which they did. Mr. Jones´office phones were swamped by Trump supporters, and the feedback was anything but nice.
After Trump´s tweet, news reporters sat down with prominent guests to discuss this latest development. Others attacked their PC’s to pound out profound articles about it. Though the event was correctly identified as cyberbullying by many, the coverage focused on how the president-elect has yet to totally recognise the power of his office and the dignity of it. As if it was only a matter of time and training, before he did so.
Chuck Jones’ reaction was both comforting and worrying. He shrugged the tweet off as one disgruntled tweet among others. He did what Lauren Batchelder and Boeing management couldn´t, he basically ignored it. At least initially, I don´t know how he is faring at the moment.
It is good to know that Chuck Jones will probably survive unscathed. Union bosses need to be thick-skinned to do what they do.
Boeing didn´t have that luxury. When the president-elect tweeted that he might not honour the existing, legally binding order of a new Air Force One, Boeing and its investors took the tweet at its face value.
Boeing shares took a dip, and management scrambled to sort out the mess, but there was no call for accountability. It seems you can harass companies and shareholders at a whim, if you are the president-elect.
Following all of this, one newspaper editorial offered up the following pearl of wisdom: “Some Trump tweets aren´t worth a fight,” it stated. According to the writer, “It will be up to us to develop Jones´unruffled sense of perspective and separate the meaningful tweet from the chaff.”
I couldn´t disagree more. Unreason is not something that you can afford to “get used to”. Not when you are dealing with this level of power.
Many have publicly, and probably privately too, warned the president-elect that his words now carry extra power, and will soon be amplified by a powerful megaphone, the American presidency.
They may even have called it the most powerful megaphone of the world, but the president-elect is fast eroding that power; any future messages from him are likely to be treated like his tweets. They are good for headlines, but not to be taken at face value.
A spade is a spade, a bully is a bully. Tweets about dishonouring legally binding contracts are just plain irresponsible. This is not about politics anymore. This is about basic human decency and accountability for your actions.
The reign of unreason starts with complacency; we think we have things in hand, and that others are just overreacting.
It grows by fear. If you read the New York Times article regarding the unusual 74-point questionnaire circulated at the Department of Energy by Trump´s transition team, you know the kind of fear I mean.
In addition to perfectly normal transition issues, the questionnaire requests lists of specific employees involved in shaping climate policy, as well as lists of employees and contractors that attended key climate change related meetings. It is clear from the article that this targeting of personnel for doing their job in public service has raised fears.
Is somebody already compiling lists of people, who will be let go quietly because of their views on climate control? If so, no one will admit to it out loud. It will all happen in the name of cost efficiency and cleaning of the swamp. No hearings will be needed.
Whether you are Republican or Democrat, you must be feeling it – the fear of unreason.
I hope today´s Edward R. Murrow is out there somewhere putting together a documentary on what is happening.
In his conclusion of the See It Now episode on Senator Joseph McCarthy, Murrow starts out by noting, “His (McCarthy´s) primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between internal and external threats…”
With all the accusations thrown out there, who isn´t confused today? Should Hillary be in jail, or not, did illegal aliens affect the public vote, is China a threat, or not….the list goes on and on.
Murrow continues, “We will not walk in fear, one of another.We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, speak, to associate and defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.”
Isn´t this a speech that somebody at the Department of Energy could hold today? Although reference would probably be made to both women and men.
Later on in his conclusion Murrow states “The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and have given considerable comfort to our enemies.”
You only need to follow world news summarily to know that this is true regarding the actions of the president-elect too.
A final quote from Murrow says it all, “And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn´t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it – and rather successfully. Cassius was right: ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ ”
I am sure we will be treated to spectacular shows of power, and a lot bragging about great feats once the president-elect is in office. It may look like things are well in hand, and we can all lean safely back and indulge in complacency. Analysts at home and abroad will continue to discuss every unpredictable move, looking for a deeper meaning.
But if the bullying and untruths continue, the rest will not matter. No wins are worth the sacrifice of human decency.
To end on a positive note. Skies are still blue and democracy is still alive. Once the blinkers are off, I trust the system will correct itself with a little help from the American people. It always has.