“Don’t discuss politics or religion” was a rule of my childhood that still guides me today. That has been Bloom’s standard also. But if Bloom thinks it’s time to “Take a Stand,” I’m willing to stand and be counted. While our country has benefited from civil discussion for many years, divisiveness seems to have become the rule. I attribute this largely to gerrymandering that lumps like-minded people into each voting unit, thereby favoring the election of individuals with the most strident voices and the least inclination to compromise. Donald Trump had a better understanding of the appropriate effect of the Electoral College—to reduce the influence disparity between populous and sparsely populated states. As a result, we have a president who seeks to divide, deny, deceive, deride, detract, disrespect, distort, distract, and disrupt. With so many Ds, Trump’s most famous term should be applied to him and Congress: “You’re fired.”
On January 27, 2017, I was banned by the president’s executive order from returning home in Bloomington, but this was not the first time I was banned. I was banned in Iran, my birthplace, from wearing short sleeves, having a girlfriend, and voting freely. When I left Iran, I vowed never to live in a tyranny again.
This ban does not make America safe. Banning thousands of hard-working people or those needing a refuge does not make America safe. While the constitutionality of the ban is litigated in courts, I stand with everyone targeted by such misguided policies: refugees, scholars, students, workers, and their families, who contribute to this nation’s economy, science, and entrepreneurship greatly.
I stand ready to help make America safer with my knowledge, experiences, and
everyday contributions in my workplace and communities.
Tyrants ban people. Free countries give them hope. I stand for safety, hope, and freedom.
Department of Physics, Indiana University
When I was small, I’d beg for a weekend treat. My parents said there was a 50/50 chance, and I often got an A&W child’s root beer; 50/50 was then a happy possibility. My math took a darker turn a year later when I speculated that a grizzly bear could escape from our zoo. Then there was a 50/50 chance it would turn down our street, and a 50/50 chance he would come to our house. In my child’s unsophisticated mind, it wound up being a 50/50 chance that the bear would attack. There was no place to hide.
The president of the Council on Foreign Relations says that the odds are 50/50 there will be a war with North Korea. Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth says “the chance is greater than 50/50.” Republican Senator Lindsay Graham says that if the North “continues to test intercontinental ballistic missiles, a war is inevitable.” This truly is a grisly forecast. There is no place to hide. Congress, impeach Trump.
I’ve spent the last year trying to articulate my sense of endings, of mourning, and movement beyond despair. I’m working on acceptance after hard struggle to see what is: a civilization in decline. The devastation is everywhere. Our environment, our social and immigration policies, our leadership in the world, a people fractured, too rushed to pay attention to what is really needed, what is true, or participate in meaningful dialogue. Every bit of chaos that is our political system, every sane voice being met with louder voices of obfuscation, sets us up for more chaos. Pretty gloomy. So, I’m drawn to taking a breath. I stand by the possibility that bringing people together with poetry, story, and poetic leadership creates pools of light in defiance of our present cultural insanity. Even the most difficult times ask us to face them with strength we’re not sure we have. I stand by the tenderness that makes us fierce in the long run, in defiance of what shatters around us daily.
Creative Director and Founder
Women Writing for (a) Change Bloomington
Leslie and I just returned from completing an 870-mile hike of the Wales Coast Path. The scenery was spectacular, and the Welsh people we met were warm and friendly. The hardest part of our 73-day hike along the coast of Wales were the questions we were often asked about “What is wrong with the U.S?” and “How could your country have voted for Mr. Trump?” People in Wales seem to be in utter disbelief that the United States has allowed such an arrogant and self-centered man who belittles his detractors, victimizes women, and threatens the security of the world, to be president. We felt embarrassed and ashamed of being U.S. citizens, and found ourselves defaulting to saying we were from Canada. The world pays close attention to who we elect and what it means about our character and our apparent lack of concern for the rest of the world’s citizens.
Jon Wunrow and Leslie Skooglund
I stand in a beautiful place: Bloomington. I stand where I’ve built my career, a home, and family. I stand with progressive leaders like our mayor and county commissioners. But I also stand powerless because our institutions were drained of funding and respect by the state government. Wealthy business owners and those who would impose their religion hold power in Indianapolis, leaving my public schools, unions, my right to healthcare, in jeopardy.
Since the election, I’ve sought ways to fight back by attending protests with my son, and donating money to resistance groups. I joined an organization that believes power will come by organizing people and money around the values that we, as Hoosiers, share. I joined Hoosier Action, and together we’re going to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions. We stand together in the power taken back from those who would use fear to divide us.
I am so ashamed of the behavior of many of our elected officials, especially the guy at the top. Trump is a bully. I am sickened every single day he comes unhinged on Twitter. I am sickened by the statements he makes, hoping those statements become policy. I am sickened by his constant attacks on the media. He really is trying to be a dictator. It’s gross. The hatred is disgusting. Many citizens, including myself, live in a constant state of fear and panic because he is so unpredictable. And people still support him. It’s outrageous. My hope is that we all survive his presidency and heal from this time in our country’s history. It will be a long road, but not impossible. I believe in our country. We are better than this.
Here’s where I stand: I am an LGBTQAI+ student at Bloomington High School South. Since the election, people have been more than comfortable expressing their true beliefs about marginalized communities like mine. In Bloomington, we are very blessed with a supportive community, but that is hard to remember when you go to school and see Confederate flags on the backs of pickup trucks, and are told, “The world would be a better place if gay people didn’t exist,” especially when you’re told you don’t have a right to get angry because, “That’s just her opinion.” Getting this stuff out in the open has led to some productive discussions, but it’s also led to people within my community feeling worthless and threatened. Having a president who normalizes these views and who refuses to say that groups who act on them are terrorists has made me feel unwelcome in my own country.
Name withheld as the writer is a minor
I’m a retired Indiana University astrophysicist. Scientists have understood global warming for over a century. Heat-trapping gases released by burning fossil fuels raise global temperatures. No credible scientist disagrees. The climate consequences threaten the environment that sustains human civilization. Trump administration actions are appalling—reckless deregulation, climate deniers heading key government agencies, and withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Many cities, states, and businesses will meet U.S. Paris commitments despite Trump, but federal action is still required to avert levels of climate change much more disastrous than we’ve already seen. I joined Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) three years ago—a rapidly growing nonpartisan organization with 80,000 members and 450 chapters. Teams of volunteer constituents politely and relentlessly lobby all members of Congress for economy-friendly, revenue-neutral, free-market-based legislation to price greenhouse gas emissions (citizensclimatelobby.org). Anyone can support this
approach, including conservatives (clcouncil.org). Write your members of Congress. Vote. Join CCL.
Dr. Richard H. Durisen
I grew up as part of a generation who questioned their parents, and especially grandparents, as to what they did, or didn’t do, when Nazi Germany came to power. I now wonder what questions my children, and their children, will one day ask of me. Among the many issues I worry about, the one perhaps weighing most heavily is that of global climate change. I see overwhelming scientific consensus and viable opportunities to correct our stewardship of the only home we will ever know fail in the face of selfishness and shortsightedness. But unlike previous challenges we have faced as a nation or species, this one cannot wait until things get worse, or the next legislative period, or for someone else to step in. Thinking 30 years ahead and looking back, what do we want our actions to have been? What regrets do we not want to have?
There are so many harmful proposals in the Trump program, it’s hard to know where to start. The most harmful for the American people has to be the combination of the economic and healthcare policies. Tax breaks for big corporations and the very wealthy at the expense of the well-being of poor and working families will tear the country apart. The way our current administration is headed, people will die without access to decent and affordable healthcare. It seems the best interest for “we the people” is not even on the agenda.
Margie VanAuken & Art Heckman
I am in my mid- 60s and have now watched our political system for a relatively long time. I have never been more concerned about how it is operating. Central to my concern is our current administration’s disregard for facts, lack of honesty, or personal accountability. The absence of a unified voice from the majority party to denounce this behavior only enables it and allows the defiant dishonesty to continue. All other issues, such as racism, equal rights, social justice, healthcare, world affairs, immigration, climate change, Russian meddling, etc., become mired in doubt when the truth and facts are challenged by this brazen bluster. I wonder how our government can actually make any significant forward progress with this cancer at its core. We need honest communication based on facts and truth to be the top priority of our public officials.
Our democratic institutions and constitution are being shredded with our state and federal legislatures owned by big-money, our courts being turned over to reactionary religious zealots, and the White House being run by a crime family. Repairing all this damage is an uphill climb, and in the short run things are going to get worse before they get better. There is no shortcut to achieving a stable and decent government that works for average people.
It will take a lot more civic engagement than we Americans have become accustomed to. But if we all play our parts, we can have a government as good as our people—one that celebrates our differences without regard to race, sex, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or age. Let us resume the great American tradition of caring about each other instead of letting divisive leaders set us against one another.
I am saddened and embarrassed by my country’s direction of recent years. Civility and accomplishing anything seem to have disappeared when there is so much to do. I lessen my frustration by helping others where I can.
This satirical piece was submitted by renowned
historical novelist James Alexander Thom.
If America is going to erect a monument to its
incredibly fantastic president, Donald J. Trump,
we’d better get started. There may not be enough
time left, and maybe there won’t be any place left,
either, at the rate he’s going.
I know, I know, you’re saying, “Why build a
monument to him? He’s already built
monuments to himself most of his life, skyscraper
monuments with his name at the top in gigantic
But self-honoring monuments lack the dignity
that genuine presidential memorials deserve.
Auto-memorializing doesn’t count.
So, what should America’s monument to Trump
look like, and where should we put it?
Well, not Mount Rushmore. That hill isn’t tall
enough to commemorate such lofty self-esteem.
And it’s hard to get world-record crowds way out
there in South Dakota to admire it.
The nation’s Capital, then, where his influence is
so stunningly felt every day? Yes.
It should be adjacent to the Washington
Monument, our first and maybe last presidents
side by side. But it should be taller and more
phallic-looking than that plain old obelisk, and of a
more appropriate design:
An enormous middle finger, the very manifestation
of his attitude toward American Constitutional
democracy, the symbol of his disdain for honor or
Better yet, perhaps: not an erect monument,
but horizontal, lying along the whole U.S.-Mexico
border. The statue of his middle digit could itself
constitute his whole Big, Beautiful Border Wall,
two projects for the price of one, saying so plainly,
“Up yours, neighbor!”
Being Trump, of course, he’ll want to dictate the
exact site for it. Perhaps he hasn’t even thought yet
about where to put it.
I have a suggestion …
James Alexander Thom
Those who believe that their Torah, their Holy Bible, their Koran, is the divinely revealed and final word of God commit bibliolatry: turning a book into a sacred idol.
A similar certainty pervades climate change deniers, white supremacists, those who believe unfettered access to firearms is central to their freedom and safety, those who kill doctors who perform abortions, those who believe that the Book of Genesis ends discussion about our origins, and those who believe that arranging their own admission to heaven is more important than treating those who share our Earth with kindness.
Our understanding of God is flawed by our humanness. The spirit of life needs room to breathe, not a breathless binding to ancient dogma. Only when the seeds of doubt are allowed to grow and flourish can we begin to grasp the essence of the divine which surpasses all understanding.
The malaise felt in Bloomington and elsewhere comes from the 2016 presidential election result. Its main candidates represented two antagonistic sectors in our country: a well-educated, professional elite, found at Indiana University–Bloomington, and “ordinary” Americans, the majority in our small towns and rural areas.
Most elite members supported Hilary Clinton. They believe in permissive personal morals, expensive solutions to health care (“Medicare for all”), and a cosmopolitan America—welcoming immigration of refugees, blacks, and Muslims. The elite predominate in coastal cities. Find them drinking fine wines.
Many other Americans, possessing only high school diplomas and inadequate incomes, profess traditional morals, own guns for hunting, and prefer to live and drink beer with people like themselves. They bitterly resent the arrogance and privileges of the elite. President Trump represents them well, while the elite consider him unsuitable and destructive.
Increased social segregation and individualistic electronic media keep these populations at odds.
I am tired of signing petitions!
Since the 2016 election and the country’s seeming slide backwards toward our darker past, my inbox overflows with petitions. Given my online profile, they are mostly from left-leaning groups opposed to what Trump’s ascension has exposed about the DNA-level racism and bigotry that infest America. Having signed petitions opposing Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, efforts to kill Obamacare, climate change denial, etc., it feels grossly inadequate. When from the Oval Office an admitted sexual predator denigrates minorities and finds “good people” among murderous neo-Nazis, signatures are not enough. Admittedly, this has forced me into the uncomfortable position of seeing no middle ground and looking askance at strangers while shopping for groceries: “Is she a Trump supporter, I wonder?” “Did she vote for him and still supports him after all this?”
When keeping monuments of Confederates who fought to maintain slavery is defended as “heritage,” signatures are not enough. Imagine post-war Germany allowing Nazi symbols in the public square. It is, after all, their heritage.
History and rekindled activism soften my despair.
Tubman, DuBois, Parks, King, Kaepernick, and unnamed other patriots faced the abyss—and soldiered on!
Audrey T. McCluskey
During this past year, almost daily I have been dismayed and disgusted by Donald Trump’s denigrating the office of the presidency by his behavior. It used to be something a youngster could dream of or aspire to.
Trump has made our country and the presidency a laughing stock of the world by his crassness and ill-bred manners. He is the epitome of the ugly American. His mean-spiritedness has unleashed a whole host of bully copycat behavior throughout the country that is very scary to me. It has divided the country by party affiliation. This continued divisiveness in Congress—all the backbiting, witch hunting, accusatory words, and investigations—wastes taxpayers’ money that could be better spent on more important issues such as infrastructure, tax reform, and health care. It is exceedingly important for members of Congress to work across party lines to pass legislature that makes sense for everyone in our country, not just the privileged few.
I have no solutions for our ailments other than to vote Trump out of office. I would be extremely happy never to look at him or hear him speak again. I only wish it were tomorrow. Someday I would like to be proud to say once again that I am a citizen of the United States.
My impulse when I saw the Charlottesville white supremacist rally was disgust with the white people rallying. My impulse was to separate myself from them and move into my “good white person” position and tell myself, “I’m not THAT kind of white person.” Then I caught myself. Too often white people tell ourselves that white supremacists are those people who wave Confederate flags, get Nazi tattoos, and chant “All Lives Matter.” Too often I forget that white supremacy lives in me and is a continuum of inherited beliefs and behaviors. For example, as a white person I can choose to step in and out of the fight for racial justice based on convenience, comfort, or when I believe standing up will [not] cost me more social capital than I’m willing to risk. People of color here in Bloomington and across the United States do not have that option.
We are overwhelmed by the threat of nuclear war, fatal climate change, and the rigid supremacy of the nation-state over global collaboration. One reaction to the fear and anxiety that accompanies such high stakes is the compression of our concerns into simple, “fight-able” enemies, such as refugees.
Over 60 million refugees—human beings with no home, and incomprehensible hunger, pain, and trauma—are living in our world. By attaching negative stereotypes to Muslim, Arabic, African, and Latino refugees, we try to relieve ourselves of our need to help these “enemies.” Forget that we have the means to resettle, safely, hundreds of thousands of refugees and to welcome them comfortably. Remember that failing to do so is a death sentence for innocent people and a rejection of our global community. Remember that, conversely, doing so is an affirmation of our faith and our shared humanity.
How can we fail to act?
When I moved to Bloomington from Connecticut in 2001, I found a second home in Bloomington Peace Action Coalition and the Just Peace Task Force of the Unitarian Universalist Church. Following 9/11, we mobilized to oppose the disastrous invasion of Iraq.
We are again mobilizing. The risk of nuclear war is higher than it has been since the worst of the Cold War. President Trump is threatening to unleash “fire and fury” on the Korean Peninsula. Such a war cannot disarm North Korea of nuclear weapons. It would only guarantee it uses them, as well as chemical weapons, in a war that could cost millions of lives. Equally senseless is Trump’s undermining the Iran nuclear deal, which has succeeded, and his $1.2 trillion nuclear weapons escalation in the misguided and dangerous quest to build usable nuclear weapons. Congress must stop this folly.
We need and welcome your participation. Find us on Facebook and please come to our meetings.
I am alarmed by our inadequate response to dire environmental crises, by the concentration of wealth in a few hands, by the corrosive effect of money on politics, by our out-sized military spending, by our crumbling infrastructure, and by persistent racism, sexism, homophobia, and fear of immigrants. I try to retain hope, remembering the billions of acts of kindness that occur every day in our country, and the many millions of people dedicated to making this a democracy that cares for our planet and for all of its citizens.
With everything going on in the world right now, I’m trying to focus on small things I can do each day. Things that are in my control, like how I react to things, small acts of kindness, and listening to other people’s views without pushing a personal agenda.
It’s easier said than done, but by focusing on what I can do rather than getting worked up about everybody else’s actions helps me move forward and stay positive.
I stand for listening to and working with people I may or may not agree with. Together we can find common ground and whittle away at our common problems.
The country is divided, not only between the haves and the have-nots, but also between those who oppose oppression and those who celebrate hatred, encourage bigotry, and legislate repression.
Many elected officials have been increasingly corrupted by the vast sums of money required to remain in office, and that venality has led to our present chaos. Robert Muller, author of Birth of a Global Civilization, said, “Humanity is learning its business. … This learning of humanity requires big accidents [Trump’s election], for us to learn. You need the consciousness that something is wrong in order to change course.”
The need to change course becomes more explicit daily, and we are responding by advocating against casual access to weapons of war; ensuring that everyone who wants to vote, can; and protecting those whose freedom of speech, sexual orientation, gender, immigration status, skin color, or religion are denounced by white supremacists.
Janet Cheatham Bell
Science is not a partisan issue. Scientists seek to uncover facts about the world, but facts are useful to the current administration only when they serve a partisan agenda. Examples abound of the disregard the administration has for science. Climate change deniers are appointed to key positions affecting scientific and environmental issues. Unqualified political appointees have the power to defund scientific programs with which they disagree. Qualified scientists are removed from advisory boards of federal agencies and replaced with people from the very industries they are charged to regulate. Fake science is elevated to the level of truth, and true science attacked as fake. Trump and his cabinet do not understand the value of basic research, how research is conducted, or how it is funded, and thus threaten the entire scientific enterprise. The basis of our health, security, prosperity, and our ability to understand our world is in jeopardy.
Patricia L. Foster, Ph.D.
A new survey on stress in the United States finds that over half of Americans consider the present day as the worst period in our history that they can remember. Conducted by the American Psychological Association, the survey found the state of the U.S. to be the biggest stressor Americans now face. Sixty-three percent of them said the future of the nation is a “very” or “somewhat” significant source of stress.
I know the feeling. Since the last election, I’ve felt like I’m watching a train wreck in slow motion—unable to do much but shout, grieve, and try to foresee how it might to end. Thankfully, most people are distressed by the current sabotage of democratic governance. We mustn’t tolerate as normal this massive assault on reason, decency, and fair play. Our democracy is decaying from within (sound familiar?). We must voice and act on our legitimate fears, hopes, and aspirations.
Byron C. Bangert
Following a white rabbit of financial excess and celebrity, our country has fallen down a rabbit hole. In this Wonderland, we are a society governed by the wealthy—the very definition of a plutocracy. In this Wonderland, we inhabit a post-truth era in which facts and reason become collateral damage. In this Wonderland, daily chaos, self-protection, and scapegoating replace our human wisdom and tenderness. In this Wonderland, nuclear war is presented as a sane option within an unstable administration. In this Wonderland, corporations have legal status as persons—if these corporations are not false idols, I need to return to my seminary training. In this Wonderland the noted characteristic protections for a democracy—respect for the vocal minority and robust investigative journalism—are threatened even by legislators who cry “off with their heads.” In this Wonderland, the sacred feminine is too often muted, erased, and defaced. Meanwhile, our society continues to run breathless after a white rabbit who insists we are late for a very important date. Perhaps it’s time for us to slow down, breathe, and truly wonder what is at stake. I believe it is the very soul of our nation. Breath. Spirit. Ruach.
Reverend Mary Ann Macklin
In the past year I have been most distressed with the decisions of our national leadership in many areas—climate change, immigration policy, health care—among others. I have felt angry, afraid, hopeless, and helpless. As I’ve struggled with how to respond, several answers have emerged.
I have become more active in sharing my views and offering support in as many ways as possible for those voices of wisdom that I hear. I have tried to listen deeply to thoughtful people with whom I disagree, both nationally and locally. I do this to try to prevent confirmation bias, to search for areas of agreement, and to offer the same courtesy and respect that I would like to receive.
Finally, I try to maintain a sense of humility and perspective. As W.H. Auden wrote, “You shall love your crooked neighbor with all your crooked heart.” And more importantly, I know that kindness matters.
There is always someone or something “We the People” love to hate. Presently, many of us love to hate the media. But stop for just a moment and imagine a city, state, or country in which the media were muzzled completely. Imagine conditions under which before “IT” is said, or “IT” is published or “IT” is televised, “IT” had to be scrutinized and sanctioned by The Committee or approved by The State. Imagine what news would look like, sound like, or read like under such circumstances. Imagine if news-media licenses were issued, controlled, or revoked based on adherence to predesignated content. Imagine how uninformed “We the People” would be. Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press must be protected at all cost. If we lose these two freedoms, ALL FREEDOM IS LOST!
This letter was submitted by noted author Scott Russell Sanders with instructions to choose any 150-word message to publish. However, I felt the writing and content were of such quality that the letter was worth printing in its entirety. –the editor
Demagogues are skillful at tapping into our instinct for tribalism, as we saw in the presidential campaign. One candidate addressed his audiences as the in-crowd, while demeaning and demonizing various Others, and he stoked a penchant for violence against anyone he defined as an outsider, including rival candidates. It was a dangerous as well as a shameful strategy. Fear of the Other is easy to evoke, difficult to allay.
Fortunately, our evolutionary legacy includes not only a predisposition for aggressive tribalism but also a countervailing capacity: in its everyday form we call it empathy, and in its more refined, often deliberately nurtured form, we call it compassion. Empathy alone does not assure that we will treat one another fairly. Con artists are expert at reading the emotions of those whom they exploit or manipulate. What con artists lack is compassion, which involves not merely sensing what others feel, but sympathizing with them, caring for them, wishing to address their needs and relieve their suffering.
On the national stage right now, tribalism appears to be in the ascendant. A warlord occupies the White House. He has surrounded himself with people who share his prejudices and flatter his vanity. Most of his nominees for cabinet posts are hostile to the public purposes that their agencies are designed to serve.
The menace may seem overwhelming. But we should remember that the current president does not represent the majority of Americans. His tribalism has drawn into the spotlight a throng of white supremacists, misogynists, xenophobes, anti-Semites, and others animated by envy and hatred, but such people constitute only a small, if dangerous, fraction of his supporters, and his supporters, in turn, constitute only a small fraction of our fellow citizens. He did not come close to securing a popular mandate. So we should not allow his tainted victory, his divisive views, or his callous policies to define our nation. Enough Americans of all shades and ethnicities freed themselves sufficiently from tribalism to elect and then re-elect an African-American man to the presidency—a man who far surpasses his white successor in character, intelligence, and concern for human well-being. That successor, an accidental president, is a holdover from a cruder and crueler time in our history. We must not let him dictate our future.
Everything we loved and cared about before the election, we still love and care about, only now we realize more vividly how endangered those precious people, places, creatures, and causes are. Now we realize we must defend them with all our heart and might.
Scott Russell Sanders