Tracking Trump, Week 4: Feb 12-18 2017

It’s been a weird, wild, week in Trump kingdom. For those accusing Trump of fascism, here’s a week of indications, although whether these point to fascism, authoritarianism, or populism is disputable.

Sunday

On FACE THE NATION, Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller said the following about Trump’s intended executive order on immigration:

We’re considering new and further executive actions that will enhance the security posture of the United States. I don’t have any news to date to make on it. But I think the point, John, is that the president has enormous powers, both delegated to him by Congress and under the Constitution, his Article 2 foreign affairs power, to control the entry of aliens into our country and he’s going to use that authority to keep us safe.

The gist of this is that Miller attributed almost superhuman powers to his boss.

Now, the President is known as “the most powerful man in the world”, but according to the US Constitution, the U.S. presidency, which is the “Executive Branch”, has to harmonize with the other two: the “Legislative”  (i.e.,  Congress) and the “Judicial” branch (i.e., Supreme Court and subordinate federal courts). Moreover, the Constitution gave overarching control to the Congress (including the power to remove the President under circumstances which Congress itself defines). The President, too, is answerable in all his actions to Congress.

Miller overlooked that.  More critically, Miller continued:

We have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become in many case a supreme branch of government.

Since when – and who decides – that the “judiciary that has taken far too much power”? Regardless, Miller says:

Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.

“Our opponents”?  Leaders of fascist and authoritarian regimes tend to furnish themselves with a panoply of real and purported enemies. Trump’s enemies are “the whole world”. Also in dictatorial fashion, Trump declares that “his powers…will not be questioned.”

Fascism is dangerous to host country and to the world. That same day:

Hezbollah terror leader Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech in Lebanon and addressed US President Donald Trump, whom he called a “fool.”  According to him, “We need to thank Trump for exposing the true face of American society which is racist, criminal and sheds blood while contriving plots against our nations here in the Middle East.”

Monday

Vice President Mike Pence, the vice-president who was supposed to stand in for Trump’s political deficiency and provide logical stability, seems to lack Trump’s confidence and to be isolated from Trump’s shadow cabinet that is headed by chief strategist, Bannon. A NY Times investigation revealed that national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, lied to Pence about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States about the lifting of sanctions imposed in the last days of the Obama administration. Worse still, most of Trump’s inner circle seem to be incriminated in the Russian mess, with the trail leading to the President himself. So what does Pence do? The Washington Street Journal reported that Trump sent him to the statue of Douglas MacArthur at West Point to mime how to polish shoes.

An overlooked snippet described a White House atmosphere of overt partisanship – conditions that existed under no other Administration:

At an all-hands meeting about two weeks into the new administration, Ms. McFarland told the group it needed to “make America great again,” numerous staff members who were there said. New Trump appointees are carrying coffee mugs with that Trump campaign slogan into meetings with foreign counterparts, one staff member said. Nervous staff members recently met late at night at a bar a few blocks from the White House and talked about purging their social media accounts of any suggestion of anti-Trump sentiments.

Trump’s regime, University News wrote, mirrors the rise of European fascism. That same day, Geert Wilders, a controversial far-right Dutch politician reiterated his pledge to de-Islamize the Netherlands. Massoud Shadjareh, head of the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, associated rise of such sentiments to “fascist ideology” that is being promoted and allowed to become legitimized in the world:

The reality is that we are seeing the rise of fascism on the back of Islamophobia and hatred of Muslims and this is extremely worrying because this level of demonization always leads to genocide and ethnic cleansing

Wednesday

Conway tweeted another message indicating she parrots Trump: “I serve at the pleasure of [Trump]. His message is my message.” She broke the rules and gave what she called a “free commercial” on Fox News for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line: “Go buy it today, everybody.” Spicer said she had been “counseled.” How? Trump okayed her actions.

Note how both she and Miller (as well as Spicer among other members of his shadow cabinet) assign absolute power to Trump.

Thursday

The New York Times:

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election”

Again, one wonders where Vice President Pence is on all of this. Poor guy! Supposed to lead the government, and seemingly ousted from Trump’s confidence.

Meanwhile, the American law enforcement and intelligence agencies give Trump a tough time, so what does the leader do?

President Trump plans to assign a New York billionaire to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies, according to administration officials, an effort that members of the intelligence community fear could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview. (NY Times)

In short, the President aims to stifle their independence – or, put another way, their unbridled autonomy.

That same day, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released its annual census of hate groups and other extremist organizations and reported:

The number of hate groups in the United States rose for a second year in a row in 2016 as the radical right was energized by the candidacy of Donald Trump.

Friday

Is Trump’s regime authoritarian? At the end of one week, John Sidney McCain had this to say:

  • “[The founders of the Munich conference] would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood and race and sectarianism.”
  • “They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see towards immigrants and refugees and minority groups — especially Muslims.”
  • “They would be alarmed by the growing inability — and even unwillingness — to separate truth from lies.”
  • “They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent.”

McCain is Republican. His party runs the country. He reported what he saw.

The media, whether objectively or otherwise, has time and again put the Donald in his place. On Friday, Trump called the Times and several other media organisations “not my enemies [but] enemies of the American people”.

Granted that the media dislikes Donald, but why is it then the Nation’s enemy? (shouldn’t it be peculiarly Donald’s)? Or does the President think of himself as the United States of America? Alternately, does he want his supporters – and maybe the country as a whole – to pillory the press?

He made a similar claim at a rally in Florida telling supporters the media was “part of the corrupt system”: “When the media lies to the people I will never let them get away with it”, he added.

Again, the man seems to think he has super-President powers.

Conclusion

 

So, in this fourth week of his Presidency, Mr. Trump has declared war on the intelligence agencies and the media. It looks like the judicial branch may be next.

Call for Writers: Being Plural

Inatri is looking for writers to write about being plural.

If you’re interested, email [email protected].

We want to offer a platform for those who have multiple personalities — regardless of the terminology you use (plural, multiple, Dissociative Identity Disorder, etc) — to write about their experiences with it, and how it affects their day-to-day lives.

We pay writers.

Call for Writers: Living with PTSD

Inatri is looking for writers to write about living with PTSD.

If you’re interested, email [email protected].

There are a lot of people who live with PTSD, whether from abuse, war, or other traumatic experiences. We want to offer a platform for people to discuss how PTSD affects their day-to-day life, and how they cope with it (or attempt to do so), and how successful they are in doing so. PTSD can affect people in many different ways, so we want to get multiple people to discuss it.

Call for Writers/Researchers: Tracking Trump

Inatri is currently looking for people to write about, or gather information about, all of the fucked up things the Trump administration is doing. This would be recurring, with weekly articles.

We want 2-3 people working on this, rotating weekly, to avoid anyone burning out on it.

The goal of this is to create a chronological archive of the rise of fascism and the revocation of the rights of US citizens. This will be done by writing overviews that link to a collection preexisting articles written by other publications and newspapers.

If you’re interested, email [email protected].

This is paid work.

Call for Writers/Interviewees: AD(H)D Management

Inatri is currently looking for people to write or be interviewed about managing AD(H)D. We don’t care whether you have a professional diagnosis or not.

If you’re interested, email [email protected]!

I know a lot of people struggle with this, and I feel like having information on a variety of approaches could help people find things that help them specifically. Given that, I’m going to write an article about how I manage it, and I want to have other articles about how other people do so.

We Are, and Will Remain: An Armenian-American Lesbian’s Quest for Space in her Mother Tongue

“I am Armenian-American.”

What, in my case, does this sentence mean?

It means that about a century ago, after escaping from genocide in the Ottoman Empire, my ancestors immigrated to this continent, where I was born. In my case, this applies to both sides of my family. Others are of mixed roots, Armenian and odar (“foreign,” i.e. non-Armenian), and have no less of a claim on the above term than myself.

“I am Armenian-American” also means that these roots, in some measure, matter enough to me that I would choose to continue claiming them as my own, despite a gap of a century from them. It means, in my case, that despite my birth on these American shores, that I can claim two languages as my native tongue: one a language of world politics and commerce, the other an endangered tongue of a scattered people. Others, with equal claim to this identity, do not speak Armenian. Some in the community deride them for it, but in doing so these detractors forget their own Turkish and Kurdish-speaking grandparents. One’s primary, or sole, language is not a determinant of their ethnic identity.

“I am Armenian-American” means that, in my case, I pass as white and am thus afforded highly conditional privilege that can, and does, evaporate in an instant. This is, for example,  the case in airports, where as soon as an official reads my non-anglo name, I am invariably subjected to further searches and probing questions.

“I am Armenian-American” means that, in some measure, I am neither wholly Armenian nor wholly American. I am a little too alien for white Americans, with my non-anglo name, my taste for “weird” foods, and my occasional, decidedly non-English exclamations of surprise or disgust. I am a little too assimilated for many Armenians too, with my (slight) American accent, my lack of interest in putting my Armenianness at the perennial forefront, and my minority, non-Christian religious affiliation with Shintoism.

I’ve long since given up on choosing one or the other: I exist somewhere in the liminal space between these two identities. And that is enough.

But our identities as humans are multifaceted and complex; we exist at the intersection of many identities. Another one of mine is my sexual orientation as a lesbian.

I am Armenian-American and I am lesbian. And here, one might say we reach the proverbial wrench-in-the-works. But I prefer to think we reach an interesting crossroads.

The Armenian diasporan community strongly tends toward two affiliations: Christian and conservative. Its conservatism is of both social and political bent. Homophobic and transphobic violence in the Armenian community is well documented, both within the country itself as well as in the Diaspora. Were the words of some self-styled defenders of the community to be believed, there are no LGBT Armenians. A chilling irony, given how easily they erase us, reject us, and even kill us. Yet all the same, we exist, we survive, and we struggle to be heard, acknowledged, and respected by our community. As one of our people’s sayings goes, “we are, and we will remain.”

But we have a challenge: language.

***

Armenian language is ancient and rich. It even preserves terms, largely unaltered, from long-dead tongues like Akkadian and Hittite. Armenian literature, in the 16 centuries since its alphabet’s creation, is full of soaring prose and moving, lyrical poetry. But when I was coming out to my family and wanted to do it in Armenian, I came up short. Armenian simply does not have a broad body of language with which to discuss gender and sexual diversity.

So, for a long time, I stuck to English, while my parents responded in Armenian, with horror, guilt-tripping, and accusations of disloyalty to family and nation. It was not an optimal situation, but I made do.

That I was unable to properly express myself in Armenian was galling. There were but two terms of which I was aware at the outset: miaseragan for gay, pokhaseragan for transgender. This is a start, but it is not nearly enough. Added to this is the further complication that there do exist other words, but they are overwhelmingly pathologizing.

I refused to accept this state of affairs as unchangeable. I still do. While we LGBT+ Armenians in the world can, and do, articulate our identities in our mother tongue regardless of the vocabulary’s imperfection, this shortcoming of vocabulary makes that a greater challenge than it needs to be.

And while I have the good fortune of another language with which to express myself, I refuse to be erased from, or hamstrung in, my mother tongue. In my case, to have my parents control the storm of Armenian-language family discourse on my identity was incredibly chagrining.

As I now live outside any of the Armenian diaspora’s major population centers, and as I was single for many years, I could afford to put this off in some measure. Then I started dating other women, my frigid relations with my parents began to slowly warm, and I felt a newfound sense of urgency. Even if I lived outside the diaspora, I simply had to be able to express myself to my parents, and to do it smoothly and clearly. If I had to coin new terms, I would. If the space did not exist for me in my mother tongue, then I would carve that space out myself.

So, with all of this in mind, and fueled by righteous indignation at heart, I took what I saw as the only sensible course of action:

I got to work.

Poverty Encourages Eating Disorders

Content Notice: this article discusses poverty and eating disorders.

It’s easy to find ways poverty negatively affects someone. As one of many examples, it affects education, which limits job opportunities, which often leaves financial stability as nothing but a dream. The root of many of these problems is people believing that those who have been dealt the shittiest hand when they were born, somehow already deserved it.

But there are also more subtle things it can cause, such as a predisposition to eating disorders.

Growing up poor is, to be frank, complete and utter shit. I could go on for hours about all of the various ways it’s shit, but let’s talk about food. Poverty affects your food choices. Poverty affects your eating habits. Through these two things, it can affect how your body processes food, and how your brain interprets hunger.

Food Quality

Your meals will tend to consist of the most cost-effective food you can get — or, if you have the money to spare, the second most cost-effective. Now we’re gettin’ fancy. But here’s the thing: You are often literally getting the food that was not deemed high-quality enough to go with the “normal” food. You are getting the rejects and the junk food, because that’s what’s in your budget. Next time you’re in a grocery store, look around: what is the cheapest food? What is the most expensive food? If you compare these, you’ll often find that the cheapest food is typically of lower quality or considered “junk food,” and the most expensive food is generally higher quality or “healthy snacks.”

Processing Hunger

Food becomes harder to come by, so you tend to eat whatever you can get your hands on. You disregard whether or not you’re hungry at that very moment because fuck you, I am not going to be hungry tonight. A refusal to be hungry can lead to problems processing whether or not you are hungry.

As The Washington Post reported:

Those who grew up in higher socioeconomic households exhibited normal consumption behavior—eating when they were hungry, saying no thank you to the snacks when they were full. Those who grew up in lower socioeconomic households, meanwhile, ate no matter how hungry they were.

Not Eating

Sometimes, you wind up simply not eating. You skip meals in an effort to afford other necessities such as transportation and housing. Or maybe you can afford none of that, and you’re just completely and utterly fucked. (Hi, been there. Many times.)

When you skip meals, you tend to eat larger meals afterwards. Doing this repeatedly can sometimes result in a vicious cycle, where the duration between meals and the amount you eat at each meal both grow considerably, to the point that it’s unhealthy.

Conclusion

Being poor can directly influence the quality of food you have access to, how you understand hunger, and in some cases, whether or not you eat at all. In this way, living in poverty makes developing an eating disorder considerably more likely.

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2016

Content Notice: This article discusses suicide and the 2016 US presidential election.

Once again, Transgender Day of Remembrance has passed, and I am faced with the fact that at least one of my friends has committed suicide every year since I first became involved with the transgender community nearly four years ago.

We never really get the chance to properly mourn our losses, because they just keep coming one after another with no hesitation between them.

As is the case every year, there were periods over the past year where I became uncomfortably close to being part of that group.

This year is worse than normal.

People are literally killing themselves to avoid the repercussions of what the President-elect is promising, and the negative things he has already accomplished. And, as every time the trans community has been in danger, the only ones who consistently stand by us are other marginalized groups.

The country is going to be led by someone who has consistently actively encouraged violence against marginalized groups, with the Vice President-elect being just as bad. They’re fucking talking about putting people in internment camps. The VP-elect advocates for conversion therapy.

I’m drawn back to this quote from my article about Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015:

When the only ones who reliably stay beside us are others who are similarly targeted, it is unsurprising that our progress moves slowly and is paid for with the lives and safety of those who are most vulnerable. Often, this is trans women of color.

Likewise, when the only ones who reliably stay beside us are others who are similarly targeted, it is also unsurprising that progress can regress so quickly.

I am very afraid right now, and so are a lot of other people. Please do your best to take care of and stand by each other.

Mental Health Triggers

Content Notice: The following article discusses PTSD/cPTSD, eating disorders, depression, and OCD.

Mental health triggers are things which, when encountered, can affect a person’s ability to function by triggering a mental illness. The term is most often used for PTSD and cPTSD (trauma triggers), but it can apply to other illnesses — including eating disorders, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others. The effects are most often mental and/or emotional, but can also manifest physically.

Everyone’s triggers are different. For me, things that remind me of past abuse can trigger flashbacks or panic responses (cPTSD), and sleeping too much can cause a depressive episode. For other people, it could be sudden loud noises and sleeping too little. It varies from person to person.

How the same person responds to the same trigger can also vary depending on the circumstances. E.g., my cPTSD-related panic responses tend to manifest differently at night (shaking, hyperventilating) than during the day (dissociation).

Trigger Warnings and Content Notices

Trigger Warnings, as well as the more general Content Notices, serve two purposes: first, to allow someone to choose whether they want to engage with potentially-triggering content, and second, to allow someone to prepare themselves before engaging with it.

Some people respond to requests to do this by saying it’s “coddling” — but I’d argue it’s the exact opposite. First, choosing to not engage with potentially-triggering content is an entirely valid decision, and anyone who says otherwise can go fuck themselves. Second, trigger warnings and content notices allow people to engage with content they would otherwise avoid, because the heads-up allows them to properly prepare for it.

“Triggered” Jokes

A recent trend is for people to joke about being “triggered” when they in fact are not. I will put it bluntly: by making jokes about being triggered, you are making it harder for people who have triggers to be taken seriously. You are actively hindering their ability to participate in society. This is not fucking okay.

Conclusion

Mental health triggers are complicated things. They vary from person to person, as do people’s responses to them. The same person can respond to them differently depending on context. While they often manifest emotionally or mentally, they can also manifest physically. They exist for more than just PTSD.

Trigger Warnings and Content Notices allow people who have mental health triggers to more safely engage with content they otherwise may have to avoid entirely, and avoiding content because of what it contains is always a valid choice.

Mocking people’s mental health is not okay.

Clothes

The behaviors exhibited by groups with large influence, such as companies that spend a lot on advertising, can influence the public’s perception of certain groups to perpetuate marginalization.

Case in point: How clothing companies treat and present women above a certain size.

When looking at clothes, it quickly becomes clear that they are largely designed by people who feel that women with larger bodies should be ashamed and hide. The fact that excessively-baggy, box-shaped shirts are basically all that’s available in plus sizes? That’s what this is. We aren’t supposed to feel proud of how our bodies look, because they’re not one of the Approved Shapes And Sizes.

Sometimes I’ll feel this immense shame and anxiety about how my body looks, and every time I examine it I come to the same conclusion: these feelings are not an attribute of my body, they’re an attribute of how society treats it. As much as I hate to admit it, the way I feel about my body can be strongly influenced by how the world around me perceives it.

Only being able to find clothes that hide the shape of my body, instead of accentuating it, very clearly presents a message I do not agree with: that people with bodies like mine are inherently unattractive, and our bodies should be hidden in shame.

It’s devastating how easy it is to start believing this, how easy it is to hide yourself because of this, how easy it is to perpetuate this. I try my best to not only avoid perpetuating it, but actively fight it. And, frankly, it’s really fucking hard.

These ideas are forced on you from birth. It becomes ingrained, and it takes so much to fight this toxic idea that bodies like mine are inherently bad, and sometimes I forget and I believe the message the clothes on the rack are screaming so clearly.

I’m here to remind you that they’re wrong. My body is lovable. Your body is lovable. There are no exceptions.