What I have done by declaring myself so openly, by doing nothing to hide my personal identity, is leave myself open to surveillance and attack. Mr. Trump has at his disposition the vast powers of the National Security Agency along with other agencies and resources. He could direct someone (or a team of folks) to look into private online accounts (email accounts, user accounts with online vendors, online identities used to download software and media, private journals that sync across the cloud, etc.), then leverage any embarrassing or troublesome bits of information to compromise, blackmail, coerce or undermine anyone who criticizes or attacks His Magnificence. (Hell, he becomes irate when folks simply choose not to flatter him.)
So I realize that I have left myself extremely vulnerable by blogging and tweeting openly in criticism of this president. Indeed, I am pretty sure that I am already in trouble. I think it’s not impossible for me — along with many others like me — to be targeted at the behest of Donald J. Trump. It would be easy for hackers (whether from the NSA or Russians agents contracting with Mr Trump through his friend Mr. Putin) to uncover and reveal details of my online life that I would rather keep private. Given the level of paranoia and narcissistic self-obsession that we have witnessed in the president and given his unrelenting resentments and bullying against those he considers his enemies, I fully expect to be “compromised” or blackmailed in the near future.
If I were paranoiac, I would probably close all of my online accounts, and sell all of my mutual funds to buy gold, weapons, survival gear and a remote property. Instead, I am willing to face embarrassment and criticism. I am willing to suffer the consequences of my own past words and actions. I will face my own indiscretions and mistakes frankly and without deflecting. I am not like Donald J. Trump. So it’s going to be a tough future for me, I’m afraid.
I don’t see an immense convergence between my personal identities — who I am in my social and professional relationships, in this blog and elsewhere — and that lovely persona of Mad Magazine fame, Alfred E. Neuman. Yet I find myself to be, not unlike the fictional character, somewhat ludicrously clueless. What in the hell do we do about an aggressive, obnoxious, untruthful, self-obsessed, destructive, unethical bully who holds the reins of power, with the majority in both houses of Congress apparently complacent about and complicit in his high-impact foolishness. The scientists and thinkers who make decisions about the Doomsday Clock’s setting have just moved the hands closer to the time of global destruction (two-and-a-half minutes before midnight, changed from 23:57:00, which had been the setting since 2015). This is grave. Serious people analyzing large amounts of data about nuclear weapons, biochemical threats and climate change have come to a careful and measured consensus that the bully in the White House is increasing the level of hazard in an already dangerous world.
And so I worry. Except that simply worrying has no positive effect on my mind and body or on the world at large. So I have tried not to worry. I have tried to retreat into Neumanesque ignorance, which is not possible either. It is a dilemma. I do not believe that I can muscle my way out of this emotional quagmire through decisive action, simply because there is so little under my control. Effective action to counter the extremely vigorous ideological push to undo the fabric of progressive, environmentally responsible and socially tolerant American society does not seem possible. Engaging in additional activity (protests, canvassing, lobbying elected officials, engaging in militant projects) certainly does not seem feasible, given my other commitments. What option do I have, other than to worry?
Or perhaps, I need to jettison my prior plans and commitments, to throw myself into the fray. Something most definitely has got to give. This situation dominated by a class of highly irresponsible, dogmatic, harmful political actors is intolerable. And the only way to avoid a continually overstimulated sympathetic nervous system is to do something about it..
I was willing to give this president a chance, but his actions and his words are so harmful, so untruthful, so little guided by evidence or wisdom that to refrain from opposing him is to commit evil. I will not do that.
Thanks, Mr. President.
I know that a mass of folks giving speeches, listening to speeches and marching in protest may seem like a feeble response to aggressive and threatening political maneuvering that endangers democratic institutions and undermines human rights and the ideals of equality. Still, I have been moved today by the amazing outpouring of solidarity and goodwill (and only a modicum of bitterness and unfair critique) at many women’s marches today, in Washington, DC, across the US and in many other places across the world. Most of all, there have been a number of inspiring reports, tweets, videos and comments across the media.
One video produced and hosted by The Guardian (link below) is among the most powerful and moving that I have seen today. It’s worth viewing:
After many years of existence, this unused virtual space and the software running here will come to life with words (and images) from Robert R. Daniel Jr, a.k.a. rrdaniel2. It is not exactly a propitious moment, this 20 January 2017, but I will do my best to write positively and productively while remaining forthright. Under circumstances that might easily drive to despair and inaction compassionate humanists, sensible environmentalists and well-informed, well-read persons who value ethical integrity, dignity, honesty, wit and personal honor, I will focus on gratitude and hope. I will speak of goodness, beauty, and grace while also taking note of fertile ideas or evoking specific actions that I believe will make the world better. I will focus on helping to preserve the rights, the principles, the beneficial products and the helpful processes that have been created or preserved by the hard work and sacrifice of men and women working together in a spirit of goodwill. I refuse to allow dark and destructive forces to blight me or to undermine my belief in what is noble, illuminating, generous and true.
Here I will record random thoughts, connections between disparate things, comments on events and on contingencies. Here I will reflect on the meaning of my own life and the significance of happenings in pubic life around me. Here I will meditate, noting what arises during those instances of mindfulness. Here I will brainstorm. Here I will pray. My consistent aim will be for the greater good.
I did read one superb blog post, by Sean Michael Morris, that challenges teachers of all sorts to rethink what they do and to educate better for critical thinking and for individual and collective engagement with the wider world. You may find that text here.