At a time when fascists were less often profiled in major metropolitan newspapers as hunky fashion leaders and more often as the scum of the earth, there were few things worse than being labeled a collaborator.
Today the term “collaboration” is all the rage in the business world, but when Nazis infested Europe, it was anything but a compliment. A collaborator was the reviled individual who cooperated with, and actively aided, his or her oppressor.
If, like me, you’re a fan of old films, you know that collaborators were often played as sneaking, weaselly boot-lickers who invariably got their comeuppance through the heroic actions of the French Resistance. All very romantic, but hardly reflective of your contemporary collaborator, who can now pose as an elected representative, CEO, or the guy sitting across the table from you during a holiday dinner.
With the recent Presidential election, I’ve thought increasingly about this term and what it means to modern-day Americans who still value the principles upon which this nation was founded—fairness, decency, the rule of law, and the notion that playing by the rules matters.
Lovely principles though they may be, this election and the actions of the GOP in the last eight years has demonstrated that they mean nothing to many Republican voters and their representatives.
For them, it’s only about winning. If that means denying a President a Supreme Court appointment, fine. Voter suppression? Let’s get on that because “those people” would probably cheat anyway. Create a crazy-quilt pattern of district boundaries to ensure your guy gets elected? We have that power! Denigrate and threaten “different” people to gin up the white vote? Hey, white people founded this country, amirite? Pledge allegiance to the most anti-Christian principles imaginable, yet claim to be the party of “Christian values”? Christ was a commie.
As someone who actually believes that those founding principles are what makes America truly great, it should come as no surprise that I’ve been frustrated and depressed by what this country and far too many of its people have become. And in order to try to pull myself out of this funk, I’ve wondered exactly what I can do to make a small difference.
Temporarily satisfying though it may be to swear every time I hear the President-elect’s name and take to Twitter to denigrate his supporters, I’ve settled on this:
By that I mean that I’m denying comfort to those I perceive as opposed to the best principles of this country and the people and companies that support them. I'll go about it this way.
Deny with your dollars
There are any number of businesses that will profit from a Trump administration. For example, Company X that helps develop a database of Muslims living in this country. Company Y that turns over user data for the sake of “national security.” Company Z that designs or builds the fabled “wall” that symbolizes a paranoid and hateful nation.
If you use products or services by one of these companies, stop. If you’re considering using such a P or S, find an alternative. Spread the word. Tell the company exactly why you’re denying them your business.
This works on a small scale as well. For example, I won’t support any artist who performs at the Trump inauguration. Of course, I wouldn’t set foot in a Trump property or purchase any product associated with the Trump family. And North Carolina is dead to me.
Fake news as promoted by the likes of Facebook, political surrogates presented as pundits on CNN, radio networks that broadcast hate, newspapers that soft-pedal headlines and stories and promote “equivalence” in vain attempts to curry favor with conservative readers, Fox and Breitbart “News”—each and every one values profit over principle.
Turn them off. Withhold your support from their sponsors. Block ads that appear on sites that promote fake news (or avoid the sites and services altogether). Demand that public editors answer for the actions of their publications (and when they don’t, cancel your subscription and find news sources that demonstrate an understanding of what journalism is really about).
Block the trolls
If you speak your mind on social networking services, you’re going to get pushback. Don’t engage. Shut ‘em out either by muting or blocking and, in the case of the most vile responses, report them. From all reports, Twitter is trying to sell itself to someone—anyone. It knows it needs to step up its game in regard to its harassment policies. Don’t stand by and take it.
About the positive
My frustration has compelled me to focus on the “No.” But there are several Yesses that can make a difference as well.
Put your money to work. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, World Wildlife Fund, and many others will do their best to minimize the damage wrought by the Trump administration and GOP. Find a cause you care about, do your research to ensure your money is going where it does the most good (visit Charity Navigator to learn who is and isn’t legit), and give what you can. Even better if your company offers donation matching.
Support the good ones. There are many companies that operate in a principled way. Ben & Jerry’s not only make delicious ice cream, but also promote social responsibility. Apple has gone to the wall to protect its users’ privacy. Costco pays a decent wage for a big-box store and offers its employees health benefits. Kellogs has very publicly stated that it won’t advertise on Breitbart (and as that site’s readers have boycotted Kellogs, I’ve purchased more of its products). Ducks Unlimited supports wetlands conservation.
Teach your children. Young people don’t vote in great enough numbers and I blame their parents for not stressing the importance of politics and voting. If this election hasn’t underscored just how nonsensical the idea that “all candidates are the same” is, I don’t know what will. (Though I thought we’d dealt with this issue after Bush v. Gore.) Kids, it’s your damned future. Time to care about it, even in off-year elections.
This goes beyond, “You get a ribbon for voting, darling. Good for you!” Instill an understanding that politics and policy are complicated and sometimes dreary. More often than not, the boring candidate who can actually deliver on policy is preferable to the charismatic liar whose pie-in-the-sky proposals haven't a chance in hell of advancing.
While you’re at it, learn how to distinguish between “something you read on the Internet” and something that actually happened. Pass this knowledge along to your kids.
Teach your friends and family. While you risk being “that friend” or “that relative,” when Uncle Bob mouths off about “those” people or grabbing anyone by the anything, muster as much politeness as you can and tell him to put a sock in it. You’re not going to put up with that language or attitude. If Bob gets huffy, hey, it’s one less place you have to set for Thanksgiving.
Demand a plan. One reason this country has turned to deplorable nationalism is because a load of people have no hope. Jobs are disappearing, people are hurting, and no one seems to care. When you’re that hopeless person, it’s easy to believe someone who, with very pretty (or ugly) words, tells you that it’s not your fault and he’s going to make it all better by getting rid of the bad people and bringing back jobs that the country no longer needs. It’s bullshit. But for some people, bullshit is more comforting than silence.
Red or blue state, conservative or liberal, this is a problem for the country that can’t be solved with lies or silence. Republicans won’t do it. To them, these folks are rubes who can be pawned off with talk of stopping abortion, protecting gun rights, and vilifying immigrants. If Democrats want to recapture the “deplorables,” it’s time to stop treating them like dumb hicks and start developing policies and programs that can help them.
It’s easy to give in to dispair. It’s easy to brush this off with “Hey, the country’s seen worse. We can get through this.” It’s easy to do nothing because you feel powerless. But there is no easy way out of this.
The one thing you can do is try. For me, trying is refraining from aiding and abetting those who would do this country harm, and lending a hand to people, companies, and organizations that still believe in American ideals.
Yes, doing so can be inconvenient, even embarrassing, but if you want hope, sometimes you have to go out and make it.