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Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, No "New Normal"

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

At 72, I experienced election night with a 103-degree temperature, so it was literally a fever-dream for me. And in a certain sense, it's remained so ever since. Now that a white supremacist has just been made the next president's closest White House adviser, and the president-elect has called conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars to thank him and his followers for their part in his election victory, we have reasonable confirmation that we are indeed in a fever-dream America.

Hate incidents are on the rise. It's easy enough to imagine the Bundy brothers being let loose in the West. A climate change denier is running the Trump environmental policy transition. The candidate himself will arrive in Washington with an enemies list already in formation (beating Dick Nixon to the punch by years). The mainstream media have tied themselves in apologetic knots for believing the pollsters on Hillary's "victory" and not bothering to talk enough to the white working class voters who came out for Trump (and whom Clinton abandoned for white millionaires and billionaires). And the new president is being normalized by the old one, who previously excoriated him in the name of democracy, while mainstream pundits and journalists desperately look for signs that Donald Trump will be a pragmatic, recognizable American president once he takes the mantle of power.

Thanks to the Obama years (not to speak of the Bush ones), our new "pragmatic" president will enter the Oval Office fully weaponized. He will have expanded and expansive executive powers of death, destruction, and coercion directly at his disposal when it comes to acts like assassination by drone, surveillance, global kidnapping operations, the pursuit of leakers and whistleblowers, and the torture of potential terror suspects, among many other things. At his beck and call, he will have a private army of 70,000 elite troops -- the Special Operations forces -- already scattered across the planet, and a private air force of CIA-run drones at bases ringing, or actually in, the Greater Middle East. Put another way, Donald J. Trump is not going to be the president of the Philippines. He's going to be the head of the single most powerful, most potentially destructive, most potentially intrusive force on the planet and on many of the powers he'll inherit there are remarkably few restraints. That is, in fact, anything but normal.

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In the meantime, the rest of us have ended up in the fun house. The mirrors that line the walls are weird. It's truly hard to tell what world we're looking at. We're wandering in here lost and freaked out. Fears are rising.

Whatever Donald Trump ends up doing, however, he's just a symptom. His already certifiably bizarre pre-presidency was born of a long, grim history, domestic and foreign. As Donald Trump leads an ever more extreme Republican Party (and the American people) into a darkening future, it's probably necessary to add that, if there were such a thing as national psychiatrists, as a country we might now be diagnosed with some kind of personality disorder. Today, TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon takes us on a journey deep into our already disordered and disorderly world (before the Trump presidency even starts), offering -- surprisingly enough -- a little hope along the way. Tom

Life Under Trump
Night Terrors and Daytime Hopes
By Rebecca Gordon

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The night after the election, this long-time pacifist dreamed she shot a big white man carrying an arsenal of guns. He was wandering around a room full of people, waving a pistol and threatening to fire. Someone pushed a gun into my hand and said, "Shoot now, while his back is turned!" I shot. Blood seeped from a hole in his back. He fell. I woke up stunned.

And the election results had not changed.

Night Fears

More bad nights have followed, filled with dreams in which people who know me well accuse me of terrible things I haven't done or of failing to protect people in my charge.

And there have been nights when my partner and I hold each other in the dark and whisper our worst fears. Some of these are personal and selfish: Under the new regime, will I still be able to get the meds that keep me going? Will I have to work for money until I die to keep my health care benefits? Because I turn 65 next year, will I miss the 2017 Medicare cutoff and fall under Paul Ryan's plan to turn that program into a voucher system?

Some fears are national: How can the two of us, and the organizations we're connected with, continue to shield the vulnerable in an era when a white supremacist serves as the president's chief strategist?

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Some are global: Can we hold back the rising seas that are already closing over island nations on a planet where Donald Trump promises to abandon the fight against climate change and walk away from the historic Paris climate accord?

And then, it's back to the personal again: Just how vulnerable are we, two middle class white lesbians in our sixties, during a Trump presidency? In the 1980s and 1990s, we used to wonder why the two things our "gay leaders" thought we wanted most in the world were to join the Army and get married. Now, the question isn't what we'll be able to do, but what we won't be able to do.

Admittedly, the two of us will never again need the right to an abortion that a Trump-influenced Supreme Court will probably devolve to the states, essentially abrogating the Roe v. Wade decision. But I did need it in 1975, and I thank God I had it. On the other hand, such a court could easily decide to revisit its 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which invalidated sodomy laws. It's easy enough to forget now that, as recently as 1986, in Bowers v. Hardwick, the court opined that no one has "a fundamental right to engage in homosexual sodomy."

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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