Monday, February 12, 2018

What to Read in a Post-Trump World

I think the election of Donald Trump was a terrible mistake, is an embarrassment to our country, and marks a low point in American democracy.

When the election was officially called for Trump,  I felt a terrible, sinking feeling I can only describe as sick at heart. It's the feeling I have when I face choices that are wrong, think about serious regrets, or hear that something awful has happened to a friend. Truly, I can't believe this happened.

While I think I understand the economic motives and "swamp-draining" impulses Trump supporters cite and I don't think all Trump voters are bigots, they did wittingly turn the country over to one. It doesn't seem right and it makes me sad that any American would consider him a viable option.

Since the election, Trump has proven to be immoral, incompetent, uninspired, and uninspiring. He surrounds himself with terrible people and gives voice to racism and misogyny. To make matters worse, our Republican Congress has shown an appalling lack of integrity by providing zero oversight (especially Paul Ryan). It's disheartening.

I know a lot of people have become much more politically active since the presidential election and have decided to run for office. It feels expedient to do something. Personally, I have picked two areas to focus my efforts on: literacy and compassion. By my calculations, more of both = less Trump and Trumplike thinking.

I've been reading some good books that have helped me think about politics and citizenship and to articulate the values that I apparently need to be a lot more intentional and explicit about exemplifying and promoting.

Charlie Sykes' How the Right Lost its Mind is a good description of what happened leading up to the 2016 election from a conservative viewpoint. I started noticing Sykes' insightful tweets after the election, so I decided to read his book.



George Lakoff's Moral Politics gave me a good overview of what Republicans and Democrats believe. Lakoff is a democrat and ultimately makes the case for his affiliation, but I found it fair-minded. Even though a lot of Mormons are Republicans, it is because of rather than in spite of my religion that I identify with a lot of democratic ideals. Mormon pioneers are the only group of western emigrants who famously left the trail better than they found it so that others might benefit from the crops they planted and the paths they cleared. I believe giving a leg-up to the person coming along behind you is better than insisting that they bootstrap it. Lakoff's book shows the expression of values and ideals for both parties and I think it's useful.



I read Ta-Nehisi Coate's Atlantic article "Donald Trump is the First White President" and decided to read his whole book of essays, We Were Eight Years in Power.  It feels uncomfortable to think about the ways in which what is happening now in politics is a backlash against the first African-American president, but, unfortunately, much of it is. If we don't understand it we can't take steps to improve it. Coates has important things to say.



I've mentioned Richard Weissbourd's The Parent's We Mean to Be before. It's one of my favorite parenting books. I reread it lately and was struck again by its relevance. Weissbourd contends that to be good parents we need to be good people. He encourages parents to become more disciplined and selfless in our interactions with our children. Just like our kids, we are growing and improving. He says,
"The subtleties of appreciating and being generous with others, acting with fairness and integrity, and formulating mature and resilient ideals are a life's work."
I would like this to be my life's work. Fostering this kind of moral growth seems to be the antidote to Trumpism, which is why I'm recommending this book again.



Any other suggestions for books to read in a post-Trump world?

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