How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

We cannot be silent

Lionel Shrivers' dystopian novel, "The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047," chronicles the economic and subsequent social collapse of the United States. The book is harrowing - for me even worse than the starkness of what was lost was as, The New York Times reviewer Ruth Franklin wrote, the "ease with which people adapt to their new circumstances." I found the acceptance of the inextricable disintegration of the quality and comforts of everyday life extremely troubling.

In the book, the disintegration of society initially occurs relatively slowly and then accelerates much more quickly as life is stripped down to a struggle for survival and the rules evaporate as moral decay spreads. Once the downfall began it had an inevitable glacier-like feel to it. I was struck by the absence of any sort of organized citizen-based efforts to hold power to account. Americans seemed to relatively quickly lose their faith in America as they struggled with what they were allowed to say, do and think. Shriver writes that "Hand-wringing about the end of American democracy seemed silly."

Prior to the Women's March, I was concerned that a similar state of pessimism was beginning to rear its ugly head during the early days of the Trump administration. I was fearful that in the opening moments of the Trump presidency, Americans were becoming so disillusioned that they would just tune out what is going on.

President Trump's inaugural address was an outlier. Instead of promoting healing and national unity it presented a dark dystopian view of America. From the get-go, Trump's spokespeople, Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer, have refuted immutable facts with "alternative facts" that are nothing more than falsehoods. The early days of the administration are so bizarre that it is easy to flippantly disregard what you are hearing as complete gibberish and forget that what the POTUS says matters and has serious consequences.

Along these lines, I think syndicated columnist David Brooks in a PBS NEWSHOUR interview with Judy Woodruff missed the mark when he said "I have come to think we have to treat Donald Trump's tweets like Snapchat. It's just something that is going to go away. And it flies out of some region of his brain and it goes into the ether. And it's on the realm of media ... He's a media commentator a lot of the time ... And so it will exist, and it will fill conversation for a moment. And then, like Snapchat, it will just go away. And so I think, until he can give us something real, it's sometimes best to just let them go with the wind."

I understand the point that Brooks was making. He's hoping that if we disregard the tweets they will have no consequences. He is wrong from two perspectives. While the videos and pictures sent via Snapchat will self-destruct after a few seconds of viewing, they are not totally ephemeral. First, you can take a screenshot of all the snaps you receive and save them in picture form before sending them to whomever. Thus, there is often a record of them.  Second, we are all being exposed, via the media, to a never-ending barrage of tweets from a President who is either unable or unwilling to distinguish between facts and fiction. Like the exposure to radiation, there are negative consequences of continuing exposure to his outrageous lies. I am especially concerned about the affect of long-term exposure to lies on our nation's children.

While I don't see any useful purpose to continuing to question his legitimacy, we need to constantly confront his lies and outbursts. Silence is not an option. We can not allow our president to get away with habitually lying or acting like a petulant toddler who can't control his emotions. We cannot become complacent and come to accept his dishonesty, falsehoods and his impulsiveness as normal.

I have been following the strange case of Grayson Allen, a highly gifted college basketball player from Duke University, who was recently suspended for blatantly tripping an opponent for the third time since last February. For whatever reason, Allen lacks the psychological and emotional ability to control his actions on the basketball court. We can't allow Allen or President Trump establish new rules of conduct or new norms. Basketball and democracy have established norms and no individuals should be above them. Not Michael Jordan, Lebron James or Donald Trump. We should not change the rules to accommodate the outrageous behavior of any one participant. Either they can change their behavior or they need to be removed from the game.

The Women's March clearly demonstrated that there is deep-seated concern about the graceless polarizing nature of the Trump administration. In his farewell speech President Obama emphasized that "democracy demands" civic involvement.  Americans need to be vigilant and civically respond when President Trump lies, violates the rule of law or acts recklessly. The Women's March needs to be more than just a burst of civic mobilization. It needs to be the start of a grass roots non-violent movement that makes it clear that we, the citizens, will not allow President Trump to "carnage" our democracy by rolling back our liberties.