My husband is making a documentary film about an American family and their "memory business"—for 65 years they helped communities with all aspects of photography. Sadly, actual film photography is a dying business. People today "snap" photos and roll film with their phones, and few of those gazillion pixels are even being printed anymore.
A prominent theme of this documentary is survival. The family came to the U.S. in 1939, fleeing the Nazi infiltration of Austria. As the now-deceased matriarch of the family recalled on film her experience of Vienna during the Anschluss, I felt extreme anxiety because, ever since I was old enough to understand the Holocaust, I have always believed it could happen here. And this survivor's description of Vienna under Hitler matches too closely our new political landscape. Chiefly:
"Well, I thought that the good old Viennese, they go with the wind, you know? They're typical for that, Viennese—they will do anything. When they can better their lifestyle, they will do it."
Our human capacity to turn a blind eye to others' suffering while focusing on our own aggrandizement is precisely why Holocaust-like crimes can and do persist. And now, with the Trump presidency, our democracy is vulnerable to being swept up in fascism or autocracy, systems where individual human life and rights don't matter.
Cornel West has long decried American neo-liberalism and squarely blames the Democratic Party for our current political chaos:
"The abysmal failure of the Democratic party to speak to the arrested mobility and escalating poverty of working people unleashed a hate-filled populism and protectionism that threaten to tear apart the fragile fiber of what is left of US democracy."
I have contributed to that failure. I have not demanded that my elected officials wrestle with unequal education, unequal healthcare, unequal pay, unequal opportunity. Thankfully, it's not too late to start, and I will be joining throngs of other protestors. I have felt tremendously uplifted and inspired to see the millions around the globe who have protested the Trump presidency and its policies.
In answer to the question—what is to be done?—Dr. West replies, "First, we must tell the truth." He adds that:
"Trump's neofascist rhetoric and predictable authoritarian reign is just another ugly moment that calls forth the best of who we are and what we can do."
We are all in the "memory business." We cannot forget our unifying principles. The realities of today will be the memories of tomorrow. Let us all actively be our best and do our best.
For those of you in New Mexico, here are the names and numbers of those you need to call to make your voice heard:
Senator Tom Udall (D): Online comments or call (202) 224-6621.
Senator Martin Heinrich (D): Online comments or call at (202) 224-5521.
Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), District 1: Online comments or call at: (202) 225-6316.
Representative Steve Pearce (R), District 2: Online comments or call at 202-225-2365.
Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D), District 3: Online comments or call at (202) 225-6190.