To Save America We Must Stop Being Polite And Immediately Start Raising Hell

Here's how to really turn up the heat on elected officials.
Alexander Shcherbak via Getty Images

Donald Trump made his most frightening authoritarian power grab yet in firing James Comey, the FBI director who was leading an investigation of his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia.

This could be viewed as a direct step toward consolidating power and, yes, toward fascism, as we’ve seen play out in other countries ― in Turkey recently, and in many other countries in history from which you could choose as an example.

And Trump is only four months into his administration.

It’s time to move beyond polite protests within specified boundaries. It’s time to escalate the expression of our outrage and our anger in a massive way.

Starting today and from here on, no elected official ― certainly those in the GOP defending and supporting Trump on a variety of issues, for example ― should be able to sit down for a nice, quiet lunch or dinner in a Washington, DC eatery or even in their own homes. They should be hounded by protestors everywhere, especially in public ― in restaurants, in shopping centers, in their districts, and yes, on the public property outside their homes and apartments, in Washington and back in their home states.

White House officials too ― those enabling the authoritarian ― need to be challenged everywhere, as do all those at the conservative think tanks who support Trump and those who publicly defend him in their columns and on television.

“Donald Trump is not operating within boundaries ― nor is anyone who is enabling him. We must fight back with equal force.”

The elected officials and White House staffers must be challenged going to and from their cars and at the many public speeches they give at organizations and think tanks throughout DC and elsewhere. They should be bombarded with questions and placards by groups of people as they head to media appearances at the cable networks where they spew their lies every day. And they should be challenged when they come off TV for what they just lied about.

These people also attend functions and fundraisers at night (which are easy to locate), and these events should be disrupted, inside and out, until these politicians answer to the recklessness in which they are engaged. Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, should not be able to attend any function, eat in public, or enjoy dinner at home without hearing people expressing how his actions are harming their lives and their families’ lives in terrible ways.

This may sound too extreme and out of bounds to some people. But Donald Trump is not operating within boundaries ― nor is anyone who is enabling him. We must fight back with equal force. But let me be clear: I’m of course not calling for violence or any of the thuggish behavior of the Trump supporters during the campaign.

I’m calling for what ACT UP, the life-saving AIDS activist group with which I was involved, did in the ‘80s and ‘90s when our lives were at stake, when our people were dying all around us, and when the government allowed the deaths because it believed nobody cared about dying and dead queers.

You don’t need a large crowd, but you do need an idea that grips people, puts the target on notice, displays passion, makes a spectacle, and says, “No more business as usual.”

“Playing nice right now is like signing a death warrant.”

ACT UP shut down the Food and Drug Administration ― “Seize Control of the FDA,” as we called the demonstration. The sacred floor of the New York Stock Exchange was invaded. The National Institutes of Health were stormed. The CBS Evening News was literally interrupted by an activist who got on the set. Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral by the virulent homophobe Cardinal O’Connor was stopped by die-ins in the aisles of the iconic church. A giant condom was even lowered over the home of the late horrifically anti-gay Republican senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina.

There were many die-ins, and many sit-ins, and traffic was stopped over and over again in cities across America. We were called every name in the book, but there was so much at risk and we had little to lose. ACT UP persevered and changed the course of history, a story that has been told many times in recent years.

The atmosphere then, while of a different time and very different experience, appears similar in many ways to the one we’re living in now, as we see the possibility of our democracy dying and of many people suffering. One of my old friends, Greg Gonsalves, wrote about how we need to “ACT UP To Stop Trumpcare.” After the Comey firing, we need to ACT UP against everything Trump, and against anyone enabling him.

Catherine McGann via Getty Images

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and for civil disobedience in the tradition of the civil rights movement. Democrats who don’t push hard should be targeted too. Right now, all business in the Senate should be made to stop immediately by Democrats, for example, until we have a special counsel in the Trump-Russia probe (which Democrats have called for). And we have to make them do it.

Washington is a company town where everyone kind of plays nice even amid political turmoil. So I’m guessing that’s why we’ve not seen these politicians and White House enablers, people who are party to the uniquely destructive Trump presidency, hounded and protested at every turn already. But playing nice right now is like signing a death warrant.

So, I’m imploring some in the Resistance to up the ante. Everything that’s already been undertaken ― the marches, the phone calls to Congress, the letter-writing, the protests, the town halls, putting up candidates for House races ― has been powerful and needs to continue. But it’s time to also be more forceful and more captivating.

The firing of Comey is an audacious turn toward fascism that must be stopped before it’s too late. We are now fighting for our lives as we know them. There’s no time to waste.

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