Shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump, I stepped into one of my favourite bookstores in Dublin, Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street, to take refuge from the January cold. I started browsing through the tables of books on display and found one with a collection of books around the theme of the new American presidency, including It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, and this book that particularly caught my eye – What We Do Now – Standing up for your values in Trump’s America, edited by Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians.
I had been in a bit of a daze since the inauguration, the reality of what had happened not really setting in until seeing Mr. Trump taking the oath of office. Since then, I wasn’t sure how to feel, and I definitely didn’t know what to do, if there even was anything I could do. After all, I’m not American and I don’t live in the United States. And yet, it is impossible not to feel impacted by this shift in history.
This book was published before Donald Trump took office, and so many of the essays are the immediate reactions of the writers in the aftermath of the election results. There is a sense of shock that reverberates throughout the book as people attempt to gather their thoughts and re-focus for the future. In some essays, like Brittany Packnett‘s “White People: What is your plan for the Trump Presidency?“, the anger can be sensed in every paragraph. Others, such as Bill McKibben‘s essay on climate change, express genuine concern for our future. However, the pieces that resonated with me the most were the ones that left behind a sense of hope, an indication that now is not the time to give up, in fact, we are only getting started.
Many of the essays mentioned the fact that Donald Trump did not win the popular vote. This felt important to many of the writers, and indeed it is. If Americans can hold onto the knowledge that they are not alone in their shock, anger and despair over the results of the election, then perhaps they can find a way to band together and resist those policies that they see as unfair. From simple suggestions, like reminding ourselves, over and over, that “THIS IS NOT NORMAL”, as suggested by Linda Sarsour of MPowerChange.org, to stop us from viewing things that should be outrageous as the new normal, to following suggestions from Robert B. Reich‘s First 100 Days Resistance Agenda, if you are looking for ways to take action in opposing Trump and his policies, you will find something in this book for you.
All the essays in this collection are the perfect length, easy to read and capture the feeling of a lot of people in response to the Trump Presidency. Because it was written before the inauguration, these writing pieces also come before the travel ban and other controversial policies, and it would have been interesting to see what these writers would have had to say about those events. Overall I found this to be a good collection of essays, covering a wide range of topics with every author providing something different in helping us understand the man, the results, and the plan for moving forward.
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