On Wednesday, November 9th, 2016, millions of Americans awoke to find ourselves Outlaws.
Latinos, Gays, Blacks, Jews, Women, Muslims, Veterans, Progressives, the Handicapped, who had gone to sleep Tuesday night hopeful that the compassionate national embrace of Difference launched under President Barack Obama would continue under a President Hillary Clinton found on Wednesday morning that their candidate—who had won nationally in the popular vote—had been overthrown by what was incontestably a coup: a collusion of dirty trick surprises sprung by everyone from the FBI to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks to the Republican Party and even to Vladimir Putin, dictator of Russia.
In her stead stood Donald J. Trump, a classic demagogue who had stirred deep wellsprings of violent intolerance throughout his campaign, publicly vilifying and threatening minorities in a way that had never been seen before in such an overt and blatant degree from a presidential candidate.
From the time he first announced his candidacy he was revealed to have boasted of sexually assaulting Women and to this day stands accused of the crime by at least twelve female victims. He has come out in favor of torture. He threatened to register all Muslims in America, in the way that Nazi Germany had once registered Europe’s Jews before murdering them.
He promised to hunt down and deport eleven million “illegal” immigrants from these shores. He would build a wall along Mexico’s border, he said, and force Mexico to pay for it. His campaign took on increasingly ominous overtones of antisemitism, with dog-whistle references to classic tropes about Jewish power and secret machinations. He threatened to repeal healthcare from those who under Obamacare had enjoyed, for the first time in decades, decent coverage, including those afflicted with Cancer and other life-threatening conditions.
On November 9th, 2016, we awoke to find that this nightmare figure had somehow, improbably, become the most powerful person in the world: the President of the United States.
In response, thousands have taken to the streets in major American cities, mobilized by shock and fear, marching night after night, shouting “Not My President!”. Some dream of a miraculous but unlikely reversal of the election by Electors of the Electoral College. Yet still others hope that an immediate impeachment will follow the inauguration.
Some, in a manner characteristic of Stockholm Syndrome, now seek to normalize the abnormal,wondering if they can somehow find some good in a Trump win.
But what good can come of a Presidential victory founded upon intolerance and the promised persecution of the most vulnerable portions of the population?
I believe that Donald J. Trump is here to stay. And that he will, with the full powers of his office, and the unchallenged authorization of the cowed Republican-controlled Congress, implement every single unthinkable measure that he has promised to launch and that he will further unleash a reign of repression unlike any that we have ever witnessed before in the two and a half centuries of our history as a nation.
His wall, which he certainly intends to build, will not only deter “illegals” but just as importantly, keep the rest of us walled in.
He will, as he did during the campaign, continue to incite his followers to violence against the weak and disadvantaged. His foreign policy will be no policy at all but enforce a condition of chilling isolationism intended to make our control as a population easier. Ruled by his iron fist, we will be reduced, day by day, to a distressed and obedient body of servile consumers, force-fed whatever profits him personally, while the police and FBI monitor our every move.
Prisoners of a fascistic regime of State-sponsored terror, we will be targeted on a revolving wheel of scapegoats, for as we know, all dictatorships depend upon scapegoats.
In this dystopia, I believe that Jews will find ourselves faced once more –as we have been all through the election—by charges of economic chicanery and global manipulation: the same sort of slander once leveled by Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin.
What then does it mean to be an Outlaw and what does one do, whether one is Female, Gay, Black, Latino, Jewish, or any other demographic that Trump has reviled?
Almost sixteen years ago, I published the first in a series of “Outlaw Bibles”–anthologies that collected from the fields of literature and art outsider voices who have succeeded to articulate through word and image the condition of estrangement from society. So far, four volumes have been published: The Outlaw Bible of American of American Poetry (1999), The Outlaw Bible of American Literature (co-edited with Barney Rosset, 2004); The Outlaw Bible of American Essays (2006) and most recently The Outlaw Bible of American Art (2016). More will eventually follow.
In these books I present a canon of defiant risk takers who challenged the established order at its most basic levels, from politics to the social order to sex. My purpose has been to offer—not only to young questing minds and hearts but to anyone, of any age– examples of perspective and behavior that might turn acquiescence into revolt and struggle.
My purpose in assembling these volumes, no less in then the books that I have written (Jew Boy, 2000; Matches, 2005; Drunken Angel, 2011; plus several books of poetry) has been to articulate a deepening sense of personal estrangement from a Western world, that I have sensed from early manhood, has been moving ever-nearer to where we have at last arrived: State-empowered Totalitarianism.
At the same time, I am less interested in professional revolutionaries and their programs, for so often once in power they themselves become sources of repression. Rather, I am attracted to acts of defiance that proceed from the heart and drive the individual to act and resist against the standing order not only artistically, politically and where possible, collectively with others, but to rebel in their own lives against that which personally imprisons them.
For as Albert Camus once wrote: “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
Only a body of free human beings can hope to overthrow the threat that has risen against us. But in order to become free we must first accept our condition as Outlaws, to embrace it and celebrate it and to dare to break free of those shackles— personal, economic, social, political—which have kept us entranced by delusion and made us vulnerable to the deception and manipulation that has occurred in the 2016 election. For we have been taken over and are now held hostage to a regime that will be, I believe, as terrible, as savage, as any in History.
Denial springs from our very human need to normalize the abnormal, to tell ourselves that Donald J. Trump does not intend to carry out his threats, that America is too powerful a democracy to ever allow for a real dictatorship.
And yet, the dictatorship is here. It has arrived. Already, the political leadership of both parties have succumbed to it. Here and there, a brave voice has spoken up, such as Harry Reid, the Senator fro Nevada and outgoing Senate Majority Leader who warned that the threat we face in Donald Trump is actual, not an exaggeration and that we must stand opposed.
Nonetheless, Trump’s transition to power has been set irrevocably into motion. The inaugural platform has been built. And on January 20, 2017, the first dictator in American history, elected by coup, will enter the White House and begin to make the unthinkable actual.
Our struggle against this Tyranny must be no less then a liberation movement whose unequivocal aim is to overthrow it.
We must begin to ask ourselves, each and every one, not only how did this happen but even more urgently, how can we defeat this? In looking to the French resistance we can note that more often then not the first resisters emerged from the ranks of the marginalized, the outsiders, the questioners: offbeat intellectuals, artists, writers, poets, academics, students, emigres, Jews, Muslims, rurally isolated farmers, aristocrats, conservative Roman Catholics, liberals, anarchists and communists.
Among the most notable writers who gave battle by their pen or other means were Samuel Beckett (though he could have enjoyed safety as a citizen of neutral Ireland), Albert Camus, Alfred Perles,
Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Auras, Irene Nevsky, Jean Huguenot, Andre Malraux, and others.
My mother, a Holocaust survivor, a French Jew who was on the run from the combined intelligence services and troops of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Vichy France, was finally saved by Communist Italian mountain partisans, armed peasants operating in the North, and who were not only –in complete contradiction to their Communism—fierce Catholics but were not even full Italians. They descended from Spanish mercenaries who in the nineteenth century had crossed the mountains into Italy after a failed struggle against the invading armies of Napoleon. I personally traveled to the region where they still live and was shown the very hayloft in which they had hidden my mother.
They did not fit anyone’s mold. For two long years they kept my mother alive while battling the SS. Many died. Yet, just five kilometers down the road, in another Italian town, local residents – quite conventional small city dwellers, Italians and all much alike–were handing over their Jews to the Gestapo for deportation to Auschwitz and the gas.
The people I met still live today pretty much as they did then. Their humble little cottages smell of goats and newborn babies. A fierce, proud people beholden to no one, they kept the Nazis from putting my mother into the gas chambers of Treblinka where so many of her relations died.
In this way, we too must protect the defenseless and vulnerable in our midst. Under no circumstances can we permit Donald Trump and his gang of cronies to tear families asunder and expel the undocumented from our shores or re-institute measures of repression against the rights of Gays or People of Color or strip Women of their right to an abortion or allow our sisters, daughters and mothers to be denigrated in any fashion or allow Jewish or Black people to be hounded and violated.
Embrace your outsiderness! Honor your difference! Be a proud Outlaw. Let it be, rather then a stigma, a force for courageous personal deeds when time comes to stand up for your own decency and convictions.
Let your Outlaw soul be the power that drives you to heroic action in the name of freedom.