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by Lawrence Bush
HERE I AM putting finishing touches on this year’s Jewish Currents Arts Calendar, our winter issue, which is built upon the theme, “kinderlekh” (the Yiddish diminutive for children). We selected that theme months ago, to express our hopes for a thriving and inclusive future for our children and our grandchildren — and for their children and grandchildren.
But what hopes for the future can we cling to in light of the election of Donald Trump to the White House, and the imminent reestablishment of Republican power and conservative ideology in all three branches of the U.S. government?
One exceedingly slim hope is that President Trump will show himself to have the “New York values” that Ted Cruz accused him of harboring, and won’t simply be another starve-the-government, punish-the-poor, bomb-the-enemy Republican. It is conceivable that his “Make America Great Again” program will include some relief for the working class, some infrastructure-building, and some White House resistance to Congressional efforts to privatize Social Security and destroy the social safety net.
Judging from his campaign and his biography, however, Donald Trump is a genuinely sexist, racist, egomaniacal bigot. His economic populism is deeply polluted by racism and anti-immigrant prejudice and is thoroughly contradicted by his own history as a gouging, tax-dodging billionaire. However much we hope that “it won’t be so bad,” President Donald Trump is a nightmarish figure, and we all have good reason to be crying at the foot of our parents’ bed.
After that, we’re going to have to launch a monumental temper tantrum: with highly publicized marches, year-’round voter registration drives, social media campaigns, challenges from the left to mainstream Democratic candidates, state-by-state lawsuits about voting-rights infringements, campaigns to halt media hate speech, shareholder activism, consumer boycotts in support of a living wage, and intergenerational, interracial, and inter-class dialogue. We need to prepare networks and alternative communities that can offer sanctuary, services, protest — in resistance to the possible shutting down of Planned Parenthood and the abolition of women’s reproductive rights, to the possible rounding up of illegal immigrants, to the likely intensification of police activity and surveillance against Muslims, and even to far-right infiltration into government law enforcement and regulatory agencies.
IT MAY FEEL irrelevant, even frivolous, for Jewish Currents to publish a celebration-in-print of kinderlekh at such an ominous juncture of history. Yet now, of all times, we must rededicate ourselves to our children, our grandchildren, and future generations. In light of Trump’s unexpected election, moreover, we are going to have to emulate our kinderlakh, whatever our age and stage of life:
We have to start making new friends.
We have to have joy, energy, and pride in our accomplishments.
We have to ask searching questions about this world of breathtakingly rapid change.
And we have to cry and howl and stamp our feet to protest unfairness and win the kind of social system we desire and deserve.
Lawrence Bush edits Jewish Currents.
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.