of the inconsistency of our actions

Why I’m Not Attending the Inauguration: An Open Letter to My Constituents

To my Constituents,

Tomorrow I will not be attending the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump. Many of you expressed support for that decision, others less so. Either way, you deserve an explanation.

My absence is a statement — to the President-elect, to the country, but most of all to you — that Donald Trump’s victory does not vindicate his past. Throughout his professional life, during the campaign, and now in his transition, Donald Trump’s words and actions are inconsistent with fundamental American values and beneath the grand office he will assume. They threaten the democratic cultural norms that are essential to our republic.

His electoral legitimacy is not in question. Tomorrow Donald Trump will be sworn in as our 45th president in a peaceful transition of power. His moral and ethical legitimacy are another story.

The next President of the United States cannot effectively lead this country with only a legal and technical victory in the Electoral College. He needs moral and ethical assets as well. These are not purchased through the art of the deal, but earned through words and deeds that subordinate personal gain for the advancement of freedom and equality.

His attack on civil rights icon John Lewis, which came on the weekend dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., reflects a dangerous pattern of behavior. Mr. Trump is within his rights to dispute Congressman Lewis’s assertion of electoral illegitimacy, but as President-elect and as President he has the obligation to show basic respect towards dissenters. By resorting to vengeful ridicule — “all talk, no action” — Mr. Trump demonstrated no appreciation for a man who possesses moral and ethical capital in spades, capital earned through his brave words and deeds. Donald Trump’s conduct raised more doubts about his moral legitimacy to lead a diverse nation.

While campaigning for the presidency, he defined large communities of people through a single, prejudiced frame: Muslims as terrorists, Latinos as rapists and drug lords, African-Americans as poor and living in urban ghettos, women as weak. This past weekend, he laid to rest any hope that he would leave such divisive rhetoric on the campaign trail.

As the descendent of parents and grandparents who were imprisoned in Japanese-American internment camps, I know the pain of being unjustly labeled as not deserving respect or equal protection under the law. Could Executive Order 9066 happen again in America? I hope not, but I’m in no mood to stand and applaud when the risk is so evident. And I certainly won’t celebrate a man who empowers and employs people who preach hate.

America is at her best when she leads by example, when she exemplifies fairness, and when she exhibits a moral authority earned through upholding the principles of freedom and equality.

Donald Trump’s ethical shortcomings are equally disturbing. He will be sworn in to office despite serious questions about his business ties, his conflicts of interest, and the influence of a malevolent foreign leader on his Administration. These are not typical partisan objections. Every American should be concerned by Donald Trump’s unprecedented lack of transparency, exemplified by his refusal to produce tax documents that would reveal the size and location of his investments and debts.

When President Trump takes military action in a foreign country, we will not know if it’s in America’s best interest or his own. This fact alone is enough to justify staying home from the inaugural events. The Presidential Inauguration is traditionally a time for the two parties to come together and affirm another milestone in our democracy.

But given my moral and ethical concerns with the incoming Administration, I cannot pretend this transition is normal. I cannot gloss over or whitewash conduct that is unbecoming for a president by going through the motions of ceremony. I owe you more than my vote; I owe you my conscience and my well considered judgment.

As your representative, I took an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution. I will do so by abstaining from the pageantry of the inauguration and preparing to do everything I can to ensure our community and our country lives up to its magnificent promise.

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Medium piece here: https://medium.com/@repmarktakano/why-im-not-attending-the-inauguration-an-open-letter-to-my-constituents-ec6c6c848737#.176e7986l

The thing about complaints against “unoriginal” or “formulaic” stories is that it disregards the humans love of predictability.

I’m not saying that we don’t also like surprises and new twists on familiar concepts, just that our brains love the shit out of patterns.  We feel pleasure at getting exactly what we expected, and often get annoyed when those expectations are defied.  The entirety of Disney’s Animation Renaissance hinged on them finding a successful formula for their stories and recycling it with minor variations.

It’s also because of this that stories that do break formula or genre get a lot more flak for being badly written, inconsistent, or “weird” than praise for trying something different.  

Which I think is contributing part of Steven Universe’s fandom struggles; it’s an action/adventure slice-of-life comedic character drama meant for teens and pre-teens, and there’s a ton of audience strife over how those different genres wedge together.  The people showing up for the action/adventure plot don’t appreciate character development eps that don’t add new information for the plot, while the drama lovers or more mature viewers don’t appreciate the light-hearted or comedic handling of darker themes, and those wanting character development feel shortchanged when a character’s growth takes place off camera or is shelved while a (seemingly) unrelated plot point plays out instead.

Again, not saying sticking to formula is good.  It’s important to change up the patterns so that new ideas and types of stories can gain a foothold.  It just comes with specific risks that are less likely in more predictable stories.

The way in which people compare how Rachel Dolezal identified as black and then was revealed to be of European descent to how transgender women are “really” men pretending to be women reveals the enormous bigotry that many cisgender people have against trans people, more than anything else about race or gender. Some people are willing to make any negative comparison – no matter how far-fetched – to discredit and shame us trans women.

The fundamental difference between Dolezal’s actions and trans people’s is that her decision to identify as black was an active choice, whereas transgender people’s decision to transition is almost always involuntary. Transitioning is the product of a fundamental aspect of our humanity – gender – being foisted upon us over and over again from the time of our birth in a manner inconsistent with our own experience of our genders. Doctors don’t announce our race or color when we are born; they announce our gender. People who are alienated from their presumed gender and define themselves according to another gender have existed since earliest recorded history; race is a medieval European invention. Thus, Dolezal identified as black, but I am a woman, and other trans people are the gender they feel themselves to be.

Dolezal might feel an enormous affinity to blackness… but her decision to occupy that identity is one that was forged through her exposure to black culture, not a fundamental attribute of her existence. Someone’s racial identification isn’t automatically less important than their gender in an American context, given our tumultuous history and the ways in which society’s perceptions of both either privilege or restrict one’s economic and social opportunities and mobility. But someone who crosses racial boundaries from a privileged one to a marginalized one is much more likely to do so for political purposes (as Dolezal seems to have done) or to profit from minority culture (as we’ve seen time and time again with white artists, like Iggy Azalea, appropriating black culture). Transitioning doesn’t often benefit trans people politically or financially; it benefits us because it is a way to begin to make our external presentation match our internal perceptions of ourselves, even as it is likely to disprivilege us socially and economically.

[…] The people comparing Dolezal to trans people are depicting our actions as rooted in the same deceptions as hers: her apparent use of skin-darkening agents and products to change the texture of her hair are, implicitly or explicitly, likened to what “men” – to use a trans woman’s example – doing what we do to “deceive” people into thinking we are women. But Dolezal engaged in such actions in order to be perceived as black, in a racialized American environment where that matters. Trans people transition in order to be the gender we feel inside and, while there may come a time when posers will appropriate trendy trans culture for profit, right now, there’s no advantage to transitioning when you’re not trans.

[…] [U]sing [Dolezal’s] mistakes to try to “understand” or “explain” the experiences of trans people [is] simply propagating the stereotype that trans people are out to fool the rest of you. I don’t need to pass as a woman the way Dolezal needs to pass as black, for the simple reason that I am a woman.

We float between different states of mind; we wish nothing freely, nothing absolutely, nothing constantly. If any man could prescribe and establish definite laws and definite organization in his head, we should see shining throughout his life an evenness of habits, an order, and an infallible relation between his principles and his practice.
—  Michel De Montaigne, Of the Inconsistency of Our Actions