My Action Plan in Trump’s America

On Tuesday morning, I put on a bracelet that my grandmother gave me and a ring my mom gave me, because I wanted them close on the day we were going to put a woman in the White House. Although it was illogical, it just seemed wonderfully romantic that I would have a reminder of two of the strongest women I know on the day the glass ceiling was finally shattered. I haven’t been able to take those two insignificant pieces of jewelry off since.

I’ve been trying to figure out what to say or do or even feel. This wasn’t a normal election; it wasn’t a normal presidential candidate. I watched in shock like half the country, feeling like I couldn’t breath properly, as we somehow created a President-elect Trump.

To say it simply, I am completely heartbroken. To be clear, it is not because my candidate didn’t win, not because the glass ceiling is as strong as ever, not because Republicans now have control of all branches of government, not because the country is utterly divided, but because America embraced a person who opposes every positive thing I believe and feel about our country. I have broken down in tears more times than I can count over the last few days. It feels like an attack on the things we have fought for as a nation and supposedly hold dear, equality, freedom, compassion, basic common decency.

And yet, I fully recognize that this heartbreak is nothing compared to the fear that my friends of color, of the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and all immigrants feel. The fear that survivors of sexual assault and violence feel, the dread that I think all women feel somewhere deep down that if they were ever assaulted or raped that they won’t be believed. If you think any of these fears are dramatic, they are not. A hate-filled America is already rising.

If nothing else, this election has made me come to recognize the true encapsulating bubble in which I live. Not only from being a part of a very liberal generation or living in a state I could not be prouder of, but also from living as a straight white person in a time when I did not truly recognize the extent of my own white privilege until late Tuesday night. I was shocked by the results, shocked that this country was as divided as it is, shocked that it could be as ignorant and as unfazed to a racist, misogynist bigot, as it is today. My own naivety is what probably hurts me the most.

The morning after the election, my sister told me she had never felt more American, never felt so willing to fight for her country, to fight for what she believed. I could not have felt farther from that. I felt utterly defeated. Not only for all the reasons I have already named, but also for my own field, public health, a field that struggles constantly and consistently for equality, equity, and the improvement of lives, believing that small actions can truly change the world. This was a defeat of everything we uphold as basic principles of our work.

I don’t want this statement to be just a complaint or my own personal journal entry of all my feelings. This election made me hopeless and defeated, but I also know I can’t stay in that state for long. So this is my action list, a personal to do list to tell the government that they do not have, as Paul Ryan so joyfully put it on Wednesday, “a mandate” from the American people. I’m starting with the simple things that I can do, and those issues I feel educated enough on to properly and confidently articulate. Mostly, I’m starting with healthcare, simply because I know it, and that is enough of a start for me to act. I may not be fully motivated to take this on yet, but this is my first step and I encourage everyone to make your own list and take the first step too.

  1. Have an honest frank conversation, and try very hard not to yell my head off, at anyone who tries to tell me Trump will not repeal the ACA, or the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare). BECAUSE HE WILL. A number of news articles have said he has already gone back on his campaign promise and said he may just amend the ACA, which might be true. But this is so misleading it makes me cringe. The two aspects of Obamacare Trump wants to keep are minor, pre-existing conditions and staying on your parent’s plan until you are 26. These are crucial, but they are also bipartisan reforms that were discussed way before Obama was elected. Everything else, he wants to destroy, including taking away insurance from 20 million people who gained it through the marketplace, improvements in coverage of mental health care, and free preventative services.
  1. Educate myself on what he plans to replace Obamacare with. There are a few good explanations from the Wall Street Journal, Vox, and The Atlantic.
  1. Spam the hell out of Republican Representatives and Senators reminding them for the need for healthcare reform and declaring that they should not repeal the ACA until they have a replacement. If they absolutely insist on repealing the ACA, they need to replace it immediately. We cannot afford to leave 20 million people uninsured. I’m starting with the Republican representatives of San Bernardino and Orange Country, traditional red districts in Southern California that both went blue this election, for the first time since the 1930’s in the latter. They do not have a mandate at all and I feel the need to remind them of this. First and foremost, I’m starting with Ed Royce, the Representative of the district in which I grew up, who will soon receive dozens of emails and letters to his Brea office and Washington offices. For those in my hometown, here is his contact info: http://royce.house.gov/contact/getintouch.htm.
  1. Remind everyone that you can still enroll in the ACA’s marketplace. If you enroll now, you are guaranteed insurance through 2017, at least in states with their own marketplace, such as California. And one other thing to remind your representatives of, enrollments have surged since Tuesday night. Insurance = access to healthcare, remind your representatives of that everyday while they attempt to repeal it.
  1. I really can’t believe I have to say this, but declare over and over and over and over and over again that vaccines do not cause autism and smoking does kill, although Donald Trump and Mike Pence don’t seem to think so. I won’t even address this, because I will scream.
  1. Continue to advocate for syringe exchange and keep the federal government accountable to maintain the current funding allowances for harm reduction efforts. Without such efforts, we should prepare for HIV and Hepatitis outbreaks similar to that in Indiana.
  1. Educate myself on methods of birth control. I have a few wonderful yet ridiculous friends who always joke that I am their doctor. I realized this week, that this might be frighteningly accurate if/when Obamacare gets repealed and if Planned Parenthood gets defunded, as health educators will begin to be a very big source of health information for those who no longer have affordable access to physicians. Thus, I believe I have a responsibility to know the best and most accurate health information, especially in regard to women’s health. As many have said, IUDs will last for 5 years and are currently free with health insurance. There are 5 main types, learn about them.
  1. In that same regard, support Planned Parenthood. Women’s sexual and reproductive health under Trump and Pence are beyond terrifying.
  1. Lastly, this is not health related, but it’s simple. Support a free press by actually paying for it. I just subscribed to the New York Times, which cost me less than what I pay each month for Netflix.

This is a starting point and hopefully continually evolving. My actions are limited if they are alone, so make a list too, because it is the only way we can move forward.

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Global Affairs from “The Economist”

By Evan Pye

This week I read articles from various online sources and from a few recent issues of The Economist. I have access to an online version of The Economist through my university library account, and I decided to look through some of the articles for the first time in a while this week. I was really surprised at the quality of articles and range of subjects that the magazine covers, so I think I will spend at least the next week reading and taking notes on Economist articles.

I covered a lot of different articles and subjects this week, but they can be grouped into the categories of poverty alleviation, AIDS, and international politics. First, I learned about the current mobile phone market in Africa. Its rapid growth has led to 500 million mobile phone subscriptions, although the rate of growth is slowing. The mobile phone market contributed $153 billion to Africa’s economy in 2015, which accounts for 6.7% of Africa’s GDP. The biggest phone markets are in Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt, but growth in the next 5 years will be concentrated in Tanzania, Nigeria, and Ethiopia (Source 1). In addition to mobile money, mobile phone chargers are serving as a gateway into solar charger companies such as M-Kopa, which has sold 400,000 solar power kits in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania (Source 2).

Next I looked at poverty through the lenses of hunger and land ownership. The World Food Programme estimates that $265 billion are needed annually to eliminate poverty and hunger worldwide, the majority of which must be spent in rural areas. 800 million people in the world still suffer from hunger today. The WFP highlights social protections and rural/agricultural development as the keys to increasing the incomes of the extremely poor (Source 3). In terms of land ownership, The Economist wrote about how city-dwellers all across Africa are buying up rural land for lucrative farming businesses. Agriculture, if well-organized and done with large quantities of land, can earn more money that urban jobs or public sector jobs in Africa. For this reason, as much as ⅓ of Tanzania’s farmland is currently owned by city-dwellers. This new trend brings benefits as educated and legally-savvy urbanites are demanding more from their governments in terms of legal systems and infrastructure to support agriculture, many communities are pushing back against the large purchases that outsiders are making in their traditional, communal land (Source 4).

My global health news came in the form of an article explaining how much work the world still needs to do to eliminate AIDS worldwide. 16 years after a momentous AIDS conference in Durban, another conference was held in South Africa in July to examine the progress made. The good news is that 17 million people are now on AIDS treatment. The bad news is that 38 million people still have AIDS worldwide and 2 million people are still getting infected with HIV each year, down from about 3 million per year back in 2000. Progress has been good, but not good enough to make the goal of eliminating AIDS realistic any time soon (Source 5).

Finally, I read articles about politics in Zimbabwe and Brazil. In Zimbabwe, 92-year-old President Mugabe is being challenged through protests in the streets and online by a clergyman named Evan Mawarire. The public is joining in the protests, thanks to a terrible economy and a large number of public sector workers (teachers, police, army) whose paychecks are being delayed or even lost. The looming transition that will occur when Mugabe dies could be messy there. And in Brazil, I watched a Vox documentary about favelas, which were formed by slaves and immigrants. They are home to lots of crime and drugs, but also to creative examples of self-governance, as the government has basically abandoned these communities. Speaking of the government, I read that former President Luiz Lula da Silva will face trial soon regarding his bribery scandal with the state-owned oil company Petrobras. The scandal involves many other politicians, including Brazil’s current President Dilma Rousseff, who has been impeached and awaits trial as well. Da Silva was president from 2003-2010, and was popular for reducing poverty and overseeing strong economic growth during that period.