Chicago responds to President Trump | Feature | Chicago Reader

News & Politics » Feature

Chicago responds to President Trump

Artists, writers, musicians, academics, activists, and politicians—even Rahm!—weigh in on the new administration: the threats, the fears, the absurdity.

by

25 comments
laura_collins_trump-mocking-a-disabled-reporter.gif

Laura Collins, Donald Trump Mocking a Disabled Reporter, 2017

"My intent with the triptych—which is based on fractured stills from video footage of the president-elect imitating Serge Kovaleski, a New York Times reporter who has arthrogryposis—is to force the viewing public to look again at a moment in our recent history that is incredibly shameful. When faced with discomfort, we naturally squirm and cope with these feelings by avoiding, ignoring, or denying them. I use painting as a lens that frames what I would like others to see. Unfortunately it is not always pleasant. I would like the public to be forced to spend more time with the agonizing moments in which our president-elect publicly mocked and imitated the physical disabilities of a New York Times reporter. While it’s customary to consider this offense for a moment and then move on with life, not everyone has that luxury. Those that this directly affects, the individuals and families that live with physical disabilities, have now seen that millions of people accepted Trump’s imitation. They will have to move on in a culture that is being taught by an influential leader to laugh at others’ challenges. The series was painted with a crude haste that mirrors Trump’s insensitivity and tactless impersonation."

Paintings available for purchase at lauracollinsart.com. Collins will donate 20 percent of the proceeds from the sale of each painting to the American Association of People with Disabilities.


Aleksandar Hemon on Donald Trump, the garden-variety psychopath

"In their celebrity obsession, Americans are prone to seeing history as a kind of a star system consisting of Washingtons and Lincolns and Hitlers and other 'leaders' who manage to change the direction of humankind by their sheer will and accompanying vision. The fact that Trump has thoroughly transformed—indeed blew up—the routine operations of American politics might tempt some to ascribe his success to a set of exceptional leadership qualities. But if there are any, they're hard to spot, unless, of course, you consider being a psychopath one of them. For Donald Trump has no substance, no original ideas, no ability to speak coherently or see other people as sovereign individuals who might be a source of valuable knowledge. And if he's a psychopath, he's garden variety, and not a genius one. His evil plots are at the level of groping women or cheating people out of their already low wages or sucking up to the Russians for money. The most fascinating and terrifying thing about Trump is precisely his total vacuousness. Trump is only Trump, and absolutely nothing else—you look into him and there is nothing there other than Trumpness, a heavy load of erection and fluffed-up fake hair. His emptiness is a space where the worst in America can enthusiastically project their longing for retributive violence, their desire for the uppity others to get their comeuppance. Trump was elected as a punishment, and his psychopathy will be his whip. He is a means of destruction with which the Republicans will destroy American government. It will be far worse than anyone can imagine."

Hemon is the author of many books, including the novel The Making of Zombie Wars and the memoir The Book of My Lives. Behind the Glass Wall: Inside the United Nations will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on August 22.


sokolow-dark_triad.jpg

Deb Sokolow, The Dark Triad Traits, sketchbook diagram inspired by Trump, and Maria Konnikova's book on con artists, The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time


Stand-up comedian Adam Burke assesses the president as a punch line

"People keep telling comedians that Trump is going to be a gold mine for them. First of all, people die in gold mines all the time. Secondly, I'm not sure he is. Comedy is about heightening, and it's hard to do that with him because everything about him is heightened—his skin, his hair, his tenuous grasp of the dangers of nuclear warfare. Judging by his recent press conference, a Trump presidency is basically going to be like that show Bridezilla: just a lot of petulant yelling because Trump wants every day to be his special day."


Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis schools Trump's proposed secretary of education

"I have a real issue with millionaires and billionaires thinking they know how to reform education. Their answer to everything is 'choice' and 'competition.' That doesn't work. It basically steals money from districts and gives it to people who want to profit off of our children. I think there's a moral imperative to not let that happen.

"[Education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos] is a woman who not only wants charters, she wants vouchers. And Americans have said over and over again, they do not want taxpayer dollars to go to religious schools, or even private schools, for that matter. The fact is, those schools get to cherry-pick kids that they want, so what happens to all the rest of the children? Publicly funded education should be for all children."


Dan Sinker's resistance-training tips for the Trump era

"The next four years are going to bring a never-ending onslaught of bullshit, so there's no more important moment to start getting yourself right: to eat better or get in shape; to get that physical done, or make that therapy appointment (get both of those on the cal now before your health care goes away). Because to respond to the rolling crisis of the Trump administration, you need to have your body and your mind ready. This is going to be four years of straight stress, and you need to be ready for it, because you do us no good on the sidelines. Get right and get out there. We're gonna beat this back, and we're going to outlast the assholes."

Sinker is the author of the book The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel and cohost of the politics podcast Says Who?.


you_make_me_me_feel_like_a_natural_woman.jpg

Heather Gabel, You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, 2017, mixed media collage


Mayor Rahm's challenge to President Trump

"While the administration is changing, our values will remain the same. Chicago has been and will continue to be a city that welcomes all people, no matter their faith, race, background, or sexual orientation. I look forward to challenging the new president in holding him to his goal of making America work for everyone, and a strong path forward toward achieving that goal will be investing in our cities through infrastructure, education, and public safety."


Henry Henderson, midwest director of the Natural Resources Defense Council

"I think Congress and the president are going to quickly come to understand they don't have the mandate they think—America didn't vote to expose itself to toxins and pollution. America didn't vote to roll back rights and protections they have relied upon for decades. America didn't vote for climate change. We didn't vote to dirty up the nation, and we won't stand for it if they try to bring that dirty vision to pass."


U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth on how she plans to work with Trump

"I'm going to start with the assumption that Donald Trump loves this nation as much as I love this nation, which I hope will make it easier to find a way to work together. If his interests align with what's best for the people of Illinois, like on infrastructure, I'm going to work together and make sure those investments come into Illinois. But if he is going to propose policies that will harm Illinois families or roll back important civil rights protections, then I'll be there to stand up and oppose him."


cr_inauguration_day_illustration-1.jpg

Tom Tian, National Portrait, 2017, polyester American flag and craft glue on mounting board


Dan Savage's advice for making it through the next four years

"We're going to get through this—not in one piece, and not without some epic losses. But we're going to have wins along the way, and sooner (impeach the motherfucker already!) or later (vote the motherfucker out in 2020) Donald Trump won't be the president of whatever's left of these United States."

Dan gives somewhat sexier guidance on his Savage Lovecast podcast and in his column this week.


A brief history of grassroots social change, according to Bill Ayers

"I don't think that we're living in the 60s again or that we should be looking nostalgically to the past. As bad as Nixon was, he did not run as a fascist, and Donald Trump did. But I do think the tradition of radical politics in this country, of progressive and revolutionary politics, is certainly something to draw on. Black Lives Matter is the latest iteration in a centuries-old struggle toward black freedom. I see these very sophisticated young people in the streets confronting power even though they're being attacked from every angle by power. They continue to have a very clear vision of what it means to solve the racial divide in a place like Chicago and create a just and decent and peaceful society. I want to follow them as well as what I've seen on the ground in Standing Rock, in the immigration rights struggle coming out of Chicago, in Occupy, in Code Pink. All of them are encouraging examples of resistance to this right-wing push from Trump.

"It's been a bipartisan effort over the last 30 or 40 years that got us to this state of permanent war, mass incarceration, the environment on the edge of catastrophe, the elimination of public education. The fundamental social changes we've seen in this country have always come from below. They've never come from the opposition party. Think about how Lyndon Johnson authored the most far-reaching civil rights legislation since reconstruction, but he was responding to the black freedom movement. It was fire from below that pushed him to do the right thing when it mattered. The same goes for Franklin Roosevelt and the labor movement—it didn't come from his mind alone. Or Lincoln and abolition. I've seen this again on the streets for the past several years: Black Lives Matter, Undocumented and Unafraid, Occupy, Standing Rock—there are so many things that we can point to that are little glimmers of what a social movement could look like. What's required of us today is to think much more urgently in terms of how do we unite with the forces that are already in motion, how we gather people together and have conversations that try to name this unique political moment and figure out what we're gonna do. I'm very hopeful. Everything from the cast of Hamilton addressing Vice President-elect Pence to Meryl Streep in a beautiful speech at the Golden Globes. These are artists, these are people who are acting out of their own conscience. But these are exciting things, and they're just the tip of the iceberg."

Ayers is the author most recently of Demand the Impossible!: A Radical Manifesto.


Margot Harrington/Pitch Design Union, Certificate of Safe Space, 2016

"This piece is for display in any environment as a general announcement that the people in the space are actively working to prevent unwanted experiences—racially, sexually, or otherwise. It's also a commitment that organizations that hang this will create a simple, supportive, and unbiased claim-reporting process, and make it known to all who enter. The content for the certificates is partially derived from Barack Obama's 2007 presidential candidacy announcement speech and tailored to fit this purpose."

Risograph prints with gold foil seal available at shop.pitchdesignunion.com


Overcoming Trumpism starts in your own backyard, says Black Youth Project 100 national director Charlene Carruthers

"[BYP 100] will focus its energy on deep community engagement around political education and building strong local relationships, as well as on investing in our membership and our leadership. Second, we will also focus on building local power on the state level and lobbying work, and we have two separate entities that allow us to do that. Third, we will build sanctuaries and safe zones for our people—that are not reliant on the state—in an era where the social safety net could be ripped out from our communities. And we will also build strong relationships across movements, especially those led by black and brown folks.

"Our people have been here before, and in moments like this we have to lean in to lessons from movements before us and also tap into our own imaginations, because black people are brilliant. If there are organizations and spaces that don't exist, you can start in your community—you don't have to wait on anyone else. [African-American writer and activist] June Jordan said, 'We are the ones we have been waiting for.' So we gon' be here. And we have been here."


David Axelrod, director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, former Obama chief strategist, and host of the podcast The Axe Files

"Administrations come and go. Policies change. This is how democracy works. But it only works if there is regard for our institutions, laws, rules and norms. As the trustee of our democracy, my hope is that President Trump will resist the temptation to flout our institutions and exploit the cynicism that threatens to undermine them. My great concern is that he will not."


—Ina Pinkney, former chef of Ina's and former mayoral candidate


Eve Ewing, sociologist at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, poet, and essayist

"I'm worried that people will be immobilized by fear of things and people that seem too far away to touch. I worry that people won't know which way to look, where to turn, where to begin, and will forget that all fights begin where you are. All fights begin at home. My mentor Bill Ayers says often that sometimes we obsess over centers of power that are distant from us—like the office of the president—at the expense of the centers of power that are close to us. We have to be careful not to underestimate the power we have in our neighborhoods, in our places of worship, in our schools. I believe that the people that we can see and love and touch, the communities closest to us, remain our best hope for changing the world from the ground up. My hope (and I still have it; I'm protecting it and shielding it from the wind and sheltering it at all costs) is that we will keep our eyes open to see and our hands open to beckon, to call to one another and keep saying, Come. Come do this with me. Come fight with me."


truths_are_self_evident_will_miller.jpg

Will Miller, design director at Firebelly Design, Truths Are Self-Evident?, 2017

"Our president-elect pushes, pulls, distorts, confuses, and warps perspective of his version of truth, hiding double meanings and words of intolerance. Our future leader and his rhetoric have made our country’s truths anything but honest, understandable, and self-evident."


Trump vs. the truth, according to First Amendment scholar Geoffrey R. Stone

"The greatest concern I have about the media and a Trump presidency concerns the issue of truth. There was once a time when most Americans got their news from a handful of mainstream journalists like Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. Today, with the end of the Fairness Doctrine and the advent of cable news, the Internet, and the explosion of social media, Americans have divided themselves into ever more polarized groups who get their information and opinions from ever more ideological sources.

"This poses a serious challenge to the very existence of democracy, which relies upon the idea of a 'marketplace of ideas' in which citizens hear all sides of all issues and then make up their minds about the most fundamental issues of the day.

"As we have seen in the 2016 election, this distortion of public discourse is now being fed aggressively by 'false news'—lies designed to deceive individuals and to reinforce their already polarized views. At a time when this phenomenon threatens the core premises of civil society, we will now have a president who has benefited from, encouraged, and is guilty himself of such behavior. At this time, more than any other in our history, this imposes a profound responsibility on the media to be courageous in its defense of truth.

"What does this mean in practice? It means that mainstream media must be more aggressive than ever about getting their voices out on social media. They should pay attention to the false news and they should address and correct it whenever possible. And, perhaps most important of all, they must not be intimidated by an administration that will berate, attack, and threaten to punish them for criticizing its actions and its falsehoods. In a vibrant democracy, we depend on the media to bring truth to light and to do this fearlessly. That is why our Constitution guarantees 'the freedom of the press.'"

Stone is the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Chicago and author most recently of the books Speaking Out! Reflections on Law, Liberty and Justice and Top Secret: When Our Government Keeps Us in the Dark.


Alex Kotlowitz, journalist, Northwestern lecturer, and author of three books, including There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America

"To my fellow journalists: With decency and grace, challenge, question, report—and report some more. Don't let go of the values we hold dear: accuracy and fairness and being honest to what we see and hear. We're not going away. Work even harder to hold accountable those in power. Call it as it is. Truth matters."


Derek Eder, partner at the civic technology company DataMade, cofounder of the tech-focused government transparency advocacy group Open City Apps, leader of Chi Hack Night

"The incoming administration serves as a wake-up call for anyone concerned with security and privacy. The world's most powerful surveillance system, built by U.S. intelligence agencies over the past decade, will soon be under the control of a president who has shown aggressively vindictive behavior and little respect or understanding of the law. It is for these reasons that I have started running weekly digital security workshops at Chi Hack Night to train people to encrypt their communications using Signal and start using password managers like LastPass to protect their online accounts. At the same time, it is imperative that my peers in the tech industry start taking seriously the need to protect their users' data by the safest means possible: not storing it at all."


kay_rosen_uh-oh.jpg

Kay Rosen, UH OH., 2017


How Trumpism could imperil academic freedom

"There's a larger problem that's been going on for a long time: the corporatization of higher education. What we're concerned about [at the University of Illinois at Chicago] as a public university is the direction this administration could take us. It's a very difficult time right now as people are starting to figure out what exactly we're able to say without penalty. What happens at the federal level doesn't have to be legislation, but it's a mood, an ethos that it's acceptable for a state legislature to go into a university and [interfere with] academic freedom. The academic freedom that's protected us for well over 100 years is being eroded. Unions are the solution. People are talking more about action, they're not just sitting there and saying 'This sucks.' They're thinking about democracy. That's fundamental. Everything is vulnerable now, it's not just identity politics, it's not just a black issue or a Muslim issue—we're all being targeted now, we're all vulnerable. That's broadening the coalition. And, frankly, the best thing is young people are mobilized. People I'm seeing on my campus are excited because they want to work on things." Janet Smith, professor of urban planning and policy at UIC and president of the faculty union, UIC United Faculty Local 6456


Che "Rhymefest" Smith, MC and former aldermanic candidate

"When we look at violence in Chicago, we want to talk about gangs and police brutality. But the thing that leads to that is much of the economic and political violence that happens before you even get to Englewood, Auburn-Gresham, or the west side of the Austin community. We're dealing with divestment from communities for decades. I would tell Donald Trump, 'If you look at Chicago, by and large, the city works, and it works very well. When we look at violence, we're looking at small pockets on the south and west sides. Why can't we do for those small pockets what's done for the majority of the city to make it work?' "


Alan Mills, director of the Uptown People's Law Center

"Trump's nominations of Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Ben Carson for secretary of HUD mean more people will be evicted, more people will become homeless, and more people will go to jail. A lot of what happens in public housing is determined by the Department of Justice's role as law enforcement in furthering the war on drugs. A lot of evictions that we deal with are so-called 'one-strike evictions' where the entire family is made homeless because one kid is allegedly found with a small quantity of drugs. I think it's gonna get worse under Sessions, and [Carson] doesn't believe in subsidized housing, he views it as a poverty trap. It's really bad being evicted from anywhere. But with subsidized housing, people lose their subsidy, and now they have to pay market rent—which they can't afford. So they're probably going to be homeless. It's totally unfair to screw entire families for one person's mistake."


—Paul Fehribach, chef and owner of Big Jones


Alison Chesley, aka cellist Helen Money

"I went without insurance forever, probably 20 years. I would get a job briefly that offered coverage, but then a tour would come up, or the call to spend time on my music was just too strong. I always opted for my art. I had spent my whole life training for it. When I was finally able to get coverage in 2010 through the ACA it was a huge relief. I no longer had to choose between my music and my health. Now, I don't feel like I'm owed a living as a musician. I'm cool with having to earn my keep by bringing people out to my shows and selling my records in order to pay my rent. I accept that responsibility. It's just nice not to have to throw my health away in order to do it."


david_leggett.jpg

David Leggett, untitled, 2017


Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board president

"I have long believed that health care is a basic human right and am a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act. The incoming administration's assault on the ACA is extremely troubling, and I hope that they recognize reality and cool their unhealthy rhetoric. We should not, and cannot, go backwards."


'A scary time' for the LGBT community, says Howard Brown Health Center president and CEO David Ernesto Munar

"Howard Brown is concerned about the health care safety net for tens of thousands of our patients who are low income or are in jobs that don't allow them group-based insurance or have chronic medical conditions that require skilled and complex medical care. So this active debate is beginning in Congress around the Affordable Care Act, changes to Medicaid and Medicare, food security like food stamps, and even social security. It is frightening for people whose lives literally depend on these programs. It's a moment of real vulnerability.

"And it's a scary time. The LGBT community has made gains, but with some of the [conservative] rhetoric, there's a fear of rolling back rights for LGBT people. I'm also concerned about what happens in nonpublic spaces. While I'm very focused on policy making, there are also spillover effects on society. We see more permissiveness for people to assault others verbally with racial or homophobic epithets, and we're seeing more hate-based violence and crime. We're going to see more of this—the physical displays of anger and hate. And that's worrisome. . . . We have folks who are very depressed and very scared, and we need to support them. Howard Brown will do everything we can do to continue the work we've done. To love and take care of our patients, and stand with them in solidarity and speak the truth, but we may be directly affected if there are major changes to the way our services are financed or delivered. But we will try to persevere and maintain our core values of respect, of valuing our patients, of being affirming of LGBT people and rights, and all human rights. . . . We've been in tough places before and we've experienced opposition head-on, and we did not give up. So we have to do that again."


trumps_america_javier_suarez.jpg

Javier Suárez, Trump's America, 2017


Harold Pollack, Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration and Public Health Sciences at University of Chicago

"Right now, it’s hard to imagine the two parties collaborating to pursue bipartisan, evidence-informed policies. As a liberal Democrat, I’m in a fighting mood myself. It’s that kind of polarized time. Still, the hard work of governance must continue. And beneath the surface, there remain genuine opportunities to collaborate.

"One heartening area of bipartisanship has been our nation’s deepening commitment to meet the needs of Americans with mental health and substance-use disorders. For almost a decade, Democrats and Republicans have cooperated effectively, often quietly, to improve people’s lives. Leaders from George W. Bush and Donald Trump to Paul Wellstone and Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama have worked to improve mental health and substance-use disorder treatment across the United States. In 2008, President Bush signed bipartisan legislation that improved health coverage for these conditions. Then in 2009, Senate Finance Committee Republicans who opposed the Affordable Care Act nonetheless unanimously supported ACA’s mental health and substance-use treatment provisions.

"Given all the partisan acrimony and death-panel demagoguery occasioned by ACA, it’s noteworthy that even the most strident opponents of ACA have generally refrained from attacking mental health parity and the expanded substance-use treatment provisions of ACA. Republican governors and the Obama administration have often cooperated to address these needs with greater effectiveness. States have expanded access to medication-assisted therapies and other evidence-informed therapies. President-elect Trump has spoken humanely about the prescription opioid epidemic in rural areas that proved crucial to his victory. Our society has opened its heart and its wallets to our fellow citizens facing mental and behavioral health difficulties. That’s one thing we can build on, even in the troubled coming Trump era."


America, I Need You

A poem by Ruben Quesada

This is where I tell you that I find myself sick inside your skin. I heard these are your last days of liberty and when the New Year comes its death will ring far into space like the sound of the space shuttle shattering into the stratosphere.

America, I find it hard to get up. Oh, say, America! Say, you'll see by the dawn's early light that we'll never be the same again. Stop your engineering of dictators and constellations of drug dealers.

This is when you switch the power off to everything, stop the algorithm of your own body from splitting into two like an ensemble of ants broken across a fissure at your feet.

This is for the body of an American dragged through streets because you can't stop from breaking into a stranger's home, you can't stop from breaking into a stranger's land.

This is for the days when all you want to do is cry. This is for the moment when you stop to watch the architecture of a dandelion dismantling itself only to find another rising to take its place.


Ameya Pawar, 47th Ward alderman and Illinois gubernatorial candidate

"The promise of government is unity and the responsibility we have to one another. Sadly, a decades-long crusade demonizing public institutions and public service after the New Deal, JFK, the Civil Rights Act, and the Great Society has net us billionaire politicians in our state and at the national level who seek to pit us against one another so that we fight over scraps. I still believe in the promise of our democracy and government, but as a father of a multiethnic daughter, a son of immigrants, and as someone married to a woman whose family escaped the Holocaust, we will resist—but we worry about where things may go if the president-elect's politics are normalized."


—Ivan Brunetti, cartoonist, illustrator, and Columbia College associate professor


mao_trump_jacob_thomas.jpg

Jacob Thomas, Mao-Trump, 2016


Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network

"[Chicago] has the biggest percentage of Palestinians of any of the large Arab populations in the country. It's the main Palestinian city in the [U.S.]. We know that the Trump presidency and the ultraright government of Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel are going to have a lot in common. There are threats that Trump is going to support moving the U.S. embassy [from Tel Aviv] to Jerusalem. We're very concerned about Trump's unequivocal support of Netanyahu's policies going forward. There have been threats by the Trump administration that cities that call themselves sanctuaries will not get federal funding. I feel strongly that we've got some of the best immigrant rights organizers in the country, and I don't think we're gonna allow that to happen, to allow the reversal of the sanctuary city status in our city. I think sometimes in the discussions about the different issues and campaigns we focus a lot on immigrants, Latinos especially, but also Arab and Muslim immigrants when it comes to Trump. But I think it needs to be said that nonimmigrants, working people and black people especially, are in for a very difficult new period. We, the Arab American Action Network, believe that the Black Lives Matter movement and police accountability movement is the most important social question of the day in the United States, and especially in Chicago."  v

Interviews by Robin Amer, Derrick Clifton, Maya Dukmasova, Leor Galil, Deanna Isaacs, Ben Joravsky, Aimee Levitt, Jake Malooley, Michael Miner, Ryan Smith, Mike Sula, Julia Thiel, and Brianna Wellen

Comments (25)

Showing 1-25 of 25

Add a comment
 

Add a comment