Knowing the warning signs
November 12, 2016 6:30 AM   Subscribe

It's been a few days and I've come down off of the ledge a little with regards to the US election and the President Elect. However, there's still a big chance that everything will be terrible and we'll need to make some huge decisions about what we'll need to do to either help our friends or leave the country. How do you know when it's really bad?

My spouse and I were talking about how bad it could be for newly immigrated folks, refugees, LGBTQ folks, women, the disabled and other medically fragile people, and everyone else who was targeted by the President Elect's rhetoric and previous actions. We're trying to come up with a list of things that would be the "warning indicators" that nope, things are really bad and if you attempt to fight it anymore, you are likely going to be shot.

The problem is that when I think of contemporary examples like President Duterte in the Philippines, I don't see the majority of the people in the Philippines thinking, "Oh, this is really bad that the leader of our country thinks that it's okay for the police to kill drug dealers without the benefit of a trial." I am also woefully ignorant about the inner workings of other countries whose leaders are non-progressive and whose populace isn't complacent about it.

So I guess my question is: Where is the line between thinking that we can still be okay living here and saying that we need to leave that are not as obvious as the President declaring war and announcing that he's going to nuke someone or even declaring martial law? Other too obvious things: Rounding people up into camps, mass deportations of naturalized citizens, overturning long-held progressive SCOTUS rulings, anything that was done during either of the World Wars.
posted by TrishaLynn to Society & Culture (29 answers total) 116 users marked this as a favorite
This did happen in WWII but for the benefit of anyone else reading, registration of members of specific ethnic or religious groups is my personal cue to take my family and run.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 6:36 AM on November 12, 2016 [44 favorites]

Keep in mind that if you leave the country, you will be less able to provide direct support to others in need. Unless you or your family are directly targeted, you can probably help more by staying, and you won't be alone in the fights.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:02 AM on November 12, 2016 [21 favorites]

Here is one person's rules for survival.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:32 AM on November 12, 2016 [23 favorites]

I'm here on a visa, as are many of my coworkers (tech), so if any of our immigration status suddenly changes I'm hitting the road. Or if Hillary gets jailed.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:40 AM on November 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Or if Hillary gets jailed.

I'd say if they start-up a criminal investigation into Hillary (or, simply detain her) it might be a good time to get your bags ready.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:03 AM on November 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

I respect this question.

The answers are not easy because this is a different day and age, and the US is unlike other nations in a lot of ways, especially size. There's a lot of things that have already happened, chief among them is that the way we interact with media and information has made it very very easy for propaganda to really be the only type of news that we get. We're already in a bubble so intense most of us accepted this entire election cycle as normal. There was nothing normal about it, from the length, to a lack of competent qualified candidates (normally being a clown or under investigation, or both, would disqualify a candidate - but not this election cycle) to the removal of all substance or facts from most of the campaigning. You really gotta ask how this happened.

As to what the commenter above linked to concerning registrations, we've all already been categorized and tracked by our smartphone usage, by services like Facebook and Google+, so we've already been "registered." Not to freak you out. Just. As gently as possible, remember I mentioned that bubble we're in?

The number one thing is that nothing has changed, or changed yet. (Also, it was already bad but you didn't notice. Sorry.) Stay calm, because the only story I'm reading between the lines right now is that there seems to be an incentive towards civil disharmony. I implore you not to take the bait! Don't contribute to anything divisive if you can help it. Writing "eff that guy!" or similar is promoting negativity and dividing us and making us weaker as a population. The first battle you fight is with the fear within yourself.

It looks like economic upheaval is on our doorstep in so many many ways, so you might focus on reading those barometers.

In the short term, take a break to get your wits about you. Stop reading analysis unless you are trained to be objective (hint: this is a Jedi level task) and instead reconnect with yourself. This is one of those "the answer is inside of you" type things. You'll know when you need to act because you'll interrupt the diet of distraction we've been bingeing on, and that's crucial. You won't see or hear if your perception is clouded.

The worst thing we can do is accept the first few solutions the media provides, or anything your angry neighbor posts on FB. Wait and see. You can wait a week and see how you feel about this question then.

(I'm going to add here that widespread civil unrest is not really going to effect the majority of us in ways you might think, instead there will be pockets that ignite. The problem is that interests who are playing the long game of control are NOT interested in having our population turn violent en masse. WWIII will not happen the way we've always feared. Hypothetically, when they close our borders (I mean city and state borders, too in a case by case basis like what happened after the Boston bombing or during Ferguson or whatever) it would happen due to a trigger and most of us will welcome it because it will feel like safety, not like being incarcerated or corralled. Does that make sense? In other words, why use brute force when lies will work. WWII was very clumsy comparatively, and the smarter ideas now are to shift masses of people via persuasion of some stripe instead military force. An experiment on this scale has not really been perpetrated before, so it will be interesting to see how it shakes out and who in the general US population falls for it. (I fell for parts of it too! And I knew better! Don't feel badly!!) I've been processing this all week. I think lots of bits or unclear or too hard to face right now. Plus there are still power struggles going on at the top over the iron throne (heh) so it's really hard to say which indicators are relevant.

Lastly, it's not that they're going to come for any particular group although it may look that way. The problem is that control of the entire country is being ruthlessly pursued by several different interests, they hope to settle their current power grab without waking the majority of us up to what's really going on.

The most important thing is not to vilify those you think don't agree with you. 99.9% of us are in the same boat and facing the EXACT same dangers and risks, even if we've been temporarily convinced the problem is each other. The problem is we live in a system that isn't serving our needs individually or collectively.

I'm trying to end on an up note, but failing. If you want to be able to "read" the signs better, maybe go back and listen to the concerns from them directly? The echo-chamber of social media has done us no favor's, so maybe open up and try to stand in the other guy's shoes? My family is technically at risk in the ways you are asking about. I'm trying to figure this out, too.)
posted by jbenben at 8:06 AM on November 12, 2016 [36 favorites]

See how much of his 100 day plan he accomplishes in the first 100 days (by the end of April.)
posted by smackfu at 8:07 AM on November 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

Seconding jbenben regarding registration, we're in a new day and age, we're already easily identifiable and categorizable. The way they broke down voter types is a pretty good sign of that.

Do you have local support networks? Do you know people to whom you can reach out, local or at least near enough that if you had a full tank of gas, you'd get there safely? If the answer to those questions is "yes," then make plans – ideally more than one – for that sort of contingency. Meaning, them coming to you if needed, and you going to them.

If your answer was "no," meaning you don't have a trusted support network in the US, then you start looking overseas now. It takes a while to find a job. If you know people in other countries whom you trust, reach out to them.

I wish I didn't have to be so bleak regarding the "how do we know we might be shot" thing, but the populace's behavior is very strongly reminding me of the Cultural Revolution in China, i.e. uprisings against perceived "elites" except in this case you just add anyone who's not a straight white person. In the US, they already have guns. I'm honestly surprised there haven't been shootings yet. It's not only the government we need to fear, and I am so, so sorry to say that. I know what it is to grow up in surroundings you know in your deepest heart could turn deadly at any time. It's one major reason I left the US (my family were abusive, i.e. I had no support network I could count on, but knew I could build one in the country I chose). Listen to your gut. Use situational awareness. Build networks of trust.

Y'know that book we always recommend to abused women in Ask? It's good for everyone now: "The Gift of Fear."
posted by fraula at 8:26 AM on November 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

I would argue we should not wait until things get worse. This is terrible. Right now. A perspective in the N.Y. Times yesterday.
posted by latkes at 8:34 AM on November 12, 2016 [13 favorites]

The article Obscure Reference linked to is excellent in a lot of ways and I urge everyone to read it.

(From point #4 in the article, "...But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself." Can confirm it is no fun.)

As smackfu mentioned, I also have Trump's First 100 Days plan open in my browser because I planned on referencing it over and over again as things progressed.

I hope this thread keeps growing. It's already rich in ideas. We need this discussion. Deep thanks.
posted by jbenben at 8:37 AM on November 12, 2016 [6 favorites]

I feel like that though I am a known liberal, if anyone's looking, I am also white..not first on anyone's list. So I can possibly do more good by staying. More bleakly, we don't have ties to someplace safer. And would a Canadian or European refugee camp be safer anyway? I am fatalistic about this.
posted by emjaybee at 8:42 AM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

So studies have shown that civil disharmony is really one of the factors you should be looking at. How are people treating each other in your town? Are people stopping providing small, everyday courtesies for people of the affected groups? Letting doors close in the faces of visibly LGBT, or cutting in front of them in line? Are they more willing to violate the social compact in small ways when it comes to people that area being othered? Are you hearing more vocal expressions of slurs around those people?

Because here's the thing. Trump, alone, can't cause anything to happen. Not without the support of the people. Right now, in many areas he doesn't have it. But once he starts to - that is the time to GTFO.

And yeah, I'm going to be staying and fighting, but if things get bad, really bad, we will need people on the outside to help too.
posted by corb at 8:55 AM on November 12, 2016 [67 favorites]

Any changes in the definition of citizenship that don't grandfather in people who are currently both citizens and residents. When people inside the country start getting their citizenship taken away, I'd say it's time to panic.
posted by 256 at 10:05 AM on November 12, 2016 [6 favorites]

According to Gloria Steinem, one of the biggest red flags is when women's reproductive freedoms are taken away--The Handmaid's Tale: A Warning About Patriarchy and Power. She starts by discussing Atwood's Handmaid's Tale and then compares the fictional events to real life dictatorships and their treatment of reproductive rights.
In the United States, the rightwing has chipped away at the reproductive freedom of minors, poor women, and women in the military—who can’t get an abortion, even if they’re raped while on duty—but criminalizing abortion by Constitutional Amendment has failed. Also their years of picketing and firebombing clinics—plus murdering eight abortion doctors and proposing legislation that would make such murders “justifiable homicide”—have proven mysteriously unpopular. These advocates of compulsory pregnancy are now striving to eliminate abortion by imposing impossible conditions on clinics state by state, and challenging contraception as part of national healthcare. In North Carolina, only the ruling of one female judge struck down a legislative requirement that a woman’s body must be penetrated by an ultrasound device and she must see and hear the fetus’s description, even if she asks not to, before being granted a safe and legal abortion.
(Sorry, the site has an annoying popup at first, but it does go away. I searched to see if the essay was hosted elsewhere but could not find it anywhere else.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:31 AM on November 12, 2016 [11 favorites]

Any changes in the definition of citizenship that don't grandfather in people who are currently both citizens and residents. When people inside the country start getting their citizenship taken away, I'd say it's time to panic.

FWIW this did happen in Canada in Harper's last year and was a part of (I think) why Harper was thrown out. They had changed the citizenship act to allow the government to revoke citizenship of someone with dual citizenship if they were convicted of vey serious crimes. Public response to this change is a bell weather. This section of the law was revered after the election.

The movement trump (ie. increasing tendency toward fascism) is not contained in the US. There is still active support for anti immigrant laws in Canada... I guess I want to say, you are welcome here as far as I am concerned, but be aware you will be joining the same struggle in Canada.
posted by chapps at 10:38 AM on November 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

(and I am hoping for lots of cross border solidarity)
posted by chapps at 10:39 AM on November 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Everyone talking about "when to leave", please consider also when you'd be motivated to focus seriously on working to protect things and other people here. There aren't that many places to go, and almost everywhere is subject to similar political stresses.

I know it's not clear what, exactly, people can do, but just leaving isn't going to work out for most people. Starting out by figuring out what to do is a good first step. Some of it might involve making a concerted effort to coordinate help for others.

The US has a big effect on the rest of the world, too.
posted by amtho at 11:13 AM on November 12, 2016 [11 favorites]

How are people treating each other in your town? Are people stopping providing small, everyday courtesies for people of the affected groups? Letting doors close in the faces of visibly LGBT, or cutting in front of them in line? Are they more willing to violate the social compact in small ways when it comes to people that area being othered? Are you hearing more vocal expressions of slurs around those people?

If you are a white cis heterosexual Christian/atheist, be aware that your privilege could blind you to a lot of it. You need to be friends with members of marginalized groups, and build enough trust with them that they will feel comfortable sharing this with you.
posted by BrashTech at 11:14 AM on November 12, 2016 [18 favorites]

I was discussing this with my family and the thing we noted to look out for is the curtailing of the freedom of the press. Also the right to peaceful assembly.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 1:23 PM on November 12, 2016 [7 favorites]

Doris Lessing said it was a bad sign when politicians start talking about blood, but I haven't been able to verify whether she was right. Anybody know?
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 5:01 PM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Watch the federal bureaucracy - right now there are strong rules in place to prevent political figures from firing career (i.e. nonpartisan) civil servants, which make up a huge part of the federal workforce. If Trump changes these laws and begins firing these employees, or they begin leaving en masse, that's a very very bad sign.

Watch out for anything like the Saturday Night Massacre.

Watch out for any change to the federal judiciary other than routine appointment of judges - for example, an attempt to fire/dismiss federal judges (who have lifetime tenure) or an attempt to add additional Justices to the Supreme Court.

Lastly, for an example of what corb is talking about: an Englishwoman named Christabel Bielenberg kept a diary of her experience living in Germany during the rise of Hitler and World War II. This is from a 1933 entry:
I did not share Peter's unease until a similar incident happened on one of my visits to Germany when we were sitting together in a country inn and three young Jews were drinking their wine and talking together quietly at the table next to ours. The Storm-troopers, who gangled in through the door, stood leaning against the bar staring about them with the truculent bleariness of the very drunk. 'This place stinks,' said one. 'And I know why,' said another. Shades of my Irish father, I knew from the way Peter put down his glass that we were in for trouble. Six drunken Storm-troopers, three not very athletic looking Jews - one a girl - Peter and myself; my state of mind would not have earned me the Victoria Cross. I even found myself placing a restraining hand on Peter's arm, as I glanced about the restaurant, certainly expecting allies. To my surprise there were obviously none. The other citizens present were either gulping down their wine, hurriedly paying their bills or already halfway to the door. 'Silly bastards,' Peter remarked in his best English, using an expression which had become quite a favorite of his. One of the Jews gave him a half smile and called for his bill, which was brought forward at the double. They left the restaurant and Peter had to content himself with guarding their passage to the door, to the accompaniment of roars of beery laughter from the bar.

It was just another incident, and it was not the picture of the drunken buffoons in brown shirts which stuck in my mind, for they were a sight we had got used to; it was rather the hurried scrambling to depart, the jostle of gutbürgerliche backsides, the sudden void. It was not the agitation but the acquiescence that shocked me, and made me aware quite suddenly that I was a stranger in the place, born and bred in a country where communal activities and also communal protest belonged as much to a way of life as cricket or Christmas pudding.

It was then that I too had the uncomfortable suspicion that something very nasty indeed might have come to stay.
posted by sallybrown at 5:06 PM on November 12, 2016 [48 favorites]

We have extenuating healthcare circumstances (and my husband and kid are dual citizens), but here's our criteria specific to the end of the Affordable Care Act:
* if my kid is unable to maintain health coverage, we leave
* if my kid's health coverage fails to cover the insane cost of his worse than pharma bro-priced medication and there are no patient assistance programs (or if we have to liquidate our assets to become eligble), we leave
* if my kid's hospital goes bust and treatment options are not re-established in our metro area, we leave

I think these things may happen well before most of the horrible things posted above.
posted by Maarika at 7:25 PM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

My leaving really is connected to Healthcare, because I'm basically uninsurable.
Preexisting conditions go back into place, and my wife is disabled. So I'm out at that point while I'm healthy enough to establish residency and citizenship in another country.
Also things in looking at:

Elimination of LGBT rights.

Loss of right to unionize on a national level.

Reduction of our already poor workers rights and protections (workers comp, unemployment insurance).

The elimination of social services / mental health services is a big one for me. If hospitals start loosing social workers, assistance for elderly dwindles more, homeless shelters close, warming centers become unavailable, there will be an associated rise in deaths of 'undesired', of course the truth is anyone can fall into that catagory at any time. It's already high, but there is a patchwork of people doing their best. This includes significant reductions in food stamp recipients/amounts, and food pantries.

Incentivizing deportation or immigration 'turn ins'

That's my list thus far.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:10 PM on November 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

One contemporary example that comes to mind is The Golden Dawn movement in Greece. The appearance of movements such as this, movements that focus not so much on this piece of legislation or this Supreme Court nomination, but on beating the mortal fuck out of people they don't like, is a definite warning indicator, especially if you notice a pattern of local law enforcement ignoring their violations of the law or even demonstrating some sympathy with them.
posted by the hot hot side of randy at 9:22 PM on November 12, 2016 [7 favorites]

Our home-grown ancestor to Golden Dawn is the KKK, of course, and a major resurgence in their activities would be very worrisome indeed. They're getting pushback on their North Carolina parade plan, so that's a good sign.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:14 PM on November 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

It is critical to remember that before you leave, you have to find someplace that will take you. This is not as easy as people assume.

Canada has a points system.

New Zealand has a points system.

To move anywhere in Europe, you will need a work permit from that country; requirements vary.

Until US expatriates are categorized as refugees (highly unlikely) you'll need to apply to the new country, and that process can take months to years.
posted by JonquilS at 9:53 AM on November 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Another account of rights being revoked, particularly of women, is Reading Lolita in Tehran. It's the story of a female university professor discussing newly forbidden literature in Iran with a group of female students after the Iranian Revolution. See also Persepolis. Lots of discussion about the lead up to and the atmosphere after phenomenal, oppressive (at least to some) change in these books.
posted by eisforcool at 3:42 PM on November 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thank you so much, all of you, for your thoughts. As you can see, I've favorited some comments and marked others as "best answers" because they resonated with me. I'm going to not mark this as resolved so that other people can chime in.
posted by TrishaLynn at 5:45 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

This Facebook post is by Timothy Snyder. I believe it's the historian Timothy Snyder who specializes in European history.
Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.
posted by brainwane at 9:06 AM on November 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

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