What We Do Now: Standing Up for Your Values in Trump's America was announced right after Election Day last year. It was published right before Inauguration Day this year. A two-month window is incredibly small for the wholesale creation of a book — particularly one like What We Do Now, which anthologizes recent writing by big-name authors like Dave Eggers, George Saunders, Gloria Steinem, Robert Reich, and Elizabeth Warren. Ordinarily a work like this would span at least a year from inception to publication date.
It's weird, then, that a book as immediate as What We Do Now already feels so dated. Most of the attendees of last night's Reading Through It Book Club at Third Place Books Seward Park agreed that the book already feels like a time capsule of sorts. It was born of a certain moment of panic — that frightening time between the surprise of Trump's election and the horror of the day that he actually took office. None of us knew what to expect, and the resulting queasy uncertainty inspired a grimness that was very particular to that moment in time.
This is not to say that the current situation is not grim. As book club attendees pointed out last night, Trump's policies are causing incredible damage to foreign relations, to the environment, to the very idea of truth. But perhaps the realization that Trump is an inept and hateful president is at least a little more comforting than the pre-inauguration fear that Trump was a brilliant and hateful president. He can still cause a lot of damage — he can still destroy the world, even – but he is not a planner, and he is not a rational thinker. An identifiable challenge is always preferable to an unknown challenge.
Still, this is no time for complacency. Any number of institutions are at risk, and many people stand to suffer from Trump's policies. Last night, we discussed the importance of keeping the truth in sight — of subscribing to a few news outlets and reading them cover-to-cover. The ongoing degredation of the truth is not just a conservative problem. We talked about the importance of communicating progressive ideas in a way that transcends politics, that speaks to the human in everyone.
And we redoubled our efforts to remember what that dawning moment of shock felt like when we realized that Trump had won the presidency. As we approach the end of Trump's first 100 days in office, it's important to recall how quickly everything can change, and how a seemingly concrete understanding of the universe can fall apart in a matter of seconds.
The next Reading Through It Book Club meets at Third Place Books Seward Park on Wednesday, May 3rd at 7 pm. We'll be discussing Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion. The book is 20% off at Third Place between now and then. Please join us.