What are the rules for German citizenship, they ask? Would we be welcome in New Zealand?
I speculated on this back in 2005, after Bush somehow beat John Kerry, writing a still unfinished novel in which Richard Branson and Mark Cuban led a bunch of American exiles to start an unregulated market in Johannesburg, South Africa. In my imagination, they even re-built the Twin Towers, right in the middle of Jo-Burg. And naturally, they had to hire a smart man like Dana Blankenhorn to handle their PR.
The book presaged concepts behind Bitcoin, and described aspects of financial piracy that do exist. But it was fiction. After making my son, then in high school, into a character who could secretly translate Arabic and Chinese on the fly, I found my footing in studying history and dropped it.
That’s what I’d advise my friends who are thinking of leaving to do right now. Drop it.
Trump may indeed be Hitler. I think he’s more Berlusconi, but what if he is the sum of all our fears? What if America has been taken over by Nazis and fellow-travelers? What good would it do, then, to abandon your country in its hour of need? Where will you go that will be safe from American power in the hands of a madman?
Nowhere. Besides, Americans don’t run from a fight.
We’ll get through this.
Yeah, it’ll be tough. Yes, there will be losses. I can’t guarantee we’ll all survive. I can’t guarantee I’ll survive. But I’ve learned this much.
This isn’t some Third World country. This is the United States of America, my country. America is not just a place, it’s not an ethnic heritage. We’re an idea, the most important idea in the history of mankind, that every person deserves the full rights and privileges of citizenship.
But with privileges come responsibilities. That’s my point.
America lost the 2016 election because half the people who voted (give or take) saw themselves as having no stake in our technology future. They don’t program computers. They don’t work in STEM. They don’t understand what technology and biology are talking about. The future frightens them. They see a dystopian outlook in which they’re slaves to us, the technology elite.
That’s the way the things we work on look to the people of “flyover country,” also known as Trumpistan. California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington – the coasts are becoming wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. The center? No. They’re being told they are obsolete, that their kids will be servants to the foreign-born children of a new global elite, represented (in their minds) by Barack HUSSEIN Obama. Hawaii is as foreign to them as Kenya. You see, they’re not completely wrong.
Whose job is it to explain the benefits of technology to people, to make sure folks are educated in it, to advocate for those benefits being spread widely, and help people see those benefits and opportunities in their daily lives?
It’s our job.
To some extent, the 2016 election shows we have not done our job. Blame the failure to build compelling Internet business models for good journalism. Blame the bosses. Blame anyone you want. Our essential job has not been done, and Trump is the result.
But when I’ve been faced with a challenge in my career, with rejection, with firings, with people telling me I can’t be a journalist, I shouldn’t be, they won’t let me, I’ve always had one reaction.
Hell, no. You’re firing me? I’ll become a freelancer. I’ll start my own newsletter. I’ll focus on renewable energy, on finance, on fiction. I’ll keep going forward.
One thing always upset me at Northwestern, 40 years ago, when I attended the Medill School. That was my teachers’ definition of a journalist. It was “someone who worked for someone who bought ink by the barrel.” The operative phrase was “worked for someone.” Journalists were not supposed to have autonomy. They were not supposed to control their story. Editors were supposed to do that, and we were to aspire to be editors. But, my teachers added, publishers controlled the editors, and the publishers went to business school, not journalism school. Autonomy was a hopeless quest.
That always stuck in my craw. It still does. The concept of a “journalism profession” was a ruse, a scam, a lie told to keep us compliant with the will of our bosses. Walter Cronkite was not journalism. William Paley was journalism. Journalism is a business, the practice of it a trade, like slinging hash at a Waffle House. Sometimes paying less.
Not much different from a West Virginia coal miner, when you think about it.
Here is the bottom line.
I’m not leaving. I think anyone who leaves America right now is a coward. Instead, I intend to use the lessons of my life, and my knowledge of technology, to fight back against the Trumpistani lie that people who aren’t part of the elite have no stake in their own future. Even when that means facing down the actual technology elite, I’m going to speak truth to that power.
I was born on third base in this world. I’m an American. Heck, I’m a white American, I’ve got a lead off the base. I was given a certain talent, which a great education system nurtured and sent into the world, a world through which I’ve wandered now for 40 years, learning and writing and learning some more. My life has been a great gift, one I never earned no matter how hard I may have worked for it.
I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some Bunga-Bunga wannabe and his ignorant asses take that away from me, or take the dream of that from my children.
It’s like the man said. Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country. And what you can do, right now, is use your talent to fight for its principles, and for the control over technology’s future those principles have built.