We knew it would get ugly when Donald Trump was elected president, but we did not know at first what exactly the ugly would look like. Now, as 2018 comes to a close, we do. The images of families ripped apart at the southern border are now seared into our brains. The confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — Trump’s promise delivered to anti-choice voters — is a national trauma that points to the sheer absurdity of placing the rights of women and femmes in the hands of privileged white men. The deadly wildfires that wrought destruction in California have become a potent symbol of the future of our planet as the Trump administration dismantles one federal climate effort after another.
As the year comes to a close, Trump’s tantrums over funding for his border wall are a good sign that the ugly is far from over. Indeed, Trump dominated the headlines in 2018 as scandals and investigations swirled around him, and his policies exacerbated humanitarian crises at home and abroad. At Truthout, we were not shy about calling Trump out for his blatant authoritarianism, and we joined hundreds of news outlets in denouncing his anti-democratic attacks on the media.
However, Trump is not the only story to tell, and Truthout has worked hard to raise voices of resistance in the national narrative. After all, 2018 won’t just be remembered for Trump’s tweets; it will also be remembered for mass marches, intersectional organizing, #BelieveSurvivors and #AbolishICE. It will be remembered as the year that record numbers of LGBTQ people and women of color ran for Congress, and for a midterm election that ushered a fresh slate of progressives into a Democratically controlled house, despite extensive voter suppression efforts. It will be remembered for difficult but long-overdue conversations about white supremacy and sexual violence. It will be remembered as a year when people fought back despite the odds.
In that spirit, let’s take a look at some of the best stories that fell through the cracks of the dominant media in 2018 and have little to do directly with Trump, if at all.
It was still too hot in a Texas prison this past summer despite a court ruling in a class-action lawsuit ordering prison officials to help prisoners beat excruciating heat, according to prisoners who wrote to Truthout reporter and editor Candice Bernd earlier this year. Bernd’s October 2018 report on the Wallace Pack Unit in Navasota, Texas, held the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to account after prisoners said conditions had yet to improve, particularly for those held in solitary confinement or working for long hours in the sun. The report continued the work of the “America’s Toxic Prisons” series, an award-winning collaboration between Truthout and the Earth Island Journal that includes in-depth coverage of a Texas prison swamped by Hurricane Harvey last year.
“I’m in Labor and Wondering: Why Doesn’t the World Recognize This as Work?“ That was the question Truthout’s Editor-in-Chief Maya Schenwar explored as the pain from contractions intensified in the hours before she would give birth to her first child. Pregnancy and childbirth is difficult work, so why is it valued less than the work we are paid for? “I doubt there will be laboring-people unions until patriarchy is uprooted, at which point the movement for economic justice may be structured in forms more radical than unions as we know them, anyway,” Schenwar writes. “For now, I think it would be a big step to remember that labor is labor. As it’s intensifying for me right now, I’m realizing physically something I’d previously known only intellectually: This could be some of the most difficult work of my life.” Schenwar goes on to ponder tough questions about social justice and parenthood, up and until it’s time for the most difficult work to begin.
If much of 2017 was a reaction to the Trump regime, then 2018 saw the coalescence of resistance to Trump and his most harmful policies. For the “Visions of 2018” series, Truthout asked writers and activists to draw on this energy and look beyond the idea of “resistance” to envision new worlds that activists can start building today. Mariame Kaba and Kelly Hayes explained that the growing movement to abolish prison is not spouting “impossible ideas”; it’s using abolition as a practical organizing strategy that challenges our ideas about what justice can and should look like. James Kilgore asked readers to imagine a national organizing strategy to end mass incarceration, and Jacinta González pointed out that, to end family separations beyond the border, we must put an end to incarceration, too. As Trump lashed out at the press, our editors became agitators, reminding us that many of the same outlets deriding his family separation policy were doing little for the millions of other people suffering from police violence and carceral control. Media that truly challenges power has always come from the grassroots, and it’s up to us to keep it going.
2018 was a big year for the disability rights movement, but we didn’t hear much about it in the dominant media. Unfortunately, this is not a surprise. Our society makes people with disabilities seem invisible and devalues their work. However, this did not stop the direct action wing of the disability rights movement from crashing Congress as lawmakers considered bills that would have a direct impact on millions of lives. Disability activists have turned to direct action to protect their rights for decades, and their efforts increased accessibility nationwide and led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. The landmark legislation was the result of years of grassroots organizing, and President H.W. Bush only signed it under heavy political pressure, as Kara Mannor pointed out after the president’s death. Despite the movement’s legacy of confronting power head on, ableism is still a problem in many activist circles, so Jen Deerinwater offered five helpful ideas for making direct action organizing more accessible to everyone.
Momentum is in the air as 2018 comes to a close. Trump is increasingly isolated, and he will soon face a much more hostile Congress. Meanwhile, the movements that have risen in response to his presidency have solidified, and so has our resolve. If there is a silver lining to these dark times, it must be that people are coming together to share their dreams and build something new. There is still plenty of work to do.