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Being Indigenous After the Trump Apocalypse

Donald J. Trump was elected President of the U.S. The people still yearn for a strong leader who will make sure the trains run on time.

UPDATED NOVEMBER 11, 2016: This column has been updated to reflect election results not complete when it was written. In addition, the first version listed Florida as having legalized recreational marijuana by referendum. The Florida referendum passed, but it legalized medical marijuana. The author regrets the error.

Also Sprach Zarathustra published in four parts between 1883 and 1891 and in that tome Friedrich Nietzsche brought the news that “God is dead!” It was during that publication when the shooting part of the Indian wars spewed leaden death from the Hotchkiss guns at Wounded Knee Creek and declared victory.

Few Indians read German philosophy at the time but they did not need Nietzsche to tell them their medicine had lost efficacy. The settlers were innocent of God’s demise as well and it remained for a man named Hitler to mainstream the news.

The argument was never that God was a literal being no longer among the living. It merely described a consequence of The Age of Enlightenment, when infinity has become finite. One size of moral clothing no longer fits all and we shall all become tailors or go naked.

Remember the name of that forbidden fruit tree in Genesis? The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The death of God metaphor means simply that once humans have tasted that power, they can never go back and pretend it never happened.

We are still struggling with the death of God after the military defeat of the men who claimed that God left a power vacuum to be filled by secular power. All these years later, though, Donald J. Trump is elected on Benito Mussolini’s platform. The people still yearn for a strong leader who will make sure the trains run on time, a populist of a stripe not handed power in this country since Andrew Jackson. Reaching for an American Mussolini, the voters killed principles thought to be as immortal as God. The massacre happened last night.

RELATED: Donald Trump Wins Election and Indian Country Holds Its Breath

This election was the death of meritocracy. Trump did not pretend to know how the government works and he showed no interest in learning. His opponent lived by the conviction that any problem would have to yield to a panel of experts with the right research tools and enough time to use them.

This election was the death of data. We live in an age when all opinions are equal because there is no consensus on the difference between the opinions and the facts that are supposed to support opinions.

The voters think this election was the death of economic and political globalization. It was not.

The voters think this election was the death of the service and knowledge economy. It was not.

Globalization and the knowledge economy are not going to devolve to walled cities where people are engaged in mining and manufacturing. Like it or not, our kids are in direct competition with kids around the world who have both more education and more hunger.

Public opinion has moved on from the issues that used to function as electoral wedges: Marijuana, abortion, and gay rights. Trump’s history says social issues never moved him, excepting the death penalty. However, he owes the evangelical voters who stuck by him.

The House remained Republican, as does a majority of the Senate. The Supreme Court’s days as a firewall are numbered, but the SCOTUS will not turn over immediately because the replacement of Justice Scalia will be a wash.

The voters think marijuana was a big winner in this election, but the Trump administration will eventually have to weigh in. With the addition of recreational marijuana legalization in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada, seven states and the District of Columbia have opted to regulate marijuana like alcohol. A similar measure failed in Arizona.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 21 states allow medical marijuana—this election having added Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota—and 15 more states allow cannabis extracts that are low in tetrahydrocannabinol. It’s unclear whether President Trump will attack state sovereignty over marijuana laws, reversing President Obama.

The law favors federal control, should the federal government choose to assert it, but many of President Trump’s most ardent supporters advocate a view of state sovereignty out of favor since the Civil War.

Of the historically hot button social issues, abortion is the most likely to remain a legal battleground. Gay rights will probably be stopped but not rolled back, since gay people appear to be one of the few groups not targeted by Trumpian animosity. Science deniers supporting Trump have attacked transgender accommodations, but Trump has said he does not consider this a problem worthy of federal action.

If Trump is ambiguous about state sovereignty, he has no doubts about Indian sovereignty. Trump came out against tribal sovereignty long before he got into politics. The SCOTUS has already settled “plenary power” in Congress to do as it pleases to Indians. Our best hope is that the dismantling of Title 25 of the U.S. Code is so far down Trump’s to do list that he does not reach it.

The Dakota Access Pipeline struggle may move Indian sovereignty closer to the top of Trump’s list. He has promised to repeal all environmental regulations his authority can reach, so he would be backing the pipeline even without Indian nations arrayed against it.

As the billionaire Peter Thiel remarked upon his prescient embrace of Trump, the media always took Trump literally but not seriously while Trump’s supporters took him seriously but not literally.

Trump’s hostility to environmental regulations and to Indian sovereignty is literal and serious. Nietzsche’s deceased Deity may have been a metaphor but these issues are not. They are as real as the Indian wars. We are facing laws and lawsuits rather than Hotchkiss guns, but for at least the next four years the U.S. government is unlikely to be our friend.