HAMILTON, NY — Several months ago, Peter Balakian helped found a group called Writers Against Trump (WAT, writersagainsttrump.org), which includes a number of noted Armenian-American authors. The group has nearly two thousand members in all. Its forceful mission statement does not mince words, proclaiming “We believe that this presidency is uniquely dangerous to our present and future society.”
Balakian expounds on it as follows: “We are American writers — now 1,900 of us — who have come together to work for change in November’s election. We devote our lives to language and thinking and ethics. We who founded the organization are in agreement that Trump’s presidency has been mired in corruption, incompetence, and astonishing assaults on democratic institutions and norms, and he has displayed an overt racism and misogyny never seen before in the White House in the modern era. The sheer crass, self-absorbed, indecency of Trump has had a damaging effect on American identity both at home and globally.”
WAT’s goals, according to its website, include collaborating “with organizations seeking to encourage voter turnout, promote candidates who resist the Trump apparatus, protect the election from fraud and theft, and mobilize in the event of post-election trouble.”
Balakian said, “Writers Against Trump started in the first week of August, when the eminent writer, journalist and political activist Todd Gitlin approached me and asked whether I thought I could bring together a few writers together to do some campaign work. I then called a few of my friends, and Todd called a few of his, and before long, we had a wonderful, very strong group of writers.”
The Pulitzer Prize winning Balakian is a poet and writer who teaches as the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of Humanities at Colgate University. Gitlin, author of 14 books, is a professor and chair of the doctoral program in communications at Columbia University. He was a founding member of Students for a Democratic Society and tis third president.
By mid-August, a steering committee of ten was formed comprised of distinguished writers including novelists Paul Auster, James Carroll, Siri Hudtvedt, Askold Melnyczuk, poets Natasha Tretheway and Carolyn Forche, as well as well as younger writers Sophie Auster, Julia Lattimer, Shuchi Saraswat.