Today, President-Elect Donald Trump became plain old President Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America. For many people, this is a sign of change in an environment that they feel has not operated in their best interest for decades.
For the rest of us, today is the beginning of four difficult years. Or, as Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted earlier this day, today is “a tough day”.
To illustrate my point, allow me to tell a short story. Wednesday evening after work I stopped by a local store to pick up dog food for my pups. The checkout long was fairly long, but I was in no rush. A gentleman in front of me in line decided to make small talk, first by commenting on the wet weather, and then by turning to the topic on many Americans’ minds.
“So how about the inauguration on Friday?” he asked me.
My response was simple, but apparently very telling: “What about it?”
It didn’t come out sounding rude–nor was it intended to–but rather noncommittal. Still, he understood my meaning. He asked if I was planning to watch the event, to which I responded in the negative. By this point, it was clear to both of us that we stood on opposite sides of the current political landscape. This would have been fine, had the gentleman dropped it. Instead, he decided to go on the offensive.
“I think people like you are un-American, not supporting the man that was elected to be your president.”
I bit back a number of responses–that he didn’t win by popular vote, that the fact that he was a man was what allowed him to win, that it was his job to win my support, not vice versa–and instead went with the simplest, truest answer I could give him. I explained that it was my First Amendment right to support–or in this case not support–whomever I wanted, just as it was his to label me un-American. I further explained that it is my feeling on the matter that, by standing up against a “leader” who I felt did not deserve that title, I was doing something that was utterly American. Had our forefathers not had the prescience to speak out against the unfair rule of the British crown, we would have continued to be a group of colonies for decades to come.
And yes, that is hyperbole. I am by no means trying to claim that my single act of defiance is equal to the beginnings of the American Revolution, but it shares a root hope–that by challenging a regime that is normalising behaviours that I find to be morally and ethically bankrupt, however small my challenge may be, I am showing my truest American nature.
In other words, Americans, by our simplest natures and our core values, resist that which we find objectionable.
And we should find no shame in this. Challenging the establishment is what got Trump elected. He stood on a platform of moving away from traditional politics–politics that have left many behind in the dust and rust–and promised to be different. We should challenge that which we find intolerable; we should ask the hard questions; we should teach our children that it is alright disagree with that which attacks our morals. And fortunately, the founding fathers had the prescience to grant us those rights in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
To that end, I cannot “give Trump a chance”. Or rather, I cannot give him a second chance. The man had his chance while running for president. During that time, he made quite clear his positions against immigrants to America, against the Muslim-American community, against the Hispanic community, against the LGBQT+ community, against people with disabilities, and against women. If you’re keeping score, that leaves very few people whom Trump has not targeted with his divisive hate speech. He has bullied, harassed, and in some cases downright threatened these groups of people and more.
I listened to him, speech after speech. I heard him use words to attack and offend nearly every group of Americans under the Stars and Stripes. I paid attention as he mocked a reporter with arthrogryposis, as he argued with the parents of a fallen soldier, as he boasted about sexually assaulting women. That was his chance. He blew it. He doesn’t get another one.
I am fortunate in that I am a white, middle-class male. I’m not a target in Trump’s sites.
But my wife, as a woman, is. My friends, as members of the LGBQT+, Hispanic, or Muslim-American communities, are. My family, some of whom struggle with disabilities, are. As a Christian who truly believes in the Golden Command, that we are to love our neighbours as ourselves, I can not support a man who is as morally corrupt as Donald Trump. Therefore, I stand with my wife. I stand with my friends. I stand with my family, and with anyone else out there who has been the target of this campaign.
As Senator Sanders said in his tweet, “our response has to be not to throw up our hands in despair, not to give up. But in fact, to fight back as effectively and vigorously as we can”.
It is both our right and our civic duty to “fight back” against a system that belittles and disrespects so many people. This is not what America has stood for in the past, and I don’t plan on letting that change.
So I issue to all Americans these challenges:
- Firstly, that we not object to one another’s rights and civil liberties as presented in the documents written by the founding fathers. If you support Donald Trump, that is your right, just as it is mine to not support him.
- Secondly, if you do not agree with something, use your voice. Reach out to your representatives and make yourself heard. Communication–tough communication that challenges this negative normalisiation–is the path to positive change.
- Thirdly, that no matter where we stand on issues, we understand that we are all Americans. We are all brothers and sisters in this great nation, and at the end of the day, we must make peace with that. I may not always agree with you–I may even disagree with you loudly–but I believe you still deserve respect until you don’t.