I first put my thoughts on a Trump presidency into writing the day after the election on my personal blog. While my feelings have continued to evolve over the ensuing months, I feel like what I wrote that day continues to be relevant to my perception of life in America. And so, for my first post on Voices of the Resistance, I present my original comments from November 9, 2016.
For the sake of my sanity, I have mostly avoided the news and Twitter today. But I have been forcing myself to read the updates on my Facebook feed because I feel it is important to see how my friends and family are responding to the results of the 2016 election. The emotions on display have run the gamut from anxiety to anger, from shame to terror, and from heartbroken desperation to courageous resolve. I’ve felt all of these in the last 18 hours or so, wanting to march on Washington and burn the whole thing down one moment and sit in a dark room alone the next.
I’ve been devastated by the despair of people I care about, and especially by my teacher friends who are sharing stories about kids in their classes coming to them in tears today because they are worried about being deported or because their classmates are already emulating some of our new president’s less exemplary behaviors concerning people of other races and faiths. I’ve been disgusted as I read conversations overheard by friends regarding how my fellow citizens are so giddy that Trump will undo everything “that n***er” has done (and hopefully lock him and “that bitch” up in the process). I’ve been ashamed to see so many women I care about say that they feel less safe in an America where so many of their fellow citizens apparently care so little about sexual assault (and with good reason, if the number of men on social media on election night saying how they can’t wait to go out and “grab the pussy” of any woman they want because “our president got away with it” is any indication).
What I’m seeing, and what a lot of Americans are realizing this morning, is that unless you’re a straight, white, Christian man, this country isn’t quite as safe as you thought it was.
And here’s the thing: Unless it gets REALLY bad (and it very well might, considering the economist predictions about a Trump economy, his complete disregard of climate science, and his apparent lust for our nuclear arsenal), I’m not going to be the one suffering the brunt of what the next four years has to bring. I’m a white, straight man with a white-collar job and a suburban lifestyle, and while the Christian part doesn’t apply to me, it’s not as easy to single out an atheist as it is a Muslim. There’s a better chance than not that I’ll survive a Trump presidency more or less intact. I don’t have to worry about my family getting harassed for identification on the street because they are committing the horrible crime of speaking Spanish. I don’t have to worry about getting gunned down by a trigger-happy cop because I “look suspicious.” And many of my friends fall into that same boat.
That’s why the two biggest things I’m taking away from everything I’ve read today are the outpouring of support, strength, and solidarity from those who don’t stand to lose anywhere near as much towards those that could lose everything, and the courage and resolve from those who are most at risk in Trump’s America. I’ve lost count of the number of posts I’ve read encouraging others to stand behind our brothers and sisters who may be black or Hispanic or gay or Muslim or whatever. The statements of “this is my country too and I’m not going anywhere” from my friends of color or of other religions have brought a smile to my face. I’ve seen people say this is going to drive them to be more politically active, to volunteer at everything from rape shelters to American/Islamic coalitions, to just try to be a better person.
The challenge now, especially for those of us who are less at risk, is not to lose that sense of solidarity with our fellow Americans. Six months from now (hell, six weeks from now), it will be all too easy for those of us who may not see a change in our day-to-day routines to forget about what our neighbors may be going through. We may get a surge of “I should really do something” when we see Trump on TV denigrating one group or another, but it will seem too hard, or too tiring, or too time-consuming. We need to fight that complacency. If we don’t, a country that should be about inclusion and opportunity for all will become a place of fear and stagnation.
One final thought: I wanted to address the Trump supporters. There is going to be a lot of anger directed towards these folks from all corners of the world over the upcoming days. They will be labeled racists and bigots, sexists and xenophobes. And because those traits apply to the man they elected, it will be all too easy to paint them with that brush. And I won’t deny that some of them undoubtedly fit those descriptions to a tee. But if our country is going to heal, we need to recognize that many, if not most, of the people who voted for Trump didn’t do it because he assaults women or because he wants to kick out minorities, but despite those things.
Many of them are simply scared or upset to see the country they love change so drastically, leaving them, their families, and their livelihoods behind. They are Americans too, and to claim that they have no grievances about where we are as a country would be the height of folly. They think the system is rigged against them, and they may not be as wrong as we would like to think. The fact that they would be willing to support as flawed a man as Trump should speak volumes. We can’t make them the enemy. We need to make them our partners in building a better America for all of us.
As painful as it is for me to say, Donald Trump is going to be our president. What am I going to do about it?
I am going to fight tooth and nail against every regressive, backwards policy he puts forward.
I am going to volunteer my time to make my community a better place.
I am going to work my hardest to get progressive candidates elected in 2018 and to beat him in 2020.
I am going to stand with my fellow Americans of all colors, religions, sexes, and lifestyles.
What I will not do is add to the culture of fear, suspicion, and hatred that has been building in our country for as long as I can remember.
We will have to deal with enough of that already.