Friday, November 11, 2016
I guess we're doing this.
I generally abstain from writing about politics here. The internet is in no danger of a partisan discourse shortage, and my contributions in that area would be superfluous at best. But today. Today it can't be avoided.
I was in high school during 9/11 and a college student when George W. Bush won reelection. It was the first presidential contest I voted in, and I cast my ballot for John Kerry. Academe being what it is, most of the students (at least in the English department, and among the stoners and goths I hung out with) and faculty were opposed to the Iraq War, appalled by the Patriot Act, and not entirely unconvinced that Dick Cheney wasn't some sort of real-world translation of Emperor Palpatine. The mood on campus the day after the election was grim. People moped. Groused. Grumbled. Swore. I was able to get an extension on a paper because I told my professor I was too pissed off to write it.
It wasn't at all like the day after Trump's victory. The mood in Philadelphia, and among most of my friends and family, was less like it was on 11/3/2004 and more like what I remember from 9/11/2001. I don't believe I need to explain why. The forty-fifth President of the United States of America will be Donald Trump.
Christ, I can barely type that. I can hardly imagine four years of hearing people pronounce the words "President Trump."
But we're all going to have to get used to it.
In retrospect, the fit I pitched when Dubya won a second term seems rather jejune. Just on the face of it, I'd rather have a hapless neoconservative dolt (and occasional war criminal) in the White House than a petulant, narcissistic, blackhearted pathological liar of a demagogue of a wannabe strongman (and probable future war criminal) who doesn't see anything wrong with the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons, refers to the African American community as "the blacks," and eats his pizza with a fucking knife and fork. I look back on my semi-public "FUCK BUSH HE'S NOT MY PRESIDENT" tantrums with some shame. Not because I've changed my mind about him, mind you—he deserved every shoe he got thrown at him, and every time I hear his voice (which is rare these days, thankfully) the bile climbs up my throat—but because it was just that. A tantrum. A denial of reality. I was an American citizen living in the United States, and George W. Bush was lawfully elected for a second term as President. He was my President. I didn't have to like it. But I couldn't disavow his office or the legitimacy of his continued tenure.
Twelve years later, I remain an American citizen. Trump will be my president. He'll be our president. The sooner we accept it, the sooner we can come to terms with it.
It will not be easy.
I hope the left can stop pointing fingers sooner than later. Blow off some steam, fine. But as of Wednesday, who voted for Hillary in the primaries and who voted for Jill Stein or stayed home for the general election is completely beside the point. How we got ourselves into Trumpland is only important insofar as it can be instructive in making us a capable loyal opposition.
It is not fair to lambast Clinton and Obama for graciously conceding to Trump. All of us were hoping (perhaps praying) he'd bow out gracefully in the event of a Clinton victory. It is hypocritical for us to do precisely what we would condemn him and his followers for doing had things gone our way.
I don't wish for failure from Trump. I hope he does a good job—though he almost certainly will not. If his performance is deserving of credit, I will give it where it is due. (If.)
We must be vigilant. If Trump's victory becomes a signal for open season against people of color, LGBT folk, or non-Christians, we must hold him responsible. We must make him and the GOP answer for it. We must stand behind President Trump to the extent that we're better positioned to scream in his ear when he proposes or does something horrible or insane. (When.)
I see people encouraging their peers to donate money to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. These are good ideas. Now is also an excellent time to write your elected representatives (especially if they're Republican) and demand they nut up and take climate change seriously.
All of this, this is the easy part.
My mother was an ardent Clinton supporter from the start of the campaign. When I spoke to her The Day After, she was seriously rattled. Sad. Fearful. But she told me she spoke to an old friend of hers that morning, a friend of hers who has always leaned towards conservatism and was open in her support for Trump. (Her friend is Hispanic, for the record.) And my mother congratulated her. From what I understand, her friend wasn't smug about it, and they moved on from there.
I would hold their behavior up as an example.
Now is not the time to be cutting ties with or purging our friends lists of people who supported and voted for Trump.
A common refrain among social media progressives is "it's not my job to educate you."
Mormonism is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world. You know why? Because Mormons believe very strongly that it is their job to educate people, and they take it seriously.
If we don't want to live in a world where someone like Donald Trump can be elected to the highest office in the land, we must make it our job to educate people. We're not going to do that by completely disengaging from those who don't see things the way we do. We're certainly not going to do it by being condescending and nasty to them.
We cannot allow tribal politics to become normalized. And we mustn't think of our countrymen as our enemies. Not every Trump voter is a Klansman. Progress would be better served by hating regressive causes than the people who are swayed by their arguments. By hating bigotry instead of bigots.
Don't tell me this makes me part of the problem. You won't be right.
"What is more radical than forgiveness?" wrote Viet Thanh Nguyen. "What is more revolutionary than helping one's enemy and his kin?"
I concede that as a straight white male, I am fortunate to be able to speak of bigotry largely in the abstract. I am not saying that there's not shit and stupidity that shouldn't be called out. (For example.) But it does not change the difference between lopping off the head of a weed and pulling it up by its roots.
It is your job to educate people, and to set an example. If you want a better nation and a better world, the burden of bringing it to light is on you.
"Go and be a blessing in the places where you find yourself."
That's all I have to say tonight.