Reflections on the Election – “Looking Forward”

Donald J. Trump is the President-Elect of the United States of America.

These are words I never thought I’d write. In fact I was looking forward to seeing him lose so humiliatingly that by the time I wrote this blog post, he would be remembered as nothing more than a horrible nightmare that plagued our country for a year and a half; the damage of which we would deal with without having to deal with the man himself.

I was looking forward to healing as an individual, along with my community and my country, from the trauma caused by the unrelenting and insufferable drivel of a racist, sexist, misogynist, bigot who cared for nothing and for no one but his own ego.

I was looking forward to the short sigh of relief that would come with knowing that bigotry was not granted a platform in the highest office in the land, and that the forces of good won the battle for the day despite the long road ahead.

I was looking forward to working with allies to push further toward justice and equality, holding Clinton’s feet to the fire, calling her to account at every corner and every turn, and making it clear to her administration that they should not take their victory for granted, and that liberals and progressives should not fall into passivity simply because Trump had lost.

I was looking forward to reflecting on how far America has come; being conscious of where the country was, celebratory – but critical – of where it is, and optimistic about where it can go.

I can no longer look forward to any of these things because the outcome was not as I expected, and now I must recalibrate what I look forward to.

Words cannot be minced. We must not be charitable with how we describe the man or his campaign. Donald J. Trump was, is, and will likely be, an irreparable monster. His systematic denigration of ethnic, racial, and religious minorities, from Latinos to blacks to Muslims; his callous mockery of a disabled journalist; his blatant disregard for the integrity of democratic institutions; his venomous threats to prosecute his opponent and to target the media; his calls to rupture the global political order that has preserved important alliances, trade deals, and treaties and prevented a major catastrophe like another World War; his bold denial of the existential threat of climate change; his courting of autocratic leaders and his own embracing of fascistic tendencies; his borderline-treasonous  encouragement of a foreign power to meddle in domestic affairs; his demonization of  refugees fleeing a brutal war; his incitement against marginalized groups and his blithe dismissal of the subsequent violence happening in his name; and his documented and demonstrated history of business fraudulence, racist practices in the workplace, and sexual abuse; should all have sufficed as categorical disqualifications that clearly indicated not only his incapacity to govern, but his disgusting character as a human being. He was an indictment against himself, unfit, unqualified, and unprepared to lead.

And yet.

He is now the President-Elect, and if he is not impeached or removed from power through legal mechanisms, he will remain with us for at least another four years. The atmosphere he has created – or rather, revealed – may remain for decades to come, and if we are to respect democracy, this outcome must be accepted. Does this mean normalization of Trump? No, it absolutely does not. Respecting a peaceful transition of power and accepting democratic results does not preclude resisting against what is to come. Any homily that argues for preserving the institution of democracy should be coupled with the imperative call to action; the two are inseparable. We must now, at this critical moment in time, engage in a sobering reflection about where we are, and with a renewed impetus, recognize our responsibilities as citizens to push back against what is to come.

What that entail?

Before anything else, we need to understand how we got here.

Trump’s campaign has unleashed a cavalry of the most dangerous, menacing, and fringe elements of our society, and his tremendous display of hubris throughout has emboldened and empowered them to openly proclaim their virulently racist, supremacist ideologies. This cannot be overlooked and must be fought against. There are definitely those who deliberately voted for him because he enabled and normalized the racism they secretly espoused, but it is difficult to calculate statistically how many people voted for him because they possess a conscious or subconscious racism. But are all Trump supporters brazen racists and unfettered bigots? Likely not. They did however, find his messaging resonant enough to overlook these concerns and vote for a bigot, and we need to ask ourselves why.

As difficult as it may be for democrats, liberals, progressives, and leftists, they must accept that millions of Americans, particularly rural and working class whites, who may lack a college education and are employed in industries that are on the decline because jobs have been moved overseas; who may work in farms and factories in the Rust Belt and in the Midwest, where they may not have benefited from the fruits of globalization; who may live under poor conditions in the South, deprived of opportunities for economic advancement; all truly believed that Trump was the best candidate to run this country because they felt that he would provide the safety, security, and economic mobility that liberal elites have failed to. We will have to recognize these legitimate concerns without accepting the illegitimate bigotry and ‘otherization’ that may sometimes be attached to them.

Donald Trump has tapped into a dark underbelly of America; an underbelly that polite society in our country often pretends does not exist, because the reality of confronting it is too burdensome or shameful to bear. He has now removed that veil and laid bare the reality that is America. As a society we will have to have some frank, open conversations about the causes and consequences of the “Trump phenomenon.” This necessitates stepping out of our insulated friend circles and social media bubbles that reinforce what we already believe and grant us the delusion of having a diverse audience. Let us express our concerns but also be willing to hear out the concerns of those who differ from us.

And herein lies the challenge: demarcating the fine line between acknowledging concerns of ‘the other side’ and normalization of Trump.

And thus, at every step will make it unequivocally clear that we will not allow bigotry to become normalized; make it clear that even when we are not surprised by what Donald Trump says, that we will still remain outraged; make it clear that we will not flinch for a second when we are asked to stand up to the powerful forces of bigotry, hatred, racism, and oppression. We will do what we must, using every mechanism and means at our disposal, to confront these various threats, and we will not be fooled by fleeting, ephemeral semblances of normalcy, as if this man did not gain ascendance with an unprecedented disregard for societal and institutional norms.

With a renewed sense of urgency, we will push for more just laws, organize protests and teach-ins, build cross-community coalitions, attend town hall meetings, create petitions, lobby local, state, and federal lawmakers, and continue to build our power through education, empowerment, and organizing.

And to this, I look forward.

I look forward to organizing locally with a strengthened resolve, among family, friends, and community, to build power that will defend the weak, the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the targeted.

I look forward to using my positions of privilege to amplify the voices of those who may not have access to the same platform as me. I will offer my platform to them and I will stand as an ally to all oppressed individuals, communities, and people.

I look forward to fighting back against any and all harmful legislation that the Republican-controlled Congress attempts to pass, whether it be unlawful profiling and surveillance, the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, the evisceration of health insurance for millions of people, the loosening of gun restriction laws, and more.

I look forward to supporting organizations and institutions working to make the world a better place. I look forward to reading, writing, educating, and sharing whatever knowledge I have that will contribute to making the world a better place.

I look forward to punctuating my mark in history by fighting and resisting against all forms of oppression with every fiber of my being.

Count me as part of The Resistance.

I look forward to it.

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