What happened this week was a tragedy. A catastrophe. The worst of all possible worlds. It was a betrayal of everything that makes America worth fighting for and struck a serious blow against all of us idiots who think that people are generally good.
It absolutely was an unprecedented ‘white lash’, a reaction against a nebulous other, as Van Jones put it, but it was also tragically normal. This is on brand for America. America has always been a racist and sexist society, it was just less shy about showing it this year.
This is the thing that we absolutely must come to terms with — racism and sexism are baked into our democracy. These structures aren’t aberrations, they’re a part of who we are. The idea of a post-racist society that smug liberals pushed in the ’90s and ’00s may be one of the most damaging ideas to ever pervade the public discourse.
Fewer people voted for Donald Trump than for Mitt Romney. There was no surge of white resentment — this is the white resentment that was always there. That’s not to say that there was nothing new about this election — there absolutely was — just that it’s not some rising tide of xenophobic anger. He just tipped over the stump to reveal the crawling morass that has been festering there for decades.
The terrible truth that we must confront is that Donald Trump is fundamentally American. Brash, uncouth, confident, wealthy above all else, obsessed with status and victory. This is a nation that has erected impregnable myths like manifest destiny and American exceptionalism, that has spent the last three hundred years convincing itself and others that it is a ‘shining beacon on a hill’, that there is something uniquely perfect about our country. We have been telling our children for decades that America is the best, that it has never lost (and can, in fact, only win), and that whatever it does is right. Is it so strange that we should elect a man who shares those delusions?
Those who are shocked and saddened by this election need to recognize that this is the same enemy that we have always been facing, the same insidious rot that has infested the foundation of this country since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
So spend the time you need to mourn. Drink to forget. Hug your loved ones. Unplug. Care for yourself, first and foremost.
Then get ready to fight.
It is entirely possible that Donald Trump will prove to be a completely ineffectual president, even with a united congress behind him. History has proven that a government at rest tends to stay at rest.
But that is a best case scenario. The worst case is far darker. Minorities are already facing brazen attacks from emboldened bigots. The KKK is seeing a resurgence. Hatred has been given new license in America.
I stayed quiet for a long time because I didn’t think I had anything to add to the political discourse. So many words were being spewed out into the aether that I felt like it would be the height of hubris to think that mine would be heard or noticed. I still feel that way, somewhat, but I can’t stay quiet anymore.
If, like me, you’re in a position of privilege, you will be needed in the coming years to provide support to those who are not. If, like me, you aren’t going to be targeted by bigots and racists, you will be needed to act as a shield for those who will. If, like me, you are likely to survive the coming storm, then you need to work harder to be there for those who might not. If, like me, you’ve become complacent and assumed that everything would work out for the best without your input, now is the time to change that.
It’s hard to feel anything but dejection and defeat at a moment like this, but this is the moment where we have a chance to decide what our future will be like. Do we roll over and succumb to the forces that will burn our planet and put us in chains, or do we rise up and fight?
Mid-term elections are in two years. Another presidential election in four. There are state offices to fill, ballot measures to consider. Humans are political animals, and it’s time that we all acted like it. We need to dig deep and find people to replace the ailing, inept, incompetent bureaucrats who handed the reins of power to Donald Trump.
What’s more, we need to try to fix the problems that put him in a position to grab those reins in the first place. Democrats used to be the party of working people, and they can be again. It’s time to address income inequality and underemployment. It’s time to deal with the looming healthcare crisis. It’s time to help those that are most vulnerable in our society.
That doesn’t mean abandoning our core values. It’s also crucial that we start addressing climate change. We have to continue the fight for social justice and equality. We need to advocate harder than ever before for the rights of women and minorities.
It doesn’t have to be one or the other. We can do all of this at once. Some of Donald Trump’s voters are unreachable. To hell with them. We only need to reach a significant fraction to turn the country around.
So, when you’re ready, wipe away your tears, pull on your boots, and let’s fight this together. This is our day of reckoning. We may not be able to stop what’s coming, but we owe it to ourselves and future generations to truly try.
Don’t forget the way you’re feeling in this moment. Don’t let Donald Trump become normalized. Don’t let this anger fade. Hold on to it. Use it.
Let’s save the world.