“When they go low, we go high.”—Michelle Obama
I was born in Soviet Union Moscow. My father, a Georgian and a firm subscriber to the Dream since he was old enough to identify America on a map, spent his entire young life trying to escape the USSR. He endured poverty, starvation and the degradation and genocide of his people to bring my brother and me to America, Land Of The Free, Home Of The Brave.
So last night, when America elected a xenophobic, misogynistic failed businessman as President, I cried. I cried because our new Commander-in-Chief legitimately believes his fame grants him prerogative to “grab” a woman “by the pussy.” Who openly belittled the parents of a slain Muslim-American soldier and disparaged John McCain for his POW captivity in North Vietnam. Who openly seeks to ban entire religious groups from entering the country, describes climate change as a hoax and is openly endorsed by the KKK.
Like many, I woke up today with an almost indescribable, soul-crushing feeling of dread. Irrefutably, the country has changed. America?—?not just as a nation, but as a bold experiment in democracy?—?has suffered a severe blow.
In a moment fraught with disbelief and despair, how do we move forward?
1. If you must cry, cry.
I cried at the thought of President Obama, handing the presidency over to a man who has been attempting to undermine his legitimacy as President and citizen for the past five years.
I cried for women, for people of color, for Muslims, for the LGBTQ community, for the Earth. I cried for America, and for what it has become.
I cried because the Democratic Party, in its failure to transform the policy gains of Obama’s last eight years into an enduring voting coalition, failed us.
Because Hillary Clinton, in her failure to target Industrial-era working-class white voters during her campaign, failed us.
Because the media, instead of hammering home Trump’s lengthy history of lies and inexperience, piloted him into late-night comedy show fodder and focused endlessly on a fruitless investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Because we, the liberals who take to social media to complain and tweet and post Facebook updates, never made a good case. In treating Trump like an obvious loser, in assuming he would inevitably self-destruct, we signed our own death warrant.
And that’s the point, isn’t it? We (and by “we” I mean “me and everyone else who didn’t actively, pro-actively, bust their asses for Hillary”) thought we’d be fine.
So cry today. Take to social media and indulge in your online meltdown, but then snap the fuck out of it. Trump got fewer votes winning than Romney and McCain did losing. What does this say? This is less of a Republican backlash and more of a Democratic failure to follow through.
2. Be vigilant.
President Obama made a plea for national unity this morning. President Elect Trump did, too.
“To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say, it is time for us to come together as one united people,” Trump said in his victory speech, one he introduced by walking onstage to the “Air Force One” theme song. You can’t make this shit up.
But despite all the well-meaning support-one-another, kumbaya messages flooding our social media feeds this morning, the fact remains: One half of this great country chose to elect a man who has attacked basic human rights, threatening the safety and freedom of the other half.
Solidarity rhetoric will only get us so far. Rather than focusing on what is now a dream of unity, now is the time to be vigilant in our defense of basic human and civil rights, through any and all peaceful and legal avenues.
3. Throw yourself into active participation.
Now is the time to use our freedom of speech to its fullest capacity. For principled and self-aware journalism that checks facts and acknowledges biases. Now is the time for peaceful protest, for legal advocacy, for voting during midterms. For contacting politicians and staying informed on a local scale. For donating to organizations that need our support. For teaching our children about the meaning of democracy and the importance of standing by their Muslim, gay, African-American, and every other non-white, non-cisgender, non-hetero friend.
It is our duty and responsibility to protect our citizens?—?through viable action instead of mere social media outrage. Let us donate our time, our money, our beautiful brains and words and art to those who may be more terrified even than you or me.
Now is the time for active participation on a type of scale we as a generation and as Americans have not engaged in since the Civil Rights movement.
Let us be furious and afraid, but let us harness those powerful emotions. Let us fight. Let us not forget that periods of great social progress have historically been followed by periods of great regression. The Civil Rights movement was a triumph…and then Nixon was elected.
Now we’ve got a new Nixon, but there are four years until the next election. Four years to invigorate and empower our children, our friends, our local communities, our cities, our states, our nation. Four years to practice instead of just preach.