The good news following the 2016 election is that the sky is not falling. At least one acquaintance firmly believed when Obama became the 44th President the country was going to collapse. It did not happen. This acquaintance hated Obama so much he could not look at the situation objectively. He was an avid birther. He sold assets and hunkered down as the end drew nigh.
Fast-forward eight years and the country did not crumble, although my acquaintance continued to believe in the inevitability of the country’s demise – until Tuesday’s election. Now he is breathing a sigh of relief as his hero, his savior and a man I cannot respect, prepares to take the oath of office as the 45th President of the United States.
I hope my faith in our democracy trumps my fears for the country’s future.
Trump’s bombastic rhetoric was a negative one playing on people’s suspicions and hatred of the ‘other’. Traditionally our politicians’ messages have been upbeat. Sure we have problems, but we faced adversity before, defeated our demons, the result a better nation.
The months Trump spent manipulating seeds of hatred energized previously marginalized individuals and groups espousing extreme hate-filled ideas. His ascendancy corroborates their view that they have a right not only to hate, but also to act on their beliefs. Trump’s candidacy gave David Duke, ex-KKK leader, white supremacist, Holocaust denier and anti-Semite, the impetus and legitimacy to run for a Senate seat from Louisiana. Duke lost badly, but his hateful speech spewed forth for weeks. In the long run that may be the scariest scenario facing our nation.
America’s long march towards liberty and justice for all has been a rocky one. The country enslaved blacks until the middle of the 19th century. Following the Civil War negative forces unleashed white-robed goons intent on terrifying and killing. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act ended Chinese immigration for ten years and forbade Chinese immigrants in the U.S. from gaining citizenship. The law, renewed in 1902, was abolished in 1943.
The American government confined Indians to reservations beginning in 1830.
The Quota Act of 1921 limited the number of immigrants from each country. In 1922 Japanese were declared ineligible for citizenship. The U.S. placed individuals of Japanese ancestry (living on the West Coast) in internment camps during World War II. (The 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act eliminated race as a restriction for immigration.)
Our country’s march towards liberty and justice for all may be sharply curtailed under a Trump Presidency and Republican Congress. Time will tell what happens, but it will be difficult stuffing the hateful forces unleashed over the past year and a half back in the bottle anytime soon.
I would not feel bad if proved wrong and Trump changes his persona (something he has done in the past) and attempts to unify a deeply divided constituency. The man is 70 years old. Can he transform himself? Does he want to change? Or is Trump a relic of a mythic past America he (and his supporters) desire a return to?
I will end on a note of future optimism. A post on Facebook by a group of high school kids said something like, ‘Trump can build a wall, but we will tear it down.’ I don’t doubt that the younger generation will exert its influence when their time comes. I have hope for them and our country’s future.