I woke up Wednesday morning to the news that Donald J. Drumpf will be the 45th President of the United States of America. This news is historic on so many levels. I can’t think of many good things that will come out of this Presidency. My thoughts follow:
NOTE: I’ve now had a full day to process this information and am still having trouble with the reality of the situation. This post has been written over the course of two days and may not even fully describe the potential threat to America Drumpf’s Presidency poses.
1. Drumpf’s Presidency legitimizes the worst in us
Throughout his campaign, this man has done everything he could to scare the living crap out of the American people, using phrases like “third-world country” and “war zone” to describe our infrastructure and cities. While this sensationalism is obviously false, and (for example) numerousreports – based on actual data over the past few decades – show that crime is down nationwide, the anxious, frightened voter base he’s garnered takes it as confirmation that they’re in real danger and cements the wrong-headed idea that our government has failed us. In short, he has bolstered intellectual laziness over honesty with the words, “Trust me.” And his voter base did. You don’t have to scour social media very thoroughly to find more examples than you want of expressions of these ideas.
As egregious as Donald Drumpf’s missteps in this election have been, few people have really drawn any real attention to the following fact: Mike Pence is worse. Sure, Drumpf may be the one spouting all of his nonsense, inciting fear and hatred, and generally being a bigoted asshat but Mike Pence is still his Vice Presidential running mate who waves away, justifies, or adopts Drumpf’s harmful rhetoric. It’s one thing to “just be yourself” and be an outwardly awful person but another thing entirely to pretend to be a man of principle while refusing to take a stand and distance yourself from the awful person. You’ve always heard that you’re judged by the company you keep and, in this case, Pence is an awful person.
Pence has had ample opportunity to stand on American values and make what would be an enormously historic statement in American politics by simply saying, “I cannot in good conscience back a man who would undermine American democracy with abandon” and formally remove himself as Drumpf’s running mate. Think of how Pence would be remembered for decades – maybe centuries – just by making a single gesture of patriotism and moral fortitude! He could be one of the most famous politicians of all time!
On Friday, October 7, 2016 the Washington Post released audio of Donald Drumpf on an open mic bragging to Billy Bush about his rich, white privilege in relation to his sexual behavior toward women. Drumpf said that he could grope and kiss women whenever he wanted because when you’re famous “they’ll let you do anything.” The release of this recording fueled a national debate on social media and television in what seemed to me a surreal division of people who thought it was “no big deal” and those who were deeply troubled by it. I fall into the latter category, not because I’m offended by words but because I look at the bigger picture and evaluate the environment in which this occurred.
If this were simply about words I would most likely say, “Well, that’s not very Presidential. It seems to me that someone running for office should conduct him/herself in a more professional, adult manner.” I would then move on and worry about actual issues that will affect the country, both short- and long-term. As previously stated, though, this isn’t about words.
With violence erupting anew and the controversy over bans on Muslim immigrants and terrorism, I feel it’s important to comment on the state of things and a fundamental misunderstanding of terrorism on the part of our elected officials. To whit:
Terrorism isn’t a person. It isn’t even a people. It’s an ideal.
This is where things get sticky. Our government officials have stated that we will “defeat terrorism” and that we’re already doing a pretty decent job of it. But what’s the measure being used? How can you tell how many people – ordinary, disenchanted, naturalized citizens of the country – are being influenced by this ideal and how they’re responding to our attacks on a vague notion of the “perversion of the religion of Islam?” The answer is, you cannot. To prove that, look at the recent attack in Orlando where, at what seemed to be the last minute in a seemingly uninformed statement by the killer, a natural-born United States citizen pledged allegiance to ISIS and murdered 49 people. He’s not alone.
If I could summarize this post in one sentence it would be this:
Your personal beliefs are not what’s good for the country.
Let me clarify. A belief system is personal, subjective, and evolving. The things you believe aren’t necessarily the things your neighbor believes. Often, the things you believe aren’t the same as the person sitting next to you in your church, mosque, temple, or support group. You may feel strongly about a topic or issue but it would be incredibly arrogant for you to assume that everyone else does – or should. When you hold a personal belief it’s virtuous for you to live your life according to that belief but it’s evil for you to try to force others to do the same, regardless of your intentions.
a feeling of being sure that someone or something exists or that something is true
a feeling that something is good, right, or valuable
a feeling of trust in the worth or ability of someone
Notice the word “feeling” used in all of these definitions? Feelings are personal and cannot be objectively shared across an entire population. Your feelings are fine when they stay inside of your personal bubble but you should not attempt to extend that bubble to other people – especially when they don’t want to be inside your bubble, no matter how safe and warm you think it is.
Your beliefs are formed by your personal experiences in life (or opinions you’ve adopted from other people with or without justification), which shape your feelings about the things you encounter. It’s easy to see that other people have lived different lives with different backgrounds, different family dynamics, and different experiences than you. Knowing that, why is it so hard to see that your beliefs don’t apply to them? It doesn’t matter that you feel your beliefs are correct and it doesn’t matter whether you think your beliefs make sense. There will always be someone out there who disagrees because they’ve formed their own (often incompatible) beliefs on their own life experiences and most likely feel that theirs are correct and make sense.
The things you believe now aren’t the same as the things you believed when you were five years old or 15 years old because you’ve matured and learned more about how the world works since then. 15 years from now it’s entirely possible that your belief system will have changed – sometimes in drastic ways.
Your vote doesn’t just affect you. Think about that when you think about voting. If your primary concern is which candidate shares more of your personal beliefs than the other, you’re using the wrong criteria for your decision. You should be worried about which of the candidate’s beliefs are going to make it into his or her policy and how that policy will affect the citizens (not just the religious ones) of this country and people around the world.
I haven’t weighed in on the Cranston prayer banner ordeal yet, but I’d like to take a moment to recognize this young lady as a true patriot and an American hero. Jessica Ahlquist took a stand, not for her beliefs, but for the beliefs of every person in this country against an overwhelming tide of ignorance and hatred. She saw a divisive, sectarian prayer hung in a public school and asked that it be removed so that students and educators of all faiths (or none) could feel equally represented and respected. Jessica knew that this country was not founded on Christian principles but a desire to get away from an oppressive religious regime and allow everyone the freedom to choose what and how they’ll worship. Jessica knows this. Christians do not.
The Wayward Willis will be participating in the biggest online strike in history. The SOPA & PIPA strike includes sites like Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, and many others. We cannot let Congress take away our freedom of speech and our right to privacy! Join The Wayward Willis and many other sites in an all-Internet blackout tomorrow, Jan. 18.