Conflict, Complacency, and a Nation Divided

Trump

So, the election happened. That’s not breaking news at this point, but it’s taken me several days to figure out what I wanted to say, or if I wanted to say anything at all. Hate is flowing like a river out of Democrats and Republicans alike, and I wondered if it might be a better choice to bite my tongue on this particular subject. However, given how much I have already talked about Mr. Trump, I feel that it is only fair that I respond to the results of our election.

Not My President

#NotMyPresident. It’s a phrase that has floated around the internet for a few days now, receiving both praise and criticism from all sides of the political spectrum. For many of the people who are protesting the election results, the phrase is true; Donald Trump is not their president. Given his comments about African-Americans, women, Muslims, immigrants, and other groups, it isn’t hard to see why members of these minority groups would not see Donald as a man who represents their beliefs and interests as a leader should. When they think of the president – the person who represents the ideals and morals of the American people – they do not see Donald Trump, and that is understandable. That is fine.

Taking that into consideration, there is one thing we all have to realize. He is still our president. This is not the first time there has been a president that doesn’t represent the entire American population (look at all of the Obama critics), and it won’t be the last time either, but the fact of the matter is that Donald Trump won the election fair and square with the system we currently have in place. He lost the popular vote, but he earned the 270 electoral votes needed to enter the White House, and that is that. We can’t waste time on the what ifs and the maybes. It doesn’t matter what would have happened if we used the popular vote instead, or if the electoral college could still vote to put Hillary in the White House instead. Trump won, and we have to accept that.

No Change of Heart Here

That being said, my opinion of Donald Trump hasn’t changed. I think he is a narcissistic sociopath who takes advantage of people for his own gain with no regard for the consequences of his actions. He is a man who thinks he can treat women however he pleases because he is rich. He is a man who will vilify minorities either because it helps his political motives or because he genuinely believes that all (insert minority group here) are evil and must be stopped. He is a man who is content to tell comforting lies to those who support him without ever revealing any substantial proof of his claims. Based on his words and actions, Donald Trump isn’t even fit to be the manager of a McDonald’s, much less the leader of the world’s most powerful nation. I want to say that now, while I still have my free speech.

So if I still think Trump is awful, why am I not out there protesting the election and calling for a revolution? Well, much like building a massive border wall or banning all Muslims from entering the country or even pulling back manufacturing jobs from overseas, those actions would have negative consequences. Even if I succeeded in my goal and Donald Trump was barred from entering the White House, those who supported him would be left feeling angry and cheated. When Donald Trump claimed that the election was rigged, there were plenty of supporters who were ready to follow him into a political revolution, and that is the last thing we need, regardless of who won. Now, more than ever, we need to be Americans.

Being American

Protesting Trump’s win isn’t going to do much in the end. If anything, it just gives Conservatives more opportunities to feel superior to Liberals since they “don’t waste their time with dumb protests”. We need Donald Trump to be a successful and capable leader. Wishing for anything else would be similar to hoping that the pilot of the plane you’re on crashes. He may crash and burn, but so will you; it’s a lose-lose situation. We do need to come together as Americans to promote peace, but we do not have to promote complacency.

I never really used the word “complacent” before this election, but it has proven to be quite useful this year. Many Trump supporters feel compelled to proclaim that “not all of them are racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, etc.” and that’s true. There are plenty of people who voted for Trump just because he’s a Republican, or because he’s pro-Life, or because he has vowed to bring back jobs to America. These people didn’t vote for Trump because of his hatred; they voted for him despite his hatred. They were willing to overlook things like racism and sexism – usually because it wouldn’t affect them – as long as Trump delivered on his other promises. They were complacent.

Democrats are guilty of the same behavior. Supporters of progressives like Bernie Sanders are quick to say how much the world needs to change, but far fewer of them are actually out there changing the world. I’m guilty of it too; I say all of these idealistic things in my writing, but there are many days where I get too distracted by work or school or college applications to worry about practicing what I preach.

America has a history of complacency. We looked the other way on slavery because it was convenient to have free labor. We ignored the problems with segregation because it was convenient for whites to “just not think about it” and go on with their lives. History classes spend hours discussing the Holocaust, but often glaze over the Japanese internment camps that appeared in America during World War II. It is easier to look away from our own faults, and we continue to do so today. It is easier to say that “racism and sexism are things of the past” than it is to address the fact that we may be contributing to a society that undervalues minorities. It is easier to say “we should bring back manufacturing so I can get my job back” than it is to look at the economic problems that would follow. Perhaps the most alarming is how much easier it is to say “climate change is a hoax” than it is to actively restrict pollution and invest in cleaner energy sources. Discrimination and economic problems may not affect everyone, but no one wins if we destroy the only planet we can call home.

Being Great

When Donald Trump vows to “make America great again”, what does he mean? What era of American greatness are we returning to? Each and every American has their own answer to this question, but to me, America’s greatness stems from the willingness of the American people to stand up for what is right, no matter the odds. We stood up against the British mistreatment of colonists even when it seemed that we had no hope of winning the war. We stood up against the inhumane practice of slavery, even though it cut into the profits of the elite and threatened to destroy the Union. We have stood firm against oppressive communist regimes and terrorist groups alike, all because we as Americans believe that all men and women are created equal and free and should be treated as such.

Even when men like Donald Trump cause me to question America’s character, I still hold on to my faith in this country. We have come too far and fought too hard to allow ourselves to succumb to division and hatred. We are Americans, and frankly, we have a proud tradition of being awesome. We build skyscrapers. We invent cool technology. We shoot off fireworks and eat burgers and drink Polar Pops because this is America and we have the freedom to do so. We strive for perfection even when we know that it is impossible because we’re stubborn and we’re proud of it. America is not perfect, but we’ll never stop working towards perfection.

America is at its greatest when we unite to achieve a common goal. If we can leave all of the negativity of this year’s election behind us and focus on the road ahead, America can achieve more than ever before. We can rid our country of discrimination and hatred to finally become the true land of the free, and we can invent cleaner, cheaper, and more efficient sources of energy to power the world of tomorrow. We can create a stronger, more robust economy, and we can work to improve healthcare for everyone and rid this country of disease and suffering. We can make America great again, or we can go the extra mile and make it greater than it has ever been. I’m in favor of the latter.

No Brakes

Doing the impossible isn’t new to America. It was supposed to be impossible to walk on the moon, but we decided we wanted to do it anyway. We put together a team of people, and those people worked together to ensure that three men could climb into a giant metal pencil that could shoot enough fire to get them all the way to the moon and back. That sounds impossible, but we did it nonetheless. Now, it’s time for us to step our game up. Just like that team at NASA did all those years ago, we have to work together to achieve the impossible. We can’t just argue and wait on the government to “fix” America, we have to do it ourselves. We all have to be a part of it. We have to be the change we want to see in the world, even if it’s just the little things like picking up garbage from the street or donating that extra $5 to charity to help the less fortunate. Things like that start a snowball effect, and before you know it we’re all working together to end poverty and combat climate change by creating cars that run on solar power and freedom. It sounds ridiculous, but if anyone can do it, we can.

It doesn’t matter who is in the White House. It doesn’t matter who controls Congress. It only matters what we, as the people of the United States, decide to do with our time. I believe that America can achieve progress, and if Donald Trump wants to lead that charge, I’m willing to set aside our differences and give him my full support. Even if he doesn’t want anything to do with that progress, that’s fine too; we’ll just do it ourselves. This is America, and if anyone can change the world, it’s us.

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