I’ve been thinking a lot about democracy and what it means to be an American. Being American means a lot of things to a lot of people. For a lot of years I felt like a second class citizen but, compared to other countries, I knew I had it made. I have the freedom to vote. While I might get bombarded with other people’s opinions on who to vote for I’ve never felt pressure to vote a certain way like my life depended on it. I have the freedom to voice my opinion without fear of reprisal. I have the freedom to attend whichever religious institute I feel or to spend my Sunday morning in bed. I have access to healthcare and running water and I don’t have to wait in line for hours at the grocery store and hope that there is food on the shelves and that I have enough money to buy a loaf of bread. There are still days I feel like a second class citizen, especially when I think about how I can be fired for being gay and how I can’t donate blood unless I am celibate for a year. There are a lot of labels I wear and American is one of them.
I’m thinking about what it means to be an American because Donald Trump becomes our 45th president at noon. I said our because, like him or loathe him, as an American citizen he becomes my president. He becomes your president. He becomes our president.
A lot of people are in shock that he’ll be inaugurated later today. There’s a lot of division in America. A lot of hurt feelings because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but Donald Trump won the electoral vote. As an American, as much as I hate it, I have to accept that’s how our democracy is set up. Donald Trump will become our next president.
One of the cornerstones of our democracy is the peaceful transition of power. I look at today’s ceremony where President Obama will meet Trump and the two of them will travel together to the Capital Building and compare it to what is happening in the Gambia where the newly elected president cannot take office because the former president refuses to yield. Troops from neighboring countries have mobilized to ensure democracy stands there.
Let me be clear. I accept the fact that Donald Trump is about to become the 45th president but I don’t approve of him. I don’t approve of him but roughly 62 million of my fellow Americans did. The margin of Clinton votes versus Trump votes was only roughly 3 million. It was too close to call in many states including here in Michigan on Election Night. I accept him as my president so I can better keep an eye on him. He has said worrisome things on the campaign trail. He has made worrisome actions with his choice of staff members and Cabinet nominations. He’s my president and it’s my job to watch him and resist him when necessary.
But my mind still goes to those 62 million people that voted for Donald Trump. I refuse to believe that they are all racist, bigoted, misogynistic people. Donald Trump sparked something within them that Hillary Clinton did not. Is it naive to believe in compromise? I don’t want the next 4 years to be us versus them. Can I make sure that the progress we’ve made stands while acknowledging the concerns of the 62 million that voted for Trump?
As an American all I can do is watch and wait and use my voice to speak out against injustice of all sorts. I can protest in the street and bombard my senators and representatives with phone calls and emails expressing how I feel.
I wish President Trump well. I really do. Because if he fails then we all fail. I figured it out this morning. I’ve lived through 6 presidents and Trump will be the 7th. We were able to survive then and I choose to have faith we’ll survive now.