I’ve struggled to watch the news lately. My stomach turning at every tweet and retweet of our incoming President. I’m saddened by his fundamental misunderstanding of our foreign policy, and his flippant disregard for decades of diplomacy.
Like many women, I regard him as misogynist; however, I don’t so much think of him as racist – as misinformed. Profoundly disrespectful and careless with his words. I have no illusions that he will change when he takes the White House, but I have a small degree of hope that the selfish dedication of the political servants, diplomats and military; and the largess of the job of the Presidency will lessen his selfish ambition.
It is from this vantage point that I stood when my husband called and said, “Do you want to fly back to Virginia to the inauguration? I have been offered tickets.”
Now, for most of you out there the answer is probably easy. An easy yes or an easy no. Either you can stand on your pedestal and claim you would never go and support this new President. Sure, I get it. The view is pretty nice up there on the high road. Others of you, whether you voted or him or not, would jump at the idea of attending an inauguration. I wouldn’t fault you for that either. For many of us, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Me, I’m somewhere in the middle.
A few nights ago we watched the movie Selma. It was my first time watching the history of MLKs march between Selma and Montgomery. It’s a remarkable movie and I recommend it. The most interesting part was the relationship between Lyndon B Johnson and MLK. Before MLK walked on Selma, he approached LBJ more than a few times – pushing him towards the voting rights act. LBJ knew it was the right thing to do, but – as politics goes – had other priorities at the time. He also knew it would use up a large amount of political capital. So MLK took to the streets to protest. He raised awareness, and forced LBJ’s hand. A few years later, we had the voting rights act of 1965.
Now, I’m not going to claim that Trump and LBJ are similar. To start, LBJ was a progressive, and MLK and LBJ ultimately had similar visions for the country. They just didn’t agree on the methods and timeline by which it would be achieved. MLK didn’t simply protest. He sought to persuade the President to his vision; and when he couldn’t, he worked other means. Many of us do not share most of Trump’s vision for our country. However, I don’t believe that the solution is to simply protest, (or rant and rave on social media).
It is childish and ineffective to claim that Trump is not my President and to shake our fist at every move this government makes. This is our Government, and this high office deserves our respect, regardless of our vote. If we want change, we need to work with and through our government. I was reminded of this much last night. As our outgoing President said so eloquently in his last speech:
Our founders argued, they quarreled, and eventually they compromised. They expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity. The idea that, for all our outward differences, we’re all in this together, that we rise or fall as one….
Citizen. So, you see, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when you own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life.
Show up, dive in, stay at it. Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. Presuming a reservoir in goodness, that can be a risk. And there will be times when the process will disappoint you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been part of this one and to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire.
The central problem in Washington DC the last 15 years is the intransigence of its people. Many Americans (including myself) feel lost in a battle between extremes of the left and the right. And I – for one – will not contribute to that problem. I may not agree with most of what Trump says, but I do believe that most of the people who go to Washington to serve do so with some sort of honorable duty. They have a desire to help. If you haven’t heard of it, become familiar with an organization called No Labels (https://www.nolabels.org). They are doing their best to try to fix Washington’s problems, without partisanship. If you are frustrated, sign up. Learn about it. Be a constructive part of the solution.
So when my husband called and asked if I would go celebrate this incoming President, whom I did not vote for, and whose policies I generally do not support, I said yes. Yes because despite what I believe about him personally; I do believe that he wants what’s best for America. Yes because I believe in the Greatness in our Democratic Project. Yes because I believe we need to do a better job of understanding and not judging or assuming. And yes, because we all need to participate to move us forward.