America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.
Alexis de Tocqueville
It’s hard to say precisely the moment when America ceased being good. Some might even say she never was good–at least not wholly. Our country was built upon interracial warfare and slavery–against American natives, Africans, even the white poor.
To say any of that was ever good is shortsighted and misleading.
And yet, one can’t help but argue that America has always been great: a bastion of freedom, a new exploration of democracy on a scale that hadn’t been seen before, a righteous (but not self-righteous) country whose faith lay not in ethereal deities or divine mandates but upon the collective goodness of the people themselves. Yes, America hasn’t always met these ideals (if ever she has), but striving toward ideals is itself a a constant struggle and a constant celebration of the small victories along the way.
Yet now, amid political corruption and mass shootings, what victories remain?
Last week President Trump visited Milwaukee. In class that morning, one student said, “He’s not my president.” The timing wasn’t right to go into the nuances of that statement, to correct the fallacy that blindly believes saying “He’s not my president” excuses us of his wrongdoings (when we, the collective voting citizenry, put him there) but merely excuses his ignoring us, so my response to her was subtler.
“Whether we like him or not, he’s our president, and we should respect that.”
I refused to get religious. In fact, “refuse” is the wrong word: I keep my faith wrapped around my neck but not gurgling through my vocal cords, so I never genuinely talk about religion with my students. Perhaps, this time, I should have.
My feelings are strong, and mixed, and I’ve yet to fully process the significance of a Trump presidency and the impact it’ll have on me, my friends, my family, and my kids.
But no matter how long my mind whirs and spits out warnings and error messages, it doesn’t change the fact that tomorrow the 45th President of the United States will take office–and whether we love him, hate him, or ignore him, that fact cannot be changed.
There’s a heinous demonstration on campus today that asserts abortion is genocide and compares it to events like the Holocaust and the expulsion of Native Americans from their homelands. All of this, of course, is coupled with graphic images that are neither scientifically accurate nor representative of abortion.
So naturally, there are a number of students protesting the demonstration. No matter the motivation of the protestors, they accept the right of this other organization to free speech, but object to the way it delivers its message–a manner that’s so reprehensible I refuse to even mention their name.
This same group was on campus last year, and I protested against them. This year I’m unable to protest, but at least I can lend my support in other ways.
A month ago I said I was going to gather my inertia and never stop.
The truth is, if you’re not already moving, inertia only keeps you there. I thought inertia could be built, that a single voice could start a chorus, but the movement of one man cannot overcome the inertia of the universe–he cannot move communities or governments by himself. No one stood with me, and after a while, I sat down.
I want to move, I want to act, to change. But when inertia holds us back, when the very world seems to pin us in place, how do we begin?
My fiance and I are a binational couple and we’re entrenched in the process of obtaining a visa so he can come to the US (can you lend us your support?), but it’s a long process–mostly because of mismanagement (because if there’s any other reason why one USCIS service center can do the same job as the other in a tenth of the time, they haven’t told us what it is), so–me given the advocate I am–it seems an awesome place to start a movement.
I will no longer address you as my representative. In voting to override Governor McCrory’s veto of Senate Bill 2, making it legal for magistrates to deny to marry same-sex couples who have the right to marry in North Carolina, you have not only voted against the wish of thousands of North Carolinians, but blatantly voted against me.
I did not vote for you, but since you are now my senator, you are obliged not only to listen to me but to represent me. It would be easy to dismiss me because you won this race without my vote, so I would like to take a moment to remind you that you did not gain election through a majority, but merely a plurality. Indeed, because of this, please realize–and consider this deeply–that you now represent more than half of North Carolina who did not vote for you. Therefore, I would like to share with you where I stand on many of the issues I believe will be important during the next six years in which you are in office.