This Friday, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. As painful as that sentence was to read, I can assure you it was at least equally painful for me to write it. We’ve had two short months to get ready for that day, though most of that was spent retreating into the comforting ritual of the holidays. (At least, it was for me.) But this Friday, President Trump stops being a thing that we dread and hope against hope will never happen; unless something extraordinary happens, it will be our new reality. Beginning with the Inauguration, though, we can make our voices loud and clear that all of the forces that brought Trump into power — and all of the things those powers stand for — will never be our new normal.
I’m not ashamed to admit I cried hard on Election Night when it became clear that Hillary Clinton would not become our nation’s first female President. I was shocked that so many people could vote for a man so openly hateful and incompetent, so unprepared for the enormous job he was applying for, so willing to advocate bullying and violence against people who disagreed with him. I realize that Trump didn’t win the popular vote — the certified totals have Clinton besting Trump by 2.9 million — but that doesn’t change the fact that 60 million of my fellow Americans saw Trump’s statements, behaviors, and beliefs over the past 18 months and still thought he was the best choice for President. That is far too many.
Since then, the shock and sense of doom keeps coming in waves that are spaced further and further apart. My anxiety about the future has been sharpened and focused into action; I have donated to the organizations that stand for what I believe in and will fight against the Trumpist influence in our politics, and I will keep speaking out against every bigoted act, every display of incompetence, every maneuver that disenfranchises the poor and vulnerable further. I will not tolerate terrible things done to powerless people in the name of American democracy, and I refuse to normalize the blatant lying, subterfuge and intimidation that Trump has made part of the fabric of our country, that so many voters wanted to install.
At the same time, we must remember not only what we’re fighting against, but what we’re fighting for. Many Trump supporters claim that because I’m a liberal I must hate this country and that I don’t make up the “real America”. A common refrain after the election was “If we take California out of the equation, Trump would have won the popular vote”. People who support Trump — and every horrible thing he’s about to do — claim that because I live on the coast I’m out of touch with what America is really about.
But I’m not. I’ve lived in inner-city Baltimore. I’ve lived at a tiny liberal-arts college next to a Navy base in southern Maryland. I’ve lived in small-town Arkansas, where Wal-Mart was born. I know what it’s like to live in “real America”. I’ve been afraid to be open about who I love; I’ve been called a “nigger”; I’ve been exposed to more subtle and insidious forms of racism too. I chose to live in a place that takes so many different people, from so many different backgrounds, cultures, races and nationalities, and blends them together in a functioning and caring society. Don’t get me wrong — California has its share of problems, too. But I’ve seen what it’s like all across the country, and there is no place I’d rather be than right here.
Many Trump supporters mistake being “out of touch” with being fed up with the small-mindedness and hypocrisy that could lead someone to believe such a ridiculous thing. “Real” America isn’t the gauzy, inaccurate view of some golden era that never was. And it isn’t the white supremacy that Trump and his allies aim to restore. Real America is you and me. It is California, and Arkansas, and Maryland — it is what made it possible for me to go from sea to shining sea to find the man that I love.
The America I’m fighting for is one that recognizes and celebrates our differences. The America I fight for is a country that leaves no one — even poor rural whites who would like me to simply cease existing — behind. The America I fight for is one in which love, in all its forms, is something to be celebrated and not made illegal or discriminated against. The promise of this country is that no matter who we are, we can be who we truly are and find happiness in that. We are a patchwork of identities, a microcosm of the world, an example of what the entire human race can achieve when we embrace our individuality and use that to lift up ourselves, our communities, and our whole species.
We can be smart, kind, wildly different, responsible, open and grounded. We can choose the traditions of our forefathers or we can blaze our own trails. We can be a people without limits. But we can’t do that if we allow a two-bit idiot to appeal to our worst impulses because it’s easier than doing the hard work necessary to overcome our challenges. We can’t do that if we allow those in power to stick our heads in the sand for us so they can reach into our pockets and rob us blind. We can’t do that if we allow these injustices to continue without speaking up, loudly and ceaselessly, that we are going in the wrong direction.
On Friday, I will be open about my shame that we as a country have allowed this to happen. I will also be open about my disdain and rejection of the status quo his administration will try to usher in. I will fight for the real America, the one without limits, and I invite you to use this inauguration as an opportunity to stand up and do the same.