November Ninth: On Moving Forward

By Daniel Udell

In the wake of recent events, I feel the need to be candid, and in doing so it’s likely that some things I say will upset some people. They might disagree, as is their right. I hope they speak up with conviction and a sense of clarity. I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but I need to call out the nature of the situation, as it appears clear to me. There are some glaring realities that people need to come to terms with; part of this historic upset is a result of disregarding reality because it was comfortable to do so. Now we’ve lost our right to be comfortable, and it’s going to take a lot to earn it back.

We are still united in our grief, but now we have to adjust to the new reality of simply being the States of America.

I think it is fair to say that the collective emotion following the election, other than the initial shock, has been grief. Grief comes from loss, and I’ve seen some people try to rationalize that grief as a reaction to losing an election or political cycle. That is a false characterization. People are grieving because something died in the early morning of November 9th, and it was ugly, and it was visceral, and it was for the whole world to see. There is no alternate story where this didn’t happen. Donald Trump will be the president. That said, he will not be the President of the United States. The United States is the loss that we grieve.

We are still united in our grief, but now we have to adjust to the new reality of simply being the States of America. We had a good run. 240 years is nothing to sneeze at. We accomplished great things, inspired the world to rethink the possible, and lived in one of the most prosperous times in recorded history in no small part because of the feats accomplished by the United States. But like any state, any empire, any republic, they’re finite. They end. Sometimes from external forces, sometimes from internal. Part of our grief is that we did it to ourselves, and we have no one to blame or to point the finger at. We are still Americans, but we are a shadow of what we once were, and the world watched as we fell with a final determined swoop.

As long as we’re being honest, we’re not particularly special in this; tyrants appear to be on the rise everywhere. To name a few, look to the Philippines, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and Russia—you will see similar crises, with good people striving to break the yoke of dictatorship and struggling to do so. While we’re at it, Israel is guilty of repressive regimes too; the illegal colonization of Palestinian land and subsequent brutalization of its people is to be held to the same standard as any other country. ISIS terrorizes the Middle East, in part due to our collective ignorance on matters of importance— namely, where our tax dollars go and why we fight wars. We’ve given a blank check for our government to do with as they wish overseas— now we’re worried because that blank check has been given to a sociopath who intends to do as he pleases at home rather than just abroad.

No, Donald, you’re not my president. You’re a president now, that much is true, congratulations. But you’re not the winner.

No, Donald, you’re not my president. You’re a president now, that much is true, congratulations. But you’re not the winner. Winners don’t need to cheat and lie and fear monger their way to power. That’s what bullies do, and bullies are losers afraid of being called out for what they are: pathetic and afraid. And you are pathetic, Donald. You are an ugly man with an ugly heart, and you have brought the wretched and ugly out with you. I say “ugly” because that is what this whole process of unveiling has been. To watch eight years of people crying wolf on President Obama being an unchecked dictator, one of the most graceful public servants in modern history forced to endure horrifying racism in the broad light of day, and then to see those same people beg and pine for an authoritarian idol like Trump, is the height of ugliness.

Watching my LBGTQ+ friends and family be disregarded as a matter of public opinion, rather than human beings with human rights, has been ugly. The blatant disregard for black lives and the willful urge to fight any attempt to address it has been ugly. The constant treatment of women as anything less than men, in ability or rights, has been beyond ugly. The manipulation of poor, disenfranchised, undereducated, and ill-informed Americans has been ugly. The constant drone of the for-profit national media machine providing the pedestal for Trump to reach as many ears as possible, regardless of the consequences and solely for the profits, has been ugly. The reaction to desperate refugees fleeing a war that we in part made worse has been ugly. To watch the DNC unveil itself as being just as corrupt as their sworn opponents, undermining one populist candidate in favor of another who they pompously imagined they could beat, was ugly. To watch the NRA, one of the most despicable organizations on the planet, one that literally profits off of terror and violence so blatantly that it could not even risk self-evaluation in the face of the mass murder of children at school, who prey on the fears of Americans and support a fascist for president; that is ugly. The unsustainable dynamic of an economic system that accepts the comfortable are entitled to their prosperity, regardless of the hopelessness, radicalization, and resentment it fosters, is ugly. And the constant undermining of our democracy, little by little, so subtle at times that to mention it tacitly was to elicit conspiratorial tones, has been ugly. So here it is. We’re left with a fractured, confused, hurt, and divided ex-country that must cope with the fact that we’ve given unchecked power to an unapologetic sociopath who has promised ruin on the world.

When I say unchecked, I mean unchecked. Congress is entirely red and radical, in part due to mass amounts of dark money funneled into extreme conservative candidates and weak liberal ones, alongside a disgusting degree of blatant voter suppression. The Supreme Court will be weighted with far right bias and political inclination, turning balanced justice into a farce. The FBI and NSA will be tools of vengeance at the whim of a fickle, vengeful man, and the executive branch will be populated by some of the most despicable people engaged in politics today. Dissent will be squashed, criticism vilified, and opposition deemed treason.

On top of all of this, Trump’s promises to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement and nullify all of the progressive work accomplished by President Obama literally places the world in greater danger, putting our allies at unease and our enemies in a state of awe as we unravel ourselves. 9/11 was the realization that we were not immune to attack and that we may have inspired aggression toward ourselves Trayvon Martin was the realization that justice was not just. And Trump is the realization that even our basic social institutions are fallible to demagoguery and blatant populism unseen since Nazi Germany.

It is an unacceptable situation, and I do not accept it. That does not change the facts, nor does that mean the solution is violence, although violence will surely come of this. This calls for civil disobedience on a mass scale, and a sincere commitment by all to make the world better from here on out. The world has seen crises before; it kept spinning. The world has seen empires fall; it kept spinning. It has seen revolutions, enlightenments, and leaps to the moon and back, and it kept on spinning. The world is fine. We are not. The situation is not good. Good will only come by our commitment to act in its image.

Good is being nice to your neighbor, regardless of religion, class, race, sexuality, or party. Good is encouraging excellence and accepting nothing less than the best from all. Good is speaking the truth, even when it may be politically dangerous or socially awkward. Good is checking on friends, allowing others to speak with open ears and an open heart. Good is civil disobedience in the name of justice and the name of peace.

The world has seen crises before; it kept spinning. The world has seen empires fall; it kept spinning. It has seen revolutions, enlightenments, and leaps to the moon and back, and it kept on spinning. The world is fine. We are not. The situation is not good. Good will only come by our commitment to act in its image.

I was inspired to become engaged in politics and, in part, the world by President Obama’s victory in 2008, and despite my deep qualms with many of his policies, he has continued to amaze me by the depths of his grace and the vastness of his patience and optimism. Who will Trump inspire? What will come of this once the smug satisfaction wears off and the buyer’s remorse settles in?

The inspiration from those who have faced dire adversity and fought regardless; we must not become so tied down by our want for happiness that we forget happiness is a privilege earned, not simply bought with distractions and escapism. It is okay to be unhappy, and it is okay to be grieving. It is not okay to accept the unacceptable, to compromise your values, or to accept defeat. The ramifications for defeat are absolute and will make the world a darker, scarier place. To continue the fight, despite the grief, is to continue carrying the torch even when all other lights seem to go out. Only through this can we find each other again and bring our wounds to heal.

We make our own history, just not under circumstances of our own choosing. That is our challenge, and it would be wrong to disregard that challenge as simply too difficult or too unimaginable. Even with setbacks, the work itself continues forward.

Take this time to consider what needs to be done, what you can do with the talents given to you, do to inspire good in others.