Donald Trump is my president. I oppose his views on trade, healthcare, global warming and immigration. I think that the rhetoric he used throughout the presidential campaign was blatantly racist, misogynistic and xenophobic. His comments about women’s’ bodies and admissions of sexual assault sicken me. But he is my president.
In these weeks after Trump’s election, a rallying cry for those who oppose his policies and rhetoric has been “Not My President.” At the rallies and marches I have attended in Portland, that chant has always been the loudest and most often repeated. I feel tempted to join in every time it is yelled. The idea that Donald Trump is not a legitimate president, that he is not my leader, that I can divorce myself completely from any connection to the hatred he represents is comforting. It is also wrong.
There was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in this election or any other method used by the Trump campaign to rig the outcome. Trump played by the rules and won fair and square according to our electoral system. I may think that this system is outdated and ineffective, but both candidates agreed to adhere to its rules when they ran for president. We all agreed to adhere to its rules when we voted.
That does not mean that we should accept Trump’s presidency and let him carry out his policy goals. In fact it means the opposite. It means taking responsibility for our participation in a country and in a system that let Trump gain the office of president. Being an American means accepting that the racism and fear and hatred that Trump took advantage of is a part of us too. Because we are part of the collective whole of the country.
I strongly believe in the values that define America: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I also believe that much of the history of our country has been a story of falling short of those ideals. Slavery, colonialism, the constant discrimination against immigrants that has plagued our country before it was even founded and the genocide of the Native American people are all reflected in our lives and our country today. In many ways Trump’s election reflects the worst aspects of our country and shows how far from our stated values we can fall. But now is not the time to give up on them. Now is the time to fight back against the corruption of our ideals and to work to change the system. Our system of government and our country as a whole is far from perfect, but the truth is that it will never achieve perfection. There will always be more work to do because equality is not something that can be achieved and is then permanent. It is a constant struggle that needs to be affirmed.
I strongly encourage everyone who is now upset about Trump’s presidency to take concrete action on the values they stand for. Going out and protesting is a good start, and is something that we need to continue to do in order to show that we will not sit down and accept Trump’s anti-civil rights policies. It is also important to organize ourselves locally and lobby our government representatives with letters and phone calls. They are in the best position to oppose Trump’s policies from within the government. When he is inaugurated and begins trying to get his legislation passed we need to motivate our congressional representatives to oppose it. Finally, we need to volunteer our time and energy to organizations that uphold the rights of women, immigrants, people of color and Muslims. The best way to oppose Trump is not to try to tear him down, as that will only take us down to his level of hate-filled rhetoric and posturing. Instead we need to bolster and uphold the rights and protections for those who will be most vulnerable under his presidency and continually reaffirm that we stand for love and not hatred.