276 to 228.
I went to bed last night, resigned to the fact that we would have a Trump presidency as the result of the 2016 election. I woke up and immediately checked my phone to see if it might truly be. Upon learning the news, I checked the numbers for the House and the Senate. As a Democrat, I was disappointed to find that a Republican majority had won both.
As a woman of color who has not been quiet in my personal history or political stances, I was afraid. I found I was not alone. So many friends and family members went to facebook this morning to vent fear and anxiety. The amount of fear in my fellow citizens is palpable. When a presidential candidate has normalized hate and ignorance to the point where the Klan can openly endorse him, to the point where rallies are not physically safe for those with dissenting views, to the point where no one can be surprised at any disparaging, oppressive, or objectifying comment… It becomes easy to lose faith in our country. When that candidate is elected to the highest office in the land, it becomes hard not to. If he can normalize so much hatred as a candidate, what will he be able to do as a president?
This was a thought I struggled with this morning. I consider myself very much a patriot. I love my country, but at this point, how can I not be ashamed? How can anyone love a country so ready to embrace hatred? The answer could also be found in social media. For every person I found venting their fear, I found so many more who came out to show support, to offer safety and help. I found so many more motivated to do something, anything, which could keep our country from slipping into darkness and keep our fellow Americans safe.
The beautiful thing about the United States is its people. The reason we may still feel pride is all around us. Trump did not win with a majority. He won with 48% of the vote. That means that 52% of our country voted against him. While not all of that vote went to the opponent who stood the best chance against him, the majority of our country voted against his hate, and we can still take pride in that. The Senate was close. There was a four seat difference between the two major parties and two of those seats went to neither. That means that at any time, pushing more liberal legislation through the Senate would take the convincing of a small number of senators, many of whom straddle the aisle in an attempt towards centrism. We will be able to continue making strides forward with this Congress.
But, it won’t happen on its own.
The fight isn’t over. Trump has limited power. He can influence foreign relations and policy. He can influence the American people. However, Congress knows its time in Washington is limited by its constituents. Midterm elections are only two years away. Now is not the time to give up hope. Now is not the time to abandon the country and live elsewhere. Now is the time to push back. Now is the time to fight, harder than ever. If Trump can influence the country from his position, then every citizen can influence it from every inch of the country around him.
As the indomitable Major General Carl Schurz, an immigrant Republican senator, said in 1872:
“My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”
I am a patriot. It is my duty to keep this country right, and when it is wrong, to set it right. It is my duty to speak on behalf of those whose voices will not otherwise be heard. It is my duty to not lay down my voice, my only true weapon against evil, and allow those who would persecute to take action. It is my duty to fight.
I have faith I will not be fighting alone. I have faith that my fellow Americans will stand by me to sign petitions, write letters to Congressmen, organize to protect each other’s rights, and campaign for better in our midterm elections. I have faith that this act for hatred will backfire. I have faith that instead of causing our voices to fall silent in fear, it will magnify them in righteous outrage.
I have faith that no matter what has happened, no matter what will happen, we will not succumb to darkness. The sun will rise in the morning for our country – even if we have to drag it up over the horizon ourselves.
Author’s note: This call to action addresses those who are able to act. The author recognizes that due to factors such as race, locale, sexual orientation, and religious preference; not all are able to act safely. Safety of readers will always come first.