The past week has been rocky and unsettling for some obvious and not-so-obvious reasons and it is now time to figure out our path forward. The results of a typical election when there are major candidates who have a basic competency and understanding of the underpinnings of our democratic ideals are easier to digest no matter which candidate prevails. The idea that the United States of America is a dichotomy of interests and priorities is not new, and one that I think most can reconcile after each election. What is different about Election 2016 is that it does not feel that the President-elect is in any way concerned about our democratic values, or the well-being of all citizens. When a person in authority only acts for those in agreement, rather than the good of the country, we have a grave problem.
It is natural for human beings to express happiness when the side they are rooting for is the victor. What is not acceptable and especially unsettling is when harassment and even assaults occur as a part of that expression. Kids whose parents voted for the person who won telling other kids that they belong in the back of the bus, college students assaulting other students while using racial epithets, or threatening people with different religious beliefs to remove their head covering while claiming that right under the mantel of “Making America Great Again.” In the past week, the amount of hate and aggression reported in the name of the President-elect has me once again pondering “just what is this definition of GREAT that a big section of America rallied around,” “what exactly is it that they want to see,” and “how much harm against others are they willing to ignore in pursuit of this so-called greatness?”
The last question is the one that may be less obvious, and one that causes me the most disappointment. Ignoring or pretending not to see the impact the election results are having on the treatment of entire classes of citizens is troubling because it calls into question a basic set of decency and humaneness that should transcend political ideology. Personally, I could not look myself in the mirror or sit idly by while others lost their sense of safety in the name of “greatness.” I could not watch the person I voted for surround himself with people with a lengthy public record of trampling on the rights of my neighbors and justify it. I could not excuse the verbal and physical assault of other people because of the color of their skin, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or who and how they worship. In a democracy, our liberties are not for sale, and why the past week has felt like an apocalypse — Election-ocalypse. This simply is not how I was raised, nor something any true American should accept.
Finding our footing will require a re-acknowledgement and recommitment to principles of justice, fairness and equity. We will need to build coalitions with others who share these values. We will need to invest in strategies that support these beliefs, with a clarity of vision for the outcomes we seek. We must embrace an unyielding spirit of right versus wrong and refuse to accept a country where ALL are unable to pursue life, liberty and happiness. According to the Constitution of the United States, We the PEOPLE, in order to form a more perfect union, have a right to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty.” That is our foundation, our grounding, and the footing we need to steady ourselves and move forward. As a friend reminded me recently, it’s time we all take our rightful place under the flag, our symbol of freedom, and stop letting divisive people co-opt it for their own selfish benefit. Our children will inherit the country that we allow.
Tanya Washington is a former civil rights attorney and social justice advocate who seeks better outcomes for vulnerable youth/ Share your thoughts at http://www.justicecorner.com