"Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government."
That's not from some anarchist's cookbook. That's the Declaration of Independence of the United States. Thomas Jefferson writes further in the same document: "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce [the people] under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security."
These are words from one of the central founding documents of our nation, and they are not subtle. We exist, the document basically says. We have rights and we're going to do something about it, and these are the reasons why.
In 2008, we danced in the streets because we saw evidence that change can happen. The American dream had been dying slowly, but it was alive again. It had been proven. You could be the black son of an immigrant in the south side of Chicago and become President of the United States. Anyone could make it, truly. I remember the rich, deep pride of excitement I had the morning after. I remember an African-American man getting on my 545. We beamed sunshine at each other; neither of us could hide it.
He said, "how you' doin'?"
And I said, "man, I'm so happy I can hardly concentrate on drivin' this bus!"
Do you remember that day? Even if you didn't vote for the man, you can see the value of the fact of his winning: the American dream had become, at long last, a teachable moment to so many more Americans, a reality. We danced because there was a new, exciting, powerful figure who would effect great change for us. But the situation is different today. There is no longer such a figure we can look up to. What does that mean?
It means we have to be the ones making the change.
Do not complain about the outcome of this election if you were able to vote, and didn't. Less than 25 percent of registered voters voted, and there were seven million Democrats who voted in 2012 who didn't do so this time around.* Would the outcome have been different if they had shown up?
The upper limit of our involvement in where this country goes should not be clever aphorisms on Twitter or sulking on Facebook. For cynical know-it-all pronouncements of the "I knew it all along" variety, please recognize that no one cares. Cynicism is too close to an opposite of productiveness. Will we let complacency be the defining watchword historians use to describe our generation? That's how tyrants get their way.
How would our parents, the children of the sixties, behave now if they were our age? Will you march? Will you carry a flag, maybe get arrested? There may be another draft. What will you do with the card? Stand unwavering in the face of injustice? There was an anti-Trump rally right here in Seattle not more than an hour after the results. Meanwhile, the Canadian Immigration website crashed. I see those as two very different responses to the Trump win.
Women in America have just been demoted to de facto second-class citizens. Regular Americans may lose what healthcare they have. Every one of us comes from immigrant stock, and those of us taking that hard journey today deserve as much a chance as our forefathers did. They deserve humanity. Families risk being torn apart. Political support for Black Lives Matter is over. Gays may lose the right to marry, and the tax breaks and insurance opportunities associated. Tax cuts will weaken our schools, roads, hospitals, fire and medical response and more. Protective rights for women are in the balance; certainly the right to have control over their own bodies, and perhaps even the right to vote. The Electoral college has proved itself fatally damaging to the country, twice, in only twenty years.
Maybe none of the above will happen. Mr. Trump's 60 Minutes interview from Sunday– a numbingly extraordinary exercise in backpedaling– was encouraging, and indicates he may not be as tyrannical as many fear. But if he is, the question to ask ourselves is:
Did Martin Luther King, Jr. throw up his hands and move to the Bahamas?
"Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God," Thomas Jefferson forcefully wrote. He writes in the Declaration above of our duty to maintain fair and just government. The founding principles of our nation demand action otherwise. Nearly a century later, Abraham Lincoln spoke much the same: "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it."
This country was built in the spirit of a frontier town by radical, strong-willed, idealistic men who staked their reputations, beliefs, families and lives on a hope and a prayer. What we have now is not merely an opportunity, but a duty to act, as outlined and impelled by those same men. Half the country (actually, about an eighth*) has spoken. Now it is our turn. When global news networks report protests numbering in the thousands in major cities all over the United States, that resonates. It sends a message, to those in power and to the world abroad, that there are Americans who believe in something that's been overlooked with this election:
This is our time, our generation, and I'm not referring to age groups. I mean everyone who has the good fortune to be alive today, that they might alter the course of our nation's history that will do our future generations proud. Why do we protest now, before he's even in office? Not to change anything, but to voice our dissatisfaction with a president who doesn't apologize for assault, who advocates racist, sexist, unconstitutional views toward our fellow people. To let it be heard that there are those among us who don't approve of such things.
If things go as is, or get worse, taking to the streets might be the most American thing to do.
Stay tuned. I know I said there'd only be three political posts, but the situation is too complex. Nuance is missing from a lot of the national discussion right now. I'm beginning to see reasons to be optimistic and wish to share. We'll also hear an international perspective from our first ever guest post from a German correspondent friend in Berlin. More soon!
*Laziness is not entirely to blame here. See post below for details.