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On April 12, 1945, Franklin Delano Roosevelt put pen to paper for the last time. Writing to the war-weary citizens of the US hours before his death, the President implored Americans to rededicate themselves to securing an abiding democratic peace.
“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.”
Today, as Donald Trump transitions from Fifth Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue, those disappointed by his ascendancy ought to heed President Roosevelt’s advice.
Doing so will be daunting.
Mr. Trump’s behavior is perverse. He considers immigrants to be “not the right people,” and views Mexicans in particular as “rapists,” “killers,” and “bad hombres.” He regards “the blacks” as having failed “education-wise, job-wise, safety-wise, in every possible way.” He defends his characterization of women as “nasty” or as “piece[s] of ass” by coining it non-actionable “locker-room talk.” How can we be faithful to his America?
He promises the mass deportation of legally-settled refugees and illegal immigrants, the expanded use of torture described as “so much worse” than waterboarding, and the extrajudicial killings of the relatives of suspected terrorists. He favors “some form of punishment” for women who exercise their legal right to terminate a pregnancy, and he vows retribution against those who insult him or the nation.
He shuns the due process of law and ascribes to xenophobic views. Some believe the only descriptor that encapsulates our new President’s ideals and proposed course of action is fascism. In the face of such regression, how can we possibly be strong?
While no one can predict how much of his former self Donald Trump will carry into the White House, one might find solace in the fact that Trump is a haphazard pragmatist. Nevertheless, a majority of Americans in the majority of states agreed with Mr. Trump’s assertion that the last half-century of expanding the promise of the Declaration of Independence to African Americans, women, and the LGBTQ community has created a lesser nation. It is okay to be heartbroken by that.
But it is not okay to stay heartbroken. There is work to do, and dejection is distracting. That work begins with our rededication to upholding the liberal-democratic tradition that has made this country so great.
We can do that. We can keep the faith we felt in the weeks preceding the election by reminding ourselves of what we stand to lose if we choose to disengage in the weeks following the inauguration. We can be strong by supporting the forty-fifth President of the United States whenever possible, and opposing him whenever necessary.
If President Trump attempts to rebuild crumbling infrastructure or close the wage gap, as he has promised, let us look past the chauvinistic veneer of Trump the Candidate and contemplate his initiatives from a place of thoughtful objectivity.
But, if President Trump attempts to curtail any person’s freedom, let us peacefully oppose, obstruct, and defeat him. We can lobby our congressmen, and we can sustain freedom-fighting organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center. We can canvass our neighborhoods in protest and defend vulnerable populations. Most importantly, we can create inclusive spaces within our communities where Americans of different backgrounds and beliefs can come to understand and support one another.
Former Massachusetts Governor, Deval L. Patrick, believes that “the cornerstone of a well-functioning community is a commitment to [work] together as citizens towards a brighter future.” Surely, the erosion of this cornerstone led to the success of Donald J. Trump in 2016. Surely, we can rebuild it through respectful dialogue with people we would otherwise avoid. Every vote cast for Mr. Trump represents a human soul: Do you dare to reach out to one?
So, go ahead and grieve. Today, be heartbroken. Today, be devastated. I certainly am. But tomorrow and everyday thereafter, be active. Be hopeful. Be stubborn. Be unwavering in your resolve.
Heed the advice of President Roosevelt. Summon the courage to resist despair, division, and doubt, and stand up to anyone who threatens the liberal-democratic ideal.