The election of Donald Trump poses a tremendous challenge to our nation. His ascendance clearly speaks to a level of anxiety, fear, anger, and disaffection among a significant portion of the citizenry that only now is becoming fully appreciated by many of us.
I am strongly sympathetic toward those who see and feel the promise of the American dream receding at an accelerating pace. I believe they are correct in their perceptions, and their concerns are valid.
At the same time, it is tragic (and greatly ironic) that the vehicle for enunciating these apprehensions comes in the form of an individual who, rather than uniting diverse Americans who share these concerns, has chosen to strike at the very fundamentals of American democracy and constitutional government, enunciating a dark vision of an America enveloped in crime and terror and urban poverty, an America that must be saved from itself even at the cost of those aspects that define America’s greatness: its openness, its decency, its diversity built generation upon generation, and its will to follow the rule of law.
While it is impossible to know at this time exactly what this administration will attempt both to dismantle and to construct, I know that there are many Americans of good will who fear that the progress we have made toward the realization of a more economically and socially just and inclusive society is very much in jeopardy.
Indeed, I believe that we as citizens are going to be faced with a number of stark choices in the coming years. If President Trump seeks to fulfill the pledges made to his constituents, there will be efforts made to dismantle health care reform, to complete construction of a wall across the whole of our southern border, to exclude Muslims from entry to our country, to end American commitments to international climate agreements, and to reduce taxes with the great majority of benefit accruing to the wealthy.
The climate that President Trump may build upon from his campaign is equally or perhaps even more starkly troubling. Words have consequences, and Trump’s crude and prejudicial language related to many individuals and groups served as an incitement to racial intolerance, misogyny, and violence. Were Mr. Trump to continue in this vein as President, it is possible that he could create a climate of intolerance that wreaks both psychic and physical violence on fellow citizens and neighbors.
I believe that over the next four years we as individuals, and as a nation, are likely to face a test.
The key test question is this: Are we prepared to take principled, vocal, and abiding stands against potential injuries to our democracy, to our dignity as a united people and nation, and to our vision of an America that is inclusive, empathetic, and interested in justice for all and the rule of law?
We speak of the concept of participatory democracy. We realize this concept in action: by recognizing that nothing about our lives, and the life and nature of our nation, is preordained. If we hold to a vision for this country that derives from our desire to realize the health, the safety, and the happiness of all of our people, and if we still have hope of realizing a more perfect union, then we must be prepared to invest ourselves in this process. We must find the courage to do so.
Many of us have exhibited complacency when it comes to standing up for the truly progressive aspects of our society, those aspects that can improve the quality of all lives, increase respect for all people, and temper us to withstand the difficulties that must be a part of our shared experience over time.
I believe that we are going to have to engage, to speak, to exhibit passion in support of the best in America.
Nothing is preordained. If we fail to stand up for the greatest qualities of our democracy, we may at some point find ourselves living in a nation that is no longer worth fighting for.
Joshua Lazerson is an Encinitas resident.