I’ve heard this frequently lately. I struggle to understand what people mean when they say these words. Emotions are still running high as we approach inauguration day. I surmise that most people who express this sentiment are expressing an emotional reaction to the election of Mr. Trump, as the next President of the United States. I’m reasonably sure that very few of them are actually ready to renounce their citizenship. But, the hard truth is: if, and so long as, you are a citizen of the United States of America, Mr. Trump will very soon be your President.
If we truly value our republic, it must be! He was elected by the rules that have been in place for over two centuries. Short of renouncing your citizenship, what does it mean: “not my President!” To me it means one of three things. It’s another soundbite that people latch on to and spread on the internet without examination or critique. It’s a temper tantrum. It’s a statement of cowardice. In all three cases it is an emotional outburst. And, it doesn’t help accomplish the difficult work ahead.
I understand how hurt many were by the election of Mr. Trump. We woke up on November 9th feeling as if we could no longer recognize the country where we live. Where did all those people come from? How could the pundits and their polls have missed it so badly. Battles we thought won and secured seemed to have slipped away. Many had waged those battles their whole lives and felt as if a victory they earned and longed for was slipping away at the last moment. Well, we were living an illusion. The culture of our country had not changed, over our lifetimes, the way we thought it had. Some, who had battled for legislation or rulings they thought had carried that day, suddenly realized that the power of government can’t change culture. Cultural change is much harder than enacting governmental mandate. But, cultural change lasts much longer. I understand the bitter disappointment. I held some who wept on the day after the election.
But, the election is over. It’s time to stop weeping with each other over the internet. The temper tantrum needs to be over. We must summon our courage and quell our cowardice.
We can’t be citizens only when things are going our way. If you truly mean: “not my President”, then you are of little use in doing the hard work that is ahead. We must be citizens, also, when it is hard to do so. We have to look hard at the whole culture that was revealed. We must work to shape that culture the way we think it should be and remember, this time, that passing a piece of legislation or obtaining a court decision seldom changes a heart or a mind.
That is the difficult work ahead for citizens. We must change hearts and minds. I have no delusions about the magnitude of the task ahead. It makes sending men to the Moon look easy. But, I firmly believe that it is the only way we will finally achieve the culture that we want to live.
It probably won’t be complete in my lifetime. Much of this citizenship work will fall to my children and my grandchildren. I have unshakeable faith in their ability to carry it through. I must help the push the work forward, now. I must act honestly, now. I must act justly and insist upon justice for others, now. I must stand up for those who need someone to stand up for them, now. I must act kindly, now. I must trust in love, now. I must be a citizen of the United States of America who disagrees with many of the acts of that country’s elected officers and opposes many of the policies that they advocate. I must give voice to my dissent, now. But, that’s what citizenship requires, now. It is required now more than ever.
We have great divides that must be bridged. A petulant “not my president” doesn’t help. It only deepens the chasm. It says I’m giving up and I don’t care. I don’t think most people really want to do that. So, if you’re willing to remain a citizen, put this soundbite away and let’s roll up our sleeves and do the work that needs to be done.