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Posts Tagged ‘Living with President Trump’

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For those of us appalled by a campaign that gave a green light to bigotry of all types, that vilified instead of inspired, how do we accept that Trump is now our president? I suggest we focus on three qualities: awareness, openness and vigilance.

Awareness – First we must be aware that this election tilted on extremely narrow margins. It came down to 3 states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Here are Trump’s margins of victory in each: Pennsylvania – 68,000, Michigan – 12,000, Wisconsin – 29,000. A switch of 57,000 votes, properly apportioned between the 3 states, would have changed the outcome to match the popular vote. That is less than .0005 percent of the total votes cast nationally! Each state had counties, white counties that had previously voted for Obama that flipped to Trump. This hints that we need to be aware of something else. Not all Trump voters were bigots supporting him because of the qualities people like me abhorred the most. Some, probably just enough to create these margins, felt so betrayed by our political system that they held their noses and voted to blow up the political system in the hope of real change.

Who are these voters? They are people we liberal elites tend to dismiss. They are blue collar voters who lost their jobs in the recession and are now either unemployed or underemployed. Their factory jobs were once a path to the middle class, and that path has been taken from them. The choice they believed they faced was one candidate who acknowledged their distress but whose message was to blame their fate on outsiders who must be controlled and bad trade agreements, or a candidate who was the poster child for the political system they felt betrayed them. We need to be aware that these people’s feelings are real and not necessarily bigoted. We must also be aware that no one is telling them the truth about their new reality. Those jobs, despite what Mr. Trump says, are not coming back. Some of these workers will have to be retrained. Some are not capable of being retrained. No matter which, they still need to be helped, not ignored.

Openness – We must not do what Republican leadership did when President Obama took office in 2009. We cannot simply obstruct and reject. We must respect the office of the presidency and be open to the possibility that Trump can succeed in doing some good for the country. There is a difference between campaigning and governing, and we need to be open to the chance that President Trump will act better than candidate Trump. So there needs to be a period of waiting to see what kind of president he will be.

Further, we must be open to working with our friends and neighbors who supported Mr. Trump. If we are honest with ourselves, we will realize many of them just could not bring themselves to vote for a lifelong politician who represented (to them) the same old, same old. We can speak honestly with them about our fears, but we must also know they just want our country to improve and be more prosperous. Being open to each other is perhaps the most positive, most community building step we can take. Let our love and caring for each other overcome our political differences.

Vigilance – This is the most important. We need to be watchful for and ready to protest any or all of the following:

  • Attacks on the basic pillars of the American republic such as freedom of speech and the free press.
  • Trump conflating loyalty to him with loyalty to the United States. This is what Nixon did and we must stand against that.
  • Bigotry of any kind, be it outright prejudice against Muslims and immigrants, or deafness to the pain of our African American brothers and sisters.
  • Failure to condemn the bigotry of groups of his followers, such as David Duke, the alt right and white supremacists.
  • Any attempt to roll back basic human rights, such as the right to vote, or the LGBTQ community’s right to their choice of marriage.

Our vigilance must be accompanied by our willingness to protest in all possible manners, including taking to the streets.

The narrative of our Torah now moves into the story of Abraham. In this week’s Torah portion we get three versions of Abraham (at this point called Avram) literally within a few verses of each other. The first is when he takes his family to Egypt because of a famine in Canaan. He is afraid of Pharaoh, the ruler, who is attracted to Sarah, Abraham’s wife. His fear causes him to ask Sarah to lie to Pharaoh, to tell him she is Abraham’s sister and not his wife. This is the Abraham who acts badly because of his fear. The second Abraham is the one who, right after they return to Canaan, has his nephew Lot confront him about his resentment over Abraham’s control. Abraham here demonstrates the inner strength to hear Lot out and then give him a choice of alternatives. This is the Abraham of confidence in his ability to be flexible and yet thrive by adapting. The third is the Abraham who fights against invaders who kidnap many local residents as well as their possessions He leads a group to get them back and return the people and their resources with no expectation of reward.

May we not be the Abraham of fear that leads us to try to live with lies. May we be the Abraham of inner strength and the willingness to fight for others with no expectation of reward.

 

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