Reconciling Week One of the Trump Administration

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Donald Trump
Donald Trump speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo: Gage Skidmore

It is no secret among my friends I despise the new President, everything he stands for, and am horrified at the intended direction the Trump administration is heading. It seems every few hours something happens that just feels like a gut shot. The events of this week remind me of a company I recently worked for, where I used to wake up every morning in a cold sweat, paralyzed in fear of what was going to go wrong that day at the office.

Then, when I get past the sensational headlines and part the veil of gaslit sensationalism, I see things that give me hope:

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1) Well organized and nearly totally peaceful protests since day one of the Trump administration.

2) Friends of all persuasions reading news articles and posting how they are now fact checking on their own.

3) Moral outrage from otherwise politically silent people over the Muslim ban.

4) John McCain and other prominent Republicans threatening Senate action if the Trump administration removes the sanctions on Russia without consultation.

5) My own state (California) pledging open resistance to challenges to our right to self-determination.

6) Conversations I’ve observed among my conservative friends asking liberal friends to clarify viewpoints as opposed to merely dismissing them as evil…and vice versa. This manner of respectful and knowledge seeking debate had seemed to be lost in towards the end of the election.

7) Dick Cheney, who is in no small way contributed to the power vacuum that created ISIS, publicly opposing the Muslim ban.

8) Americans of all kinds not “simply lying down and taking it” and responding with a level of civil disobedience not seen since the 1960s.

9) A Federal judge placing a stay on denial of entry to en-route refugees, making a precedent for future challenges.

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Memphis Women’s March, the day after Trump’s inauguration. Photo: The Pacific Tribune

It bears stating that the word “patriot” has become something of a charged and loaded term in American politics since the Revolution. Typically, one side of the political divide declares themselves “patriots” implying that anyone who disagrees with their viewpoint must be a traitor. The dictionary definition of “patriot” is simply: “one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests.” Any citizen, conservative, liberal, moderate, libertarian, or indifferent, who voices an opinion on the direction of their government, with an eye towards the betterment of that government, nation, or people is, therefore, a patriot.

So allow me a moment to point out a difficult truth: Trump supporters are patriots. His opponents are patriots. Obama is a patriot. Hillary is a patriot. Trump is a patriot. Members of the Trump administration are patriots. We may question their veracity or sanity, but they are patriots. Simple as that. With all the gloom and doom in the news, the rancor, the frustration, I am personally proud to be a citizen of a nation of patriots. I don’t think this gets said enough.

I have no illusion that America is the “greatest nation on earth,” much like I have an intellectual aversion the concept of a “one true religion.” Each has their own pros and cons, and those phrases seem to me to be inherently exclusionary, and contradictory to core values. Despite illusions of American Exceptionalism, we are not a “master race.” What we have is a broader access to privileges and prosperity than many nations. We do not hold a monopoly on truth, justice, morality, knowledge, or even democracy. What we have, by design, is a solid and stable system, as enshrined in the Constitution. This system’s flaws are more a reflection of the frailty of the humans entrusted to manage it, rather than the system itself.  Laws and customs may come and go, but the principles of who does what, and with what limits in American politics in 2017 would be instantly recognizable to the attendees of the Constitutional Convention in 1788.

Example of contrast: In the same time that the United States has existed, France has been a Kingdom, an oligarchical republic, a dictatorship, an empire, a kingdom again, a constitutional presidential republic, an empire again, a constitutional presidential republic, an occupied nation, and finally a constitutional republic again, and has had 16 different constitutions.

We have always been a great nation, and hopefully always will be. Hearing the phrase “make America great again,” in the same breath as “we are the greatest nation on earth,” seems contradictory and illogical. What we CAN and MUST do is simply “make America greater.”

Which still looks good on a hat.

Tradition and law hold the United States has two well-known mottoes. The newest, “In God We Trust,” while appearing in some form as early as the Star Spangled Banner in 1814 was enshrined into law as the official motto in 1956, as a reaction to the Soviet menace. The earliest, as approved by Congress in 1782, represents the enlightened goal of Americanism: E Pluribus Unum. Out of Many, we are One.