President Barack Obama once described our nation’s history as an “improbable experiment in democracy”.
Improbable indeed. The United States was built on a presumptively noble ideal that included, among its obvious shortcomings, black slavery, the genocide of Native Americans, and the legally codified fractional humanity of women. Don’t get me started.
Yet, no matter how woke I thought I was, the 2016 election was a life-altering sucker punch I never saw coming. Like most Americans, I didn’t appreciate how fragile freedom could be.
But nearly two years into the Trump administration, I’m convinced our country’s regressive step backward is being met with two progressive steps forward.
Starting with the Women’s March on Washington on Inauguration Day, the collective resistance that’s marked the past two years was the first sign America was headed back in the right direction. The second is happening as we speak.
For most Americans, Trump’s election wasn’t just a shock, it was like getting smacked in the head with a sledgehammer. Although at first, I feared the worse, I quickly worked through the so-called stages of grief and gathered my bearings.
It helped that I was working at the time around veteran grassroots activists whose own resolve had been steeled by having faced a wide range of personal and political obstacles before. During a national conference call in the days following Trump’s election, I listened as one distraught immigrants rights activist declared: “I won’t quit! I can’t quit!”
It was a simple but powerful call to action, an affirmation that, as a writer and beneficiary of our right to free speech, I am obliged to help defend our system of government.
How we protect or advance democracy depends on what each of us brings to the table. Maybe you’ve marched or spoken out against injustice, contributed to a candidate fighting to protect democratic ideals, or simply cast your ballot. What’s important is that you do what you can, and don’t assume that someone else will take care of it.
I’ve never been an alarmist, but I am not alone in my conviction that our country, in the past two years, has faced the greatest threat to our democracy since World War II. While WWII posed an arguably greater existential threat to free societies around the globe, never before have we elected a president so hostile toward or dismissive of America’s foundational constitutional principles. President Trump is by nature a fascist and an oligarch. His singular goal is to grow his personal wealth by systematically restructuring, or, if need be, destroying, the core institutions of our democracy.
But I believe the character of a nation, not unlike the character of a human being, is defined by its challenges and aspirations.
While Trump’s threat to our democracy is far from over, I find myself today on the cusp of the second anniversary of his inauguration convinced that Trumpism will be defeated, Trump will be impeached and ultimately criminally prosecuted, and America’s “improbable experiment” will resume.
Maya Angelou once said, “It’s important, if not, in fact, imperative that each knows…that there is a line beyond which you will not go.”
The Trump presidency has marked a line beyond which we, as a nation, will not go.