A few moments ago, Donald Trump was sworn in as our 45th president. It is for many of us a moment we still have not been able to process. It comes with a host of emotions including, for many, revulsion, dread, and outright fear, as well as some fundamental questions about what this means for our country, and how ordinary citizens can and should respond.
So if you'll permit, I'd like to share some thoughts, first on those questions we have. Here’s one I’ve been pondering: As Trump announced his advisors and cabinet nominees, most reasonable people began wondering outright: “Why is he appointing people who are clearly unready and unable to lead us?" There’s a climate denier in charge of the EPA, a neurosurgeon inexplicably tapped for Housing, an bumbling Texan who campaigned to get rid of the Energy Department now named to head it (though he doesn’t even understand its solemn purpose)--the list goes on and on.
I don’t for a minute think even the Trump transition team honestly believes these are the best and brightest folks. But I do worry that they will serve a far darker purpose—to cause us to lose utter faith in government.
Top Trump strategist Steve Bannon, the banner bearer for the alt-right, does not even hide his plans. In fact, he speaks fondly of darkness as tool. That’s how confident he is that it will work. For if they can sever the bonds of trust between the people and their government, if civic disengagement becomes the norm, then nothing will stop men like him from achieving everything they want. They already have begun this effectively with the “truth” and the press: If they spread enough fake news and propaganda, if the citizenry cannot tell fact from fiction, or more importantly does not care to discern the difference, then anything is fair game. That is how lies become fact.
And so it is with governance. If we cannot distinguish competent governance from poor, if it's just a complete disaster by all counts everywhere, then the people will begin to despair, and ultimately they will ready to be led by literally anyone. This means we must do two things.
First, we must remind ourselves that good government is a good thing. It is something that helps everyone, all of us. Without that belief, we are lost. And so we must find faith again in government, hard as that presently sounds.
Second, to help achieve this, we must raise up and support our best leaders, from those who toil for us at the local level, to the women and men of principle and grit in Washington. If we turn upon them, too, again we will be lost. We cannot allow the worst excesses and failures to define our expectations.
Now, a few thoughts on what many of us are feeling. When you feel anger, disgust, or fear from the latest piece of horrible news out of Washington, or feel shame or dismay at a 3am tweet from our new president, don’t dwell on that thing clouding your spirit. That is what they want. That is in fact their tactic, a textbook manipulation, hoping you will take the bait. So while it is perfectly fine to feel a moment of pain, take it instead as a welcome reminder and ask yourself this: What does it actually mean that I feel this dread? What does it mean that I feel so angry?
The answer may surprise you and lend some comfort. It means that you are a good person. It means that you care about your fellow citizens, and this country, and what we stand for. It means you are paying attention and can recognize the threat we are under. Let your feelings reinforce and remind you of your own core values. Let each reaffirmation make you stronger.
It is axiomatic that nothing worth fighting for has been won without a fight. So while it may feel as if the Ministry has fallen and Death Eaters are now in charge, that should serve as the strongest of reasons to double down on our convictions and principles. No one said the Resistance would be easy. And so, everyone, now it begins. Wands up.