Column: A letter to the country I love
Kara Young observes results early on in the night with wide eyes at the Arizona Democratic Party Election Night Party in the Renaissance Hotel in Phoenix on Tuesday, Nov. 8. "We believe she'll be winning," Young said.
As Theodore H. White noted in his account of the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon match-up, there was only one country up to that point that modeled its electoral system on that of the United States: Weimar Germany. That republic lasted little more than a dozen years before it got Adolf Hitler.
That is not to say that President Trump will be a Hitler analogue—even that is too harsh. But for the first time in our long and storied history, we have elected a demagogue with no respect for the very cornerstones upon which this country was built.
In the years to come, there will be postmortems. There will be finger-pointing. In the years to come, the New Deal and Great Society institutions, which represent the very best of who we can be, will be torn limb from limb. In the years to come, the hyper-partisanship, wealth inequality and racial resentment we deplored yesterday will balloon to dangerous levels. In the years to come, this country might not be the shining city on a hill my ancestors sought, believed in and continue to believe in.
But we did this.
Abraham Lincoln said, “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher ... we must live through all time or die by suicide.”
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Perhaps the apocalypse is not nigh. It is easy to resort to hyperbole when a candy-colored madman takes over the country you love and revere. But if there is one man who is to be the author and finisher of our destruction, it is the rapacious, conniving, two-bit hustler that this country just elected.
There is only so much blame we can put on the various evils that beset us this election season. Cries of fury against Big Money and party elites will ring loud throughout the country, but they can only go so far. If we now or have ever achieved the greatness to which we lay claim, then surely we are more than the sum of our afflictions. Surely, in the face of clear and present evil, we would have the courage to resist those forces.
Surely, we would vote to protect our neighbors, of all creeds and colors. Surely, we would vote to protect our Muslim brothers and sisters, even if we worship differently. Surely, we would vote to protect our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community, even when we do not share the same sexual identity. Surely, we would vote to protect the millions of our neighbors who have been covered by the Affordable Care Act, which President-elect Trump has promised to repeal.
But we have not. Some pundits have described this election as a “primal scream.” There is no bravery, no justice and no glory in voting for a racist, sexist, fraudulent huckster because he pays lip service to your problems.
Today—be shocked or be joyous.
Tomorrow, though—be vigilant. Soon, the Affordable Care Act will likely be overturned. In that event, millions will suffer.
Soon, untold numbers of immigrants will face deportation. Millions will suffer.
Soon, Muslims will face new levels of discrimination. Millions will suffer.
Soon, the advances made in recent decades, vis-a-vis abortion and same sex marriage, will be stamped out. Millions will suffer.
Who knows what will happen. We have elected a madman who openly praises the virtues of unpredictability. So all of this might happen. None of it might happen.
We were warned, though. From the gilded sepulchre of Trump Tower, our next president has made hideously clear his disrespect for the free press, a total ignorance of basic human decency and an overt repudiation of the democratic process.
Perhaps this is melodramatic. But I think not.
I am the son and great-grandson of immigrants. It can be easy to forget that people actually do see this country as a shining city on a hill, but my family, who left from the shores of Scotland and the tarmac of Jordan, never did.
I inherited that love, that optimism. We must never forget the genocides, the countless human rights abuses past and present. We must never forget that one of our greatest presidents signed an order interning more than a hundred thousand Japanese-American civilians, and that our Supreme Court upheld that order twice.
But this country has always survived by the dint of our ideals and the audacity to hold fast to those ideals even when faced with overwhelming odds.
Tuesday night, we forgot those ideals and we abandoned our posts. This tree of liberty, too often watered by the blood of patriots, is now in danger of falling over.
President-elect Trump represents the ills within us, the rampant materialism, greed and deliberate ignorance that soaks American society. His true evil, though, lies in his ability to cloak our decency, compassion and devotion.
Let us not wallow in darkness forever.
Follow Raad Zaghloul on Twitter.