I’ve felt like dropping out of American society, but I also feel like picking up the baton of human decency that seems to have been dropped.
My wanting to give up hope in reaction to the behavior of people around me is a result of just being so tired of what I’ve been witnessing this election season. I have been so dismayed to see people around me failing to express outrage over the hurtful sentiments that Donald Trump made toward basically every segment of the of the American population while he was campaigning – except for white men with guns. I was saturated with, Yeah, buts when I questioned why a lack of demonstrated human decency didn’t stop people from considering electing Donald Trump as the leader of their nation: “Yeah, he says things he shouldn’t about minorities, but he’ll get rid of illegal immigrants in this country.” “Yeah, he makes fun of people with disabilities, but he’ll get rid of Obamacare.” “Yeah, he says mean things, but at least he doesn’t talk like a politician and he’ll change the way things are done.” “Yeah, his mouth is out of control, but at least he won’t mess with the second amendment.” “Yeah, he’s said crude things about women, but all men talk that way and he’ll reverse Roe v. Wade.” When did my country become so full of buts? Why didn’t Donald Trump’s race for president get stopped in its tracks the first time he opened his mouth and hurt someone? Why did citizens of the supposed leading nation of the free world continue giving Donald Trump an intolerant platform to stand on? When did the Golden Rule disappear from the code of American decency?
Do American people actually feel it’s okay to excuse unacceptable behavior and sacrifice the well-being of their neighbor as long as they benefit from it in some way? This is an approach to life that I have never understood. After the official nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate, the possibility of this desire in my neighbors and members of my own family to ignore ugly truths ‘for the greater cause’ and to ‘make America great again’ was enough for me to throw up my arms in complete confusion about what makes my fellow Americans tick.
I’m approaching fifty, so I’ve lived long enough to have witnessed plenty of awful behavior in my country. Just because we claim to be a land of freedom offering equality to all who live here, doesn’t mean that’s actually the experience of everyone. I was aware when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s that not everyone is treated equally: I observed that boys were treated better than girls; whites were treated better than minorities; able bodied people were treated better than the disabled . . . but I really bought into the notion that we were making progress as a nation and that we had learned from various ugly moments in our history. As I aged, ugly moments continued to happen. I traveled enough throughout my life to see that racism still existed in some parts of my country. But I was naive enough to think that these were isolated incidents and that there were relatively few pockets of misguided people. I thought we were approaching the finish line as a nation when it came to human rights. I believed that most Americans believed what I did: that every human being was equal and had the right to be treated with decency. But maybe I’ve always just been a victim of wishful thinking. Maybe my country never was motivated by human decency. Maybe my country was just focused at times on issues other than intolerance. Maybe moments of ugliness were far enough removed from me that I was spared their impact. Maybe my life in my comfortable part of the country has been too protected from reality all these years. Maybe it took the touch of Donald Trump to burst my bubble of naive thinking about the country I have always been proud to be a member of. Yes, I have been touched by Donald Trump’s voice and the Americans who mimic his hurtful rhetoric – and I feel violated.
My beliefs about America have been so violated that I have felt numb since the Republican National Convention. November 9th – the morning after the presidential election – woke me up, though. No matter how overwhelmed I am by the expressed attitude of my future president and some of my countrymen, I can’t let myself drop out of American society. I feel I have to stay engaged, because so many people around me are apparently indifferent to the poor treatment of those who are disenfranchised. While I have always been fascinated by human behavior and American politics, I never desired to be a public servant of any kind. I’ve always been someone who watches from the sidelines and cheers on the good guys. But, now it looks like this unbelievable presidential race actually isn’t over and it’s in need of more participants. Because I have little confidence that my next leader suddenly cares about the experience of those he has targeted with insults, I’ll be picking up the baton of human decency that’s been dropped by so many in this country – not only during this election season, but throughout history. And I’ll be running alongside President Trump for the next four years, so I can help secure a safe place in this nation for people who can’t move toward that apparently far off finish line on their own.
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© 2016 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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