I wonder what Desmond Tutu thinks about Donald Trump being elected leader of the United States. I don’t know what his thoughts are, but I imagine if he were asked what we, the distraught people in the U.S. who did not vote for our next leader, should do going forward, he would probably respond with advice similar to what he has given in the past: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Like Tutu, many of us now feel tasked with being our country’s conscience because we have witnessed the display of morally repulsive behavior among our fellow citizens and President-Elect Trump during the election campaign that propelled him to victory. Despite being accused of such, I am not waiving the morality flag and trying to enlighten the “misguided” people who voted for Mr. Trump because I am a sore loser. All I had hoped to gain if my vote was tallied on the winning side was dignity and respect for every citizen in my country. Those of us who are now speaking out after the election are doing so because we are aware that electing someone with the demonstrated character of Mr. Trump means that our country has lost its momentum in its progress toward being a nation that models respect for human rights. I can agree with the defensive response toward those of us who protest the election outcome that everyone has a right in this democracy to express who they want to elect as their leader. I acknowledge that some people voted for Mr. Trump because they were uninformed about all that he has said and done, and in their interpretation of good conscience they could not vote for the other side due to their own moral reasoning. If that was their motivation for helping elect him, I can respect that. I do not respect those who voted for Mr. Trump because of the hurtful and threatening things he said about people. I believe that what most of us non-Trump supporters are speaking out against today is the ugly energy in this country that allowed Mr. Trump to become the Republican party’s nominee for president in the first place. We protest the threatening acts toward our citizens that it continues to inspire.
Donald Trump’s campaign never would have gained the momentum it did if he hadn’t been running on a platform that allowed him to mock women, people with disabilities, Muslims, and those who are not white. When he promised to screen all Muslims and deport illegal immigrants and their children, ears in our country seriously started paying attention to the reality TV star billionaire that nobody thought had a chance at winning the presidency when he announced his candidacy. I believe that he knowingly poured vial rhetoric on the flames of xenophobia that have always simmered in this country – despite the fact that most of us descend from people who arrived from other countries. He initially appealed mainly to those who believe that making “America great again” is accomplished by bleaching it, demeaning women, preventing the spread of Islam, and taking back from Mexicans jobs that very few Americans would ever consider doing themselves. Mr. Trump’s alienating comments ignited a media frenzy that would not let his campaign die and, ironically, his oppressive words propelled him all the way to becoming leader of the “free” world.
I believe that if Mr. Trump had not used ugly words that caused some people to celebrate the way he pierced the protective bubble of political correctness, he would have gone down in history as just another narcissistic buffoon unsuccessfully clamoring for political power. Without the “entertaining” rhetoric delivered by Mr. Trump that was demeaning to so many of us during his campaign, I doubt that many of the people in “rural America” who wore his silly hats and voted for him would have identified in any way with the New York billionaire who lives in a tower behind gold-plated doors. He successfully convinced enough people in our country that he identifies with their concerns and wants to make their nation great again. They apparently never stopped to consider that he is not at all motivated by the concerns they are. Those who supported him solely for his rhetoric early on apparently never thought about how Mr. Trump’s version of America was already pretty great. I don’t think he could even begin to comprehend what it is like to struggle to find a job or put food on the table for his family. He was born into a comfortable existence. He has bragged that he doesn’t currently pay taxes thanks to loopholes he takes advantage of, so he doesn’t even know what it feels like to be a taxpayer in this American economy. Mr. Trump most likely does not even personally know someone struggling financially to have a decent life in America – unless he has bothered to get to know the immigrants who clean his tower.
After the election, many of us recognized that Mr. Trump rose to his current level of power by stepping on those of us in this country who have had to fight – historically and presently – to have any kind of voice. We have raged and cried out in public and through social media about the disservice that has been – and will likely continue to be – done by the campaign for a Donald Trump presidency. Our words seem to have fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes. We have found comfort in commiserating with those who view the rules of humanity the way we do. But many who voted for Mr. Trump seem to continue to simply cling to their right to cast their vote for him and seem unable or unwilling to recognize our concern for the well-being of our nation and how we treat those in it. I’ve said a lot about President-elect Trump and my nation, and it has changed nothing. Now I’m going to start working on overwhelming my fellow citizens, my country, my world with my actions – my little bits of good.
I wish my next president could think like Desmond Tutu.
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© 2016 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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