I am not the same person I was on November 7, 2016. I’ve changed, and I owe it all to you, POTUS. Thanks for that. It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of your Tweets and your lies and your hateful bigotry and the chaos that surrounds your administration, but the mantra I have chosen to live my life by is “choose hope,” so I write these words from a place of hope and optimism.
After the initial shock of you winning the election wore off (Pffft, who am I kidding? I will never get over the shock of having a reality TV star sitting in the Oval Office.), something inside me woke up. I understand the awesome task of what it means to be a citizen now. Not simply a good citizen, but an active and engaged and appreciative citizen.
Because of you, I no longer take this country I live in for granted. My Dad taught his children that America was the “greatest nation on earth.” I think for him and for intermittent periods in our young nation’s history, that was true. He was born the son of two Irish immigrants in the midst of the Great Depression and was just a young boy as America fought bravely and worked hard to liberate the world from the vice grip of one Adolph Hitler. You know him, right? Short man, odd moustache, killed millions of Jews — I’m keeping it simple for you.
I believed my Dad when he said those words. Now I am a grown woman and I know more. I have a context that I did not have as a child. Your presidency has encouraged me to read more, learn more, seek out primary sources. My naivete about America’s greatness has been replaced by a grittier, messier, conflicted and complicated appreciation for the noble experiment that our country is. I see better where we fall short and have failed as a nation and where we soar and achieve and nurture greatness and possibility.
You, Sir, are supremely flawed, but I have learned that you are but a mere reflection of America’s deeply ingrained flaws. You are a living, breathing representation of our ugliness, our greed, our racism, our tendency to bully and manipulate other countries to our own powerful will. I’ve come to embrace that you lack any sense of humanity. You are hollow and full at the same time.
Despite your flaws, or because of them, so many things have been clarified for me and many other Americans. More than a few say, “He is not my President. He does not represent me. I will never claim him.” To them, I say, “You must.” Every American, whether we voted for you or not, must own you as our president. How can we vanquish you if we do not first own you, claim you as our own?
So, President Trump, oh president of mine, I am grateful for what I have gained under your administration. Here are just a few of the things I’ve been gifted with in the past twelve months:
- I learned how to march in community with others and hold signs that reflect my beliefs. Protest is a verb that requires a lot of Sharpies, supportive shoes, and dressing in layers.
- I discovered not just Twitter, but Black Twitter and I am a much better person for it. The platform provides the opportunity to eavesdrop and learn and absorb lessons that a nice, white, middle aged lady should have learned well before having to color her hair or buy her first jar of Pond’s Cream. I am late to the party, but I am here.
- My white boys with their blue eyes will learn, compliments of their increasingly woke mama, that life will be easier for them than that of their classmates that have different colored skin or vaginas. And for those classmates with different colored skin and a vagina — we salute you! “With great power comes great responsibility” is a lesson for more than superheroes.
- When someone I used to know in high school refers to my diverse, integrated Chicago neighborhood as a “fairy tale,” I speak up. All the nope. My life and my life’s choices are no less valid than his. I respect myself, my neighbors, and my family more than ever now. You can choose to live a segregated life and I can choose not to. I like my neighborhoods like I like my Skittles, with all the colors of the rainbow.
- My understanding of our government is probably as honed as it has been since watching Schoolhouse Rocks! shorts on Saturday mornings as a kid. The process of legislation, committee work, judicial appointments, grassroots organizing — the nuts and bolts of governing is fascinating stuff, man. You should look into it.
- Science! Scientists!. Modern days heroes, all of them. Because of you, I have added NASA to my list of regularly visited web sites. You and the GOP have politicized climate change and the world will pay. We are already paying. Mudslides, raging fires, hurricanes, polar vortexes, starving polar bears — these things are now commonplace, but their cost, both social and economic, is adding up. The military knows this. Every nation on earth knows this. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.
- My appetite for news and commentary has grown, but I no longer rely on the talking heads of cable TV to provide it. Sadly, too many Americans do. I crave more detail, more nuance, a more thoughtful approach. Critical thinking is alive and well, but you have to search for it and it’s not always very evident in the places you would expect.
- An awareness that you can’t lump all Republicans together. For every Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, there is an Ana Navarro and Matthew Dowd. I have gained an unexpected admiration for those few conservatives, big and small in stature, that speak up and challenge the extremists that have hijacked the GOP. Those who support you and those who remain silent are equally complicit.
There is a right side of history, Mr. Trump, and you are not on it. You are a sad, raging, incurious embarrassment, full of hate and devoid of compassion. You are not worthy to lead America or call yourself leader of the free world. And yet, somehow, because of your flaws, I am learning, growing, stretching, flexing my American muscle in a way I never have before.
Sure, I’ve always voted, but, quite honestly, that was pretty much it. No more. Because of you, I now march, protest, read, research, donate, speak up, sign petitions, volunteer to help refugees, and make certain my sons are on the front lines for all of it. On Monday, for the first time, I will meaningfully celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with my boys. That makes me so proud and so happy.
I am a better American because of you, President Trump. Me and all the other folks like me, learning to channel our outrage in productive and measurable ways, are not going anywhere. We are here. Patriots, all of us. We are black and white and everything in between. We are gay and straight and transgender and Muslim and Jewish and atheists and Mexican and Haitian and African. We are immigrants, and not just from Norway. We are poor and we are rich and we are everything in between. We are mighty.
The greatest irony, I hope, is that in the end, you would have succeeded in making America great again, just not in the way you intended. So, yes, thanks for that.