My fellow Americans, Donald Trump will become the next president of the United States.
We may think he’s the best thing since sliced bread, or we may think he is a cross between Mussolini and McCarthy, but that’s not the point of this essay. We might be shaking our heads at the ugliness of the campaign season. We may think we need to abolish the electoral college, or get rid of the two-party system. There are some good arguments there, and we have the right to make the system work better for the good of the people. But in the meantime, now what?
I am more concerned about what we do right now, in the immediate future. We don’t want our kids thinking that brutal campaign rhetoric is okay, that sexual predation is all right. The liberal members in my writing group and my gun-toting friends at the shooting range don’t want their sons and daughters to be attacked in that way. Let’s stop this runaway train and figure out how to treat each other between now and the inauguration. We need to become a civil country again.
If you live here, you need to live up to the American creed. You’ve heard elements of our creed a thousand times but let me remind you:
From the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
From the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
From the 14th Amendment: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
We don’t have crown jewels in this country. We have the words above, and many others. Those ideas are our treasure, our heritage. And they don’t make exceptions. There’s nothing in the above statements that say you have to agree with a certain religion to speak your mind. There’s nothing that gives you permission to abuse people because of their gender or disability or race. There’s nothing that says some people can be assaulted or discriminated against because they are women or black or transgender, or any other group someone is afraid of.
So, now what? What do we do now? We live according to the Constitution we are so proud of. We learn to work together and show our children that the way to a better future is through our actions. We make a difference by talking with (not at or about) our neighbors, by finding common ground, by participating in our democracy and our local community.
Let’s start small, by smiling at the next person you pass on the street, by being kind to a stranger. Let’s try watching a different TV channel than you usually do, or reading a different newspaper, to see other points of view. Let’s object when a friend says something hateful (or, God forbid, reaches out to hurt someone physically), and refrain from hurting the people around us in our words or actions. We’re all in this together. We need to act accordingly.
You want to make America great again? Start with the American inside you. And I promise I’ll do the same.