Friday, January 13, 2017

1,461 Days

Starting a week from today, our country begins the first of 1,461 days in which it must endure a Trump administration. That is, if our president-elect doesn't become bored of the job before January 20, 2021, and I'm not altogether convinced that won't happen.

I have opposed the platforms of presidents before. I have wished that other candidates won the nomination of their party. I did not vote for President Obama in 2008 or 2012 and disagree with a good deal of his policies. I still think it's a bit weird how little we know about his childhood friends and his education and pretty much everything else before he became a state senator in Illinois, because (I think) the media did not want to look too hard and risk finding something they didn't like. However, I was able to criticize his positions on certain issues and still have respect for the man and the office he holds. I was able to tell my children, "I did not vote for him. I have many opinions that differ from those he holds. But, he is a smart man, a kind man, and he appears to be an amazing husband and father. I could sit down with him and discuss our differences and feel like he was listening to me. That's important. That's leadership."

One week from today, this will change.

Donald Trump is going to be awful for our country. I need to believe that the United States is going to survive his presidency (and I mean "survive" literally . . . I really hope our nation doesn't actually blow up) but it's not going to be a pleasant ride in the meantime. Most Americans are hard-working, charitable, strong, community-minded, justice-seeking people. Most people are good. We still have founding documents that, when not abused, promote liberty and prosperity and the right to both succeed and fail. That is our hope moving forward.

I don't declare my dismay over our president-elect as a "libtard snowflake" (one of the sweet nicknames created by the alt-right for those who are dismayed by the election results) who is upset my side lost. In fact, I didn't vote for Hillary Clinton, either, even though I think she would have been far less dangerous sitting in the Oval Office than the man who is about to be there.

Instead, I reach my position as someone who has immersed herself in politics for three decades, who has read the Constitution countless times, who majored in government and politics, who taught political science, and who campaigned for dozens of candidates. I reach my position as a small government conservative who values the arguments made in The Federalist Papers in support of our fledgling nation, as someone who wants D.C. to be involved in as little as possible. In other words, my conclusions come from the head and not from the heart (although my heart finds him super gross as well and sometimes listening to your gut/emotions is a good way to go).

I know that others who have studied the issues as much or more than me have reached an opposite conclusion. We will just have to disagree and wait and see what happens.

Yes, Trump is boorish. But, on its face, that is not my main concern. There have been many crude presidents before him and, in spite of that, some of these men have made amazing contributions to our country. Lyndon Johnson said offensive things about women, and engaged in acts with women, that easily could rival what Trump has shown us. And, the story goes that he would put his genitals on display as an intimidation tactic during meetings in the Oval Office. So, that's something.

Point is, there sadly is no shortage of leaders in our country who have viewed woman as their playthings. I imagine at least several of our former presidents have made statements similar to those infamous comments that Trump made to Billy Bush on a bus. But they did so during a time when presidents (for better or worse) were protected by the media and technology did not allow every utterance to be caught on audio and video and then analyzed without end on 24/7 media. Now we have a president-elect who brags about the size of his penis during a (inter)nationally televised debate supposedly on the issues of our day (that made for a fun mother-daughter moment in my home -- nothing like having to censor a presidential debate due to its explicit sexual content), who wonders aloud during a television interview if his newborn daughter will have large breasts like his wife, and who openly, knowing he is being recorded, calls women "pigs" and "nice pieces of ass."

There also have been other presidents who fit the label of racist much better than Trump ever will (again, see Lyndon Johnson . . . and Dwight D. Eisenhower and Woodrow Wilson and Andrew Johnson and . . .). There have been others who had to learn the issues after being elected and who were generally offensive people and bullies. Trump is not a trailblazer in any of these categories. Let's not pretend to gasp in collective shock at the notion that our country could elect someone with his viewpoints and behavior. It's not OK, but it's not uncommon in our history (or the history of any nation, for that matter).

Here's the problem, though. We live in a different world now, much different even than when President Obama was first elected in 2008 -- a world in which communication is instant and far reaching and permanent. And, we have elected a man who shares his preschool temperament with the entire globe on social media -- usually to belittle or taunt all of his real and perceived enemies. Just this morning, he threw out a tweet calling Hillary Clinton a huge loser. Why? The election ended two months ago. How un-presidential it is to continue to grind her nose in it! What a lovely example for our children.

In 2017, as we exist in a world in which millions of people can read a ridiculous tweet in a matter of seconds, this outlet is dangerous in the wrong hands. Those who believe Donald Trump is going to make America safe again (especially after he made fear the centerpiece of his convention and painted our country as a terrifying place with death and violence lurking around every corner) have placed our nation in the care of a man who has no discipline when it comes to editing what is in his brain before he makes it available for public consumption. That is going to irritate the wrong world leader or terrorist and the consequences will be fatal. I'm not saying you don't stand up to dictators and religious zealots bent on genocide, but you do it thoughtfully and with a plan -- not with the same vitriol and shooting-from-the-hip style that you use to mock Meryl Streep.

But let's go beyond personality and communication style. What about policy substance? Our country has elected an authoritarian who seems to have little knowledge of, or regard for, the Constitution -- a man who had people cheering with cult-like fervor at his rallies as he made incendiary statements against all five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (refresher course -- religion, assembly, petition, press, and speech). I fail to understand how conservatives who wrapped themselves in the flag believe that this guy will be a champion for limited government, federalism, and the other founding principles upon which our nation is founded. I have no doubt that my fifth grader knows more about the Bill of Rights, the machinations of our three branches, and the pivotal events in our nation's history than the man who is about to be our president. But, my biggest problem with Trump's lack of policy insight is that he doesn't seem to CARE that he doesn't know anything! In fact, he flaunts it!

I was not bothered when then-presidential candidate George W. Bush could not name the leader of every small nation in Eastern Europe and Africa. Who would expect the governor of Texas to know them? (I instead thought the reporter was acting like a jerk for pulling that stunt.) What matters is how you immerse yourself in new information and respect those who have knowledge to share with you once you're in office. And with Trump's lack of interest in attending security briefings (good thing there's nothing dangerous going on in the world and no threats at all to our homeland!) and his distrust of our intelligence community, we now will have a president who wishes to remain blissfully ignorant and make rash decisions. Awesome.

It breaks my heart for our country that we will spend 1,461 days with President Trump. I love America so much . . . she deserves better. I'm sad that my daughter will be a freshman in high school by the time he's out of office. (I'm only giving the man one term . . . there's no way America will want more than four years of this stuff, right? Let's have our "stick it to the D.C. politicians" moment and move on.) I've told my parents to stay healthy and strong so that they can make sure Donald Trump is not the last president that have to experience here on earth.

But, here's the thing. It doesn't do me any good to wring my hands or wish America could wake up from this nightmare or continue to assert how bad Trump is going to be for men and women, black and white, rich and poor in our nation. It's a waste of time. I'm not under some ridiculous assumption that someone is going to read my blog and think, "Man, I was all about the Trump train and making America great again but I was super wrong about all that!" My blog is my needed outlet. I do it for me. That's all.

So, knowing my acute limitations in affecting change, I've been working on my survival plan . . . what I will and will not be doing over the next four years to endure a Trump administration.

I WILL NOT watch the inauguration on January 20. Instead, I have a doctor's appointment that morning that involves multiple needles and then a two-hour meeting at work in which we are going to review the fourth-quarter earnings. Both of my agenda items are more appealing than watching Trump become president, so I'm good there. But I also WILL NOT take issue with my family and friends who are attending the inauguration or who are excited to watch it on TV.

I WILL tell my children that Trump's behavior and his language and his lack of intellectual curiosity are not appropriate and that we should expect more from our leaders.

I WILL NOT endorse any name calling like "orange Cheeto man" and "buffoon" and "Nazi" and "***** *** ****** ****" because it's pointless and belittles any real criticism of the man and makes our behavior as silly and abhorrent as that of the incoming president himself. I despised the name calling when it happened to George W. Bush and Barack Obama as well. It's childish.

I WILL continue to share that Trump stands in stark contradiction to my values as a Christian and that my faith played a large role in my complete inability to vote for him. I understand that some Christians voted for him because they saw him as the lesser of two evils among the major party candidates. I DON'T understand the evangelical leaders who enthusiastically endorsed him above all others, threw their arms around him, and said it was God's will for a great man like Trump to lead our nation (I'm looking at you, Franklin Graham.) How many of the red words of Scripture did they have to ignore to believe what they were selling?

I WILL NOT declare that you cannot be a Christian if you voted for Trump. I saw this proclaimed so much in reverse during the campaign, and, to me, this division among the body of Christ was one of the saddest things to happen in 2016. Some of the men and women who I admire as Christian mentors, who are generous and loving and true servants in their community, did not vote for Donald Trump. And some of them did. To question their faith in either instance is absurd.

I WILL continue to read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both by myself and with my children. It's almost time to introduce my girl to The Federalist Papers and Thomas Paine's Common Sense. Doing this is now more important than ever.

I WILL unfollow anyone on Facebook who posts fake news stories, particularly ones with misleading headlines that have random words in capital letters. I think there is little more that caused destruction in the last election cycle than "news" articles posted by internet "news" sites on the far right and far left that purposefully spread garbage. People would share these links online without ever reading the articles or fact checking to see if the assertions are true. And then others would believe they were true because a friend posted them so it must be legit. I make it a point to read opinion pieces from different perspectives and to have conversations with people who disagree with me, and need to do it even more. But I have no use for trash websites that seek to inflame with twisting of the truth or just outright lies. Along those same lines, I will give an automatic unfollow to anyone who posts outrageous political memes. Our discourse has to be better than that.

I WILL vote in every local, state, and federal election over the next four years, which is no different than my track record over the last twenty-four years. And, I imagine there will be Republican, Democrats, and third-party candidates who receive my vote. I WILL NOT vote for anyone who actively campaigned for President-elect Trump.

I WILL NOT support the call to build a wall along our border (a project for which the American taxpayer will be the only contributor ever). Why? Because as much as Trump seems to get along with and admire the leadership style of former KGB agent Vladimir Putin, we are not a Soviet regime and the Rio Grande is not Berlin.

I WILL advocate for sensible immigration reform. I do believe we need to have a better grasp of who is coming in and out of our country and what their intentions are. It's 2017 . . . there are more efficient and humane ways of doing this than with bricks.

I WILL make my village even stronger and welcome new friends into its fold. We all will need community even more in the days ahead. Most importantly, we need this because are so separated by technology and stereotypes and fear that we don't know how to interact with each other anymore, especially when the other person doesn't look like us or talk like us or worship like us or vote like us. This country will find a lot of healing just by looking our neighbors in the eyes and listening to their stories.  Also, I'm not much into doomsday predictions and I don't have an underground bunker filled with canned goods and matches, but I do think Trump is capable of wreaking serious havoc on our infrastructure and homeland security. I want to know I'm part of a crew that looks out for one another (and if one looks like, and shoots a crossbow like, Daryl, that would be a bonus) when things get tough.

I WILL continue on my quest to find someone who can introduce me to Detroit Lions' running back Ameer Abdullah. I have kept him on my fantasy football team for the past two years even when he was injured because he was a history major in college and because I think he is super handsome and I feel like he should know that.