Wow, what a weekend! I don’t need to rehash for you here all the news about Trump’s travel ban and the reaction to it across the country and internationally. But let’s think about everything that has transpired and consider it all from a different perspective. The marches the day after inauguration, the protests at airports and other places yesterday, and yes, even the pro-life rally on Friday, have made one thing abundantly clear: Americans are awake!!
In my classrooms the day after the election, many of my students were dismayed and scared, but I also heard things in their reactions that really encouraged me to believe that we were on the brink of something big in how Americans would respond. As I noted here on my blog, it reminded me of how Americans reacted to things like that Kansas/Nebraska Act, or the Dred Scott decision, or Wilson’s reelection after the suffrage movement campaigned against him, or the failure of the Civil Rights movement in Albany Georgia. I was hopeful and expectant that his election would be the catalyst for energizing a massive, democratic, and historic counter movement.
Comrade Trump’s cabinet nominations, alleged ties to Putin’s attempt to subvert the election, and his first week in office only created more momentum for it. His narcissistic and autocratic tendencies have been on full display, and have shocked millions of Americans into action.
Whenever teaching about the suffrage movement, the home-front during WWII, the Civil Rights movement, or the Vietnam War protests, I have always bemoaned the fact that Americans today seem too disconnected from the wider world to actually rise from slumber to collectively do anything to put aggressive pressure on our politicians. After each instance of a mass shooting, we have a small flair up of passionate outrage and activism, and then we settle back in. Black Lives Matter and Ferguson were/are things that most Americans watched from afar and dared not get involved in. On my campus, the only thing in the last few years that seemed to unite our students into some sort of coherent movement is when they got upset that a certain song was banned from football games because they liked to chant vulgar lyrics to it. Sigh.
Where has been the activism that has shaped this country from its origins? Wasn’t the Revolution itself born from a protest movement as people hit the streets to have their voices heard and to burn their leaders in effigy? Where has been the sense of responsibility and united effort that we had during WWII? Where have been the mass protests of the 50s and 60s? The unity of 9/11 faded so fast, and we slumbered back into watching and debating about The Bachelor and Dancing with the Stars.
But now, thanks to Donald J. Trump, we have witnessed some truly amazing events, with protests that have actually dwarfed those of the 50s and 60s. And let me tell you something, it has been All-American, my friends. Democracy in action and at its finest. Coordination and spontaneity. Brilliant signs. Aggressive chants. Passionate speeches. Lawyers volunteering their services to immigrants. Young and old. Strength in diversity. Righteous indignation. Huge donations to the ACLU. Telephone calls tying up politician’s lines. Petition drives. Town Hall meetings. Etc. Etc Etc. And all in numbers that we have never experienced before. And, it is far from over. It is only going to get more coordinated from here.
Personally, I would like to see the resistance hit him where it hurts the most. So I like seeing the call for boycotts of his business interests, but I think people should use coordinated crowd action to shut down his hotels and golf courses.
I find it all very exhilarating. And hopeful. Yes, we are a very divided nation, and I blame that on blind devotion to political parties (something our Founders warned us about, even as they fell victim to it too), but there were even signs yesterday that indicate that if Trump continues down this path, this will cease to be a primarily partisan divide and become something that unites disparate groups into collective action. I would like to see more efforts to do just that. We have a history of that, too. In fact, the Republican Party was actually created from just such a dynamic. I know (and the president’s low approval ratings prove) that there are Republicans just as terrified and worried about Trump as anybody (even in Congress). The resistance needs to reach out to them.
You want to know what makes America great? Everything we have seen in the last week that shows that Americans are engaged, active, refusing to bow to authority and have woken from slumber. Even more great–the young are leading the way. Our Founders would love it.
So thanks, Comrade Trump, . . . you are indeed making America Great Again.