Democracy had a good run. It really did. It probably lasted longer than many would have predicted. The Founding Fathers set up a pretty good system, and it served us well for a long time. It’s a shame we didn’t follow Thomas Jefferson’s 1789 admonition, found in a letter to James Madison.
“Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.”
If we had, perhaps our democracy would have survived longer, and perhaps a great many more Americans would have, as well. But we didn’t, and now what’s done is done.
In his last trip abroad as President, Barack Obama warned:
“We are going to have to guard against a rise in a crude sort of nationalism, or ethnic identity or tribalism that is built around an us and a them, and I will never apologize for saying that the future of humanity and the future of the world is going to be defined by what we have in common, as opposed to those things that separate us and ultimately lead us into conflict.”
President Obama is far more optimistic than I am. Had he stated that the world should “be defined by what we have in common,” I would agree. But that it will be defined that way? I have zero hope for that.
I was born in 1959. I have seen and heard for myself the ways my fellow Americans have sought to divide us by race and religion as if it was utterly unnatural not to do so. I’ve heard my parents and grandparents speak with disdain about Jews and Asians. And I, myself, have hidden in the closet of atheism, smiling silently while people assume I am Christian. Just the other day, a woman for whom I did some pro bono work told me she tells others that God brought me to her. I smiled, told her she’s a sweetheart, and made no further comment. She is a black woman who gives selflessly of herself to serve her community. Yet I have no confidence she would accept me as I am.
Only in the year 2015 did it become legal for two human beings to marry each other, without regard to whether they came equipped with the proper plumbing. Less than 50 years before that, it was illegal in many states for two human beings to marry each other unless they came equipped with the proper skin pigmentation.
Do not kid yourself that those who would turn back the clock and restore these types of divisions do not feel emboldened by the election of Donald Trump. A friend recently recounted the story of an employee he had to fire because the employee drew a swastika on his cup and told his black coworkers, “There ain’t nothin’ you can do about it, cause Trump is president now.”
On Facebook today, there was live video coverage of the march of a group of women to Trump Tower to protest the president-elect. The comments ranged from remarks about their appearance to suggestions that they should be at work to questioning the choice of language that appeared on their signs. Translation: They aren’t attractive enough, hard-working enough, or ladylike enough to be validated in their concerns. All cues taken from Trump himself. He has made no secret of the lines along which he divides women.
This country is poised to descend into a hell the likes of which most of us could never have imagined would ever happen to our beautiful and unique country. Indeed, Trump’s fondest wish was to make America hate again, and his wish is coming true.
Democracy had a good run.