Let me go outside, and see the birds and the trees and the deep blue of the sky, and let them give me life again. Let my weariness and guilt and horror sink into the ground, let the wide river carry them all away, and let me be ready for whatever comes next.
Welcome to the end of the beginning. The time from the election through the inauguration through the firing of James Comey, the Russia probe, Trump’s nuclear brinksmanship, and more, that time is done.
There’s no more fooling ourselves. The president of the United States, in first waiting to denounce white nationalist and white supremacist extremists and terrorists, and then in his blaming of “both sides” for violence in Charlottesville, has revealed himself. He has betrayed the best ideals of this nation, and he has sided with the dark stain of racism, hatred, bigotry, and white supremacy.
There’s no presidential pivot. There is no more hope that Trump is anyone but who he is. His vile bigotry and willingness to tear us all apart for his own gain is plain to see. He is a pathetic excuse for a leader, and he is a petty, foolish, immoral, and irredeemable man.
Everything is finally clear. Now a new phase starts. Now it’s time to choose.
You must ask yourself, and we must all ask ourselves, which side are we on? Do you continue to support this man and all he stands for? Or do you want to see him and everyone like him banished from government so that we can try once more to live up to our ideals?
Choose. Do you stand for inclusion, cosmopolitanism, and the still-revolutionary line in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” and that “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights?” Or do you stand for the other side of the coin, the dark current of American history stained by white supremacy, anti-Semitism, greed, nationalism, racism, blood, and hate?
Choose. Do you stand with the Nazis and fascists marching to protect the whitewashed and mythologized symbols of a regime dedicated to slavery? Or do you stand with the people who would put themselves in their path, to try to stop them, and who want to tear those monuments down?
Choose. Do you stay silent, or do you speak out? Do you stand by, or do you act?
This choice has to be laid at the feet of Trump’s own party first and foremost. Some Republicans in Congress have, to their credit, denounced Trump by name for his comments. But the vast majority are silent.
That silence makes things very clear, too.
This choice is also one that white people must make. We’ve benefitted from the oppression all of these fascists and statues represent, and we must choose to fight against it.
If, after all of this, after the sudden and heart-wrenching moral clarity of Nazis, fascists, and white nationalists on the streets of Charlottesville and the equally heart-wrenching refusal of the president to condemn them, if you are still on his side, then my words aren’t going to change your mind. I don’t know if anything will. That’s heart-wrenching, too, because I want to believe in the goodness and morality of the American people, and I want to believe that people can change. But for now, I’ll put that aside.
What matters is what happens next.
The president must go. That’s clear. But, unless Republicans find their moral courage and act, that’s not likely to happen any time soon. That means we have to work to protect our friends, neighbors, and communities from the worst America has to offer. We have to look out for one another, especially for people of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and any other marginalized groups targeted by Trump and his cronies. We must do what we can to fight racism and bigotry.
We must work to stop white nationalists and fascists by isolating, ostracizing, and placing ourselves in front of them.
We must keep pressure on our governments to stop harmful laws and protect those who need protecting.
We must mobilize, protest, speak out, write, act, and make our presence and voices known.
And, most of all, we must keep hope alive. My mother told me after the election that the Republic would endure, and I believe her. But it won’t endure because of its institutions, it will endure because of us.
Let me go outside and feel the wind in my hair, and let the sun fill me up with light and peace. I’ve made my choice. Have you?
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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