“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” – Theodore Roosevelt
At the dawn of Obama’s America, sometime in the wee hours of his historic, landmark victory on election night 2008, I wrote one of my first-ever politically tinged blog posts. In it, I had the urge to verbally express the magnitude of that moment; what it looked and felt like to witness something as historic as it was.
In my bleary-eyed, partially-coherent ranting, I wrote that his victory was my “man on the moon” moment. It was one of the very first electrifyingly positive world events to occur in my lifetime that would reshape my own and most others’ view of this country and the world at large.
To put into perspective, as of this writing I am 37 years old. I was born an entire decade after mankind first walked on the moon. I was even more generationally removed to witness the Civil Rights movement rock the urban centers of our country, or join the anti-war protests surrounding Vietnam. I never heard or saw a live broadcast of any major and revered cultural or political leader like MLK, Jr. or JFK; mine and generations after me are relegated to history books and static-ridden, black and white film footage.
I existed as a distant witness to the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of apartheid half a world away. But my youth and cultural displacement kept me sheltered. The first Iraq War was merely a series of all-night newscasts – typically a barrage of night-vision green streaks of bullets and patriot missiles criss-crossing a desert landscape on another planet – from which my parents’ own blend of both disinterest and protective interests kept me insulated.
I was finally and officially an adult for the Bush/Gore contest of 2000, but even then still disillusioned from the effectiveness of political participation. Nearly a year later, I witnessed the nightmarish plumes of dust and smoke when the planes hit the towers on 9/11 from a few miles away, and felt the booming recoil from the fighter jets streaking overhead as they raced to protect the city.
I would argue that 9/11 was, in fact, a defining moment for me as an adult, as it would be for thousands – millions – of others. Although thankfully I was personally unaffected (no loss of life or health), it was near impossible to be a young American at the time and not feel the conflict inside of burgeoning patriotism (even I applauded G.W. Bush’s “hear all of us soon” Ground Zero speech) and crippling fear of what further devastation may be wrought in the months and years to come.
But 9/11 was, by default, not to be celebrated; as an event and a subsequent movement afterwards, it wound up dividing the country and the world far more than it united; as the “War on Terror” was properly scrutinized and the realization set in that maybe “with us or against us” was not a very good foreign policy.
So when the world – and I mean literally the world – rallied behind a young, intelligent, progressive, culturally agnostic, activist-minded leader to forge ahead into a new decade amidst a second American economic depression and multiple wars, it was a beacon of light. Obama’s victory even now still remains for me as the most significant period of my own American citizenry. While he was no perfect human or infallible candidate, he was by and large the best person for the job and probably one of the boldest ever to hold the office.
His election was my “man in the moon” moment because it opened my mind to what it meant to hope and push for a better, brighter future; to bear witness and take responsibility as a citizen and play my part however possible to ensure that version of a future my children. It emboldened others like me to not shy away from what is right, but demand it. To require it To fight for it.
Which is why today, with the new Trump administration seemingly defying all truthful progress, I cannot remain quiet.
In a recent social media post, esteemed veteran journalist Dan Rather likened Donald Trump’s presidency to the most unprecedented political happening in American history, writing: “The press has never seen anything like this before. The public has never seen anything like this before. And the political leaders of both parties have never seen anything like this before.”
I despise the use of the “standing on a precipice” metaphor, but it fits here. Donald Trump has been in office for just under a week, and everywhere he is being called out time and time again for his dangerous, delusional lunacy. His unabated self-admiration, apparent distrust of facts and grandiose tendencies to distort truth on a near-hourly basis are not just abnormal, they are frightening.
Our new authoritarian leader is willfully and unabashedly lying to the public and then silencing anyone who defies his “alternative facts,” even from within the halls of his own government. From any other reality, one would typically associate his behaviors as of late to Kim Jong-un, not the President of the United States of America, where freedom rings and all that.
This man has the power to reshape not only our national democracy but our nation’s effect and recognition on an international scale. He can (and very well may) literally start a war over a misaligned Tweet, or ban entire media networks from presidential access due to an unfavorable SNL sketch.
He has boasted about his rich, white male privileges and self-alleged his tendencies of sexual harassment.
He has and continues to threaten our national security via rampant, vapid diatribes of nationalistic absurdities aimed at non-whites and non-Christians, both global and domestic.
He has promised to overturn civil liberties and deemed women as unfit to control their own bodies. He has nominated a cabinet rooted in corporate and economic special interests.
He has granted his friends and family special and exclusive access to his desk, and refuses to acknowledge any conflicts of interest beset in his empire.
He has declared marginalized populations in this very country as expendable while doubling down on our nation’s dependence on fossil fuel.
He continues to defy proven science in favor of profit-driven lobbyists and pandering to religious fundamentalism.
Despite the consistent and perpetual roll-call of ineptitudes that have befallen the highest office in the land, this presidency will continue this trend of anti-American regression unless people’s voices are magnified over and over and over, and a series of bravely defiant leaders heeds the people’s call to take up the charge against the tyranny that is Trump.
This is why I fight. This is my reason for writing, for speaking, for yelling. This is why I go to bed every night and wake up every day since November 8th, 2016 thinking “What else can I do?”
This is my Vietnam, my MLK, Jr. This is my Berlin Wall. Because I cannot bear it being my kids’ 9/11.