Inauguration Day has come and passed. Noon Friday was an hour looked upon with equal parts anticipation, trepidation and despair, depending upon your political persuasion. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. has a new resident.
So now the time has come to move forward. To put aside questions regarding the legitimacy of a Trump presidency.
There have been a lot of calls for coming together and unity. In a twist of irony, many of those today calling for it are the same people who spent eight years questioning the legitimacy of the previous administration. But many of these calls seem to have less to do with honoring and respecting differences of opinion and more to do with telling people to shut up, accept things and get in line. That is not what our nation is about. The people may have common goals of a better America and a better future, but they have many differing ideas on how to get there.
No one should be hoping for Mr. Trump to fail. Americans should always be hoping for the best for our country, whomever may be leading it. But that does not mean the country should blindly support its leaders. Citizens have a duty to keep representatives in check and have every right to object to policies and decisions made in Washington.
For those who supported Trump in the campaign, you are right to have joy in your hearts. Your guy won. But you must also be mindful of reality. Even in a landslide, there are millions of voters who did not vote for the winning candidate’s agenda, and this one didn’t even capture the popular vote. Throw in that nearly half of the nation’s eligible voters couldn’t be bothered to vote for Trump or one of the alternatives, and that’s a lot of people who probably aren’t thinking like you are right now. Don’t expect they are going to fall in line any more than you did over the last eight years.
For those who oppose the new president and his agenda, now is the time to begin the process of finding a better option for 2020. Make your voices heard. Organize. Demonstrate peacefully and constructively. Fight to protect the rights you hold dear. Don’t turn to vandalism and violence. Don’t turn to personal attacks. Don’t attack each other’s families. Don’t mock. Remember, 10 weeks ago, these roles were completely reversed.
And maybe take a moment before posting to Facebook and Twitter, step back and ask yourself, am I saying something reprehensible?
Don’t get me wrong, social media is a wonderful thing. I’ve caught up with more long lost friends than I can count. I’ve had conversations with people that would never have been possible before. And my work is read across the country and the world.
But social media is also the height of passive aggressiveness. It allows users to vomit opinion on an electronic billboard without repercussion thoughts that once were kept to one’s self in polite society out of respect for friends and family who might disagree. What we used to call good manners.
Put another way, you can call someone a moron and not get punched in the face. No argument is going to be won that way. Would you stand for that behavior in your home? In front of your family? Yet we wonder why we all just can’t get along? We are better than that.
All that kind of behavior does is promote an increasingly antagonistic language and tone, where neither side can refer to each other without using terms like communist, leftist, socialist, fascist, Nazi, dictator and Godless. Where skin is so thin that any opposing view is read as an attack. An atmosphere where someone can call a woman a pig, or pick on a 10-year-old boy for his family connections.
Yes, these are contentious times, but our hubris assumes we, today, live in the worst of times. I would argue that half of the states withdrawing from the union prior to inauguration might be up there. The rise of Jacksonism, the Great Depression, world wars, civil rights, terrorism, assassinations — as we approach 250 years this nation has seen its share of contentious times.
If Mr. Trump truly signals a seismic shift in the nation as we know it, or just a blip on the radar, it is far too soon to tell. Things he has said and done in his personal life may be less than admirable for many, but as a president he starts with the blankest of blank slates (Though if he continues at the pace he set his first weekend, probably not for long).
Unity is a long way off if people view their differences with hatred, and as long as we define unity as get along to go along. The true “coming together” that is needed here is civility. The true “acceptance” that is needed is respecting that people have views different from our own and that does not make them any less patriotic or American. There has been far too little of that over the last 15 years.
Chris Six is managing editor of the Fauquier Times, Gainesville Times and Prince William Times. Follow him on Twitter @ChristopherSix1