by Kevin Nordstrom
It’s routine in our house in the morning, when my almost 8 month old son awakes, for he, my wife and I to lay in bed together. We allow ourselves the time to wake slowly and bask in the happiness and calm we have before the madness of the day begins.
This morning was no different. At least at first.
After a few moments my wife went downstairs to check her phone. She came back in silently and lay back down next us, her face grave and solemn.
“It’s Trump…” She said quietly.
My eyes closed and my jaw clenched as I felt rage pump through my veins like a hose that’d been turned on too high.
Two words echoed over and over in my mind, loud and endless like the gargoyle protected bells of Notre Dame…
At first it was for my son. He would grow up in a country where the majority of people would choose a misogynistic, racist and hateful man to rule their country.
But as the terrible bells continued to ring outward so did the number of people my apology was intended for.
“I’m sorry…” to those who desperately need good healthcare.
“I’m sorry…” to the women who fought so hard to get and keep their reproductive rights.
“I’m sorry…” to those who suffer from the stigma of mental illness.
“I’m sorry…” to those who love someone of the same sex.
“I’m sorry…” to those who identify with a different sex than the one they were born to.
“I’m sorry…” to those who worship a god or gods that’s not Christian or worship no god at all.
“I’m sorry…” to those who were simply born in a different country or have different skin tones.
That’s when the final bell rang…
“We failed you…”
We tried to fight back against the ignorance and hatred but it wasn’t enough. We were caught in a battle with a beast we’d thought we’d slain so long ago.
It’s easy to think of progress as this constant forward motion. This constant climb to the top of the mountain. But we tend to forget that it doesn’t work that way. There’s always a dip that leads to another mountain that’s in the way.
I always felt so grateful that I’d grown in a time after we’d defeated monsters like Hitler and Stalin, given the right to vote to everyone no matter their race or sex and that equality for all, while not obtained just yet, was on the horizon.
This was supposed to be a country that was the fairest of them all, working toward a world where anyone could marry anyone they loved, women were given control over their own bodies and those who were born different were treated with understanding and compassion.
But then the mirror on the wall reflected a terribleness in us in the form of Donald Trump and showed us that we’re not even close to being the fairest one of all. It’s showed us bigotry, hatred and fear were not only still here in all its potent forms but it was stronger and more terrible than we could’ve ever imagined.
I say the word “us” because as much as we’d love to lay the blame on those who voted for him or those who used their vote to protest the two-party system or even those who just plain didn’t vote, this is OUR COUNTRY. We’re in this together. The United States is US.
While we played on our phones and judged the ignorant and foolish the darkness in this country was allowed to grow. We argued instead of educated. We ignored when we should’ve reached out a hand to help. We judged when we should’ve understood.
We watched the country slowly being stoned to death and told ourselves that since we hadn’t thrown a stone it wasn’t our fault. Or perhaps we told ourselves “Well, I only threw ONE stone… that’s not that much damage.” Or worst of all, we truly felt the stoning was justified.
We have raped and killed the dreams of a strong, loving and wise country that our forefathers, ancestors, great grandparents, grandparents and parents fought so hard to create…
We have only ourselves to blame.
In one fell swoop we’ve taken many steps backward by electing a man who believes it’s alright to mock others different from us, to grope and molest women and be openly ignorant and hateful.
The brilliant philosopher Plato felt that democracy was one of the worst types of government, second only to tyranny. His reasoning behind this was that the average person wasn’t wise enough to make such important decisions. Even our forefathers felt this way in part, which is why the Electoral College was originally created.
I’ve always chalked this up to the times when these things were written. Plato was around in ancient Rome and even by the time this country was founded, the average person could barely read. Surely, I thought, in an age when information is literally at our fingertips we’d be more capable and competent.
But instead we base our decisions on articles without reliable sources that agree with our preconceived notions and our arguments are backed by simplistic memes rather than wisdom and logic. We proudly claim we’re bitches and assholes on screenshots of our favorite movies while Kermit the Frog sips his tea and sardonically reminds us it’s none of our business.
Perhaps Plato was right. Perhaps we’re like children sitting at the launch console of a nuclear warhead wanting to push the big, red button because it’s our favorite color.
Thus far we’ve taught these children that being honest and real means being an asshole. That if someone disagrees with your perspective it’s to be perceived as an attack and you should return in kind. That you should hate those you somehow deem stupid or different.
But hating someone, whether it’s a single person or group, is like poisoning your own cup and waiting for the other person to die.
While our eyes were so fixated on ourselves and our beliefs and judgements, our toddler has let a monster into our home and invited him to dinner, complete with arsenic-laced wine, all the while reminding us with a wink that “It’s all natural!”
Donald Trump has been elected president. We can’t change that. All we can do is decide what we do now.
We’ve seen that this country has a great deal of growing up to do. We can’t do that by berating and attacking each other. We have to take each other’s hands and stand together because there’s a battle ahead. The ignorant and the hateful have taken up arms and it’s time we reminded them of the power of knowledge, compassion and love. Just as this country did when we fought for racial equality or votes for women.
The stakes are terribly high and, if we allow it, Trump and all he stands for can and will destroy everything we’ve fought so hard to make this country. As before, we won’t fight with violence or hatred. Those are the weapons of the enemy. Our strength lies with our knowledge, compassion and, above all, patience. After all, children rarely learn something easily. It takes time, perseverance and, most importantly, love.
Those of us who believe this country is meant to be a land where you can be who you are freely without fear of ridicule or intolerance took a sucker punch yesterday and now, on the ground, dirty and nose bloodied, it’s time to wipe ourselves clean, get back up and stand tall.
It’s time to truly make America great again…
Kevin Nordstrom is a writer and illustrator of children’s books and poems, living happily ever after with his wife, a son on the way, too many cats, and, oh yeah, his schizophrenia.