What is transpiring in the nation’s capital is not simply the result of the most recent presidential election. While President Donald Trump embodies the inhumanity that has girded America for two centuries, this administration is simply the fulfillment of our national sinfulness. The upending of our federal government is the consequence of decades of chiseling away at the tenets of our fragile republic, decades of passive resistance to hate mongers and accommodating human suffering and almost two and a half centuries of placating a narrow band of wealthy eites to the detriment of the masses. Now, like some Pandora’s box, all the fury and evil that our fragile politics labored to control has been unleashed from the Oval Office.
The day of reckoning has arrived in America.
We are witnessing the implosion of our federal government. It has been fairly elastic, able to withstand the tension of factionalism, racism and bigotry. Up until this point this country has been fairly resilient. It absorbed world wars, a civil war, economic crises, state-sanctioned bigotry and violence designed to inflict terror upon its native population descendants of enslaved Africans. Through it all our institutions held firm, battered and scarred but intact and sometimes marginally improved for the benefit of the nation. Occupants of the Oval Office came and went. Some served as barometers of progress, while others played the role of obstructionists to the very ideals they swore to uphold.
What we see before us now is the culmination of our failures. Donald Trump is just a symptom of our disease. His boorish behavior and questionable mental fitness for the office of the presidency represents every test this nation has failed in protecting human dignity. This is not just a partisan indictment either. Our nation has categorically failed to upend its hateful roots and it has allowed the weeds of bigotry, xenophobia, racism and sexism to overtake the flowers of liberty that many have died to cultivate since that compromising day in Philadelphia in 1776.
We must now fight to see the other side of midnight. It won’t be easy and there are going to be constant battles, but a better tomorrow is possible if we accept what must be done today. Our focus now must not be distracted by our present predicament but instead placed on setting the stage for the final act of the American revolution. And that focus means surrendering our fears, anger and angst to a concerted effort to protect, train and prepare our children, our youth to fundamentally transform this nation into a truly democratic republic.
What does this mean? It means using our resources to educate our children beyond the contours of the formal education prescribed in our public-school systems. It means redefining ‘the village’ so we assume a shared responsibility for the mental and physical well-being of our children and their overall security. We must now use the institutions for which we possess a higher degree of control – churches, Black colleges, private schools, charter schools and social and fraternal organizations – as ‘safe spaces’ to train our youth and consciously redirect our resources to their development. This means those of us of adult age must be willing to sacrifice some material wants and surrender our time to engage young people. There is nothing stopping us from raising a generation of warriors except our will to do so.
Our lament over the Trump presidency might be therapeutic and our social media postings cathartic but we cannot be trapped by the unpredictability of the election cycle. We continuously roll the dice, hoping for a president that will be the great liberator and enabler of our citizenship. We have to free ourselves. That means deviating from our status quo approach to civic engagement and pursuing strategies that cast our concern inward, changing our behavior in how we use our resources, particularly money, making the necessary investments in our youth, building healthy relationships independent of our government with nations of the Diaspora, and restructuring our economics to intentionally become self-sufficient.
Does this mean we ignore the current politics in our nation’s capital? No. It does mean, however, that we move strategically in picking our fights in Washington, paying more attention to local and state politics, all the while reserving most of our energy to true nation-building. It means we have to be willing to work. By being consumed by everything this president does, we run the risk of spending four years shadow boxing. Some of what comes out of this White House will require us to think much differently about how we meet our needs and how we ensure survival. And that might not be a bad thing. While I don’t make light of the immediate harm the reversal of some public policies might inflict, the fact remains that our progress to date has been measured at best and our future cannot be dependent on the good graces of an electoral savior. At some point, we have to believe that we have what it takes to save ourselves.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.