By Lorri L. Jean
A year ago, we were reeling in the fear and uncertainty of what a Trump presidency and Congress controlled by conservatives would mean for our community, nation, and world. To our great dismay, many of our worst fears came true and, of course, more threats are looming.
Like any bully, they went after the most vulnerable first. This Administration has left almost no community unscathed with its cruel and unusual brand of governing, including many of the communities who voted them into office.
It’s the stuff of daydreams (and movie plots) to think the simple turn of the calendar will signal a dramatic shift in our current political realities. Fortunately, our Center and people across the country have been doing more than dreaming of change. We’ve been thinking and acting, educating and mobilizing people of all parties who understand that divisive and bigoted leadership does not improve our society or strengthen our nation.
These efforts paid off in November with the voters’ indisputable repudiation of anti-LGBT and other regressive values. Who doesn’t love the poetic justice of a transgender woman defeating the Virginia state legislator who not only authored the anti-trans bathroom bill but who ran unabashedly as the state’s self-styled “chief homophobe”?
Yet, I worry that those few successes could prompt the same complacency that contributed to the ascension of Trump in the first place. Part of ensuring that doesn’t happen is to continue thinking, acting, educating and mobilizing. To maintain our momentum, I think it’s vitally important to remember some crucial facts.
We are the people.
Trump’s election prompted an uprising by an unprecedented coalition of people who are concerned about the fate of our nation. Just think back to the women’s marches across the country the day after Trump’s inauguration…or any of the subsequent uprisings to protect affordable health care, immigration rights and the transgender members of our community, just to name a few.
Those stepping up are people of every kind and every political party. They care deeply about building America’s well-being and fostering the human potential available to all of us, regardless of factors that should never be used to divide us, like sexual orientation, gender identity, race, and immigration status.
In fact, those of us who think this way are part of a large majority. Really. Despite what it may feel like, this Administration and its policies are actually supported by the fewest Americans since political polling began.
In times when we feel dispirited, we need to enjoy, be grateful for, and find strength in each other. After all, we are among those still working hard to build a more inclusive, kinder, and better future, regardless of who may temporarily stand in our way.
Moreover, as we head into the New Year, let’s fuel our resolutions for change with inspiration borne of a few fundamental truths.
We are a humane people.
Our democracy is adversarial by design. But from 30,000 feet up, the ways that most people differ from each other are at the periphery. The elemental character of a majority of Americans doesn’t change simply because a new Administration is focused on policies that are the antithesis of humanity and caring.
It’s in times like these that we must do even more to accentuate the importance of human compassion. We must work to ensure that we not only retain the ground we’ve gained, but we continue to make progress towards building a nation where the American dreams of health and happiness, freedom and prosperity work for everyone.
We are a moral people.
We know that discrimination, hatred, and selfishness at the expense of others are wrong. Love, equity, and generosity of spirit are right. We understand that the false politics of fear and division prey upon the ignorant and desperate. Even worse, they have very real and devastating consequences on the everyday lives of individuals, families, and entire communities.
We cannot abide such immorality, especially among our elected leaders. We must set and demand a different, more uplifting example.
We are a determined people.
Many of us are part of one or more communities that have suffered grave injustices throughout history and continuing to today. Yet, we have persevered and, increasingly, we have prevailed. Our determination has taught us that we can survive the worst, and even thrive in the midst of great oppression, overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. We’ve learned never to give up, no matter the challenges ahead.
Most important of all, we’ve learned that change doesn’t happen on its own, at least, not at a speed that anyone can see. Change happens because we MAKE it happen. And if there was ever a time for us to come together to ensure that the change our country needs is made, it’s now.
What we dream, we can do.
Dreams do come true. But the process of realizing our dreams almost always includes victories and setbacks, tears and triumphs, and a lot of hard work.
We must never forget that fighting for justice, and winning, is what our community knows how to do. It’s one of the things we do best. We must remember not only that we are on the right side of history, but that we are fierce, resilient, and inspiring. We must use our humanity, morality, and determination not only to resist policies that would harm us and others, but to continue actively building the well-being of our communities and our nation.
I’ve said it before and will keep on saying it: for the next three years it is our duty, our obligation, to do much more than simply hunker down and weather the storm. We must BE the storm! Let us respond when our fellow human beings need help. Let us trumpet the strength in diversity. Let us seek to extinguish fear and inspire hope and revel in the power of love. Such are the things that dreams are made of.
Originally published January 2018