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Year One in the Age of Trump




Well, we’re not dead yet.

The world has not been consumed by a nuclear conflagration.

The White House has not been struck by lightning.

I guess we made it through the first year.

This is not a detailed, analytical assessment of the costs and benefits of the Trump presidency – I’ll leave that heavy lifting to someone, well, more hard-working.

This is a letter from the heart.

I simply want to reflect on where we were one year ago, as the shock of a Trump victory still reverberated throughout liberal America. Most of us tip-toed through the Christmas holidays last year and kept our mouths shut. I mean, wherever you were, you were in enemy territory and surrounded by Trump-voting family members, riding high on a wave of victory.

We just slipped off to our guest bedrooms and quietly went online to order pussy hats for the upcoming Women’s March, hoping that a least a couple of people would show up.

For Democrats like me, the Trump presidency is a paradox – in many ways worse than I could have possibly imagined, and yet, there is an inescapable sense that there is something stalwart in the underlying structure of our American institutions that no man and no administration can lay asunder. Sure, he’s trying. But he’s so full of KFC, Big Macs, and ice cream that his energy is flagging.

Three long years to go. But so much to look forward to, like the Blue Wave rising and ready to crest in November. The way the resistance is energized and still active in hundreds of thousands of local neighborhood groups planning the next sit-in at their local congressional office. The way young people and people of color, traditionally groups with low voter turnout, are showing every sign of rising up and getting involved. (Look at the 96% black voter turn-out in the recent Roy Moore-Doug Jones senate race in Alabama).

Times of darkness are, well, dark. That’s o.k. Our hearts break for the very real damage being inflicted on everyday Americans and the country we hold dear. Some of it will takes decades to repair, if ever. But in the ebb and flow of political struggle, we trust that the tide will once again rise to lift our hulls up off the sand and set us back into the current flowing toward a world that works for everyone.

I was recently in Ventura, California visiting family for the holidays. I drove around to view the horrific damage inflicted by the Thomas Fire, the largest fire in California history. Entire streets with every home turned to ash. Families who lost everything but the clothes on their back. It was painful. But all over town, handmade signs and wall murals with messages of hope and gratitude for the firefighters who spent their Christmas far from home to save other people’s homes and lives. In times of destruction and tragedy, as Mr. Rogers reminded us, look for the people who are helping. There are always people helping.

Pay attention to the kleptocracy. Support the real journalists who are doing the hard work of documenting the manifold crimes of this amoral administration. Don’t grow weary and look away. But also pay attention to the helpers. Put your time and energy into the resistance. Find others who are doing the decidedly unglamorous ditch-digging to lay the foundation for what we are about to build. Find a local congressional race to get involved in. We lost the White House, but we can take back the People’s House. There is hard work ahead, but we’ll get way more done if we smile while we do it.

One day we will be able to tell our grand-children and great-grandchildren that at the end of Year One in the Age of Trump, we woke up and began walking, one step at a time, toward a bolder realization of the American ideal – a nation of integrity, humility, rationality, and justice for all. We believed it was possible. And we acted on our beliefs.

Peter Bolland is the philosophy and humanities department chair at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California where he teaches world religions, Asian philosophy, world mythology, and ethics. Bolland is also a columnist for both Unity Magazine and the San Diego Troubadour. An award winning singer-songwriter and poet, Bolland draws on the world’s wisdom traditions as a frequent lecturer and performer throughout the San Diego region.

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