Monday, January 23, 2017

Get off the bench

It's been quite a week in the American political arena. The inauguration of the 45th president followed by a day of gatherings across the world has a put our politics under a microscope — and the close-up inspection has not been pretty.

President Trump's inaugural address was caustic. He did not — and cannot — take back the things he has said that have offended many Americans. His behavior can be inappropriate — even childish — but he is, in fact, the duly elected President of the United States. The President of the United States is not supposed to be our spirit animal. He is the lead administrator and one piece of the policy-making authority in the federal government.  Maybe this is why I find the “not my president” discussion offensive. I get that you didn't vote for him but part of being an American and participating in our electoral process means that sometimes we don't get to be the winner every time. Have we been so coddled that we can't stand to hear an opposing viewpoint? Have we had so many participation trophies presented to us that we are mentally unprepared for when something doesn't go our way? If sour grapes of this magnitude were on display after every election, this would be a far less inspiring country. If Hillary Clinton can show support for our system of government by being on the stage while her opponent gets sworn in, I have to believe that the rest of the country can follow her gracious lead.

For the millions of Americans who participated in the events across the country on the 21st, I hope the experience was an energizing one. I struggle to call them “Women’s Marches” because some were broader in theme and some seemed more like anti-Trump rallies. Some rallies seemed right on point and inspired participants to “go high” and make their voices heard while others were (disappointingly) more divisive in tone. Preaching inclusion while telling other Americans they are wrong if they think differently is how we got to this angry place. Instead I hope that participants follow the lead of Martin Luther King Jr. and DO SOMETHING. Note that taking s selfie and calling yourself a nasty woman doesn't actually move the ball. Encouraging tolerance (which means accepting everyone — including people who disagree with you) becoming active in politics, engaging with policy makers and giving your beliefs a voice will make a difference. Mocking Barron Trump and calling the president a Cheetoh on Facebook only makes you look foolish. Finding common ground with an adversary and having fact-based discussions about the issues of the day makes you brilliant.

It’s time that our best, brightest and most thoughtful minds participate in the political process, so if you can be smart and “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” it’s time to get off the bench and engage.