And so we have chosen. I have not written since the election. Darkness akin to global grief overcame me and those like me who believed in the best instincts of the American people. We the People, by action or inaction, had chosen the future. Some of us were convinced that a self-serving billionaire who refused to reveal his taxes, made fun of minorities, women and people with disabilities, told lies that were obvious each day and promised to build a wall around his ivory towers would be seen as unfit to serve in a democracy. We were wrong. The lack of will in the electorate decided our fate, and the fate of the free world, for at least four years. I went to bed on election night believing there had been some mistake. The dumbing down of America could not culminate in this. But there it was, and there was a lot more to it.
According to the latest polls, only 37% of the electorate has confidence in Donald Trump as president of the United States. How is this possible when nearly 50% voted for him? Well, because they didn’t. Less than half of those eligible to vote didn’t vote. Through the darkness of the future this fact glows like radioactive waste. Pundits blamed Third Party candidates; 800 closed polling places; new voter rules including photo IDs; and voter apathy. Against this evidence was the belief by those of us who were so horrified by the defects of the Republican candidate we believed voter turnout by Democrats and Independents would skyrocket. It didn’t.
What is happening here, from my point of view, is a tidal change in the civility and awareness of the American people. It’s not only Americans. Worldwide, violence against those considered “other” is growing. The ability to turn away from thousands being murdered in Syria, despite horrific pictures on the nightly news, speaks to the numbing of our compassion. The same thing happened to the Jews after WW II and we thought we would never forget. During the Brexit vote in England, similar facts were cited following the murder of a member of Parliament who was anti-Brexit. Her funeral was a footnote to a vote for separation.
A rise in violence, a drop in literacy, and a society in search of the latest technology certainly affected the votes, but there is also a deeper and more fearful reason. Those who are anti-anything are more likely to come out and express what they are against. The violence and fear taking over the world have pushed people into their cocoons, where they are riding out the storm. The press has become almost irrelevant as it evolves into a personality cult rather than a news gathering entity. Television and radio are divided into band widths that serve those of one mind. We don’t have to listen to dissenting opinions anymore. We just tune into FOX if we’re Republican conservatives or MSNBC if we’re Democratic liberals and everyone will agree with us. By dividing us into “viewing entities” we have made it easy for advertisers to focus their sales on the demographics of the channels.
But most importantly, government by the people and for the people is perceived to have morphed into government as a private club for the governing. President Obama did his best to overcome that perception, but “Yes We Can” was not heard in the “No You Can’t” camp.
The takeover of the government by corporations who care only for their profits leaves those who serve unselfishly on the outskirts labeled as out-of-step and unrealistic. The popularity of Bernie Sanders showed the existence of those people, but they stayed home when it counted. They will have to live with the dismantling of our democracy as the result of their refusal to see the big picture. Our government is now being occupied by billionaires from big oil, big banks, climate deniers and public education enemies—not to mention Rick Perry who couldn’t remember that it was the Department of Energy he wanted to eliminate as, guess what? Head of the Department of Energy. If this were a novel, I would be transfixed by the imagination of the author. But it isn’t. It is the state of our beloved union.
What will I do besides mourn the takeover of America by the corporate world? I will continue to write about it, talk about it and lobby our Congressional members to save a piece of the pie for average Americans. These were, after all, the people who voted Trump into office. But I will also continue to warn against the takeover of our hearts by the desire for more stuff, more technology and more division. In other words, I will remind all of us that our soul desires more than things. Our soul desires growth, generosity and cooperation. The founders knew we would have differences, and these have always fueled our Republic through the process of open discussion and airing of our views without fear of retribution. May we remember that in the days ahead as this new administration tries to find its way through. I pray that the ghosts that walk the White House will whisper in the ear of President Trump and whoever chooses to live there with him, reminding them of the hopes and dreams of the immigrants who founded this wonderful place called America. One can only hope.