The people, united, will never be defeated.
As a Californian, even one who came from elsewhere, that refrain is part of my political DNA. It's Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta organizing oppressed farm workers for a decent life. It's the Chicano Moratorium protesting the white California power structure. And now, it's us.
When putative president Donald Trump signed his Muslim-ban-which-isn't-a-Muslim-ban-unless-Obama-did-it-first this past Friday, the reaction was immediate and loud. But what has snowballed since then is something not seen in American politics since the Vietnam War.
Scratch that: it's something never seen in US politics. The Vietnam protests took years to germinate and gain traction. What's happened since January 20 is a whirlwind not seen since the Civil Rights marches—and one can say that those took years to germinate as well. The response to the Trump regime has been immediate, fierce, and non-relenting. Ignoring Barack Obama's remonstrances that democracy itself was on the ballot on November 8, a shaken citizenry has finally awakened. Of course, much trouble and pain would have been avoided if that citizenry had come out en masse on Election Day. But I try to deal as much in reality as I can, and the what-ifs will be for future historians. Right now we're living through that history, which will be written about in 10 or 20 years, and my focus is on the here and now.
When Donald Trump eked out an Electoral College victory by 79,000 votes, I was afraid that traditional American apathy would take hold. There would be a few protests, some noises, but people would be more concerned with their daily lives and their diversions. What we've seen in the 9 days since Trump was sworn is is nothing but stunning. Those opposed to Trump have taken to heart Martin Niemöller's "First they came for the Socialists, but I said nothing, for I was not a Socialist" lecture and made it a plan for political action.
We're not going to wait until there's no one to speak for the last of us. We're making sure that those who are attacked first will get the full support of an outraged commonwealth. I truly cannot believe what I'm seeing: Apathetic America awakening.
We were complacent before November 8, 2016. We thought that Hillary Clinton had it in the bag. Surely a ridiculous figure like Trump couldn't win.
What we didn't realize is that there is a sizeable portion of the population which is scared to death of the changes coming, changes which are unstoppable, barring a true genocide. Trump spoke to these people, and enough of them got off their chairs and went to the polling places to put him barely over the line. They thought that would be it; everything was sorted out.
What they regularly fail to see is that their victories are mere holding actions against a reality which increases by the day. Unless they plan to take actions for which they have no stomach, this may be the last hurrah for white supremacy. And the pouring out into the streets of people of all colors, all creeds, all sexes, to say no to the dark vision Trump and Steven Bannon espouse is proof of that.
Sometimes you need a bucket of ice water dumped on your head to see clearly. Sometimes you need to see freedom imperiled to realize that freedom isn't free, that anything worth anything in life has to be fought for.
We are entering the Second Reconstruction. But this time it deals not solely with African Americans; this time it will deal with how we build a new, diverse nation, one which is as diverse as the world. It's a nation not of ethnicity, not of lineage, but of shared ideas. (This is the subject of another column on which I'm working, so more on that later.) It will be as momentous for the United States as Nelson Mandela's election was for South Africa.
They call us "snowflakes"; however, it has been our opponents who have acted offended that the country hasn't bowed down to its illegitimate president. They speak the language of complaint, of any bully who is stood up to. We are not snowflakes; we are the storm, and it's blowing with a fierce wind. They will learn a lesson that democracy isn't confined to the voting booth, that democracy is something you work at every day. May their political days be short, and may they skulk back under their rocks, never to be heard from again.