For those of us in marginalized communities, the inauguration of a new administration offered very little to be hopeful about. Based on the rhetoric of the elected, there is a legitimate fear of impending danger. Citizens and the press are highlighting the dangerous ethics of the new leadership, fearful of where such ethics may lead and who they may target. During Friday’s inauguration, my social media feed was full of people expressing hopelessness, resignation and anger. Yet, after being sworn-in, the newly inaugurated President and First Lady walked their predecessors to a waiting helicopter. That aircraft circled the Capitol Building one last time and then carried Former President and First Lady Barack & Michelle Obama away from the seat of political power, and back into civilian life. Though for many it was a disheartening sight, I found shocking hope in that moment. My hope was rooted in the observance of the peaceful transition of power.
If we carefully analyze the political structure globally, the concept of peacefully transferring power from one chief to another is anathema to political leadership. In most countries, power is often surrendered only through elitist nepotism, military coup d’état or violent civil war. Yet, after Friday’s inauguration, we witnessed one freely-elected leader peacefully transfer the most powerful seat in the world to a new freely-elected leader. The previous leader fundamentally disagrees with the new leader, and the new leader threatens both the accomplishments of the former leader and the people the former leader stood for. Yet, this did not interrupt that noble process. In that, there is hope.
The truth is that, despite its current state, our country was built on incredibly noble principles. The 400-years of oppression and evil that people of color faced is a result of the disconnect between the founders’ doctrine and their reality. Despite all their patrician ideas, the founding citizens harbored hatred for people different from them and a cognitive dissonance between what they practiced and what they preached. There is a wide and violent juxtaposition between the truth our founders held to be self-evident (that all are created equal) and the cultural inclusions they actually adhered to.
Living in an era where those contradictions still impact us so critically, it’s easy to condemn our country even as we benefit from the freedoms and privileges of it; no matter how limited, skewed, reduced, or denied they may be for some of us.
Yet there's a reason that we march, protest, sit-in, preach, riot, write, sing, dance, paint and scream to make this country right. There's a reason the people before us fought to correct its path. It’s because, despite its disfigurements, it still has the potential to be great.
We fight so drastically for this country because we love it, as antithetical as that might seem to those who do not understand our fight, our righteous anger, or our fire. Indeed, no one would fight so zealously for a thing they did not love.
Like a psychologist peering through the layers of the psyche, James Baldwin diagnosed it perfectly when he said, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
I was reminded that no matter how different and divided Americans can be at times, all of us have space somewhere within the borders of the United States that we call home. We have family, experiences, memories and energy that are undeniably attached to this geographical and political space and time.
The reality is this: despite the rallying cries of the new administration and its sycophants, none of them will make America great again. However, I firmly believe that it is we, the disenfranchised, the rejected, the abused, the ignored, and the violated, who have the power to make America great if we do the work. We have this power because we alone can see what’s wrong with our country, and therefore we alone can fix it. When I witnessed the peaceful transition of power, it gave me hope that one day our country will match the principles it declares.
It will, however, require us not to surrender to fear, apathy or weariness. We must not retreat into our ivory towers, which lead us to detached intellectualism that rarely manifests into action. We must feel this reality and live in it. Then, we must begin the discussions that lead to realistic action to destroy the laws that support supremacy and devalue lives. We must create solidarity for the next election to remove those who uphold inequity. We must protect the so-called "minorities" in this country from the backlash of those in the majority whose ideals do not preserve all life.
Above all, we must not lose the deep love that powers our fight to make America become a perfect union, that truly establishes justice, ensures tranquility, promotes the welfare of its people and secures the blessing of liberty for all.
I’ll always love the country that wishes to destroy me. And I’ll fight it, too, until a day comes when I don’t have to yell “Black lives matter”...because all of our lives finally and truly will.
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