Reasons to Hope (Even If Trump Is President)

By the time I went to bed last night, I was pretty sure that Donald J. Trump would be my next president. When my body awoke early this morning (I had no idea the time), I pondered whether to turn over and allow myself to check my phone. It seemed unlikely I would fall back asleep with any ease, so I decided to see whether Trump had sealed his victory or if some miracle had occurred.

Like many, I am scared. Not because a Republican has won the White House but because Trump was no ordinary Republican candidate. I’m worried about international affairs and potential wars and nuclear threats. I’m worried about what it means for our diverse nation that a man so associated with bigotry and resentment and ignorance has won the presidency. I’m worried that Trump won’t respect the law or basic principles of our democracy that allow it to function as well as it does.

During the last several months, I have allowed myself to believe that a Trump presidency was indeed a real possibility. As I pondered this, I found that I needed to hope. I suspect some other people out there need a little hope right now too. So I thought I’d share the list of reasons for hope under a Trump presidency that I’ve been working on.

My tone will probably be more optimistic than some can handle at this moment (it will probably be more optimistic than I currently feel). All of us are experiencing this election differently, and I don’t pretend that my reaction is the right one for everyone. But perhaps these words will be encouraging to some.

1. My faith

Politics is not a good place to put your hope. Most of us find something else to hope in. For me, part of that something else is a belief in a God who—eventually, somehow—will ensure that justice and goodness and peace will ultimately win. Every government and every political system is deeply flawed. The question is when—not if—politics will take a dark turn. We must find something else to hope in when these moments come.

2. Our resilience

As a nation, we’ve lived through plenty of dark moments. We fled from our nation’s capital as the British set it ablaze. We pointed our guns toward one another and literally split in two as we fought to preserve our separate visions of who we were as a people. We ran to the banks and found that our deposits were gone forever. We listened on the radio to the news that the Japanese were attacking Pearl Harbor. We saw smoke rise above our cities as racial strife erupted in flames. We stared at our TV screens and witnessed the plane that hit the second tower. Throughout our history, we have seen exactly four presidents be shot and killed.

Somehow, we have always survived.

I’m one of the least patriotic people I know, and believing in my country should be more difficult for me right now than ever before. In many ways, it is. But today I know that I am proud to be an American. And I believe that spirit of patriotism is more important now than it ever has been before in my lifetime. I will not run from my country in the face of adversity. My country needs me now, and I will stand with it. We will survive this together. We will find a way. That’s what we do.

3. The federal bureaucracy

There are many, many fine women and men serving our country, in and out of uniform. They are talented. They are informed. They have great responsibility. The functions of government are far too vast for any one man (or one man and his close associates) to comprehend every detail. Yes, the president wields great power. But he is forced to rely on the expertise, the procedures, and the efforts of the federal bureaucracy. This bureaucracy is incredibly complex. It is not easy to change. It plays a major role in providing information to the president. I suspect many reckless decisions will be avoided because our bureaucracy will have a say in what happens.

4. The law

Laws are not perfectly respected in any society. We’ve seen presidents push the boundaries of their constitutional authority. But we’ve also consistently seen forces push back against overreach (though not always as strongly as we would wish). Compared to many countries, there is great respect for the law in this country, and that means that the president’s power is not unchecked. Trump may push the boundaries, but he will meet resistance. Traditions of press freedom, democratic transition of authority, and respecting the rights of personal and political enemies will not easily be destroyed. When Hillary Clinton was the alternative, many Republicans (elected officials and voters) came to Trump’s side. But I do not believe that means they will tolerate the dissolution of our most deeply-held democratic norms.

5. New awareness

I believe that the rhetoric and substance of Trump’s campaign has worsened certain problems in our society. But it has also served to reveal many pre-existing problems that were largely being ignored (for a variety of reasons) by much of society. In the last few years, we have finally again devoted substantial attention to issues of racism in our society. In recent months, the Trump candidacy has begun spawning important discussions about rural poverty, racial resentment, and intergenerational hopelessness. Despite the Internet allowing us to connect instantly with people in almost any part of the world, we’ve been so disconnected from one another at home that many have been struggling to understand what a Trump supporter even looks like. We can only hope to address our society’s issues if we are aware of them. Trump’s political success has been a major wakeup call to me and many others.

This presidential campaign has both exposed and created deep divisions in our society. There are many wounds in need of healing. Regardless of the outcome, picking up the pieces and trying to move forward as a nation after this election was never going to be an easy task. Many (including people I know and love) are relieved by last night’s results. Many (such as myself) are terrified. I don’t know what our future will look like. But we—you and I—will play a role in it. It’s our job—each of ours—to push forward and face the problems confronting our world. That was true on Monday, and it’s still true today. We have a lot of work to do.

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A Premature Response to the Michael Brown shooting?

I’ve read a lot of people saying that the protests in Ferguson are premature, that people need to wait for an investigation and learn all the facts surrounding the shooting of Mike Brown before they react. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know all the facts surrounding the shooting. But I don’t think the people in Ferguson are just reacting to what happened in this one event. They’re frustrated with a police force that’s been mistreating residents for years. So I can understand why they aren’t exactly willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to the police in this one case. The shooting of Michael Brown was just the spark that lit a much bigger fuse.

This is a police force that arrested two journalists who were working in a McDonald’s, and during the arrest, one of the officers “slammed [the journalist’s] head against the glass purposefully on the way out of McDonald’s and then sarcastically apologized for it.” [1]

This is a police force that arrested the wrong guy and then locked him up anyway for “getting his blood on their uniforms” (the arrested man claims he was beaten by the police). Then, the officers offered contradictory statements under oath regarding whether blood ever got on their uniforms:

however lax the department’s system and however contradictory the officers’ testimony, a federal magistrate ruled that the apparent perjury about the “property damage” charges was too minor to constitute a violation of due process and that Davis’ injuries were de minimis—too minor to warrant a finding of excessive force. Never mind that a CAT scan taken after the incident confirmed that he had suffered a concussion. [2]

Of course, every institution has its bad apples. But institutional practices appear to have played a role in allowing such behavior to exist:

“On September 20th, 2009, was there any way to identify any officers that were subject of one or more citizens’ complaints?” he asked.

“Not to my knowledge,” [former police chief] Moonier said.

“Was there any way to identify any officers who had completed several use-of-force reports?”

“I don’t recall.” [2]

I know I’m angry. And I don’t even live in Ferguson.

Something’s got to change.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/13/huffington-post-reporter-arrested-ferguson_n_5676829.html

[2] http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/15/the-day-ferguson-cops-were-caught-in-a-bloody-lie.html

Entitled America, I’ve Had Enough

Entitled America.

Not the welfare queens, the high school dropouts, the fast food workers who want a raise.

No, I’m talking about people who believe they’re entitled to have things—healthcare, food, a nice retirement, a good school for their children, whatever—because they earned them. They worked for them, paid for them, saved for them.

These are people who believe they’re entitled (and others aren’t) to things because they’re employed at a decent job. People who act like the wages they earn are solely the result of their own merit while the “handouts” others receive are completely undeserved.

Oh let me count the ways I didn’t earn my success. My mother didn’t smoke while she was pregnant with me (or at any other time), increasing the odds that I would lead the healthy life I’ve enjoyed so far. My mother stayed home and devoted her 24-7 to caring for me and my siblings while my dad worked at a white-collar job that ensured I never knew what it meant to have a material need unmet. My parents did all they could to meet my emotional and spiritual needs as well. I have never heard gunshots outside my house. My friends growing up did not do drugs, shoplift, or carry guns on the streets. Within this context, I thrived throughout my K-12 education, an experience that was tailored to suit my individual interests and learning preferences. While my own dedication and hard work doubtless contributed to my ability to obtain multiple “merit” scholarships for undergraduate and graduate school, I have no doubt that my test scores would have looked quite different if I’d gone to a crappy high school, had apathetic parents, or lacked the raw intellectual abilities that I’ve been granted.

No, I did not earn my success. Sure, I’ve worked hard at times. But there are many women and men more dedicated, hardworking, and virtuous than I who have not been given what I have. I do not deserve it. At most, I have earned a fraction of what I have. I am lucky. Or I have received incredible gifts. I’m humbled and I’m grateful when I think of this.

I will not believe that I am entitled to the resume or wealth I build. They are the fruit of my environment as much as they are the fruit of my labor.

And the truth is a lot of people have little to show after growing up in a crappy environment.

I know I know, life’s not fair. But why is it that Entitled America is so concerned about making sure the rules about how much we get taxed and what the tax dollars go towards are fair but so unconcerned about how unfair it is that some of us had childhoods that set us up for success while others did not? (It turns out that some environmental factors, such as parents’ income, are pretty good predictors of later success.)

Entitled America, before you tell me how unfair it is that someone who doesn’t have a job gets free healthcare, explain to me why you’re not equally passionate about how unfair it is that poor kids in many states have to attend the worst, most dangerous, most underfunded public schools.

Before you tell me how frustrated you are about some affirmative action policy, explain to me why you’re not equally frustrated by the fact that blacks constitute an overwhelmingly disproportionate share of the drug-related prison population despite persistent evidence that blacks do not use or sell drugs more than whites.

Why are you so concerned about making sure that everyone has to earn what they receive once they get to adulthood but are so unconcerned about how uneven the playing field leading to adulthood is?

If you believe that big government is somehow unwise or that universal health coverage will lower the quality of our healthcare, then fine, let’s talk about that. But please, stop acting like poverty is a character flaw and that your earnings are a badge of solely your own virtue. Stop acting like a fair world produced both your success and the plight of the unemployed guy who had to raise himself because his dad was in jail and his mom worked three jobs. Stop acting like it’s morally reprehensible to set up a system that hands people things they didn’t earn unless you’re willing to give up every penny you’ve ever earned that could be traced to something you’ve been handed.

I will not be offended if the government taxes me at a higher rate when my income surpasses that of most Americans.

I won’t complain if my hard-earned tax dollars are used to pay for healthcare, education, or food for those who have less.

I will not cry foul if I am passed over for a job in favor of someone else who comes from an underrepresented background.

My name is Nathan Favero, and I have a lot of privilege. This is my blog.