Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Our President and Our America

I've been seeing a lot of people using #NotMyPresident on social media since Donald Trump was elected, almost inevitably followed by someone telling them that it's un-American or unpatriotic. I don't use this particular hashtag for two reasons: 

First, it's factually inaccurate. Unless I move to Canada or Israel, Donald will be my president. We can debate the merits of the electoral college, but just because I don't like the outcome doesn't change the fact that he was elected and will be the president in January.

Second, if #notmypresident is meant to capture an idea, then I would rather elaborate on that idea than rely on an imperfect and inaccurate phrase. The divisions and complications so starkly laid bare in this election cannot be accurately expressed by any three words or 140 characters. We have this whole beautiful language with which to work and the vastness of the internet to share our thoughts, so let's not sell ourselves short. Among my many criticisms of Donald was his "politically incorrect" style of speech. His supporters lauded him for speaking without thinking, but this is not a virtue; it is a sign of deep disrespect for the person with whom you are conversing. Composing a fully-formed thought is a sign of the seriousness with which a presidential candidate (and certainly a president) should take his position and is a basic courtesy that I can extend to you.

Again, I do not use #notmypresident, but I would like to hope that saying Donald Trump is "not my president" has, among others, these underlying meanings:
  • He does not represent my values.
  • He has not proven himself by his words or actions to be a respectable man.
  • He has antagonized groups into which I fall and about which I care deeply without apology.
  • He has made no visible, concerted effort to be my president - a president for all Americans - even those of us who did not vote for him and who might be uncertain about (or afraid of) his vision for America. Instead of reaching out to better understand and heal the deep divisions in our nation, he is on Twitter attacking the New York Times.
I hope that if you use #notmypresident, you mean it as shorthand for any of the ideas above and if you do, then I would implore you to expound on that using however many characters you need to make your point clearly. But you might just as easily say that Donald is "not my president" as a way to shirk responsibility for him, because you didn't vote for him, and that is un-American. As patriotic Americans, it is our responsibility to hold our president to a higher standard and demand that he represent all of us. Donald is the next president, but this is not "Trump's America;" it's my America and your America too.