It’s possible that President Trump may succeed in “Making America Great Again,” by entirely different means than he envisioned.
Amid a turbulent first few days in office, even in a country that seems hopelessly divided, there is plenty of reason for hope.
The remarkable turnout for the Women’s March in Washington, and other similar events in Des Moines and around the country on the day following inauguration, should get our juices flowing.
Not so much because we agree or disagree with the signs and the speakers - but that people are actually speaking their minds. Would all those people have walked if not for Trump?
If we could put aside our blinding liberal vs. conservative hatred for a moment, we would be invigorated by the fact that we suddenly have a national discourse, that people are alive and engaged - talking, writing, marching.
If we can get past ridiculous arguing about the number of people who attended an inauguration and such, the opportunity is ripe to delve deeper into real issues than ever before.
We had become unbearably lazy. Under presidents like Obama, Bush, Clinton and the other Bush, we had grown comfortable with the idea that our government leadership would act with out best interests in mind. Most of the time, when D.C. acted at all it acted slowly, with caution and much checking and balancing. Those presidents were seen most of the time as benign, reasonably trustworthy, and if we didn’t agree with them, we at least trusted that they were well-advised and kept in check by the laws and the other branches of government.
We accepted without much question that eventually, progress would slowly be made on the economy, immigration, education, environment, human rights.
We haven’t said much out loud for a long time for deathly fear of offending someone. If nobody is being offended, democracy isn’t working. You argue, and get over it. The gloves are off now, people.
As citizens, we’d grown fat and sluggish. We didn’t need to be informed or engaged. We didn’t need to read and think independently. Whichever party we aligned with would post enough memes to tell us what we needed to think. We didn’t need to stand up and take a chance of being criticized, we elected people to do that for us. Maybe we needed this to happen.
Presidential election voter turnout this year was barely over half of those who are eligible despite a heated race, down even from Obama’s calm re-election year. We haven’t managed to turn out a lousy 60 percent of voters in any national election since the late ‘60s.
We didn’t have to vote - to be honest most of us didn’t even think it mattered much to our daily lives who was in office.
The national media became just as lazy. It didn’t cover a war, it read the press releases back in its comfortable studio. It didn’t question Obama, Congress and the Supreme Court - or even football coaches - it attended press conferences and dutifully repeated what it was spoon fed.
Trump has tried to manipulate and intimidate the media, the opposite tactic from Obama petting and coddling it. The press is responding to the new pressure by defending its freedom and digging for information again. It desperately needed that kick in the tail.
There is a long way to go before the media regains its trust for fair and balanced reporting, but since the Trump election it has shown signs of life we didn’t know it still had in it.
All those groups - those fighting for rights of women, immigrants, gay and transgender people, the environment, fine arts, higher education, etc., had gotten pretty lazy too, assuming progress was assured. Now under a new regime, they are forced to gear up to defend themselves, and in that process, have the opportunity to raise awareness and become more vital.
The women’s events this past week show that vast numbers of Americans can demonstrate peacefully, with focus and hope, on their own dime. That’s passion, and a wise politician would be listening.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the people who protested this inauguration with violence and fires and vandalism are nothing but criminals. That’s not a political protest, there is no thought in it and nothing positive comes from it. They aren’t helping America, they are what’s wrong with it.
Trump is shaping up to be the most polarizing president of the generation, to say the least.
That sounds terrible, and it can be, if we allow our country to be defined only by warring political ideologies.
But it also can have a positive impact if people speak out and get active, because we know our society is much more than two political parties.
People are waking up, the media is waking up, groups of like-minded people are forming up to protest and fight for awareness. We’re shaking off some of the national lethargy - we have to, now.
Judging from the first days of the administration, anything could happen, and everything will be questioned.
Nothing will be predictable, and nothing will be taken for granted, including our basic American rights.
You can love Trump or hate Trump, there seems to be little middle ground. But if he is responsible for unintentionally giving us this new energy, maybe we will end up someday thanking him for that.