By Brandon Blackburn:
Donald Trump is not my President. It’s an interesting claim. One that’s been volleyed around since the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, November 9th. Even by those who are seemingly much smarter and more experienced with the history of our county and democracy. They should know better. But unless you are saying such as a result of an impending move to another country or are doing something productive to be part of the solution, it is both careless and anathema to the democratic process. The process that is the foundation of this country.
Much of the sentiment being expressed by those who voted differently this time around echoes the landscape following the election eight years ago. At that time, as now, about half of the country was disappointed and probably safe to say, angry.
Many of those in the electorate who voted otherwise believed and viewed the new President as a man with no leadership experience. And one who, based on his previous speeches and various writings, they would reference and argue fueled racism and encouraged backlash against the opposition. He offended many. His policies were thought by this group as dangerous and in contrast to the foundation of America. The passion by his most ardent supporters was equaled by the concerns from his strongest detractors. As for those who arguably had the most at stake – lives on the line under the authority of the new Commander in Chief- their oath to this country meant an oath to the new President. Thankfully, they carried it out in a way that showed the best of us. This, despite data indicating the majority of them voted differently. They gave him a chance, even if they had reservations. And throughout his tenure, even those among our military and law enforcement who vehemently disagreed with him and felt let down saluted him and addressed him as Mr. President when in his presence. They did so because of the office itself. Because the presidency is not about the man, and yes some day it will not be about the woman. Rather, it is about the people who elected that man and the country that man leads. The entire country. They did so because that is what our electorate decided in a non-rigged democratic election. As they have done now. And because while so many are focused on how other nations look upon the one in the office, they know that it is the millions of American citizens who are the real harbingers of America’s greatness. The tourists and aid workers abroad. The military officer training his foreign counterparts. They are the ambassadors for us all. The ones who operate in the natural course of daily life. Not the ones who perform on a political stage. The ones who use the times of greatest turmoil as a chance to show class, grace, and dignity.
We saw it from some of those for whom President Obama was not the choice. They showed America’s greatness with the full force of a democracy. One that comes with it the guarantee of a chance for a different outcome the next time around. They continued to speak up in 2010 and 2014 and came from both sides of the aisle. They didn’t step down the streets in fruitless protest. But stepped to the ballot boxes and to the capitols. Some of them left their job security and comfort zones, subjecting themselves to the harsh microscope of media scrutiny, to run for office. A new batch of aspiring public servants who decided to walk the walk. They worked to be part of the solution. Not create more problems. Many of them won and in doing so began the dialogue, using their political inside voices. They utilized democracy as it is intended. To engage in a conversation. Not a shouting match. Some of what was said would be ignored and countered with accusations. Ones of intolerance and bigotry. This only to embolden their efforts and marginalize the true instances of these hateful acts. There was little effort by many to listen with the intent to understand. Instead of finding common ground, many were hell bent solely on standing ground. With minds made up before the conversation had even started, the focus so often to be listening solely with the intent to reply. No advancement of finding solutions. Just the continuation of the same old talking points. Ones which fail to recognize legitimate concerns from those with different opinions. Throughout, America has been revealed as a society that talks over each other, and not with.
As is the case often when spouses fail to meet a certain request after several respectful reminders, the desperation to be heard was percolating. It brewed anger and distrust.
It is difficult to pinpoint when the pot boiled over. Was it when the man in the office of President chided a civilian at an event watched by millions? Perhaps that is when his would-be successor made up his mind as some have suggested. Or was it when, as the next presidential election loomed, the two dominant parties started to answer the call for change with the same old hats? Ones named Clinton and Bush.
Maybe it was the concerted efforts by the powerful media elites and political parties to combat the will of the people. The same people who are responsible for their might. When, despite being the popularly voted choice of the primary constituents, Bernie Sanders failed to take the mantle as the democratic nominee. A decision seemingly made by a party agenda. Or was it when those who voiced support for the now President-elect were charged as the worst among us? Charges made by people who had never met them and knew nothing about their lives and experiences.
The light shown on our divided society has never been brighter. It shows America has become a place where many only care to hear and shout back, but rarely ever listen and speak respectfully. And that’s what we need most. We need the white collar in DC or New York to listen with the intent to understand the blue collar in the rust belt. The intellectual to consider the man on the street. We need the media and celebrities to listen to those who consume their products and programs. Instead of expecting it to be the other way around. And we need a society that respects opposing opinions. Where party affiliation does not disqualify one from being heard, or being right. Perhaps we would then find that at the heart of many issues we are not so far apart after all.
Will we ever get to that point? It is hard to see at this very moment, though it will come. America has gotten through worse. Just ask those from our greatest generation. Is the next administration going to get us there? At this time we really can’t say. As with every new transition period from election to inauguration, while we can surmise and presume, we simply cannot know.
What we do know is that we have had another outcome where about half of the country disagrees with the decision that was made. We have again a man who has never led in public office. This man has also made indefensible comments and in his past has portrayed a questionable moral compass to say the least, offending many. He may have been voted into the office by as many who were passionately opposed to his counterpart as were supportive of him. And the adamancy of his supporters is matched by the disproval of his antagonists. As was the case with the election leading to the current administration, it’s hard to determine which led to the other.
But with any election, we are all responsible. Our contributions are not always the same mind you, but nonetheless they are equal.
And now, as we did eight years ago and will again in the next go around, we will start a new chapter with a new President. The same President. And if you think differently? Be sure to send a post card from your new homeland, for the suggestion of anything otherwise has no place in our democracy.
Brandon Blackburn is an OpsLens Contributor and former CIA Counterterrorism Officer with a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and an MBA with a concentration in International Business. During his time with the CIA, Brandon served multiple tours in the Middle East, to include Iraq and Jordan, and in Afghanistan. Brandon consults with businesses and media on national security related issues with his consulting firm B4B Enterprises. He can be followed on Twitter @Bran_Blackburn.
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