I’m That Optimistic Asshole Telling You Unity & Progress Are Possible These Next Four Years

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Donald J. Trump is our president elect. This is not the result I wanted, and for 50% of you it’s not the result you wanted either. Many in my circle are worried, me included. There are many valid concerns; mass deportation forces, access to women’s health, access to general health care, cuts of impactful social programs, shifts in climate progress, perspective validation of hateful mindsets. These are all real possibilities to real people.

However, these concerns do not invalidate President-Elect Trump’s election. Anyone protesting against this validation or seeking comfort in electoral sabotage is directly advocating for an undermining of our democracy. Calls of #NotOurPresident call for a departure from our reality. Peacefully and productively speaking or protesting against Trump’s ideology and proposals is one thing, doing the same for his legitimacy is another.

Currently, there is a focus on fear and worry. This is something that is okay. This is something people should feel comfortable expressing. However, in the coming days, weeks, and months this fear and worry will need to morph into acceptance and action.

People need time to express emotion in whatever way they need to. I get that, and I encourage you to take that time. However, to be blunt, I’m writing this piece to talk many of you off the ledge. All is not lost, the sun will rise tomorrow. Progress and change are possible under Trump’s presidency. As much as some will be campaigning for Trump to fail, that is not what’s going to be productive. This does not mean that I am asking you to compromise on your values, it means that I am asking you to be open to finding common ground. It means that I am asking you to not be obstructionist,  but instead look for areas of opportunity. 4 years (or more) of Trump may not be ideal for many of our agendas, but I refuse to throw those years away because of my frank disagreements with the man and his methods (of which there are many). The presidency and our country is bigger than Trump. All of us should want to make America great. That’s something myself, Trump, his supporters, and hopefully you agree with.

That’s why I urge everyone, when you’re ready, to put the apocalyptic scenarios on the backburner. Note, THIS DOES NOT MEAN I AM ASKING YOU TO FORGET OR IGNORE YOUR CONCERNS. I am not telling you that your fears are invalid and their realities impossible. What I am telling you is that at the moment we need to stop assuming that they are guaranteed. We need to stop assuming that this is the end of the world.  Mass deportation forces, access to women’s health, access to general health care, cuts of impactful social programs, shifts in climate progress, continued validation of hateful mindsets. These are all still real possibilities to real people.

However, at the moment, I am asking you to not assume they are inevitable. Instead, we need to be focused on developing the ideal. What is the possible, ideal outcome of Trump’s presidency. I see the ideal outcome of Trump’s presidency as one where America is MORE inclusive, everyone is better off, innovation strengthens, and we are more resilient. Just like every new president we need to hope that Trump will be the best we’ve ever had. Call me idealistic, but we need to choose to believe that this is possible. At the very least, this is the mindset we need to operate under. Assuming doom and gloom guarantees doom and gloom. I’m not going to lie, assuming positive impacts under President Trump are possible doesn’t guarantee we avoid the doom and gloom scenario. However, it makes those positive impacts much more likely.

Trump’s presidency is an absolute, it’s what we have to work with. I admit, to many of us that sucks. However, starting this era off with a negative, apocalyptic mindset will not do us any good. Starting off negatively guarantees that the outcome of this era will be negative and unproductive.

Instead, I am choosing to believe in a positive outcome. I am choosing to believe that Trump’s presidency can be inclusive, productive and great if we unite as a people and make our voices heard in productive and reasonable ways. Does this mean I’ll agree with everything the man and his administration accomplish? Nope. Does this mean I’ll condone any racist, xenophobic, sexist mindsets intentionally or unintentionally provoked? Hell no. But I do believe that when push comes to shove compromise with his administration and supporters will be possible, and I am hopeful that President Trump will be malleable in his tone and advocacy in a way that is more inclusive and conscious of the impact of his influence.

This influence on mindset will not come from burning flags, destructive protest or denouncing of Trump’s legitimacy. This change of mindset will happen through relationship building and sharing stories. That is, it happens through hard and vulnerable conversations with the “other half” of America. It happens because of us. It’s hard, it doesn’t happen overnight, but it is possible. Influencing President Trump happens when each of us broadens and shares stories within our sphere of influence. It happens when we protest with purpose, respect and meaning. It’s easier said than done. But it must be done.

I know, you’re thinking I’m just a privileged, optimistic asshole with no grasp on reality who needs to step back, shut up, and stand in solidarity with those who have everything to lose in the next 4 years. I hear you, and realize to many of you that optimism at this moment is annoying as hell. Some might think I need to get off my high horse and grieve. I’m here to tell you that President Trump is the hand we were dealt. If you want to concede or ignore the reality of the situation, fine. But I encourage you to make the best with what we have because it is all we have. I refuse to accept that progress simply stops. It may be slowed, but I refuse to see it stopped.

This does not come from isolating ourselves in safe spaces. I’m not telling you that your safe space is invalid. Whether people admit it or not, everyone, left and right, has safe spaces. They may be our friend groups, or our families, or the news sources we surround ourselves with. Fox News is a safe space, so is Vox. It’s okay for us to have these places to recharge and confide trust in. If we didn’t have these spaces to go to we’d all go insane. However, if we want to unite as a people and make the era of President Trump successful we must venture out of our safe spaces. We must expose ourselves to other stories and other points of view. This doesn’t happen when we pick news sources to avoid. It doesn’t happen when we delete friends on Facebook. It happens when we are intentional about challenging our current views. Seeing the other side either allows us to strengthen our existing views or become open to others’. Want the other side to be open minded about your values and ideas? Lead by example and become vulnerable. This does not mean I am telling you to throw yourself into toxic, bigoted environments. Avoid those. I’m telling you to seek out reasonable, civil people and news sources with opposing views. I promise, they do exist.

It stands to be said that none of this means we will stand for bigotry. None of this means the things President Trump has said is okay. None of this means the deplorable things President Trump might say or propose are to be excused or accepted. Because we should and will fight like hell to protect our most vulnerable. President-elect Trump has already suggested protections within the ACA will remain and that he values LGBT rights. Our job is to hold him accountable to these suggestions and push him further. Having a successful Trump era will not mean we fought personality, it will mean we fought policy and values.

Your views matter, your experiences are important. I have hope that a President Trump will be conscious of these. That’s why I am willing to give him the opportunity to lead. Assuming he and his supporters wont be receptive guarantees they will not be receptive. Assuming they will be open to reasonable and productive dialogue means there’s a chance. That chance is all we have, so please, stand with me and take the first step toward open mindedness and civility. There’s no guarantee the other 50% of America hears us out if we don’t take that first step. At this point, we stand to gain nothing if we assume we’ll gain nothing. Let’s assume there are things to gain.