If we don’t who will?

moriwaki_clarence_001-1It’s a week after the election and I still don’t have the answer I’ve been looking for.

My candidate lost. There were plenty of things I didn’t love about Hillary. She is too hawkish for my taste, too corporate. But I voted for her. She won in my state of Minnesota. She won the popular vote in the nation, but in the electoral college…where it matters as we’ve set up our institutions…she lost.

So we can talk about strategy. We can talk about Bernie. We can talk about replacing the electoral college, and good grief, let’s please talk about eliminating the practice of gerrymandering districts. But at the end of the day, my candidate lost. So I am frustrated, disappointed, and concerned.

I’ve long thought the president’s biggest role is to set the tone for our nation. I voted for Hillary because I thought she was most qualified and because the tone of Donald Trump was unacceptable.

That’s an understatement.

The way Trump ran his campaign went against everything I believe about the way we should treat one another as human beings. A Peace of My Mind is built around the idea of seeing value and humanity in those around us. When we fail to do so, it becomes easier to marginalize others…to vilify them…and if you look at history, there aren’t too many times that has led to anything good.

Again…an understatement.

I haven’t written a public post until now because I haven’t had the words. People smarter than me have analyzed and opined. They have offered a way forward, lamented and encouraged. In fact, the noise in the public square is almost deafening. And that’s just fine.

When I interviewed Clarence Moriwaki about his involvement creating a memorial to the Japanese internment camps of WWII, he spoke of the silence of the citizenry as the policy unfolded. There was no resistance as more than 120,000 people of Japanese descent were placed in camps. It was 1988 when the US government would finally apologize, acknowledging there had been no military need for the move and the actions were based in fear and prejudice.

Talking about the memorial site, Clarence said, “In order for there to be peace, a country must be strong and its citizenry must be strong. People must speak out when the government says something wrong. This is something we should teach our children. When a person is getting picked on by a bully, that person is being violated. Stand up for them. There’s an entire group of people in the United States who were violated 70 years ago. Very few people stood up for them. So I hope this site informs people about what happened in America. If you’re not vigilant, it can happen again.”

Donna Watts spoke about her work with the Foley, Alabama Chamber of Commerce, and her frustration with the way the BP oil spill played out in her community. Specifically, she was frustrated with a federal government that didn’t seem to hold the corporation accountable for the way it devastated the lives of people around her. So she was speaking about that specific incident, but her words resonate for me today.

She said, “I’m just one person and I don’t have a loud voice in this world, but I’m a hardworking, taxpaying, law-abiding citizen in the United States of America. I am terribly disappointed that my government would allow our way of life to be ruined forever. We don’t get to go back. If there are no rules, the bully wins. And that’s not what this country was founded on. Rules and laws have to apply to everybody and be fair across the board. We have a responsibility to protect all citizens in this country. It’s our moral obligation to protect those who can’t protect themselves and who don’t have a voice. If we don’t, who will? If I don’t who will?

I’ve lost track of the different groups that Donald Trump has marginalized and mocked. Women, disabled, Muslims, immigrants, LGBT, Hispanics. You might say that he was only playing a political hand, but words matter, and his words have done much to set a worrisome tone. I am worried about my friends in many of those communities and what this new tone will mean for them in their lives.

I was concerned about Trump as a candidate and I continue to be concerned about him as president elect. That doesn’t mean if you voted for him that I will cast you aside. You are my neighbor, my family member, my coworker, and my fellow citizen. We are in this together. Your candidate won, and I suppose as disappointed as I am, you are just as happy with the results.

I will be a skeptic. I will watch language and policy and be vigilant to anything that threatens to marginalize my friends…or any group for that matter. I will stand by their side. I’ll be an advocate in any way I can. I will hear their voices and share their voices. I will challenge misconceptions and bad information when I see it. If you voted for Donald Trump, I’d invite you to join me. We may disagree on policy and process, but surely we can agree on basic human dignity.

If we don’t, who will?

Discussion Questions

  • What is your reaction to the idea of America being a ‘melting pot?’ Do you feel like we as a nation are living up to that ideal?
  • What is there to be learned from the history that Clarence shares? What are the similarities and the differences between then and now?
  • Why is it that fear, not hate is the opposite of love?
  • Have you ever stood up for someone who was being bullied? What was the outcome? How did you respond and how did it feel?
  • What is the value of retelling the types of stories Clarence talks about?

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