On January 20th, 2017, Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States. Such occasions are usually a time of celebration, reflection on the history of the United States, and the promise of the future to come. We witness the ceremony together, reassured as past presidents stand witness to the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.
But this transition has been anything but reassuring. There are disturbing issues surrounding this administration, which challenge the foundation upon which the United States is based, and assault the values that shape it. Values such as truth, justice, liberty, and the rule of law which comprise the principles that we as a people have treasured for centuries and form the center of our democracy. Flouting these principles is a rejection of our democratic republic.
Truth is a necessary requirement for any democracy to thrive. The pursuit of truth gives us a common frame of reference upon which we base our beliefs and allows us to come to a common understanding of the issues at hand, even if we disagree about the solutions. Without truth, we lose this common connection, and ideas become a kind of currency, given value by the most powerful. The constant attacks on the media, unfounded conspiracies and an endless stream of meaningless 140-character messages distort reality, and redefine truth as the unhinged impulses of one man.
To ensure truth, we must support existing institutions that prize integrity and value the meaningful exchange of viewpoints. Truth is often said to be subjective, but really we all strive to uncover the same common truths, each of us contributing to its understanding. Common truths, whether they are cultural, scientific, or otherwise universally apply to us all, and evidence-based support and rational arguments are the most effective way to prevent the distortion of reality.
But truth alone is not enough for a vigorous democracy – our freedom and liberty must be ensured. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1795 that, “Light and liberty go together”, and this liberty must be established for all people. Threats of racially motivated mass deportation foster a climate of fear that serves only to suppress the next generation of leaders – the very immigrants who have come to our land sleeves rolled up and ready to work. We must forcefully reject this culture of fear, and nurture the liberty and freedom which provide the fertile soil for the innovators that drive our republic.
To preserve truth and liberty, the “Rule of Law” needs to be followed in accordance with fair justice and obeyed by all, regardless of status or power. No one individual can declare themselves above the law. But already we have heard statements from the current administration that harken back to the “Divine Rights of Kings”, where rules can be disregarded solely on the belief that one individual has been elevated as a crowned monarch. Our laws must be written and applied evenly to meet the highest standard, without regard to ethnicity, lifestyle or religion, and for the general benefit of all. We should demand that this administration follow existing rules, both written and observed, to meet and exceed this standard.
Despite these dangerous precedents, Donald Trump is the president. The constitution and laws of our land have been followed, and the outcome, however worrisome, has been verified. So the question is put to us, the people of the United States of America: Who will preserve these values? For to be an American it is not enough to simply live within the borders of this country – it is to accept the truth of these principles and demonstrate to ourselves and the world their importance.
We must rise and state unequivocally that we define these values as core to our existence, and any government that represents us must also hold these values equally. Contact your local, state and federal representatives, and let your voice be heard. Assemble local groups to get out the message. If you see these values challenged in public, counter with your own belief in the importance of these values.
Together, we need to lift each other up and preserve these values for future generations. The world is watching, so take action. It’s not enough to say it is so.
Make it so.