As I write this article the morning after the presidential election, I am stunned and speechless. Throughout the campaign we were subjected to outrageous comments, innuendo, disgusting video and audio clips that together made Donald Trump look and sound like a reality TV star. We were challenged to try to explain to our children how a presidential candidate could speak in such a vile way and get away with essentially being a bully. We teach our children to rise above such verbal abuse – “sticks and stones may break my bones…” – and we expect that those running for office would represent the values and personality that represent all Americans.
Now that Donald Trump has been elected many pundits will try to explain how this could have happened and Hillary Clinton will be doing a lot of soul searching as well. But what is done, is done and we have to ask what this will mean for America going forward.
Will Donald Trump act on his bigotry and try to expel Muslims from this country? Will he try to build a wall on the US-Mexican border? Will he continue to make fun of people with disabilities, treat women as play things and act as a bully? Or will he realize as he hinted in his acceptance speech that he is the president for all Americans?
Our task moving forward is to be ever vigilant. Those of us who were disgusted by him and his candidacy need to strongly advocate for the values we hold dear. If we see attempts being made to disenfranchise people then we need to speak out. If we see segments of our society being treated unfairly we need to speak out. If we see attempts to pass laws that reinforce hatred and xenophobia we need to speak out.
Wringing our hands and crying about what our country is becoming is not enough. The Torah teaches us and our Jewish tradition reinforces the idea that society should be based on justice and equality for all. “Love your neighbor as you would be loved”. Justice starts with us. Let’s move forward, chastened by the fact that we have a lot of work to do to really “make America great again.”