Thursday, January 19, 2017

Inaugural Address

As we await the inauguration of our 45th President, many feel as though this is the eve of destruction. I hope instead that this is a moment in which we begin to destroy those things within ourselves that led us here. The words legitimacy, normalizing, and resistance have been thrown around a lot lately. We need to think of these words not just as bombs we throw as weapons at targets of our fear, anger, and frustration, but as lenses through which we view ourselves. 

We, as a society, have legitimized apathy and normalized inaction. We have resisted participating in our democracy. We've normalized cynicism. We've legitimized silence. We've normalized making excuses for staying in our comfort zones. We've resisted preparing, empowering, and inspiring our young people to be knowledgeable, active citizens and leaders. We've legitimized making it harder for our citizens to vote.

We have normalized violence against women. We've legitimized allowing women to be treated as second class citizens. We've resisted granting women equal rights and protections under the Constitution. We might pay lip service to ideas like consent, but when consent is given we normalize shame and when it is withheld we normalize casting a woman and all her worth aside, as if the gift of her heart and soul is not enough unless she is willing to give her body as well. We talk about equality, but resist including women and respecting women if their appearance, backgrounds, identities, disabilities, or individual choices and opinions don't align with our ideas of womanhood.

We've normalized thinking that just because LGBTQ+ citizens can get married to who we love that further vigilance and action aren't required to protect that right and to ensure we have all the other rights and protections afforded to others. We've legitimized allowing people to say they love or respect LGBTQ+ people but then tell us to sit down and shut up when we express our fears or stand up for our rights. We've resisted making sure the identities of all human beings are not delegitimized by being dismissed as lifestyle choices or something to be ashamed of or cured like a disease.

White people have legitimized the idea that whether or not black lives really matter is just another matter of opinion. We've normalized the exclusion of black history from all lives. We've legitimized allowing white people to determine which black lives are celebrated and which black lives remain hidden figures. We've resisted entering black spaces and letting the legitimate emotion of black struggles enter our spaces because it makes us uncomfortable.

We've resisted the moral imperative to ensure all citizens have access to food, clean water, housing, and health care, the most basic human needs. We've normalized inequality in access to quality education and the re-segregation of our schools. We've legitimized judging who is deserving of what so many of us take for granted and have normalized taking for granted what so many do not dare dream of having. We've resisted welcoming refugees and immigrants and ensuring they feel the same sense of security and are part of the same promise we make to children who were born here. We've normalized shirking our duty as one of the great and prosperous nations to protect the planet we all share.

We've normalized ignorance. We've resisted sharing knowledge and ideas of substance over what just so happens to illicit the most base responses from an audience at large. We've legitimized the making up of facts. We've normalized forming an opinion over a headline instead of evaluating information with critical thought. We've legitimized choosing to be entertained over being informed.

The time has come to leave the path that led us here and for each of us to quarry, chisel, and lay our stones to pave a new way. We must smooth the road of democracy to make it easier for our neighbors to travel and make sure they have good maps to help guide them. It's easy to call out a president, a senator, an organization, people on the Internet. Let us instead look within ourselves and move out from there to those closest to us, for it is what we accept as normal and legitimate in ourselves and from those we interact with every day that will be reflected as normal and legitimate in a nation built on We the People.

We have a choice as to whether we sit on the eve of destruction or stand in the dawn of awakening. To whom and to what will we transfer our power? To what ideals will we pledge our allegiance and to what ends will we go to uphold and defend them? We must choose whether we will look outwardly for heroes to save us and villains to blame or inward to transform ourselves into defenders of democracy, allies of the oppressed, vanquishers of inequality, and champions of justice. We choose whether we wish to be antagonists through inaction or protagonists in the great American story.

"Do not go gently into that good night...rage, rage against the dying of the light." - Dylan Thomas

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