PHILADELPHIA - Like many Americans, I felt sick to my stomach after Donald Trump’s victory on Tuesday night. Wednesday was like a day of mourning, with no energy to do anything and a general sense of despair. I remember feeling the same way after voting in the 2015 elections in Israel, where I was living at the time – commiseration among my peers on the Israeli left, and my colleagues in civil society – in the hopelessness that we had reached a point of no return.
And then, there they were – on Wednesday, swastikas on Broad Street where I walk my dog. Two days later, black students threatened with “daily lynching” at the University of Pennsylvania where my husband studies. So real, so close, so sickening. And so clearly resulting from Trump’s rhetoric. So I took to the streets.
I took to the streets because the rhetoric of this campaign, and the hate crimes taking place in response, are all too similar to stories I was raised on from my family’s past, stories that I learned about in school, scenes depicted in countless Hollywood films. Stories that I never thought, in my wildest nightmares, would re-appear in my lifetime.
I took to the streets because, sadly, I am not shocked or surprised when I witness this rhetoric in Israel, but the U.S. seemed, at least in my nave liberal bubble, to be moving toward an ever-so-slightly more progressive democracy – one where gay marriage is a norm and we are (finally) starting to talk publicly about paid parental leave and a single-payer, universal healthcare system. But that was wishful thinking. In reality, much like Israel and Western Europe, the U.S. seems to be moving backward in time, retreating into its tribal, national, isolationist cave. So I took to the streets to say that I refuse to accept that reality, and that I will take concrete steps to fight it.
Who came out to Philadelphia’s City Hall on a brisk, dark Thursday night? I saw people of varying races and ages: many college-aged women – white, black, Latina. Teens clad with baggy pants and skateboards. An Asian mother with a young boy, carrying a sign that spoke to the world she would like her son to grow up in. I saw an older white man, dressed as though he just returned from a Grateful Dead show at the Fillmore.
The group gathered in the epicenter of Philadelphia’s downtown district and, accompanied by police motorcade, started to march along JFK Boulevard, as if splitting the sea of corporate towers above. Bystanders, middle-aged black and white men and women leaving work, cheered and filmed on their smartphones, but mostly did not join in. These people were angry. They shouted “GOP, hands off me,” and “my body, my choice,” in reference to the GOP’s – and particularly Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s – policies toward women’s health and reproductive rights.
They shouted “not my president” and “fuck Donald Trump.” These people all share a rejection of Trump’s call for unity. How can we expect Muslims, LGBTQ, people of color, women, Jews, immigrants, and anyone else directly hurt by Trump’s campaign to unite with those who preach hate toward them – especially in light of the sharp rise in hate crimes occurring in Trump’s name in the days following the election?
Rejecting unity, how do we move forward? After Netanyahu’s government was re-elected in 2015, I sought comfort in the network of people and organizations working every day to create a more inclusive Israel for all its citizens. We must all focus on that work here, too. This is not a time to be violent or aggressive. But it is also not a time for national unity and forgiveness. We must be angry, we must protest, and then we must exercise our anger to affect change.
Assuming we will not abolish the electoral college and void Trump’s victory before January, how do we move forward to protect the progress this country has made in healthcare, LGBTQ rights, environmental protection, protection of immigrants and religious and ethnic minorities, and ensure that we continue to move in the right direction on all these issues?
We engage. We organize. We continue to fight for our communities by supporting progressive organizations, with our time and our wallets. We identify representatives whose views align with ours and make sure they promote our progressive agenda. If we cannot find those people, we run for office ourselves. We unify not with the bigots, but with others who are, or have ever been, oppressed and hated. History teaches that we are stronger when we form coalitions and networks of support, when we leverage each other’s strengths and energies. And together, we fight with a resonating cry for equality and freedom.
Ruth Wyshogrod is an Israeli and American citizen who has worked in civil society NGO's in Israel. She currently resides in Philadelphia.
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